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The Culturally Diverse Classroom: Exploring Opportunities and Challenges


The Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS) awarded funding in April 2016 for a joint research project involving Dr Maria Campbell from St Angela’s College, Sligo and Peter Stevenson from the College. The project, which has two broad aims, will take place during the 2016-2017 academic year.
The first aim is to support student teachers to adapt their pedagogies in order to provide the optimum learning experience for all the pupils in their culturally diverse classrooms. To this end, the project will focus on the area of Critical Media Literacy and endeavour to provide student teachers with the analytical tools to critique popular media. This will help them to unpack the hidden messages and subtext contained in the representation of immigrants and minorities so student teachers can be cognisant of the images and media they select in their teaching. It will also enable them to support their pupils to critically engage with popular media in general.
The second aim of the project is to engage in a meaningful way with the continuum of teacher education by hosting a one-day event which explores the opportunities and challenges that the culturally diverse classroom poses for educators. This event aims to bring together representatives from various educational stakeholders but primarily student teachers, initial teacher education providers, school principals and teachers. It may also include school inspectors and representatives from curriculum development units. The main purpose of the event is to examine key issues facing educators in the culturally diverse classroom and to explore ways in which the theoretical concepts of initial teacher education may be transferred into pedagogical practices and inform policy development, in order to provide the optimum learning experience for all pupils. For further details, please contact Peter Stevenson.



Teachers’ Pedagogical Work and Well-Being


A research project involving two senior lecturers from the College - Paddy Tally and Dr Elaine McLaughlin, in collaboration with Dr Timothy Murphy and Dr Patricia McNamara from the University of Limerick, received funding from the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS) in May 2016.
The project will focus specifically on teacher well-being. The project partners are especially interested in exploring how pedagogical well-being is manifested in challenging educational contexts and will identify a school in Northern Ireland as well as one in the Republic of Ireland. It is intended that the framing research question will examine what good pedagogical well-being looks like in practice, in other words, how do teachers conceptualize their own pedagogical well-being?
Two schools will be invited to participate in the project. The teachers in the schools will be invited to complete a survey on well-being related to the project. There will also be the opportunity for follow-up interviews with up to four teachers in each school. The survey and follow-up interviews will seek to elicit the teachers’ perceptions and experiences of pedagogical well-being and their overall sense of well-being. It is intended then that the project will adopt a mixed-methods approach.
The intention is to capture information on what contributes to teacher effectiveness, especially in terms of pedagogy, notwithstanding the challenging and difficult contexts in which teachers can work. By inviting teachers to articulate these understandings, it is anticipated that the ensuing research could offer insights and perspectives which could be instructive for teachers who are newly qualified and who may be taking up posts of responsibility as teachers in challenging schools. For further details, please contact Paddy Tally.



Case Study Research To Examine Initial Teacher Education Students' Perceptions Of The Orange Order


Dr Tracey McKay has been working with David Scott from the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast, who conducted workshops with students in January 2016, on case study research which seeks to examine the perceptions of the Orange Order held by students of initial teacher education. The research explores the students’ perceptions of the opportunities and challenges of crossing ‘borders’ and collective memory in the context of contributing to a shared society through educational engagement and learning about/engaging with ‘others’ and ‘otherness’. It involves students completing a questionnaire to explore their present knowledge, understanding, perceptions of and attitudes towards the Orange Order. It investigates also their perceptions and feelings about crossing ‘traditional’ cultural borders to participate in a learning programme intended to raise awareness about the Orange Order, its history and heritage.
The research will form an integral part of a larger Erasmus+ funded project (BE-SMART) on Border Education. Recognising the close interrelationships between social change and paradigm shifts, this larger project aims to contribute to the discussion and interpreting of conceptual change in the study of ‘borders’ by linking it to memory narratives and by adapting the discourse for applied educational environments. The larger project focuses on the representations of ‘borders’ in national educational frameworks, initial teacher education programmes and cultural media. It seeks to encourage wider reflection on and evaluation of existing conceptualisation of ‘borders’ within initial teacher education settings and to contribute to the development of new approaches to education on ‘borders’ which it is hoped will challenge some of the more traditional, mainly spatial conceptions that have tended to prevail to date. For further details, please contact Tracey McKay.


