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CREATE2Evaluate: Enhancing evaluation practice of Adult Education policies and programmes at regional and local levels 

Between 2017 and 2019 an ERASMUS+ ‘Competitive Regions and Employability of Adults through Education’ (CREATE) project aimed to enhance performance and efficiency in adult education by addressing the gap between EU/national strategies and local/regional implementation at adult education policy level. CREATE identified a lack of policy tools and resources to evaluate the impact of adult education (AE) interventions, policies, and initiatives across Europe. This gap was particularly acute within regions tasked with AE policy formulation and implementation to progress towards the EU pan-European target of 15% AE participation. A second project, the CREATE2Evaluate project, was supported by ERASMUS+ from 2020 to 2022 to progress these findings. 

The Create2Evaluate project and Partners 

The Create 2 evaluate project is a transnational and multi-agency collaboration seeking to enhance the efficacy and valorisation of adult education at policy and governance levels. The primary aim of the project was identifying reliable tools for adult education evaluation at various layers of governance. The project has eight organisational partners from seven countries (Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Spain) committed to identifying and operationalising these tools.  

Click here for more information on the Eight collaborative partners 

The first meeting of the partners, hosted by the German partner lead AEWB, took place online via teams on the 12th and 13th of November 2020. The project ‘Kick-Off Meeting’ discussed the overall project implementation of the defining timelines, respective duties and activities that will take place in the following months. 

A snapshot of the first Create2Evaluate partners meeting 

IO2-Report: Mapping the Impact, Validation and Evaluation of AE Policies 

The eight partners researched and mapped their current adult education policy landscape regarding evaluation, assessment, and monitoring. Primary and secondary research was undertaken. Twenty-seven stakeholders in the field of adult education were interviewed and a key stakeholder survey was disseminated to provide thirty-six additional responses.  The project partners mapped and identified tools, methods, and resources employed to evaluate adult education programmes and initiatives throughout their regions. A mapping press release went live on the 03-03-2021. 

Stakeholder collaborative conversations in action at Maynooth University. 

Mapping Outcomes 

Mapping and research enabled the CREATE2Evaluate partners to identify the lack of a centralised systemic evaluation framework, common definitions and standards. Feedback indicated that current evaluation policy is primary focused on quantitative outputs and student specific learning outcomes, and inconsistencies were apparent among targeted groups and in non-formal evaluation provision. Additionally, it was evidenced that although copious and significant qualitative evaluation is conducted across adult education centres, this data remains relatively difficult to access due to a lack of centralised systematic overarching analysis and learner protection requirements. Thus, it is very challenging for policy makers to assess the effectiveness of their adult education policies. To view result of the consolidation of findings stemming from the mapping at country and EU level performed by partners click here (full IO2 report) 

 The CREATE2 Evaluate Toolbox:  

In response to the IO2 findings the partners collaboratively collected and developed helpful tools for the evaluation of adult education at various layers of governance. The CREATE 2 Evaluate ToolBox was conceived to ensure that local and regional policy makers from across Europe will be able to use the policy tools to better plan, design, implement and monitor AE policies with a clear vision of sustainability of public funding in AE. The selection of tools takes into account different purposes of evaluation (e.g., process, persuasive, symbolic, instrumental) as well as their place in the policy cycle. The tools are free, easily accessible and multilingual. The toolbox invites users to adopt the tools to their work realities with ease.  

The Toolbox is structured in six different areas, each with specific resources and references that sustain local policy makers in better strategizing the alignment, consistence and coherence of local lifelong learning plans to EU horizons. There are a total of 42 tools; 4 best practice recommendations; 5 networks/ Forums; 4 networks/platforms, and a collection of policy documents and strategies are available. The toolbox was officially released on the 26-09-2022. 

Overview of the Toolbox sections and tools 

                                                          
 
Click each area to view the distinctive tools and resources 

1.  Consistency of the objectives and outcomes  

2.  Programme creation at the policy/public administration level 

3.Inclusivity of AE policies and availability of AE programmes 

4. AE trainings and programmes delivery 

5. Value added stemming from the participation in AE 

6. Continuity of programme evaluation and use of its results to improve AE policies 

To view the full toolbox and additional resources click ToolBox

CREATE2Evaluate implementation Package and Green Paper 

The CREATE2Evaluate implementation Package and Green Paper are the final two components of the CREATE2Evaluate project. These two deliverables were consolidated, and the press release went live on the 19-10-22.  

