Educational theory, policy and practice already in place.

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Last updated: September 4, 2019

Educational research is vital and imperative to the informing of educational theory, policy and practice. It “is important because of contributing knowledge development, practical improvement, and policy information. Therefore, educators can use those research findings to improve their competences and teaching and learning process (Yuli Rahmawati, 2008). Educational research suggests and often demands for change in areas of policy and practice and provides great insight into the regular practice’ of teachers in classrooms which would not otherwise be documented.  Research is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as “the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions” (2010).

This systematic approach taken by researchers ensures the exclusion of bias and prejudice through the collection and analysis of data within research projects. Anderson and Arsenault, (1998) suggest that “the purpose of research, the procedures of research and the role of researcher” (p.7) are three pivotal and vital elements that need to be examined and exacted in order to complete research within the bounds of ‘good practice’. If educational research is performed within the constructs of ‘good practice’ it will undoubtedly add to educational discourse and build upon the theory, policy and practice already in place. Great educational research might even change one of these factors.

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Without educational research theory, policy and practice are unstable and unreliable. Education can become a profession that differs vastly between classrooms, Counties and Countries. In practical terms, students interact with their teacher only for over 80% of their schooling. Therefore, if the teacher is not informed by good practice, does not have underlining policy to follow or has not been taught with an informative and tested theory, this can result in poor schooling for our children.

Policy, theory and good practice are in place to safeguard our children and standardize the schooling system so that every child receives an equal and adequate education, to the best of this Countries’ ability.  Educational research is what creates these standardizing policies, practices and theories but also what changes them on an ongoing basis and in a radical way. The recent acceptance of the important of teachers as researchers has filled many educators with great hope for our schooling system. The ‘Practice-based Research Encompassing Professional Development Project’ supported by the Teaching Council in 2012 was the first in a large cohort of acknowledgment of practice-led research. Although researchers do fantastic work, it is educators and teachers that can provide the best insight and data into the reality of our school system in Ireland.

Whether these teachers are partaking in or conducting research, this spike in teacher-led/practice-led educational research is a sign of hope for improving the education system in Ireland. Educational research has been defined as a “purposeful and systematic” enquiry “to solve a problem, illuminate a situation or add to our knowledge” (Mutch, 2005, pp. 14).

This illumination of situations and issues is what makes educational research, in particular when conducted by educators so vital to bettering our education system. It is only through self-reflection in practice and educational research that teachers may realize their hopes ‘to change the world by teaching better’ (Lytle 2008).Reference listAnderson, G., Arsenault, N. (1998) Fundamentals of Educational Research. 2nd ed., London: The Falmer Press.

Glenn, M., McDonagh, C., Sullivan, B., Roche, M.

, Morgan, M. (2012) Practice-based Research Encompassing Professional Development Project. Dublin: The Teaching Council. Lytle, S. (2008) At last: Practitioner inquiry and the practice of teaching: Some thoughts on better.

Journal for Research in the Teaching of English. 42 (3): 373-379. Retrieved from http://repository.upenn.edu/gse_pubs/153 Accessed on: 12 Dec 2017.Mutch, C.

(2005) Doing Educational Research: A Practitioner’s Guide to Getting Started. New Zealand; NZCER Press. Rahmawati, Y. (2008) ‘The Nature and Characteristics of Educational Research’, Yuli Rahmawati’s Weblog Soulful science of education. 12 April 2008. Available: https://pendidikansains.

wordpress.com/2008/04/12/the-nature-and-characteristics-of-educational-research/ accessed: 12 Dec 2017.Stevenson, A. ed. (2010) Oxford Dictionary of English. Oxford; Oxford university Press.Part B: My research topic will be on the subject of bereavement within the Primary school sector.

My research question will focus on The supports in place for teachers dealing with bereaved students in the classroom. I hope to be interviewing teachers on their attitudes towards bereavement, if policies are in place within their school and any training they feel they could benefit from within this topic. I believe this research will greatly add to discourse in Ireland in particular, as there is a great lack of research done on this topic within the Irish educational system. There has been vast in depth research conducted on this topic in other countries such as Denmark, Australia and the UK, Ireland however is still lacking in research and therefore in Policy regarding supporting children through times of grief. I hope to focus on schools in the Munster area as college commitments will only allow a certain amount of time to conduct my collection of data. I wish to discuss school pastoral policies, teacher attitudes and CPD training around the topic of bereavement within my study. This will develop a clearer picture of how bereavement in dealt with in Irish schools and I hope to identify areas and topics teachers would like to undertake training in within the context of loss and bereavement.

