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Research

 

Below you will find details of research projects that have been completed by the community of researchers in the College.

 

After the War: Identity, Human Rights and Commemoration

 

Dr Birgit Schippers, the director of the College's Centre for Global Justice, received news of an award in September 2014 for a research grant from the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council to work on a project titled, After the War: Identity, Human Rights and Commemoration. The project involves organising and hosting two public lectures as part of the 2014 Northern Ireland Human Rights Festival. The talks will be delivered by Professor Noel Sharkey (University of Sheffield), a leading authority in robotics and artificial intelligence, and Professor Louise Mallinder (Ulster University), an expert in transitional justice and amnesty laws. The lectures will receive coverage in the local and national media, including BBC Radio Ulster, the Irish News and the Irish Times. An interview will also be conducted with Professor Sharkey for NVTV, a local TV station, and will be made available on the NVTV website. For further details, please contact Birgit Schippers.

 

 

Anailís ar mhúnlaí soláthair gaelscolaíochta (Analysis of models of provision in Irish-medium education)

 

 

The College was part of a research project that received funding from the North South Standing Committee on Irish-medium Education. The research was conducted by Dr Pádraig Ó Duibhir (St Patrick’s College Drumcondra), Dr Gabrielle Nig Uidhir (St Mary’s University College Belfast) and Dr Seán Ó Cathalláin (Mary Immaculate College Limerick), who aimed to analyse models of provision in Irish-medium education. As part of this research, provision models of Irish-medium education were analysed at both primary and post-primary levels and distinctions were made between the different types of provision. The international context was discussed and a profile of Irish-medium provision across the country was created. Questions on creating and administrating the provision, as well as questions on the growth and development of the provision, were included. For further details, please contact Gabrielle Nig Uidhir.

 

 

Dyslexia in Ireland: views regarding the provision for pupils since the publication of the Task Force Reports North and South 2002

 

 

This research received funding from SCoTENS and was a joint project between Dr Therese McPhillips (St Patrick’s College Drumcondra), Dr Ann Marie Casserly and Dr Bairbre Tiernan (St Angela’s College Sligo), Mrs Donna Hazzard (St Mary’s University College Belfast) and Mrs Gillian Beck (Stranmillis University College Belfast). The project team consulted with members of the Dyslexia Task Force groups, North and South (DENI, DES) and ascertained their views and perspectives on the provision of support for pupils with dyslexia ten years on. The team consulted also with key stakeholders, North and South, to ascertain their views and perspectives on the provision of support for pupils with dyslexia. The research aimed to clarify present policy in the area of dyslexia support, North and South, and to identify strategic policy which informs good practice. For further details, please contact Donna Hazzard.

 

 

NuNS in education, North and South: historical sources and interpretations on Sacred Heart Convent schools

 

 

This project received funding from SCoTENS and was joint research involving Dr Deirdre Raftery (University College Dublin) and Mr Micheál Ó Maírtín (St Mary’s University College Belfast). The research aimed to collect relevant archival data and to translate the data from 19th century idiomatic French into English. The research integrated the archival data into a permanent exhibition, archived the translations in the Sacred Heart Sisters (RSCJ) archives, conserved the data digitally for future research on women in education, and used the data in academic publications. For further details, please contact Micheál Ó Maírtín.

 

 

Stimulating Science and Technology Competences Through Innovative Means for Teaching and Learning

 

 

The College was successful in gaining research funding, along with five other EU partners, as a result of a joint proposal made to the Education, Audiovisual & Culture Executive Agency’s (EACEA) Lifelong Learning Programme at the beginning of 2011. The project was managed by Kieran McGeown in collaboration with Martin Hagan and the Research Office, and involved other organisations from the world of science communication, higher education, research and development, research networks, and post-primary education. The countries involved were Germany, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The project aimed to determine the perceptions of young European pupils, from schools involved in the project, towards learning about science and technology at school in terms of motivation, interest, enjoyment, activities, career prospects, etc. Following on from this, the project devised a series of science and technology competency guidelines on pedagogy and learning, and bidirectional collaboration between schools and research & development centres. The guidelines were piloted within the project’s schools to determine their appropriateness as examples of best practice. For further details, please contact Kieran McGeown.

 

 

Assessment in Teacher Education North and South

 

This project received funding from SCoTENS and is a joint research project between Dr Tracey Connelly, University College Cork and Dr Geraldine Magennis, St Mary's University College Belfast. The aims of their project are to: explore the nature and conduct of school-based work assessments within a sample of primary and post-primary initial teacher education degree courses drawn from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; investigate the links between various school-based assessment techniques and subsequent planning, teaching and learning at degree and post-graduate diploma level; examine the extent to which these various methods of assessment of the school-based work element are found to be satisfactory in the opinions of a selection of stake-holders and end-users; and situate and critically discuss the findings with reference to current thinking, including formative assessment. For further details, please contact Geraldine Magennis.