The CREATE2Evaluate implementation Package consists of a training suite for the policy making target groups. It is provided as a guide, with step-by-step procedures on the use and implementation of the tools to evaluate policy interventions in the domain of AE. The Training Suite includes user-friendly and flexible training resources for policy makers. Included are guidelines on the policy evaluation tools, scenario setting and profiling tools and a users’ manual and Introduction CREATE2Evaluate ToolBox 

The CREATE2Evaluate Green Paper advances the debate and stimulates the discussion on policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation of adult education. It provides incite into the challenges and drivers that contributed to the project and the final output of the CREATE2Evaluate Toolbox.. Additionally, it considers the marginalisation of adult education and considers the context in which policy is developed and implemented in adult education, thus enhancing the awareness of the issues evident across the EU adult education landscape. Importantly it offers a critical analysis of the current landscape of adult education from the perspective of the stakeholders and considers the position of the learners. The CREATE2Evaluate resources and CREATE2Evaluate Green Paper should stimulate policy dialogue and exchange on how to advance adult education for socio-economic development and integration.  

All CREATE2Evaluate results are available in multilingual versions, free and without restrictions through the dedicated open educational resource (OER) platform. To know more about the project, the organisations involved and all resources available, please feel free to consult the Open Education Resource Platform of Create2Evaluate: www.create2evaluate.eu 

Michael Kenny is a lecturer in the Department of Adult and Community Education. He is co-director of the Higher Diploma in Further Education (HDFE), and the director of the post graduate Certificate in Programme Design and Validation (PCPDV). He is currently the Principal Investigator (PI) on 6 Erasmus+ Projects, including the CREATE2Evaluate project.  

Margaret Nugent is an associate academic, researcher and lecturer with Department of Adult and Community Education. Margaret is research associate on the Diversity and several European projects. She is a specialist in engaged methodologies, conflict intervention and peace pedagogies. 

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The Story Exchange Project

To get to the chapel in Mountjoy prison you first go through a corridor. This leads into a semi-circular cage-like structure with two upper floors. Through the metal grilles you can see the corridors or wings leading off to the left and right. The corridors are painted yellow, the bars white, and the metal cell doors lining either side are grey. Depending on the time of day, the doors may be open, and prisoners could be congregated in the corridors and landings. The prison at these times is a noisy hub of activity. At other times, the cell doors may all be shut, and the only sound is that of officers marching back and forth, keys rattling.

You cross the circle to a narrow stair well, climb the stairs to the first floor, and then turn back on yourself to go around the barred landing in a semicircle, back in the direction from which you came. It is disorientating. The far-side steps up to the chapel have double doors made of wood, a change from all the metal, and when you enter the room with its high ceilings, split levels and huge stained-glass windows, the effect is breath taking.

There are a group of ‘lads’ in their late teens or early twenties seated to the right as we enter, and Niall and Marc, the two young facilitators from Gaisce aren’t instantly discernible. We however, as two female, middle-aged, and middle-class university staff members are. We join the circle and awkward introductions are made. There is some shuffling and nervous sniggering before Niall and Marc take hold of the situation and set us to work. I’m paired with the only young man not wearing sports-clothes. ‘I’ve just come from the kitchen’ he explains, as I pull up my chair. Our topic for conversation is ‘the first time I did something’, and I experience a moment of panic as I wonder what on earth I am going to share with this complete stranger.

‘I’m Darren’ my partner offers politely, ‘what’s your name again?’ Darren (pseudonym) thankfully agrees to go first and tells me about the first time he played for his school in Croke Park, and it doesn’t take long before I am with him. I am with him as he describes the feeling of coming onto the pitch through the tunnel, and of scoring for his team. I am with him as he speaks of his pride at being celebrated by the whole school and the school principal at the after-party, and I understand why to this day he keeps a small piece of turf from the field as a souvenir of a special day. And throughout his story, I am wondering how this boy with the long eyelashes, whose eyes are full of light at his childhood memory, has ended up in Dublin’s largest prison.

When it comes to sharing our stories back to the main group, I go first. I introduce myself as Darren, 20 years old, and recount the first time I played in Croke Park for my primary school. I strive to retell the experience with all the details that matter to Darren because I am responsible for his story. It is like I have been entrusted with this very precious memory and I want to do it justice. When it is Darren’s turn to speak, he introduces himself as Sarah, 45 years old. He tells the story of the first time I went skiing and nearly killed myself, making my way down a mountain Mr Bean style, using trees and barriers to slow my descent, while children, mini-pro ski champions, screeched with laughter as they sailed overhead on ski lifts. I notice how Darren’s rendition of my story is a kinder version. While the story gets some laughs, he omits some of my details and retells it from a perspective that garners empathy towards my plight as opposed to ridicule.