 I chose this topic as I have had personal experiences with peer bereavement while in primary school. I believe through my experiences in school and now myself undergoing teacher training, that dealing with bereavement is a sensitive and taboo issue in Irish schools. I hope to highlight the issue through my research and urge discourse towards dealing with the issue on a national level. I feel this would aid teachers in conducting level discussion around loss and grief within the classroom to have set rules, norms and policy around this sensitive issue.

 Upon entering teacher training college, I had hoped that bereavement would be dealt with in detail as we train to begin long careers in teaching and will most likely experience childhood bereavement within our class. I was unsettled to discover that childhood bereavement is not exclusively dealt with when I have seen personally the effect it can have on an entire class, if not dealt with in an open and respectful manner. This urged me to construct my research project on the issue in a hope to add evidence to my experience. Part C: Childhood bereavement is becoming an increasingly discussed topic within Irish education in recent years.

There has however, been little research done on the topic compared to other areas of student mental health.  Grief is the term associated with the predominant reaction to the loss of a loved one (Stroebe, 2007). This grief affects many children throughout their school lives and yet, is rarely and briefly, if ever, discussed in the context of the classroom. Last year 30,390 (CSO, May 2017) died in Ireland, although we do not have figures on how many children those deaths affected, you can derive from those statistics, that it is not few students that are affected by death within their eight years of Primary school education; and yet the DES and the NCCA have yet to devise a plan to incorporate the discussion on death into the Curriculum. Holland (2001) expresses that educating teachers is of vital important to insuring children within the schooling system receive the best care with regards to bereavement and loss.

An analysis of the current systems under the DES and the curriculum as a whole however, leaves much to be desired in this area. Daly did research in this area in 2006 and reveals that there are no policies in place with the Department of Education and Science nor in the Department of Health and Children. Currently it is to be taking upon each school individually to construct a ‘bereavement policy’ for their school as part of their whole-school planning and Pastoral care policy. McGovern & Tracey (2010) outline the difficulty schools have in defining this policy and the need for them to often consult outside bereavement and counselling service in order to compile this policy. Additionally, in McGovern & Tracey’s findings, they state that the non-existence of such school policies to address bereavement in primary schools in Galway stood at 83% of the schools surveyed.

This should not be the case in contemporary Ireland when the Teaching Council, the DES and the NCCA strive to standardize education for everyone and pride themselves on inclusion and equality policies. This is a shocking revelation that at policy level the NCCA have not enriched the syllabus to help children deal with grief. Some analysis of the Irish primary school curriculum reveals references to the topic of loss and bereavement through the “Social, Personal & Health Education curriculum book” (2005). The theme of bereavement and loss is referenced in its strand units. • Feelings & Emotions: name a variety of feelings and talk about situations where these may be experienced.

 Feeling; happiness, love, joy, excitement, surprise, fear, loss, jealousy, pain, loneliness.                                                                         (2005, 18)• Feelings & Emotions: realise and explore various ways feelings can be expressed and dealt with and choose which are the most appropriate and acceptable. Loss; crying, remaining quite, asking for help.                        (2005, 29)• Feelings & Emotions: identify strong feelings and learn how to express and cope with these feelings in a socially appropriate manner. ….loss….                                                                                   (2005, 42)• Feelings & Emotions: acquire the ability and confidence to identify, discuss and explore a range of feelings, especially those that are difficult to express.….

.grief…., ‘highs’ and ‘lows’.                                                (2005, 58)• Myself & My Family: examine some factors that can affect family life.

…..bereavement….                                                                    (2005, 61)Although reference is made to the topic of loss, bereavement and loss through the curriculum strands, it is done so in a brief context rather than providing a clear and decisive program that could be classified as “death education”(Holland, 2003, 76). Understandably this is a long, complicated process however, the issue has been flagged by researchers for years now and needs to be addressed (Holland, (1993), Mc Guckin, C., O’Brien, A. (2014), Dowling, M.

, Kiernan, G., Guerin, S. (2007), Jones, A., Deane, C., Keegan, O. (2015), Akerman, R.