Research For Irish-Medium Key Stage 3 Text Books


A team of academics, which includes Dr Eibhlín Mhic Aoidh, Dr Gabrielle Nig Uidhir, Dr Seán Mac Corraidh and Padaí de Bléine, was awarded a research grant in February 2016 from the Central Procurement Directorate on behalf of the Department of Education Northern Ireland and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment to conduct research for Irish-medium Key Stage 3 text books. The purpose of the research will be to analyse language attainment in pupils at the start and end of Key Stage 3, to provide a baseline of language acquisition, and to make recommendations to writers of text books in the context of Irish-medium education.
A mixed-methods approach will be applied to the research to maximise the opportunity to create new knowledge and to facilitate a comparative database to be used in a future phase of the project. However, a significant element of the project will be grounded in the principles of qualitative research. A detailed, systematic qualitative analysis of the pupils’ language will be carried out in order to provide reliable evidence and meaningful insights into the language acquired by pupils through Key Stage 3. The discussion of findings and interpretation of outcomes will be considered within the context of immersion pedagogies, professional practices in Irish-medium schools and theories underpinning second language acquisition, prior to the formulation of recommendations. For further details, please contact Gabrielle Nig Uidhir.

Teacher Educator Professional Learning: Shaping The Conversation Of Teacher Education


Ciaran Walsh is part of an all-Ireland research team, in collaboration with Déirdre Ní Chróinín from Mary Immaculate College Limerick, Melissa Parker from the University of Limerick, Paul McFlynn from the University of Ulster and Maura Coulter from St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, which received notification of a successful research proposal from the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS) in April 2015. The purpose of the research is to examine the professional learning experiences of individual teacher educators, within a community of learners, related to the area of communication. It plans also to determine how this professional learning influences their pedagogical practices with pre-service teachers. Two specific research questions include: What are physical education teacher educator experiences of professional learning focused on communication? How do physical education teacher educators perceive the influence of this professional learning on their pedagogical approaches with pre-service teachers? The research will last two years and combine collaborative self-study methodology alongside photo elicitation visual methodologies. For further details, please contact Ciaran Walsh.

Meeting The Needs Of Children With Special Educational Needs In Multi-Grade Classrooms


Dr Gabrielle Nig Uidhir is part of a research team, involving Dr Bairbre Tiernan and Dr Ann Marie Casserly from St Angela’s College Sligo, which began a research project in September 2015 having secured research funding from the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS). The research team will carry out research to investigate how mainstream teachers meet the needs of children with special educational needs in multi-grade classrooms. Current educational legislation and policy support the inclusion of children with special educational needs in mainstream schools. At present, the policy in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland facilitates schools to be flexible in designing inclusive responses for children with special educational needs. However, despite the support in place in mainstream schools, teachers indicate that the inclusion of children with special educational needs is an issue which they find challenging, particularly in multi-grade classrooms. Therefore, this research will identify good practice, as well as challenges with regards to the inclusion of children with special educational needs in mainstream, multi-grade classrooms in primary schools. The objectives will identify examples of good practice with regards to the inclusion of children with special educational needs in multi-grade classrooms, will identify the challenges that teachers encounter when teaching children with special educational needs in multi-grade classrooms, and will establish how teachers address these challenges. For further details, please contact Gabrielle Nig Uidhir.

Promoting European Awareness And Key Competences (PEAK)


Dr Matthew Martin is part of an international research team which received funding from the European Union’s Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership Framework in August 2015. The project leader is Istituto Statale “Albe Steiner” Torino, Italy and the other project partners include: Associazione Nazionale dei Formatori Insegnanti Supervisori (ANFIS), Italy; ACMOS – Associazione Turin, Italy; Alcántara (Private Training Consultancy Firm. Alcantara Group) SME, Spain; Burgas Free University (BFU), Bulgaria; ITES “L Einaudi” Verona, Italy; Lycée bilingue de langues romanes “GS Rakovski”, Bulgaria; St Mary’s University College Belfast, United Kingdom; St Paul’s High School Bessbrook, Newry, United Kingdom; and Ufficio Scolastico Regionale (USR), Piemonte, Italy.
The Promoting European Awareness and Key competences (PEAK) project is intended to strengthen the quality of the professional development of teachers involved and to share a reflection on the experimental practices and experience, aimed at creating a community of speech and practices. The purposes of the project are oriented to promote the development and assessment of teachers’ key competences in the field of multilingualism and ICT based methodology of teaching & learning. These skills are in the current context the symbol of the difference to feel a fully European citizen and to participate in decision making and the cultural life of the continent. Therefore, the PEAK project is a space where different social actors interact, aiming towards the conscious development of European citizenship of individuals.
It is necessary to encourage and share the development of good teaching practices that allow: the reduction of the digital divide between European students, as evidenced by both the OECD report of 2013, and the program “Opening Up”; teachers’ awareness about the potential of ICT in relation to the richness and diversity of cultural and educational access to information and social cohesion of their students; students training for practical and critical use of digital technologies and the network; and students training to democratic practices for direct participation in the social life of the country and the institutions within the European Union.
Mobility is intended to implement the quality of teaching methodological and communicative skills, and the exchange of experience mainly in the following fields: the skills in using information and communications technology (ICT) for education, as programmed by the European Commission through the Action Plan “Opening Up”, in order to encourage innovation and digital skills in schools; and promoting empowerment, participation and active citizenship, in order to develop among young people a feeling of European identity, based on common values, history and culture. For further details, please contact Matthew Martin.