A group enter the chapel sheepishly, and the conversations in the circle come to a halt. A huddle of terrified looking girls and guys are marshalled over to our space by the Progression Unit Governor, and I remember that they will have just walked through the cage. They are introduced as the Maynooth University students who will be joining the Mountjoy Progression Unit prisoners every Friday for 13 weeks to take part in the Story Exchange Project. There is a self-conscious round of names and timid hand waves before the group is shepherded back out the doors for the rest of their prison tour. They will be starting next week.

Meaney, S. (2020). Evaluating the Story Exchange Project – A participatory arts-based research project with inmates and university students. Maynooth University: Ireland. Available at: https://educationmatters.ie/launch-of-publication-examining/

The Story Exchange Project will feature on the IUA documentary series ‘Changemakers’ airing on RTE1 in January 2022. 

Sarah Meaney Sartori completed her PhD with the Department of Adult and Community Education at Maynooth University. Funded by the Irish Research Council, her research was a creative exploration of the experience of educational exclusion from the perspective of prisoners and youth. Currently, Sarah is the research manager for College Connect, a programme aimed at widening educational diversity, and focussed on the educational inclusion for refugees, people with convictions and Travellers. She has worked as an adult educator for over 15 years, developing and delivering modules and programmes to a wide variety of groups. Sarah is trained and experienced in using arts-based methodologies, which involves taking research outside the academy and into the public sphere for engagement and to inspire social change. Sarah is on the MU Sanctuary Committee, the steering group of the Mountjoy Prison and Maynooth University Partnership, the National Traveller Mental Health Network Allies Forum and has acted as a consultant for a variety of organisations including the Traveller Counselling Service and LGTBI Ireland.

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Under the Red Clock

Early mornings, late nights….no end in sight! A picture of me sitting at the laptop yet again under the red clock, assignment after assignment, willing each one to be complete. But the truth is we are never complete, we continue to learn we continue to grow.  

Under the Red Clock

The tutors were learning from their students and as a teacher, I hope to learn from mine.  In the Higher Diploma in Further Education in Maynooth University, everyone had a voice, some more vocal and some less vocal than others, it thought me be to be more aware of my voice, to think before I spoke to sit back and allow others to speak.

  

Everyone has a story to tell… the tutors, the students … what had brought us here to the Higher Diploma in Further Education. Many different winding paths leading us all together to share the experiences of our journey.   

My motivation for enrolling in the Higher Diploma for Further education was to be in a position that I could support others to change their situation through the means of education. 

I looked up to tutors during my further educational journey, I wished I was in their seat, supporting students just like me, people like me that didn’t do well in school but now long to learn. But that could never be me sitting in that seat…what do I know …what can I share. I had so much doubt! 

Some people have questioned my interest in going to college at this stage in my life and others have encouraged me to do it. I lacked confidence in my ability and the words of encouragement have stayed with me, these words have influenced my return to college. 

I have had to work extremely hard in college as it does not come easily to me. I do believe if you want something you have to work hard for it. I hope to be the catalyst for others to believe in themselves and progress in education if they wish to.   

I had negative experiences of schooldays past, education delivered generically by the teacher for the absorption of students. No education resulted in no interest.

In my family, there were no discussions regarding the importance of education or questions regarding what we wanted to do when we grew up. The consensus in our home was to finish school and get a job and start earning money. This was how it was for my father who left school early to get a job and bring in an income.  

My mother stayed in school longer than my father but women were not encouraged in education. The role of women then was to marry and become a stay at home parent. 

Education wasn’t for me, I was a grafter, I’ll earn a living by working hard as my family had done before me. But I soon learned in this capitalist society that hard work without further education doesn’t always pay the bills, it doesn’t pay for childcare, and it doesn’t pay for a mortgage.   

For me as an adult struggling to cope financially, education was the key; I felt this is the way to move up society’s stratified layers.  But I was wrong not education alone, education and hard work, we need to be constantly working to be the best we can be.   

I have finished college now and I am teaching. I still sit under the red clock in my kitchen working tirelessly to be the best teacher I can be, I am still learning I am still growing.  

Kathryn at home working under the red clock
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Welcome

Welcome to our blog!

An introductory post from Mary Ryan, Head of Department, Adult and Community Education, Maynooth University.

When Michael and Bernie asked me to write a blog, the phrase that immediately came into my mind was ‘Hello and Goodbye’. Interesting – why that phrase and why now? When I google it, I find the words to a song – ‘Hello and Goodbye ‘sung by Jill Ireland. I have no memory of ever hearing the song, I look up the lyrics.