 

A Critical Analysis of North-South Educational Partnerships in Development Contexts

 

This project received funding from SCoTENS and is a joint research project between Professor Peadar Cremin, Mary Immaculate College Limerick and Professor Peter Finn, St Mary's University College Belfast. The aims of their project are to: initiate a critical review of North/South teacher education partnerships involving Irish and African institutions to assess the contribution of the principles and practice of the partnership model; identify and itemise the key issues to be addressed within sustainable, mutually beneficial teacher education partnerships; organise a conference of Irish and international experts to assess educational partnerships and to consider how future planning and policy decisions nationally and internationally may be improved; and produce an edited book of papers to disseminate the lessons learnt and inform future collaborative projects in development contexts. For further details, please contact Peter Finn.

 

Interdisciplinary Art and Science Inspiring Pupils to Engage with Education: A Key Stage 3 Pilot

 

This project, which received funding from The Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation, aims to apply the outcomes of a previous project called “The Leonardo Effect” focusing on the primary school setting to the post-primary key stage 3 setting in an attempt to make an impact on the UK education system. During the progression of the project the planned outcomes include: adopting an interdisciplinary learning approach to benefit pupils’ learning in art and science and the development of their subject knowledge and ideas; producing increasingly committed and confident pupils of all abilities, who find their learning experiences more relevant and interesting, and who demonstrate curiosity about science questions; helping teachers to recognise the value of creativity and appreciate that learners can make significant contributions to the organisation of their own learning; and creating a lasting legacy of reorganisation of teaching methods, facilitating genuine integration and flexibility of subject learning in the schools. The project will evaluate the response of pupils to this interdisciplinary learning approach using the professional judgement of their teachers. Progression in subject knowledge will not be assessed in any formal test as this would be likely to inhibit teachers from embracing the full approach. Evaluation will be carried out through questionnaires at the end of the project and informally through discussions and reading of the teachers’ journals. The questionnaires will focus on: pupil engagement, particularly in relation to pupils of all abilities; acquisition of subject knowledge;  and development of literacy, transferrable skills, approach to homework and interaction with home. In addition, focus group interviews will be conducted with the classes to obtain their opinions directly.  Pupils will be asked to compare this approach with their experience of single subject teaching. The project will evaluate the responses of teachers through analysing their journals where they record issues, challenges and successes related to planning flexibly, teaching creatively, working across subjects, team teaching, timetabling etc. The effects of the work on school organisation and legacy will be obtained from head teachers through interviews and questionnaires. An expectation is to see interaction and collaboration between the researchers, schools and LEAs in the sharing of knowledge from this work, which LEAs will continue to promote after the completion of the pilot. LEA advisors will be informed of the pilot in advance and encouraged to play a significant role. They will attend the training and be surveyed via questionnaires at the end of pilot. At the level of national development in curricular support, findings will be directed formally through published reports and informally through established contacts to the inspectorates and individual curricular organisations, where we already have established working relationships. The intention being to influence policy, contribute to debate and propose development at key stages 3 & 4. Evaluation of the impact of this on changing policy is difficult to assess in the short term, but the external evaluator will look at this in addition to the areas mentioned above. These aims will be achieved by introducing a programme of learning in six large secondary schools drawn from each region of the UK, involving an entire year group of students between the ages of 11-14, and their teachers of art and science. The programme comprising three stages will last approximately 8 weeks and topics will be selected for study by pupils in association with their teachers. Pupils will be encouraged to explore contemporary issues relevant to art and science and to consider examples of ‘sciart’. Pupils will be encouraged to scan the media for topics of interest.

 

 

Open Sustainability In Education Resource

 

The College is involved in a project lead by the Education Subject Centre advancing learning and teaching in education (ESCalate) in collaboration with the University of Bristol, London South Bank University, Bangor University, Institute of Education, and the University of Strathclyde. The project received funding from the Higher Education Academy and the Joint Information Systems Committee. The project aims to create a collection of open education resources for education practitioners to integrate education for sustainable development into their programmes and to promote this collection to ensure its use and sustained development. The objectives are: to discover, review and revise (as appropriate) digital resources from a range of subjects within the overarching discipline of Education that focus on Education for Sustainable Development and to share them as open content; to provide a trusted, sustainable community repository for these resources. In addition to the dedicated ESD repository, resources will also be submitted to JorumOpen, Slideshare and YouTube as appropriate; to bring about a community of peers committed to sharing and reviewing online resources from a range of subject areas within Education; and to set in motion a culture of shared, open educational resources across the Education community developing an increased awareness of and commitment to sharing teaching resources. For further details, please contact Gerard McCann.

 

PAM-INA: Perception, Attitude, Movement - Identity Needs Action

 

There are eight partner institutions involved in this project, which includes: the University of Education Freiburg; the University of Ljubljana; the University of the Aegean; the University of Lyon; the Pedagogical University Krakow; the European University Cyprus; the Malardalen University; and off course St Mary's University College Belfast. The project, known as “PAM-INA”, received funding from Comenius, under the framework of the European Union’s Lifelong Learning Programme and one aspect of it, which takes place in the College, involves research with partner schools using quantitative and qualitative surveys. There will be an examination and comparison of the curricula of the participating countries concerning “Europe“. The gathered data will show whether there is a connection between actual teaching of European issues in the classroom and syllabi goals. Based on the research results a Multilingual Tool Kit will be developed to help students to learn more about daily life in Europe. The key objective behind the toolkit is to help students develop critical inter-cultural understanding as a step towards more active European citizenship. The toolkit will consist of a workbook for students, a manual for teachers including lesson plans for various themes with learning objectives, teaching strategies/ approaches and methods, two interactive DVD resources, an e- based communication platform to encourage dialogue between participating students. At the end of the Tool Kit Unit pupils will produce a short DVD to communicate their understanding of European identity. The project will also manage a web-site which is intended to serve as an e-management centre for the project but also a collaborative forum for inter-cultural exchange on European identity. For further details, please contact either Tracey McKay or Angela Vaupel.

