For closing the first stage of the virtue education project “e-TAP”, a focus group discussion was organized on July 1st with the participation of ten representants of the main educational policy making institutions in Latvia: The Ministry of Education, the State Education Quality Service of the Republic of Latvia (IKVD), the National Centre for education of the Republic of Latvia (VISC) and the representatives of the national curriculum content reform project Skola2030.

During the meeting, the results of the programme piloting were presented to them by the research team, and participants in the discussion expressed their satisfaction with the work done so far and stressed the timeliness and practical utility of the e-TAP programme. The modalities for the programme development and suggestions for the integration of the e-TAP programme at different levels of the Latvian education system were discussed.

As was already communicated, the Scientific Institute of Pedagogy of the Faculty of Pedagogy, Psychology and Art of the University of Latvia, is implementing the study funded by the Latvian Council of Sciences "Fit and feasibility trial of an online curriculum for virtue education in Latvian educational institutions (for 5 to 15 years-old students) - e-TAP". The first stage of the project was the organisation of the approbation of the e-TAP programme in Latvian schools in spring 2021

261 teachers from 96 educational institutions in all regions of Latvia took part in the pilot study on a voluntary basis. 78 of them work in pre-school, 60 – in grades 1-3, 75 – in grades 4-6 and 63 in grades 7-9. Each teacher piloted in their classroom one or more of the 118 lesson plans offered for validation between February and April 2021. In pre-school, the validation was done in presence, while in the older classes it was done mostly remotely. Each teacher was assigned a mentor who supported and communicated with the teacher throughout the validation process.

After each lesson or topic, teachers completed a feedback questionnaire to share their experiences and make suggestions for improving the programme. A total of 1305 questionnaires were received: 359 for pre-school support materials, 287 for grades 1-3, 371 for grades 4-6 and 288 for grades 7-9. This feedback was a very valuable input for the improvement of the programme. In May, the project researchers (four MSc students, two PhD students, three Principal Investigators) analysed this large data set, which included both scales and open-ended questions, using the most up-to-date data analysis methods and software (SPSS and NVivo). The preliminary results of the project were also discussed with the participants in early June in four focus group discussions by age group, involving a total of 14 teachers and 9 project staff. In addition,

All participants were satisfied (80%) or rather satisfied (20%) with their participation in the project. Overall, 81% of teachers strongly agree and 18% rather agree that the programme is in line with the values and needs of the Latvian education system, both at national and institutional level, as well as at student and teacher level. The proposed topics, their sequence, and the didactic methods used were also considered relevant and effective. The lessons selected for approval were most often related to friendship, virtues and emotions, the online environment, conflict resolution and, in the older grades, to virtues needed for the future. In discussions and questionnaires, teachers suggested adding new topics to the programme, such as respect in relationships, care for nature and patriotism in younger classes, and conflict resolution, responsibility, online relationships, and addictions, especially to computers, in older classes. 

61.5% of teachers strongly agree and 34.6% rather agree that the activities included in the lesson plans were engaging for students, the support materials were useful, the content and number of activities in the lessons were optimal and it was easy to work with the proposed lesson plan. The main problems encountered by teachers were certain shortcomings in the content and design of the methodological support materials and the age-appropriateness of some materials. The need to increase the proportion of Latvian language in the curriculum by including more videos in Latvian, examples of virtues from the Latvian environment and, especially in smaller classes, to offer more practical activities and use simpler language were some of the suggestions frequently mentioned.

In questionnaires and focus group discussions, teachers shared examples of good practice and complementary materials they used in their classrooms. This material is being purposefully integrated into the lesson plans so that other teachers can later use this valuable experience in their own lessons. The next stage in the project is to refine the lesson plans by autumn, considering the suggestions received.

During this first half of the project, two scientific publications in English were also published: 'Virtue education programme e-TAP: innovativeness and thematic fit in the context of preschool and primary education in Latvia' and 'e-TAP curriculum for virtue education: a fit analysis to the 'Skola-2030' curriculum'. Project researchers and experts have presented papers at two scientific conferences in Riga and Rezekne.

This research is funded by the Latvian Council of Science, project "Fit and feasibility trial of an online curriculum for virtue education in Latvian educational institutions (for 5 to 15 years-old students) - e-TAP", project No. lzp-2020/2-0277”.