Research On The Educational Outcomes Of Pre-School Irish-Medium Education


Dr Eibhlín Mhic Aoidh is part of a research team working with RSM McClure Watters (Consulting) Ltd on a research project that began in April 2015. The project, funded by the Department of Education Northern Ireland, aims to identify which core components in Irish-medium pre-schools lead to optimum readiness for transition to Foundation Stage in Irish-medium primary schools. It aims also to identify the extent to which these components are present currently in Irish-medium pre-schools in the statutory and voluntary sector in the North of Ireland. The proposed stages include project initiation, desk-based research including a review of literature, fieldwork in a sample of Irish-medium pre-school settings, stakeholder consultations, an analysis of learning outcomes for Irish-medium pre-schools, and a final report and presentation. For further details, please contact Eibhlín Mhic Aoidh.

STEM Teacher Training Innovation For Gender Balance


The College has three representatives - Joe Hughes, John Rafferty and Dr Catherine Quinn, who are members of the College's STEAM Research Centre, involved in an Erasmus+ funded project titled, STEM Teacher Training Innovation for Gender Balance. It aims to foster quality improvements, innovation excellence and internationalisation in teacher training for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers. This will be achieved through enhanced transnational cooperation between schools, science centres, teacher training organisations and policy makers. It will involve universities and science centres from Spain, Denmark, Norway, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, Netherlands, Cyprus and Turkey. The main objective of the project is to raise and share good science education practices for gender balance through innovative teacher training modules.

The partners will implement and design an innovative modular teacher training programme in a toolkit format, so that it will be easily applied and disseminated by all the partners, associated partners and target groups. The project will involve collaboration with local schools and undergraduate teachers to produce relevant resources to address gender diversity and balance in the classroom to support career choice. The main aims of the project will be: to develop, test and publish an innovative professional development programme for teachers; to train educational agents at an institutional level; and to disseminate the toolkit at a European level.
The quality of the project’s activities and results will be monitored by evaluating the project using summative as well as formative assessments and providing feedback to the project partners. This will be achieved through research via an independent evaluation of the activities and a project quality evaluation. For further details, please contact Joe Hughes.

Border Education: Space, Memory And Reflections On Transculturality


Dr Angela Vaupel, a member of the College's Centre for Global Justice and Dr Tracey McKay, a member of the College's Centre for Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment, are representing the College in a new Erasmus+ funded project titled, Border Education: Space, Memory and Reflections on Transculturality. Recognising the close interrelationships between social change and paradigm shifts, the project aims to contribute to the discussion and interpretation of conceptual change in the study of borders by linking it to memory narratives and by adapting the discourse for applied educational environments. Research will focus on the representations of ‘borders’ in national educational frameworks, Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes and cultural media. It will focus on the collection of relevant data that ultimately will lead to an evaluation of existing, and the development of new, approaches regarding the understanding of education on ‘borders’ which may challenge more traditional, mainly spatial, conceptions.

The project approach is multidisciplinary but anchored in ITE and, by extension to the general field of educational/social sciences, is adopting a bottom-up approach. This means that student and in-service teachers, curricula and textbooks, as well as the collection of border related life stories/memories will be included in and form the basis of analysis. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods will be employed for project data collection including: a survey in the form of an electronic/computer assisted questionnaire targeted at students on their perceptions of and experience with ‘borders’; the establishment of focus groups consisting of students, staff and in-service teachers; and individual case studies by project members. For further details, please contact Angela Vaupel.

STEM In Primary Education: The Microbot Project


Kieran McGeown, the director of the College's STEAM Research Centre and Dr Katrina Mulholland, a member of the College's STEAM Research Centre, are part of a team collaborating with researchers from Stranmillis University College Belfast and other members of the College’s STEAM Research Centre on a research project titled, STEM in Primary Education: The Microbot Project. The project has been in the planning stages since September 2014 and research will commence in schools in February 2015.

The Microbot Project has been running in primary schools for the past three years in collaboration with Sentinus, a not-for-profit educational charity, which works with schools and colleges throughout Northern Ireland to deliver programmes which promote engagement in STEM. The main research question will focus on the impact on pupils’ learning from participating in the STEM oriented Microbot Project. Since STEM education is a priority in the programme of Government, it was considered appropriate that such research should be conducted. The research will involve a series of surveys and observations with pupils in Key Stage 2 classes. For further details, please contact Kieran McGeown.