 

 

Directors of Teaching Practice Research Group: Continuing Professional Development for Teaching Practice Supervisors

 

Achieving consistency in the supervision of student teachers by a range of tutors who come to teaching practice with a variety of backgrounds and agendas, is a challenging issue for those of us who organise and co-ordinate this essential aspect of the B.Ed. degree. This project, which received funding from SCoTENS in March 2010, aims to consider a number of important aspects of supervision and to develop an outline programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for any party involved in the supervision of student teachers in schools. A series of cross-border exchanges will seek to explore the following questions: What expectations are supervisors bringing to the supervision of students? How do we set standard expectations? What means have we for developing a more coherent, consistent approach? Can we develop a programme of CPD in this area? For further details, please contact Claire Connolly.

Intercultural Dialogue and Linguistic Diversity via 'Moblang'

 

This project, which received funding from the European Commission and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, applied Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) to support minority and/or less-frequently used and less-taught European languages (LWULT). The project was managed and coordinated by the Cyprus Neuroscience & Technology Institute, under the New Media Lab, and the six partners included University of Cyprus Language Centre, Elhuyar Foundation Spain, Luzia Research England, St Mary’s University College Belfast Northern Ireland, ANTIGONE Greece, and DROMOS Greece. The aim was to promote intercultural dialogue especially in former European conflict regions or regions with many minority groups through promotion of linguistic diversity. Research in the College has been conducted with parents who have children learning or being educated in the Irish language. For further details, please contact Gerard McCann.

Julia Kristeva & Feminist Thought

 

This project, which received funding from the British Academy in March 2010, aimed to appraise the relationship between contemporary feminism and Julia Kristeva, a major figure in contemporary Continental theory. Whilst Kristeva’s ideas, such as her insistence on fluid identity positions and her critique of identity politics, have exerted a wide-ranging influence on debates in contemporary feminist thought, she remains a controversial figure whose position vis-à-vis feminism is highly ambivalent. Despite this ambivalence, and notwithstanding feminism’s unease with Kristeva’s work, this project made an argument for a feminism informed by Kristevan concepts. As the project sought to demonstrate, the relationship between Kristeva and contemporary feminism can only be understood by positioning Kristeva along the fissures and fault-lines that run through contemporary feminist thought, and by considering the intellectual and cultural context that informs Kristeva’s critique of feminism as well as the feminist reception of Kristeva’s ideas. For further details, please contact Birgit Schippers.

‘Lift Off’ literacy programme for the Irish-medium school

 

This newly established research project was conducted by Dr. Gabrielle Nig Uidhir at St Mary’s University College Belfast in collaboration with Sr. Elizabeth Connolly at Monaghan Education Centre. The project received funding from SCoTENS and began in March 2009. The ‘Lift Off’ literacy programme is an intensive literacy programme modelled on the Reading Recovery (RR) intervention programme for young children. It involves a structured, daily sequence of literacy activities where five teachers manage literacy stations and children rotate in groups around the stations. The diagnostic tool linked to the RR programme, Áis Mheasúnaithe sa Luathlitearthacht (Clay and Nig Uidhir, 2006) was redeveloped in Irish at St Mary’s University College and piloted in schools throughout Ireland. This was used to assess outcomes in the proposed project. This project’s main aim was to redevelop the ‘Lift Off’ literacy programme to support the literacy development of Irish-medium pupils. It also aimed to: explore the training needs for teachers and classroom assistants to organise, plan and carry out this programme in Irish; assess the outcomes of the programme using the ÁML assessment tool; and produce resources and information to support the implementation of this programme on a wider scale in the future. The research posed questions that explored the appropriateness of this programme for the Irish-medium context, addressed the important issue of resources in the Irish-medium school, examined the management challenges for implementing this programme, considered the outcomes of the programme in comparison to a control group, and considered the potential for professional development for teachers and student teachers that this programme would require. Methods employed to achieve the aims included: consultation and planning with Reading Recovery tutors; programme design - redeveloping in Irish the structure and activities of the existing model; collecting reading and levelling suitable texts in Irish in cooperation with teachers; observation and recording of teaching sessions; and a focus group with pupils to ensure that the pupils’ voice is considered. This project was carried out in close partnership with Bunscoil Phobal Feirste, Belfast and was inspired by the dissemination of information at a Reading Recovery Conference in Dublin, attended by Aine Nic Giolla Cheara, Principal of Bunscoil Phobal Feirste. Collaboration and planning on the research project was informed by a visit by partners to primary schools in Cork, where work in this area has been developed with very positive outcomes. For further details, please contact Gabrielle Nig Uidhir.

