- Democratic Evaluation
- Ethics in Research and Evaluation
- Programme, policy and institutional self-evaluation
- Case study and qualitative methodologies
- Creative arts in Evaluation
Professor Simons initially trained as a teacher in New Zealand gaining the Certificate of Teaching ( with distinction) in 1960) and as a psychologist in Melbourne, Victoria , Australia where she practiced as an educational psychologist for six years before emigrating to England. She received her BA degree (English literature and Psychology) and Diploma of Education (with distinction) from the University of Melbourne, Australia and her PhD in Applied Educational Research from the University of East Anglia, UK. Her PhD was titled 'The Democratisation of Evaluation Processes' and featured three case studies of democratic evaluation providing the basis for much of her subsequent work in case study, democratic evaluation, and ethics. Her research positions have included Senior Research Associate, University of East Anglia, UK and Senior Research Fellow, the Nuffield foundation, London researching curriculum innovation in schools and higher education respectively.
From 1977-1990 she was on the staff of the University of London Institute of Education, first as lecturer, then senior lecturer in Curriculum Studies where she was Chair of the Department and the Ethics Committee for several years She taught many research courses during this time, directed several funded evaluation and research projects and published numerous papers, edited several books and singled authored another. In 1989 she became a Reader of the University of London and in 1991 was appointed to a professorship in the School of Education at the University of Southampton, where she was Head of School (1994-6), Chair of Research Degrees Board (2001-4), Director of Research Degrees Training Programme and M. Phil (Research Methodology) Degree ( 2001-5) and Chair of the School of Education Research Ethics Committee (2004-6) in addition to serving on several University related research committees and serving as the University trainer for Appraisal.
Professor Simons has also held Visiting Professorships in the UK at London Metropolitan University, the University of East Anglia, Brunel University and the University of Westminster , in Spain at the Universities of Almeria, Malaga and Granada, in Reykjavik at the University of Iceland and in Melbourne, Australia at the RMIT University. In addition she has been a Visiting Scholar at Universities and Research Centres in the US, Canada ( University of British Columbia ,Vancouver) Australia (Melbourne and Western Australia) New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Iceland, Norway (Trondheim and Lillehammer), Denmark (University of Aarhus) and Cyprus.
From 1990 - 1992, she held a Research scholarship from The Research Council of Norway based in Lillehammer and from 1993- 2002 she was on the Research and Development Committee, English National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting, UK.
During this period of her career, Helen served on the Editorial Board of six peer reviewed research journals and was an elected member of the Executive Council of the British Educational Research Association (BERA); and a founder member of the UK Evaluation Society (UKES) where she served on the Executive Council for twenty-seven years and as President from 2004-6. Currently she is a member of the American Evaluation Association, and the European Evaluation Society.
Evaluation and Consultancy: Professor Simons has conducted many external evaluations of innovatory programmes funded by both government and non-government agencies and directed numerous evaluation training workshops - on case study evaluation, programme evaluation, democratic evaluation and institutional self-evaluation - both in the UK and overseas. The countries in which she has worked include Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Sweden, Norway Iceland, India, Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Scotland, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Cyprus, Greece and the United States.
She is also an experienced consultant to ministries and organizations on setting up evaluation systems to monitor their policies and practices and to international agencies, such as the OECD and UNESCO, advising on curriculum and evaluation projects. For five years with European Commission funding, she directed a programme of evaluation capacity building and training in Poland and in 2007 was part of a team sponsored by UNICEF to conduct evaluation training and capacity building in South Asia. Further details on Evaluation, Ethics and other research interests are set out under the Research tab.
Community Service: For ten years Helen was a trustee of Charities Evaluation Services, an agency dedicated to promoting quality systems, organisational development and self-evaluation in voluntary organizations and the Development School, an NGO specialising in social development for Central and Eastern European Countries. For a further 20 years she was a trustee of Artswork, a youth arts agency committed to developing creative opportunities for young people aged 12-35.