Dr Jenny Povey - Applied Research for Policy Impact

27 Aug 2020

Dr Jenny Povey has worked at ISSR for more than a decade and during this period has developed a substantial reputation as a highly committed researcher capable of delivering applied and co-developed research to address societal challenges. Jenny currently leads a research group within ISSR that focusses on the utilisation of research by policy-makers and practitioners to address educational disadvantage. Jenny also has considerable experience and expertise in complex policy and program evaluations.

Jenny currently manages the ISSR flagship evaluation of Try, Test and Learn Fund which includes 53 different national social interventions; as well as an evaluation of specific family and children’s programs for a large non-for-profit organisation. In 2018 Jenny led the evaluation of the Nanny Pilot Programme and the In Home Care Review, the findings of which were used to refine Australian child care policy and child care reforms. These reforms ultimately made care in the home more affordable for the large number of families who required flexible and variable care arrangements. Jenny also played a key role in the development of the Domestic and Family Violence Evaluation Framework for the 10 year Queensland Government strategy. This framework is now being applied to evaluate the third action plan of the Queensland Government study, and is recognised by Queensland government evaluators as an excellent and practical example of evaluation framework design.

In addition to evaluating the effectiveness of social interventions, Jenny’s research examines educational effectiveness. One of the areas she has focused on is how teachers and schools use evidence to improve their practice. In research for the New South Wales Centre for Educational Statistics and Evaluation, Jenny’s team investigated how school principals use evidence to inform their practice. This research identified the school improvement practices secondary school leaders implemented when introducing school improvement programs into their school, findings which were disseminated to all NSW state secondary schools to improve their evidence-based school practices.

Jenny’s research also seeks to understand why and how some schools are more effective at parent engagement in education than others. While governments around the world are attempting to increase levels of parent engagement in a bid to reduce educational inequalities, there has been limited research acknowledging the pivotal role school principals can play in cultivating and facilitating the parent engagement school culture in their schools. Since 2014, Jenny has worked closely with the Queensland Department of Education and Training and P&Cs Queensland to address this gap. In addition to contributing to the evidence base, her research in this field led to the creation of a Parent Engagement Toolkit which provides schools with a suite of parent engagement strategies to enhance parent engagement in student learning. This toolkit is currently being trialled in eight disadvantaged schools.

More recently, Jenny has been successful in securing an ARC Linkage grant to fund co-developed research to provide evidence to improve service agencies’ understanding of children’s experiences in out-of-home care. Through a longitudinal qualitative study this research will provide evidence for agencies to best support families, carers and communities to promote the emotional, social and cultural well-being of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children in OOHC. This research is being co-developed with an interdisciplinary research team incorporating UQ and eight industry partners. 

In 2020 Jenny was appointed as an Associate Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course. This appointment was made in recognition of the close alignment of her work with the Centre, and research leadership that contributes to Centres goals and priorities on social and educational disadvantage.

Jenny will continue to work with partners on research problems that matter to them and find solutions that impact policy and practice. As governments seek to address the social, educational and economic challenges currently facing Australia and the world as a result of COVID-19, applied research with direct policy impact like Jenny’s will become increasingly important.