Capturing the Evidence in Family Learning

Family Learning Forum held in Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland 28th May 2014

‘Action Research in Family Learning’
Dr. Esther Prins, Goodling Institute, Pennsylvania State University

Powerpoint link here

This presentation will discuss what action research is, and how it can be used to gather evidence and improve practice in family learning programs.

Esther’s research examines the ways in which social class, culture, race/ethnicity, and gender influence how learners participate in, and benefit from, adult education and family learning (AEFL), as well as the psychosocial meanings and benefits of AEFL. She is broadly interested in participatory approaches to education, community development, and research.

Esther previously coordinated an adult education program and taught ESL classes to Latino/a immigrants in Chicago. She has conducted research and worked in rural and urban educational and community settings in the U.S., Belize, El Salvador, Ghana, and Tanzania. She also teaches the following graduate courses: Family Literacy; Language, Literacy, Identity, and Culture in Global Contexts; and Politics, Language and Pedagogy: Applying Paulo Freire Today.

‘The Evaluation of the DEIS Programme
Dr Susan Weir, Research Fellow. Education Research Centre, St. Patricks College, Drumcondra, Dublin.

Powerpoint link here

Susan is a full-time educational researcher and has been working in the area of educational disadvantage in Ireland for almost 20 years.  Her work has involved, among other things, the identification of schools serving disadvantaged students for the Department of Education and Skills (e.g., Weir & Archer, 2005; Weir 2006), policy work in the area of disadvantage (e.g.,Kellaghan, Weir, Ó hUallacháin, & Morgan, 1995; Archer & Weir, 2005; Weir & McAvinue, 2012), the special nature of disadvantage in rural areas (e.g.,Weir & McAvinue, 2013) and programme evaluation (e.g.,  Weir, Milis & Ryan, 2002; Weir, Archer, Pembroke & McAvinue, 2007; Weir & Denner, 2013).  She recently represented Ireland at a meeting in Rio de Janeiro on the OECD’s Education and Social Progress International study of Non-Cognitive Skills and completed a review commissioned by the United States Government on how Ireland deals with low-achieving schools.

Feedback from Family Learning Forum

‘Capturing the Evidence’ Family Learning Forum  held in Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland on 28th May 2014, gathered participants ideas on ways of showing evidence of success in family learning. Four measurable headings were used: Attendance, Participation, Retention and Progression.

Please see ideas below:


1. Give three things that show evidence of attendance.

  • Roll Book/ Sign in Sheet (3)
  • Evaluation Sheet
  • Arriving on time
  • Phone/Text message if going to be absent or late  (3)
  • Patterns of attendance
  • Talking to someone, find out why they are coming in late or not at all  (3)
  • Follow up on non-attendance e.g. phone call
  • Physically there
  • Catching up on what they missed
  • An extra mark on the register for the  coordinator to check periodically
  • Not to be too strict about poor attendance, investigate the cause.
  • Class contracts
  • Attendance forms; photographs of learners in the classroom
  • Note time of attendance
  • Entice people to be there early

2. What evidence of attendance do you currently gather and how do you do this?

  • Role book/ sign in sheet  (3)
  • MIS
  • Scrapbook/ Portfolio of learning/ completing worksheets (2)
  • Keep track of how many sessions a person attended
  • Send out group/individual texts from the MIS
  • Certification
  • Attendance forms; photographs; note the time on the register; principals help; certification is a big thing for attendance
  • Type of course affects level of attendance
  • Asking schools/ parents what they want
  • DSP referrals

3. What other evidence of attendance could be gathered and how would you do this?

  • Learning Journal (2)
  • Personal Profile
  • Develop roll books to capture more information e.g. codes for being late/absent (2)
  • Analyse and document the ‘captured evidence’ for statistics
  • Tutors could follow up absences with a phone call to encourage accountability
  • Attendance sheets with sign in and sign out times
  • Tutors give learners an attendance rate and this becomes competitive
  • Certificates of participation
  • Rolling classes over four – six weeks
  • Awards night
  • Building up relationships
  • Classes must interest the learners!!



1. Give three things that show evidence of participation.

  • Completed Work (portfolio/audio)
  • Knowing what the course is about
  • Listening effectively/ asking the right questions
  • Peer Learning
  • Engaging in group work
  • Engaging in programme  (2)
  • Producing something at the end of the course e.g. Piece of craft (4)
  • Having a goal at the beginning and seeing where they are at the end
  • Capture wider benefits
  • Group contract
  • Positive change in attitude
  • Doing more homework and written work
  • People becoming more positive and upbeat
  • Becoming more supportive of others
  • Linking parental interest to children’s interests.

2. What evidence of participation do you currently gather and how do you do this?

  • Certification 2
  • Portfolio/ artefact
  • Certification of attendance
  • Evaluation/feedback sheets 3
  • Take pictures
  • Monthly progress reports
  • MIS
  • Focus group
  • Oral / written evaluations and questionnaires
  • Feedback from principals/ HSCL coordinators when working in schools
  • Self-evaluation questionnaire
  • How do you feel before /after course.

3. What other evidence of participation could be gathered and how would you do this?

  • Graduation/celebration party
  • Summative evaluation
  • Suggestion box
  • Prompts for future learners/ presentation on refection
  • Online / facebook / blogs
  • Use Home School Community Liaison Coordinator to do a questionnaire.



1. Give three things that show evidence of retention.

  • Leave and come back
  • Progress onto another programme ( 2)
  • Completed work/certification (2)
  • Engaging with available supports e.g. Guidance, Literacy
  • Lead the way and say what they want to do next
  • Completion rates
  • Register (2)
  • Self-assessment/ survey of progression or learning achievements
  • Track the learner from the 1stcontract
  • Being reflective and critical of our own practice
  • Exit  and guidance follows up
  • Attendance rate
  • Return to other courses
  • Needs to be a willingness to progress

2. What evidence of retention do you currently gather and how do you do this?

  • Portfolio of work
  • MIS (2)
  • Learner profiles
  • Stats
  • Annual Reports
  • Register Roll books
  • Work that is produced physically
  • Finished tasks
  • Story Stacks

3. What other evidence of retention could be gathered and how would you do this?

No response



1. Give three things that show evidence of progression.

  • Could be making friends
  • Testimonies
  • Better interaction – eye contact
  • Student work
  • Folders
  • Apply what they have learned in their homes/community
  • Become more involved in their children’s life/schooling
  • Successful in gaining employment
  • Engaging with the services available
  • Finishing course
  • Moving into other classes / courses / subjects
  • Intention to move to other classes
  • Getting positions on school Board of Management or becoming engaged in community groups
  • Being on location is important for progression
  • Primary facilities are often better than adult education
  • Providing a need in the community.

2. What evidence of progression do you currently gather and how do you do this?

  • Progression is different in everyone
  • MIS
  • Logbook

3. What other evidence of progression could be gathered and how would you do this?

No response