Workshop for local evaluators in Cork, Ireland

On the 20th and 21st of March a workshop was held in Cork Institute of Technology to support the data collection and research processes of VISKA. Attendees from all partner countries were present.

The workshop facilitators prepared a Handbook for the participants which addressed the overall project aims and provided guidelines for particular research methods.  It also addressed the important ethical considerations for the project.  In the workshop the team shared views and experiences.  Some were new to the VISKA project so time was taken to revisit the aims and objectives of the project.  It was clear that the project partners who will be undertaking the field trials and interventions are starting from different positions, have different target groups and will be taking a variety of actions.  The VISKA project proposal envisages a number of points in the project activities at which information will need to be collected by the implementation partners.  The project takes an ‘action’ focus and each of the country implementation partners will be involved in specific field trials (chosen by them and applied by them in their country context) in relation to the validation of prior learning focused on different target groups.   This means that there is a challenge to be overcome as the activities and hence the collecting and recording of information will not be uniform across the project.   However the workshop focused on ways in which we can align the data collection exercise and still be mindful of the variation in the local context, with a view to developing outputs and outcomes that have some transferrable value.

In terms of collecting information there are probably three (or more) potential target groups:

  • The learners who might seek to access validation services
  • The guidance and other front line staff who interact directly with the learners
  • The policy makers (and partner organisation staff) and other influencers as well as the National Advisory groups.

In terms of the points in time at which information might be collected there are three potential points under consideration:

  • Before the project to establish the baseline or existing situation
  • During the project to check on processes being used and to allow for adjustment where appropriate
  • After the project to assess impact, effectiveness

And we also considered that there are probably three methods that all partner countries will use to collect data:  Surveys, Focus Groups and In-depth Interviews.

Over the two days the team worked to agree outline formats for the data collection methods that will be employed – these have been collected into a report from the workshop and shared with the workshop participants initially before being shared with the wider group.  A clear outcome from the event was the assertion that these researchers will have to be well-integrated into the ‘action’ workpackages associated with the tools for validation and the field trials so that the points at which data can and should be collected are agreed in a more detailed project Gantt Chart.

Feedback from the workshop participants was positive with a recognition that meeting each other was one of the most important outcomes.  As the photographs show we even had some rare March sunshine!