Episode Three: “Inequalities in student experiences and outcomes” Professor Emer Smyth, ESRI

Apr 22, 02:00 AM
My guest in this podcast episode is Professor Emer Smyth, Emer is a Research Professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). She is Co-Principal Investigator of Growing Up in Ireland (GUI), together with Dorothy Watson, and joint research area coordinator for education.

Her main research interests centre on education, school to work transitions, gender and comparative methodology. She has conducted a number of studies on the effects of schooling contexts on student outcomes, including Do Schools Differ? She led the Post-Primary Longitudinal Study (PPLS), which followed a cohort of young people from the first year of second-level education onwards. Emer has also used GUI data to write reports and journal articles on the transition into primary school, arts and cultural participation among children and young people, spatial variation in child outcomes and the effects of being in a multi-grade class, among other topics.

In this episode Professor Smyth describes how the resources that a family has (money, educational qualifications of parents, love of reading etc) impact and influence a child’s life with specific reference to how pupils progress at school and how the educational system itself shapes outcomes and trajectories for pupils.
She refers to the interaction between the structures we live in and live by and our own experiences and how that plays out over the life-course in particular which is interactive and dynamic. She mentions how longitudinal data can help us to understand how experiences and advantage and disadvantage accumulates over the life-course.

We discuss the Post-Primary Longitudinal Study (PPLS) which was very student-focused and research reports from the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) data, also very child-focused and comparisons between Irish based research with global research, engagement of post-primary students and much more.

We talk about diversity in the teaching profession and how ethnicity and nationality
background in particular as diversity factors merits further research attention. She believes that the class gap between teachers and many students is a challenge and how while we are comfortable discussing disadvantage we are not good at naming social class as an issue in education.

We look at research possibilities that students and researchers could focus on including relationships (teachers and students), ability groupings, impact of Covid and further inequalities in short term and long term. Professor Smyth emphasises how there is a high level of trust in the education system in Ireland and how there are very high levels of care evident in the education system with strong indicators of care at all levels. She emphasises how research has shown consistently that for both younger and older students in Ireland
how important relationships and the quality of relationships between teachers and students are. She believes it is the biggest influence on outcomes overall.

This is a really enlightening and informative episode which will be of interest to all student teachers and may be useful in particular those preparing to or undertaking research on their ITE programmes. It will also be useful for teacher educators, teachers, parents, school management and researchers and anyone interested in education in general.