Gaeilge labhartha na bpáistí i scoileanna lán-Ghaeilge in Éirinn (The spoken Irish of pupils in Irish-medium schools)

 

This research project, which received funds from SCoTENS, was led by Pádraig Ó Duibhir from St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra in collaboration with St Mary’s University College Belfast. The overall aim of the project was to examine the proficiency in Irish of P.7 pupils in Irish-medium primary schools in Northern Ireland and to compare them to data already gathered from 6th class pupils in Irish-medium primary schools in the Republic of Ireland. The research in the Republic of Ireland identified weaknesses in the syntactic and lexical features of Irish-medium pupils’ spoken Irish and the present study sought to ascertain whether there were significant differences between the features of both populations. The research should inform the education community about the following issues: the features of the spoken Irish of pupils in Irish-medium schools on the island of Ireland at the end of their primary school education; the attitudes and motivation of Irish-medium school pupils to Irish; the opinions of teachers on the kind of proficiency in Irish acquired by their pupils; and differences between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland relating to these aforementioned issues. A mixed-methods approach was adopted for this research project and involved recording and analysing pupils’ speech, stimulated recall exercises for pupils, administering an attitude/motivation test battery to pupils, and conducting interviews with class teachers and principals.

An Evaluation of the implementation and outcomes of personal development and mutual understanding (PDMU) in primary school

 

This research, which was a joint project between Education and Mathematics, aimed to: establish the views of P.1 and P.5 teachers on the aims, methodology and outcomes of the PDMU learning area; find out how PDMU is being implemented and pupils are being assessed in the same learning area in schools across Northern Ireland; establish which of the nine themes in the PDMU learning area are being implemented by P.1 and P.5 teachers and their perceived level of confidence in delivering them; ascertain teachers’ views on the support and training that they have received on PDMU and their training needs through CPD courses in this curricular area. The implementation of the Revised NI Primary Curriculum in September 2007 in P.1 and P.5 classrooms secures holistic development as a basic entitlement of all learners and places Personal Development at the fore of education (CCEA, 2007). One of the major challenges facing schools and teachers has been the statutory implementation of the learning area PDMU. Since P.1 and P.5 teachers are now well placed to give opinions on the implementation and outcomes of PDMU it is especially appropriate and timely that information should be sought from them at this stage about what they have learned over the academic year 2007-2008, and the broader implications for primary schools, CCEA and HEIs. Moreover, a report carried out by the NfER Centre at QUB on planning and preparation for the Revised Curriculum suggests survey questions as a potential evaluation approach for the future (Downing, Martin and Allen, 2007). This research aimed to carry out such a survey with a particular focus on the learning area PDMU. The method of data collection chosen was a postal questionnaire because it is a fast, efficient and financially viable way of gathering information. Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2007) describe this form of enquiry as frequently the best in educational research. The questionnaire was designed to yield quantitative and qualitative data. It was posted to the principal of every mainstream primary school in NI. A covering letter explaining the purpose of the research and detailing normal ethical considerations, as well as a letter of endorsement from CCEA and a freepost envelope for the purposes of returning the questionnaire was also enclosed. Principals were requested to ask one of their P.1 and P.5 teachers to volunteer to complete and return the questionnaire to St Mary's University College. Schools received a follow-up reminder letter within three weeks of the date of postage of the first mail drop.

Student teachers’ perceptions of their competence to meet the needs of pupils with autistic spectrum disorder in mainstream primary schools

 

This research received funding from SCoTENS (Standing Conference on Teacher Education North & South) in the 2008 call for applications. It was led by Mary Greenwood who partnered Patricia Daly and Anne O Byrne based in Mary Immaculate College, South Circular Road Limerick. Over the last decade there has been an increased awareness of the prevalence of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and there is a strong sense that the prevalence of ASD has increased. The advent of inclusion means that many pupils with high functioning Autism are in mainstream schools. Indeed, the Code of Practice on the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs states that ‘the needs of most pupils will be met in mainstream schools’ (DENI, 1998). In 2002 a Task Group Report for Autism was published as a result of parallel task groups established north and south. This report showed that there was a wide variation of rates of diagnosis of and identification of ASD. As many of the pupils who potentially could be diagnosed with ASD are in mainstream schools it is important that teachers are equipped to identify the characteristics of ASD so that early identification takes place in order that they are able to raise a concern about pupils they may teach. Additionally it is essential that they are competent to meet the needs of these pupils in their classes. The research helped to ascertain the key issues final year Bachelor of Education (BEd) primary-level students felt needed to be addressed in order to ensure they could become effective in their teaching of pupils with ASD. It also helped to establish their concerns and anxieties with regard to their competence and confidence in addressing the needs of pupils with ASD. As a result future directions for BEd courses were informed and it was anticipated that this would result in modification of these courses. The methodology included quantitative research via a questionnaire to all BEd 3 primary students at St Mary’s University College and all BEd 3 students at Mary Immaculate College, as well as qualitative research via focus groups with a sample of BEd 4 primary students at St Mary’s University College and a sample of BEd 3 students at Mary Immaculate College following the end of the school experience element of their degree.

