Reflections on Evaluating Quality in Educational Spaces

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Evaluating Quality in Educational Spaces (EQES)

This study was developed and piloted by the OECD as a way of testing post occupancy tools (POE) on an international platform. POE is often viewed as a costly and time-consuming activity, which rarely infiltrates the wider process. The focus for EQES was to look at opportunities for easy and affordable ways of evaluating educational spaces, as well as encouraging an international exchange of ideas on the subject.

Six schools in Scotland trialed the tools, alongside five other countries – Mexico, Portugal, Brazil, New Zealand, and England. Our aim in Scotland was to inform schools, the local authorities and Scottish Government about how well their schools ‘worked’, whilst being part of this international conversation.

Four tools developed by the OECD were tested – Questionnaires (x3), and Focus Groups with staff and students. Broadly, the aim was to understand the following;

  • context and priorities for each school according to the school, and the local authority;
  • to understand how staff and students perceived quality in their school;
  • and to gain more detailed understanding of what works and doesn’t work according to its users.

Our experience of doing the study was mixed, and there were several variables affecting its success. For example, the percentage of participants at each school differed greatly, and not all schools were able to complete all tools. Questionnaires were generally easy to complete, however the process of analysing and presenting data proved challenging – and would be impractical on a wider scale. Likewise, it was not fully resolved how the outputs from the Focus Groups would be presented and used. Despite this, the Focus Groups were markedly more useful than staff and student questionnaires at gaining in-depth knowledge about what worked and didn’t work in the schools. And we believe there would be scope in Scotland to consider how to use these more widely and to better effect.

Reflecting on the study as a whole, we would advise careful consideration of the following in relation to the use of the tools, as well as the overall study;

The Tools

  • Make sure the questionnaire’s are accessible, quick to do, and easy to understand
  • Format questionnaires and their outputs so they are clear, concise, and present analysis in a useful way
  • Consider more emphasis on the Focus Groups, which are quick to do and provide relevant and useful information about how the school works (though consider carefully how best to capture and present the information collected)

Overall Study

  • School and Local Authorities must have incentive and commitment to do the exercise, be willing to take the outcomes on board, and follow up on any issues raised. (Some suggested improvements would not necessarily require financing – many issues raised related to management of spaces.)
  • Be clear on what outcomes you are looking for (i.e. specific spaces or issues, or general spaces and issues), and how these should be presented. Questionnaires can be a useful tool, but there needs to be a clear and simple system which allows data to be analysed and presented usefully.
  • Think about how can the study best support the aims of the school, local authority, and other interested groups? And consider how best to share the lessons learnt more widely.

To view the EQES Manual and the tools from the project, click on the Resource at the side of the page. For more information about the programme, visit the OECD Website here.

If you would like any further information about this project or have any comments, email or call 08451 800 642.

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