The Study

Teachers' Beliefs about Education and Children's Voice Practices in the Island of Ireland

Conducted by:
School of Social Sciences, Education, and Social Work, Queen's University Belfast
School of Education, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Funded by:
Centre for Cross Border Studies ( SCoTENS )

Study aims:
​This study examined the educational beliefs of primary school teachers in the Island of Ireland and how these shaped their understandings of, and approaches to, ‘children’s voice’[1] in schools. ‘Educational beliefs’ refer to teachers’ understandings of the purpose of schools, the nature of teaching and learning, the role of the teacher, and the role of students. Four research questions were developed to guide the design and conduct of the study: (a) How do teachers’ beliefs about education vary between schools with different characteristics in the two jurisdictions (north and south)? (b) How do teachers’ beliefs about education influence their own (and their students’) understandings of, and approaches to, children’s voice?  (c) Do such understandings/approaches differ between north and south? (d) How do teachers with different educational beliefs enter into dialogue with children and each other? What dynamics emerge out of such dialogic encounters and what power differentials are discerned?
Methods and phases of the study:

The study adopted a mixed-methods approach and included three main phases:

Phase 1: Teachers’ questionnaire survey – The survey explored teachers’ educational beliefs in a large sample of primary schools in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. 

Phase 2: Working with Children’s Research Advisory Groups (GRAGs) - To ensure that our research is compliant with Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the researchers worked with two CRAGs who helped them find the best way to interview other children about how they understood ‘children’s voice’ and how they had experienced it through various activities in their schools. They also helped researchers interpret data generated through children's focus group interviews in Phase 3 (see below). 

Phase 3: Qualitative case studies – This involved research in 4 schools (two in each jurisdiction) comprising interviews and focus groups with teachers and children (respectively) aimed at exploring different understandings of, and approaches to, children’s voice in schools. The schools were selected from those having participated in the questionnaire survey of Phase 1. 

[1] ‘Children’s voice’ is a term used to refer to children’s participation in decisions that affect them.