English as an additional language in undergraduate teacher education programmes in Ireland

 

This research project, which took place during 2008/09, received funding from SCoTENS (Standing Conference on Teacher Education North & South) in the 2008 call for applications. The project was led by Frank Quinn and Martin Hagan in partnership with Anne Ryan, Barbara O'Toole and Sean Bracken from Coláiste Mhuire, Marino Institute of Education, Dublin. English as an additional language (EAL) has become of increasing importance with the rise in the number of children in schools across Ireland who do not have English as a first language. The Department of Education in Northern Ireland (DENI) and the Department of Education and Science in the Republic of Ireland have reviewed provision in schools and have been drawing up mechanisms and support systems for schools. Documents such as “Review of English as an additional language (EAL) final report” or “Policy on supporting ethnic minority children and young people who have English as an additional language” both from DENI and “Towards 2016 ten-year framework social partnership agreement 2006-2015” from the Department of the Taoiseach, Ireland or “English as an additional language in Irish primary schools: guidelines for teachers” from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, Ireland refer to EAL provision in schools. Teacher education institutions have the task of preparing beginning teachers for classrooms which are increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse. The main focus of the project was to carry out a comparative study of the provision for EAL in pre-service and continuing professional development courses in Ireland, north and south. This project had a focus specifically on how two teacher education institutions were meeting the needs of student and practising teachers in EAL. The significant actions associated with the Project included: a literature review of the field; a comparison of the educational contexts in each jurisdiction; a review of the official policy context; an identification of the opportunities available for professional development for teachers in schools; a determination as to how EAL is structured into courses at the initial teacher education (ITE) phase, in these two colleges; a survey of attitudes to EAL and views on personal competence among BEd students in the final year of their ITE programme in both institutions; and a seminar to disseminate findings of the project. For more information, contact Martin Hagan or Frank Quinn.

Consulting pupils on the assessment and remediation of their specific literacy difficulties

 

The research, led by Louise Long in partnership with Michael Shevlin from the School of Education, Trinity College Dublin, received funding from SCoTENS (Standing Conference on Teacher Education North & South) in the 2008 call for applications. The exploratory study aimed to consider the views held by primary pupils on their level of participation in assessing and remediating their own learning needs. The rationale for the study was based on three premises. First, the increasing recognition that children and young people should be consulted and involved in decision-making about their lives. Second, the growing body of research, which indicates that when pupils are able to talk about learning and teaching they are facilitated in developing a stronger sense of self worth and control over their own learning. And third, there has been comparatively little research carried out on pupil participation in the holistic assessment and remediation of their specific reading difficulties and its impact on their achievement. There were four primary schools involved both in the North and South of Ireland. In totality eight schools took part in the study. The sample schools were selected to reflect as far as possible the types of mainstream schools in Belfast and Dublin. There was one focus group per school and each focus group comprised no more than eight pupils. The focus groups comprised pupils from key stage 2. The group setting allowed the learners to be supported by their peers, which can enhance feelings of control and improve their concentration, reasoning and individual contributions. Composition of the focus groups were carefully balanced to ensure that the diversity of learners with specific reading difficulties could be heard. Focused questions were carefully prepared and structured to help pupils talk about abstract concepts such as motivation, consultation and self-efficacy.

The Literature of “The Troubles” Project: Teaching the Literature of Conflict and Reconciliation on a Cross-Community Basis

 

Funding was gained for the above project to conduct teaching and research within a sample of post-primary schools throughout Northern Ireland with Key Stage 4 pupils. The project was led by Dr. Brian Hanratty from St Mary’s University College Belfast who was successful in securing the funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. The project commenced in September 2007 and involved 30 post-primary schools (maintained, controlled and integrated) throughout Northern Ireland. The methodology involved an exploration, using a dialogical method of education, of key texts incorporating a mixture of poems, short stories and excerpts from novels. Examples of these key texts included poems from Seamus Heaney such as ‘The Toome Road’ and ‘The Other Side’, James Simmons’ poems ‘Claudy’ and ‘Lament For A Dead Policeman’, David Park’s short story ‘Killing A Brit’, or excerpts from Robert McLiam Wilson’s ‘Eureka Street’. Following the teaching element of the project, qualitative research was conducted to determine whether a positive change has occurred in attitudes and perceptions towards those from the ‘other side’ of the cross-community divide within Northern Ireland resulting from the pupils’ engagement with the literature. Representatives from NICCEA, other HEIs involved in teacher education, ELBs, and teachers were also involved in the project. For more information, contact Brian Hanratty.

New Approaches to Primary Science Teaching and Assessment (NAPSTA)

 

This innovative project sought to empower primary teachers and student teachers by equipping them with novel, creative and exciting ways to teach science using ‘science building blocks’. It was funded by the AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust and was led by St Mary’s University College Belfast in collaboration with Dr. Colette Murphy and Dr. Karen Carlisle from the School of Education at Queen’s University Belfast. The project commenced in September 2007 and used a blended CPD approach of workshops and in-class support. The workshops used a wide range of expertise from university science educators, advisers from the Northern Ireland Education & Library Boards, the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment, Non-Governmental Organisations, local industry, voluntary groups and commercial organisations such as science centres. It also involved input from international science educators. The ‘building blocks’ of science can be thought of by teachers as how ideas about phenomena (e.g. electricity, light, etc.) have changed over time (mostly history links) and how such changes can be related to the prevailing culture and technology (mostly geography and technology links). The building blocks for science comprise two strands: the development of scientific ideas over time and how science works in the modern world. The project aims were: to provide opportunities for teachers to link science with history and geography using creative, novel and exciting science teaching approaches based on stories, role-play, thinking time, minds-on science, drama, etc; to show teachers how science works using activities which strongly promote thinking skills and personal capabilities and which help them and their pupils relate to science in the context of the ‘World Around Us’; to develop teachers’ experience and expertise of using assessment for learning techniques in the context of their teaching in the area of the ‘World Around Us’; and to produce and trial classroom materials to support the wider implementation of NAPSTA in the revised curriculum and the production of a prototype ‘toolkit’ for teachers. For more information, click on the following link.

