This strand of research focuses on the pedagogies that support excellence in teaching and learning across all sectors of education. It also emphasises the practices and contexts that enable strong educational leadership as well as the intersection between research, policy and practice. This strand has a strong focus on practitioner research and it includes three key subthemes: (1) Development of Innovative Pedagogies, (2) Leadership for Innovative and Creative Learning Environments, and (3) Teacher Education Policy. A list of specific research topics pertaining to each of the subthemes is presented below:
1. Development of Innovative Pedagogies
- Understanding the plurality of the human condition and the fundamental implications this has for educational practice.
- Exploring how emerging technologies can be used to support creative approaches to teaching and learning across sectors.
- Promoting the use of digital video analysis to develop deep critical awareness of one’s own teaching style, values and effectiveness.
- Supporting the development of metacognitive skills and infusing critical and creative thinking into the curriculum, with a particular focus on the Key Skills framework (NCCA)
- Exploring the use of Lesson Study to promote professional dialogue between teachers at different stages in their career.
- Contributing to critical and creative media literacy and exploring how contemporary media both represents and contributes to critical literacy.
- Enhancing the teaching of languages by fostering language rich environments through Drama in Education
- Enhancing the teaching and assessment of conceptual understanding in Mathematics and Science, and developing Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (MKT).
- Supporting the development of schools as active research communities and enhancing the capacity of educational practitioners to engage in research to enrich the learning experience
2. Leadership for Innovative and Creative Learning Environments
- Exploring leadership and management within and across the education sector in Ireland and internationally.
- Enhancing capacities and capabilities of leadership at all levels through reflective practice.
- Exploring the impact of rising levels of professionalism, performativity and reform and what this means for learning, learners and educational leaders from a social justice perspective.
- Developing models of Student Leadership in second-level schools.
3. Teacher Education
- Interrogating educational policy developments both nationally and internationally and exploring their impact on educational practice and on the experiences of individual learners.
- Identifying the CPD needs of subject methodologists, placement tutors and college tutors to promote awareness among student teachers of every post primary teacher’s role in meeting the language needs of all their learners.
- Using lesson study to develop professional dialogue between experienced second level language teachers, student language teachers and newly qualified language teachers to promote continuum in language teacher education.
This strand emphasises the role of education in the societal transformation. Issues of diversity, equality and participation are key themes. Researchers under this strand are involved in cross-country collaboration with developing nations to promote and enhance education for global justice. This strand also focuses on the formation of the identities of education practitioners and learners within the social context of education and educational policy.
Research under this theme includes the following:
- Exploring how education can facilitate greater participation, empowerment and transformation in people’s lives.
- Exploring the educational experiences of a diverse range of learners along the grounds of gender, social class, race/ethnicity and disability/special educational need.
- Attitudinal and structural barriers to accessing and participating in education and the use of evidence based educational strategies to support positive outcomes
- Engagement in transformative education projects cross-nationally to build greater capacity in universities that facilitate knowledge flows between rural communities and the agencies that work within those communities.
- Teacher education in post-conflict environments.
- Promoting the teaching and learning of Development Education across the second-level curriculum.
- Identity construction and young people, identity and student empowerment in learning, how students construct identities in school settings
- Interrogating the invisible power of discourse in constructing student, teacher and guidance counsellor identities
Research in this strand centres on the development and wellbeing of infants, children and youth as well as guidance counsellors and educational practitioners. Researchers under this strand are exploring the interacting social contexts that influence people’s everyday experiences. They are interested in promoting positive learning environments where children and young people can flourish and where their rights can be realised.
Research under this strand includes the following:
- Exploring the multifaceted perspectives of children and young people especially in relation to their educational experiences.
- Exploring the impact of risk and disadvantage on children and their families, and the evolution of school and community based interventions to support wellbeing and resilience.
- Promoting the school as a creative and nurturing environment and exploring how such environments provide the context for student autonomy, self-regulation and empowerment.
- Challenging negative assumptions of adolescence and providing a critique of the dominant discourse in schools especially in terms of how students are spoken about and how development is understood.
- Creating open spaces for young people to explore ‘fixed’ notions of themselves and to move beyond limiting and damaging identity constructions.
- Promoting the wellbeing of educational practitioners through identifying personal and professional values, and using acceptance, mindfulness, and cognitive-behavioural strategies.
- Promoting, developing and sustaining evidence-based initiatives in schools to support resilience and positive mental health.
Exploring the impact of pre-school and school-based mindfulness on children’s psychosocial, health and cognitive functioning
With increased concern about the wellbeing of children and young people, schools have been deemed an ideal setting for mental health promotion. Within this context, mindfulness activities are increasingly advocated as both prevention and treatment for childhood mental health difficulties, and as a tool to enhance cognitive functioning (Flook et al. 2010; Greenberg & Harris, 2011).
Mindfulness is a 2,500 year-old practice that originated in traditional meditation practices derived from Eastern Buddhist philosophies. The secularisation and popularisation of mindfulness was initiated in the 1970s by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who drew on his own experience of contemplative practice to develop an eight week structured mindfulness skills training programme, known as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), for people experiencing a range of medical problems including chronic pain (Kabat-Zinn, 1990; 1996).
During the past three decades, there has been increasing interest in mindfulness and mindfulness interventions due to a wealth of theoretical and empirical research linking them with positive psychosocial, cognitive and health outcomes (Keng, Smoski, & Robbins, 2011). The core features of mindfulness, namely awareness and non-judgmental acceptance of a person’s moment-to-moment experience, are regarded as potentially effective antidotes against common forms of psychological distress, such as rumination, anxiety and anger; which often involve tendencies to avoid, suppress, or over-engage with distressing thoughts and emotions (Kabat-Zinn, 1990; Keng, et al., 2011).
As mindfulness becomes part of the popular zeitgeist, it is important to collate and assess the available evidence, in order to establish for whom, and under what conditions, such programmes are likely to be effective. This is the aim of the current systematic review, which is registered with The Cochrane Collaboration.
See more here: Preschool and school-based mindfulness-programmes for improving psychosocial health and cognitive functioning in young people aged 3 to 18 years
The research team include:
Dr Catriona O’Toole, Dr Mairead Furlong, Dr Sinead McGilloway, Prof Arild Bjørndal