, Statham, J. (2014), McGovern, M., Tracey, A. (2010)). Although the S.

P.H.E curriculum briefly mentions education in bereavement for students, there is no education in this sense within teacher training programmes. Daly (2007) reveals her frustration with this topic and calls for change within the teacher training colleges. “No policy exists to encourage educators to be aware when children experience changes or loss through separation or divorce, living away from their families for various reasons or when a child is bereaved through the death of a significant person in their private lives.

Contrasting with this, examples from Curriculum documents in both primary and post primary settings suggest the emotional needs of children are relevant to teachers and that they have a role with them.”                                                                                                                        (2007, 224)Children spend a large amount of their early lives in school and with their teacher acting in loco parentis. Without these teacher training programmes on loss and bereavement Daly regrets that the teacher is not fully equipped to correctly nourish the child in that difficult time. Daly echoes this frustrating task widely addressed by teachers throughout the research that has been conducted around the area and is clearly frustrated by the lack of support offered to teachers by the DES.

It should not be up to bereavement agencies to be creating guidelines and booklets on dealing with childhood bereavement and grief and Daly echoes this in her 2006 study. In researching the topic of bereavement and loss I found little written about it in the context of the Irish schooling system. The most relevant study is that of Mc Guckin and O’ Brien. I continued to read further research on bereavement in childhood, much of which was international research. I have included studies which highlight the importance of policy development around childhood bereavement and also how the lack of policy cripples teachers who have to deal with this sensitive issue. Reference ListAkerman, R.

, Statham, J. (2014) Bereavement in childhood: the impact on psychological and educational outcomes and the effectiveness of support services. London: Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre (CWRC), Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education.Daly, E., (2007) Adults Supporting Bereaved Children and Adolescents: A Discussion Paper, The OMEP Ireland Journal of Early Childhood Studies: An Leanbh Óg, Vol. 1, (216-233).Department of Education and Science, (2005) Social, Personal and Health Education: Dublin: Primary School Curriculum, Government Publications.

Dowdney, L. (2000) Childhood Bereavement Following Parental Death. UK; University of Surrey.

Jones, A., Deane, C., Keegan, O. (2015) The development of a framework to support bereaved children and young people: the Irish Childhood Bereavement Care Pyramid. Bereavement Care: Irish Hospice Foundation.Dowling, M., Kiernan, G.

, Guerin, S. (2007) “Responding to the needs of children who have been bereaved: A focus on services in Ireland.” The Irish Psychologist 33, no. 10 (2007): 261-262.Holland, J.M., (1993) Child Bereavement in Humberside Primary Schools, Educational Research Journal, Vol.

35, No. 3.Holland, J.M.

, (2001) Understanding Children’s Experiences of Parental Bereavement, London: Jessica Kingsley Publications.Holland, J.M., (2003) Supporting schools with loss: “Lost for Words” in Hull, British Journal of Special Education, Vol.

30, No. 2.McGovern, M., & Tracey, (2010) A comparative examination of schools’ responses to bereavement and the associated needs of the school community in Galway, West of Ireland and Derry, Northern Ireland. Pastoral Care in Education, Vol. 28, (235-252).Mc Guckin, C., O’Brien, A.

(2014) Grieving students: The response and support of educators in Irish schools. Journal of Postgraduate Research. Dublin: Trinity College.Stroebe, M.

S., Hansson, R.O., Stroebe, W, & Henk, S.

, (2007) Handbook of Bereavement Research: Consequences, Coping and Care, USA: American Psychological Association Press.  Reference Title Study Aims & objectives Research design Sample Data collection methods Findings relevant to the reviewMc Guckin, C., O’Brien, A. (2014) Grieving students: The response and support of educators in Irish schools. Journal of Postgraduate Research. Dublin: Trinity College Grieving students: The response and support of educators in Irish schools Documents the approach and response of Irish primary and post-primary schools regarding policy and provision of support to students who have experienced bereavement as well as providing preliminary analyses of exploratory interviews with key stakeholders Surveys sent to primary and post-primary schools in the Republic of Ireland a total of 1,474 schools received the survery.Exploratory Interviews.

372 returned surveys.169 from Primary Schools. 203 from post-primary schools. Surveys- About your School; About your Staff; About your Students. Further support is needed for teachers in dealing with bereavement in schools.The research urges that an in-depth programme of research is planned and actioned to investigate the needs of young people bereaved in Ireland and how the education system can provide support.Dowling, M., Kiernan, G.