Substitute Teacher Survey of Partner Schools

 

This small-scale piece of research was carried out to determine the College's partner schools' usage of the Northern Ireland Substitute Teacher Register (NISTR). A short questionnaire was circulated to the College's 346 partner schools which play host to the BEd students during the school experience element of their degree. A total of 243 questionnaires were returned resulting in a 70% response rate. Click here for the results of the survey

Scaffolding Reflective Practice

 

This research was made possible by an award from the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS). The research was collaborative, involving University College Dublin and St Mary’s University College Belfast, and was related to the area of teacher professional development, with a specific focus on the development of reflective skills among student teachers. The objectives of the research included: students acquiring a key set of competencies to enable them to critically evaluate their own teaching and provide them with key reflective skills to support their reflection on a more long-term basis; both university education departments having a model to support students’ reflection in a developmental and sustainable way which will be developed according to evolving needs and contexts; and cross-border links and capacity becoming enhanced within the education sector in the development of best practice in teacher education at post-primary level. The research sample included student teachers based in partner schools and the research methodology included the use of reflective journals and peer video in the classroom.

Social Justice Education in Initial Teacher Education: A Cross Border Perspective

 

The above research project received funding from SCoTENS (Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South) and was a collaborative project which involved St Mary’s University College Belfast, University College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast and Stranmillis University College Belfast. The main objectives of the research project were: to map the existing provision and approaches towards social justice, diversity and development education in HEIs that offer courses in teacher education in Ireland (North and South); to involve policy makers to connect academic and policy perspectives on these issues; and to survey student teachers on their attitudes towards social justice, development education and diversity issues. For more information, contact Martin Hagan.

Pupils’, Teachers’ and Students’ Attitudes Towards the Concepts Pertaining to the Global Dimension in Education

 

This research was one of the elements of a large scale development project funded by the Department for International Development (DfID) which aimed to prepare teachers to implement the global dimension in education effectively. The aims of the research were to determine teachers’, pupils’ and students’ current knowledge of, attitudes towards, and practice in the eight concepts of the global dimension in education. The design of the research provided an account of the current situation in a sample of schools and a HEI relating to the incorporation of the global dimension within formal education. The sample included students of Initial Teacher Education (ITE), primary and post-primary teachers, Key Stage (KS) 4 & A-level pupils, and Key Stage (KS) 2 pupils. This included: 226 questionnaires with ITE students; seven focus groups with 42 ITE students; forty-four focus groups with 176 KS2 pupils; 371 questionnaires with KS4 and A-Level pupils; 110 questionnaires with primary and post-primary teachers; a total of 925 research participants in total. The methodological approach used incorporated questionnaires, focus groups, and image-based research instruments, accompanied by literature on examples of good practice in embedding the global dimension within formal education. These were broken up as such: questionnaires and focus groups with ITE students; image-based research and focus groups with KS2 pupils; questionnaires with KS4 and A-Level pupils; and questionnaires with primary and post-primary teachers. For more information, contact Tracey McKay, Teresa Cash or Damian Knipe.

The Leonardo Effect

 

The Leonardo Effect research was a development from the Flights of Imagination research project which tested the idea of synchronized integration of art and science with 7 – 10 year old pupils in four primary schools. The aims on this occasion were to fully understand and evaluate the creative potential of synchronized integration of art and science, and to test its viability and flexibility in different contexts. The design of the research involved utilising the commonalities of both art and science, to enrich learning and equip children to approach science more creatively. It also raised awareness of the function of knowledge in art making. The research involved carrying out a nationwide pilot study to encompass the different curricular regions across the British Isles. The sample included: special schools, primary schools, language specific primary schools and one secondary school’s quota of year 8 pupils i.e. 180 pupils. The methodological approach used involved gathering of qualitative and quantitative data: questionnaires, interviews, journals, children’s work and photographs.

 

The Impact of Dyslexia Assessment

 

The purpose of this research study was to explore parents' perceptions of the holistic impact of a private educational psychology assessment on the learner experiencing literacy difficulties as part of an evaluation of the services offered by the Northern Ireland Dyslexia Centre. The methods included questionnaires and parent focus groups and the sample consisted of parents of pupils who have undergone a dyslexia assessment at the Northern Ireland Dyslexia Centre in the last few years.