“Some have a lifetime, some just a day
Love isn’t something you measure that way
Nothing’s ever forever, forever’s a lie
All we have is between ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye”

March 12th 2020 – suddenly and shockingly we say goodbye to face to face contact with our students, colleagues, and many of our families and friends. Overnight we transition to remote teaching delivery and struggle to find new ways of saying hello and maintaining relationships. It reminds me of being in the Gaeltacht – total immersion in an unfamiliar language, perpetually anxious.

Suddenly broadband emerges as the significant criterion for inclusion and exclusion. The reflexive dialogue at the heart of adult learning was compromised by remote delivery as the focus was on connectivity and staying connected. I found it very difficult to adjust to working with learning groups online, how to get a feel of the group dynamic and emotional temperature. My pedagogical model of group facilitation, crafted over 30 years, seemed no longer appropriate to remote learning. I am forced to be more structured and directive, there is less opportunity for members to engage spontaneously with each other. At times it feels we are forced to revert to the banking model of education despite our deep commitment to a more collaborative and participatory Freirean approach.   

We search for ways to stay connected and support each other – daily remote coffee breaks where we anxiously explore possibilities for more participatory approaches to remote delivery. We stay in remote touch with students, offering opportunities to make sense and meaning of their ongoing experiences of COVID. We offer a weekly mindful session remotely. We encourage students to include their experiences and reflections of living with COVID in their research and assignments.

All that is familiar is disrupted but together we do our collective best to support students to complete their studies. It was a privilege to read assignments and research which explored themes in adult development such as loss, the meaning of life, life choices and collective responsibility for a just and equal world.

We have no collective opportunity to say goodbye. We miss the rituals that celebrate the ending of a course, that acknowledge the unique contribution of each member in creating a learning community. Endings provide an opportunity to celebrate achievements, acknowledge the learning and insights, take leave of valued colleagues and friends, and internalise the rich learning experiences and relationships. Endings can also encourage us to name what has not been achieved, acknowledge loss and sadness and in the process begin again, engage in new learning and relationships.

Amid completing courses, despite COVID restrictions  we focus on gathering new students remotely, “Though we live in a world that dreams of ending, that always seems about to give in, something that will not acknowledge conclusion, insists that we forever begin’’ Brendan Kennelly – ‘Begin Again’.

September 2020, first semester – no tea and coffee – social distancing, yellow X’s marked on the floor and face masks the norm – a new unfamiliar beginning. And yet some of it is familiar, we move chairs, find flasks, set up tables and ensure despite all the restrictions that we create a welcoming learning environment. We encourage learners to share their experiences, talk with each other, make sense of the last few months, and explore possibilities.

One of the narratives in COVID is that we are all in this together. However, COVID has been experienced very differently by individuals, groups, and communities. Some of us have been lucky to maintain our incomes and health, others have lost loved ones and their livelihoods.   Many on the margins and who are disadvantaged have been most negatively impacted, especially so in regions and countries impacted by global climate crisis, war, inequality, human rights, and political instability. 

Living with COVID is disruptive and anxiety provoking, it can impact on our thinking, relating, and feeling.  It can be a relief to believe that those in power can provide the answers. Yet in adult education, we believe we are responsible for our individual and collective actions. We need to be able to reflect on our experiences with others, ensure that all stories are heard and learn from this knowledge to create a more just and equal world.

And what about love – relationship and care are at the heart of adult education.  Freire reminds of the need for ‘courage to love (which, far from being accommodation to an unjust world, is rather the transformation of that world on behalf of the increasing liberation of people) (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1972, p. 144) and “because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is a commitment to others. No matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause–the cause of liberation.”

During all this uncertainty and anxiety, I know the value of being connected and in relationship. I know the power in people meeting together, reflecting on our experiences and creating knowledge.  Freire reminds us that to be human is to engage in ‘relationships with others and with the world … knowledge is built up in the relationships between human beings and the world’ (Education the Practice of Freedom, 1974, p. 3).

In this year of Covid, I am struck by the kindness of many people – there is a deeper appreciation of the fragility of life, and that we live creatively with uncertainty.  

Mullaghmeen Wood in November 2020.

Naomi Shihab Nye reminds us that

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow,

You must speak to it till your voice

Catches the thread of all sorrows

And you see the size of the cloth’.

As Christmas approaches, I am reminded of the importance of hope, of light and new birth. This time will pass, it is important to consider any learning that we can take into the future. Issues of care, health, housing, life work balance, human flourishing and climate change are now to the forefront.  

More than ever I am reminded of the significance of hello, goodbye, love, and the preciousness of time. COVID may provide us with opportunities for new learning and insight if we take the time to reflect on our experiences with others and apply the knowledge in creating a more equal and just world.