, Guerin, S. (2007) “Responding to the needs of children who have been bereaved: A focus on services in Ireland.” The Irish Psychologist 33, no.

10 (2007): 261-262. A Study of the Therapeutic Journey of Children who have been Bereaved To gain an understanding of the nature and role of counselling for children who are bereaved The first phase was based on data collection from children and their parents at several different time points, including initial referral (T0), the start of counselling (T1) three months from the start of counselling (T2) and six months after the start of counselling (T3). The second phase involved data collection from counsellors who work with children who are bereaved in one-off qualitative interviews.

1.6 families. (7 parents and 8 children)2. Counsellors and psychotherapists who worked individually with children who are bereaved.

In total, seven counsellors were interviewed. Interviews. Research notes the need for a service to be developed so that there is a link with children’s other significant contexts, most notably their school context.There are differences between what parents report about their child’s well-being and what children themselves report.The research noted the benefits associated with parents also receiving support through other services, for example, personal counselling and statutory services.

Jones, A., Deane, C., Keegan, O. (2015) The development of a framework to support bereaved children and young people: the Irish Childhood Bereavement Care Pyramid.

Bereavement Care: Irish Hospice Foundation. The development of a framework to support bereaved children and young people: the Irish Childhood Bereavement Care Pyramid Building a Model to support bereaved children in Ireland.To develop a conceptual language to help those coming into contact with bereaved children to begin to craft appropriate responses. Based on data from Carroll 2010 (unpublished thesis).

N/A Based on data from Carroll 2010 (unpublished thesis). Further work is required to resource the adoption, promotion and the development of training based on the model.Akerman, R.,Statham, J. (2014) Bereavement in childhood: the impact on psychological and educational outcomes and the effectiveness of support services. London: Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre (CWRC), Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education. Bereavement in childhood: the impact on psychological and educational outcomes and the effectiveness of support services.

To provide a brief overview of educational and psychological outcomes for children and young people bereaved of a parent or sibling, and the effectiveness of services provided for this group. Literature review. Key words: children, young people, bereavement, death, grief, education, achievement, emotional wellbeing, mental health, impact and outcomes – and combinations of these and similar terms Searched on:British Education Index, Australian Education Index, ERIC and PsychInfo databases, and Google Scholar – post 2000 studies only. Schools, as the place where most children spend a large part of their daily lives, could play an important part in ensuring that the needs of bereaved children are recognised and responded to in an appropriate fashion.

Most children do experience some negative impact on psychological wellbeing in the short term (up to a year) from bereavement of a parent or sibling. Significant difficulties may continue to emerge – and in some cases intensify – for at least two years following the death.McGovern, M., Tracey, A. (2010) A comparative examination of schools’ responses to bereavement and the associated needs of the school community in Galway, West of Ireland and Derry, Northern Ireland, Pastoral Care in Education. London: Taylor & Francis. A comparative examination of schools’ responses to bereavement and the associated needs of the school community in Galway, West of Ireland and Derry, Northern Ireland, Pastoral Care in Education.

To compare how schools in Galway, Republic of Ireland and Derry in the North of Ireland (cities located within two independent jurisdictions in Ireland) manage and respond to bereavement. Survey sent to schools, the ‘Loss in Schools’ questionnaire. 38 surveys from Galway schools. 35 surveys from Derry schools. 10 question survey.

In both places some schools reported that loss is included in their school’s policy documents but not formally included in the curriculum. 83% in Galway and 35% in Derry did not have a school policy for dealing with bereavement. Some teachers attended training days, although short term in both places. Teachers in both places uncomfortable with raising the issue of death with their class.There is a need for clear policy and training for teachers on the issue of bereavement and loss.

Dowdney, L. (2000) Childhood Bereavement Following Parental Death. UK; University of Surrey.

Childhood Bereavement Following Parental Death This article examines the evidence supporting Black’s(1978) conclusion that bereavement is a risk factor forpsychopathology. Both child outcome and the possiblemoderating and mediating variables that influence out-come are considered. Literature review Literature review Literature review Mild depression is frequent, and canpersist for at least a year after parental death. However,when clinically referred children are excluded, psychiatricdisorder characterises only a very small minority ofchildren.

Note the absence of longitudinal studies around bereavement. 

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