The Irish Churches and Peace Education

 

This research was an evaluation of the work undertaken by the Churches’ Peace Education Programme (CPEP). Its aim was to gather an overview of peace education as a subject and as it applies to the particular socio-educational situation in Northern Ireland. The sample included key stakeholders in the development of the subject - churches, non-governmental organizations, statutory agencies working in the field, educationalists and specialists who have a distinct knowledge of peace education in this context. The methodology included a review of the literature and the work of the CPEP, as well as focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Click here for an executive summary of the research report. If you are interested in obtaining a hard copy of the full research report then contact the Irish Council of Churches, Inter-Church Centre, 28 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast BT9 6AZ. For information contact Gerard McCann or Peter Finn.

Flights of Imagination

 

On 23rd September 2004, "The Flights of Imagination" research project in schools was launched. This year-long collaborative project initiated by the art and science departments in St Mary's University College was made possible as a result of two successful funding applications to The Paul Hamlyn Foundation and ESCalate. Having long recognised that art and science share many commonalities, lecturers created the new concept of synchronised integration of art and science in the primary school curriculum, and devised a teaching programme around it on the topic of 'Flight.' The creative and unique idea far exceeded the conventional concept of cross curricular teaching. Here teachers had full knowledge and understanding of the subjects' common ground. Until now these accepted commonalities have had little impact on curricula anywhere across the globe. In St Mary's teaching programme both subjects are given equal weighting. We also advocated the removal of subject titles to allow commonalities to be fully exploited and the use of joint learning outcomes. The intention was to test/prove the extent to which both subjects could be integrated, encouraging children to approach science tasks more confidentially and creatively and raising public understanding of the role of knowledge and experience in the making of art. Four teachers and their classes of children, ranging in age from 7 - 10 years tested the teaching programme devised by the College in 2004 - 2005. In addition a significant number of NGOs, charities and businesses contributed their expertise. The results from the programme tested in schools reinforced our theory while simultaneously providing other surprising and potentially highly important results pertaining to special needs, literacy and visual literacy based assessment. Click here for the paper stemming from this research which was presented at the BERA Annual Conference 2005 and published in the BERA Conference Proceedings.

Science Professional Development Unit

 

Coteaching provides an innovative approach to school placements in which the student teacher and classroom teacher plan, teach and evaluate lessons together to expand the learning opportunities for all. It promotes more democratic relationships between student teachers, classroom teachers, teacher educators and children. There is much evidence demonstrating that coteaching improves confidence, enjoyment and learning for all participants. Most work on coteaching is currently carried out in the USA. The Science Department at St Mary's University College and the School of Education at Queen's University Belfast were commissioned by the AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust (AZSTT) to produce a Professional Development Unit (PDU) based on their research into coteaching in Initial Teaching Education (ITE). This work is now complete and can be viewed at: http://www.azteachscience.co.uk/code/development/coteaching/index.html.

Primary Horizons : Starting Out In Science

 

Primary Horizons was based on a research study conceived and commissioned by the Wellcome Trust in 2004 and carried out by Queen’s University Belfast and St Mary’s University College Belfast. Thought to be the largest study of its kind, it set out to explore teachers’ views and experiences of primary science education across the United Kingdom and to identify ways in which it could be improved. With suggestions of a decline in children’s positive attitudes towards science in the later primary years, and half of all respondents in the current study pointing towards a lack of knowledge, expertise, confidence and training as a major concern in teaching science, the publication of Primary Horizons came at an important time. Addressing such findings will require action from across the science education community and beyond to ensure the needs of both teachers and pupils are met.

A 23-page summary report of the research is available here which was produced by the Wellcome Trust.

Primary Science in the UK: A Scoping Study

 

The full report of the research produced by Queen’s University Belfast and St. Mary’s University College Belfast is available here.

Traveller Children's Experiences in Mainstream Post-Primary Schools in Northern Ireland: a qualitative study

 

This research project was commissioned by the Department of Education Northern Ireland and undertaken by St Mary's University College Belfast. Linking with recommendation 23 of the Final Report of the Promoting Social Inclusion (PSI) Working Group on Travellers, i.e. "Department of Education to commission research into the educational needs and experiences of Traveller parents and children", a study was carried out in order to provide evidence to the Department of Education about Traveller children's experiences of integration and social inclusion in post-primary schools in Northern Ireland from an educational and social perspective. In order to provide an all round perspective of the process of integration and social inclusion a wide range of individuals and organisations were included in the research. Data obtained from Traveller children are presented alongside that derived from consultation with a small number of parents of Traveller children enrolled in post-primary schools, post-primary school teachers and principals, representatives from the five education and library boards, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and Traveller Support Groups. The majority of data were collected through semi-structured interviews; a small number of focus groups and a questionnaire survey of teachers were also carried out. Click on the following link for a summary of the report: summary report and for a full version of the report click: full report.

Views on the Post-Primary Review Body's Report: "Education for the 21st Century"

 

This aim of this research was to gain the views of Primary 7 girls and boys on a number of recommendations made by the Post-Primary Review Body in the report "Education for the 21st Century". The purpose was for Save The Children, who funded the research, to use the data to inform their response to the open consultation of the Post-Primary Review Body's report. The method of collecting responses from Primary 7 pupils was through the use of focus groups. The topics covered included: abolition of the Transfer Test; age for transferring from primary to post-primary; selection on academic ability; parental choice of post-primary school; criteria for over-subscribed post-primary schools; pupil profile; and the collegial system. Click on the following link for a copy of the report: full report.

The Professional Development of Teachers and Principals in Irish-Medium Education

 

The aim of the research, funded by the Department of Education Northern Ireland, was to examine the current provision for Initial Teacher Education and the induction, early and continuing professional development of teachers and principals in Irish-medium education in Northern Ireland. The purpose of the research was to establish the extent of professional development opportunities made available for teachers and principals who work in the Irish-medium sector, and to ascertain their future needs regarding training and development. The research examined the opportunities made available from ELBs (CASS), CCEA, RTU (PQH), Schools of Education, and University Colleges. The data obtained from the research helped to inform policy-making in the Department of Education for future arrangements for professional development. The methodological approach proposed took the form of semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire. This was enhanced by documentation obtained from statutory bodies involved in providing professional development, which details the range, uptake, outcome and content of courses made available. Click on one of the following links for a summary of the report: summary report English version or summary report Irish version and for a full version of the report click: full report.

An Evaluation of SuccessMaker Integrated Learning System in Two Primary Schools

 

This research, funded by the Department for Social Development - Belfast Regeneration Office, was an evaluation of a project using SuccessMaker ILS which aims to improve pupils' literacy and numeracy levels at Key Stage 2 using ICT to promote a more positive attitude to literacy and numeracy skills for children transferring to secondary schooling. The evaluation sought to measure the children's improved performance/attainment in literacy and numeracy skills and to assist participating schools in setting appropriate project level targets and baseline indicators. In order to do this, the Verbal Battery and Quantitative Battery from the Cognitive Abilities Test 3rd Edition (CAT3) devised by NFER-Nelson was used. The Verbal Battery comprises three subtests: verbal classification; sentence completion; and verbal analogies. The Quantitative Battery also comprises three subtests: number analogies; number series; and equation building. Analysis was based on the raw score each pupil gained from the Verbal and Quantitative Batteries before and after the intervention of SuccessMaker ILS. From the raw score, the Standard Age Score (SAS), percentile rank by age (PR), and the stanine by age was calculated and a group record sheet was compiled for the Target and Control groups. In order to explore the benefits of the project in raising pupils' confidence, self-esteem and motivation in relation to literacy, the proposal was to administer a questionnaire to the Target group pupils. This questionnaire contained a series of multiple choice questions on the following areas: improvements in literacy and general school work; being released from normal lessons; requesting assistance; length of time using SuccessMaker; benefits of SuccessMaker; behaviour change using SuccessMaker; attendance; enjoyment of working on SuccessMaker; likes and dislikes of SuccessMaker; praise and feedback from teachers. A questionnaire was also administered to the parents of those pupils in the Target group and covered the following: child's enjoyment of literacy and numeracy school work; child's improvement in literacy and numeracy; child's confidence; and parental assistance of child's work. In order to explore the benefits to teachers in terms of forecasting on pupil progress in literacy, the proposal was to conduct semi-structured interviews with teachers which focused on areas such as: improvement in literacy, and general skills; pupil independence; pupil confidence; time spent using SuccessMaker; cost-effectiveness of SuccessMaker; staff training on SuccessMaker; disruptions associated with SuccessMaker; pupil concentration; pupil enthusiasm; timetabling. Observations were also conducted as part of the research, investigating: room description; behaviour of pupils; atmosphere in the room; pupils' attention span; and pupil independence in using SuccessMaker. Click on the following link for a copy of the report: full report.

Enabling Effective Support (EES) for the Global Dimension in Education

 

The aim of this research, funded by the Coalition of Aid and Development Agencies Northern Ireland, was to determine the current provisions and opportunities which support the delivery of the global dimension in education and examine the needs of the formal education sector in incorporating the global dimension into teaching. The research findings informed a strategy and action plans for phase two of EES in Northern Ireland. The key stakeholders consulted for the purpose of this Northern Ireland phase one research included primary and post-primary schools (principals, teachers and pupils); HEIs that offered courses in initial teacher education (BEd or PGCE); NGOs involved in development, environmental, human rights education, etc.; and Government officers from the Department of Education, Education and Library Boards (ELBs) and the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA). The research findings provided a picture of the current support on offer to the formal education sector in relation to incorporating a global dimension to teaching. They also identified the needs of schools and HEIs and the initiatives planned or already in action from Government departments in supporting teachers and lecturers. Click on the following link for a copy of the report entitled: The Global Dimension in Schools in Northern Ireland.

Young People's Views on Suspension and Expulsion from School

 

This research, funded by Save The children, was in relation to gaining the views of young people between the ages of 11-16 years from a sample of schools, AEP/EOTAS projects, Shadow Youth Council, Youth Group, etc. on suspension and expulsion from school. The purpose was for Save The Children to use the data collected to inform a publication by Save the Children on mainstream education and alternative provisions. The method of collecting responses from the young people was through the use of focus groups, where researchers from the College visited a variety of locations to conduct focus groups with young people. The focus of the research was on gaining views in relation to the following areas: dealing with misbehaviour in school; informed of or involvement in setting disciplinary rules; involvement and factors to be considered in decision to suspend or expel; length of suspension; work sent home during suspension; special support from school; things a school can do to help improve behaviour; involving parents more in decisions on child's behaviour; and expelled pupils. Click on the following link for a copy of the report: research report.