Dr Leah O’Toole

Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education

School of Education
(01) 474 7405

Biography

Dr Leah O’Toole is a Lecturer in Early Childhood Education in the Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education in Maynooth University, Ireland. With an academic background in Psychology, her research interests include extending bioecological theory to incorporate interdisciplinary thinking with a focus on quality early childhood education. She is the co-author of books including Introducing Bronfenbrenner: A Guide for Practitioners and Students in Early Years Education, and Supporting positive behaviour in early childhood settings and primary schools: Relationships, reciprocity and reflection, as well as a number of book chapters and journal articles. Her work challenges neoliberal conceptualisations of early education and care (ECEC), and advocates for high quality ECEC based on relational, holistic and inclusive approaches, for example through the Erasmus+ funded THRIECE (Teaching for Holistic, Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education) project. Her doctoral study investigated transitions in early childhood and parental involvement in children’s education, and she subsequently led a team commissioned by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and National Parents’ Council (NPC) to investigate experiences and practices around parental involvement in Ireland. She is the Programme Coordinator of the BA in Early Childhood Teaching and Learning in Maynooth University.

Research Interests

Leah's research interests include relational education, particularly in early childhood, the role of parents and communities in children's education, and the impact of neoliberalism on concepts of quality education. Much of her work draws on and further develops the bioecological theory of Urie Bronfenbrenner, and her co-authored book on bioecological theory is one of the most cited recent works on the topic. Her research investigates high quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) based on relational, holistic and inclusive approaches, for example through the Erasmus+ funded THRIECE (Teaching for Holistic, Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education) project. Her doctoral study investigated transitions in early childhood and parental involvement in children’s education, and she subsequently led a team commissioned by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and National Parents’ Council (NPC) to investigate experiences and practices around parental involvement in Ireland. This was followed by an NPC-funded evaluation of the Partnership Schools Ireland initiative based on the work of Joyce Epstein. She is the co-author of books including Supporting Positive Behaviour in Early Childhood Settings and Primary Schools: Relationships, Reciprocity and Reflection and Introducing Bronfenbrenner: A Guide for Practitioners and Students in Early Years Education as well as academic journal articles, book chapters and other publications.

Research Projects

  Project Role Funding Body / Program Description Start Date End Date Award (€)
Evaluation of the Partnership Schools Ireland Initiative PI / Non Commercial 01-FEB-21 01-OCT-22 29969
Froebelian Principles in the 21st Century: Play environments and play opportunities for young children who experience stress Research team member / Non Commercial 01-JAN-21 01-JAN-24 37268
SCOTENS PI Department of Education and Science (Ireland) / North/South Co-operation Unit This project addresses a significant void in the literature on the under-researched topic of the history of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Ireland. The research aims to map out and critically analyse potential variations in the developmental pathways taken by ECEC north and south of the border post-partition in Ireland. It will trace the journey from the 1908 Children’s Act and explore the Child-State relationship North and South to the present day. We are particularly interested in issues of children's voice and agency, and constructions of childhood. We wish to examine the shift in thinking from the very progressive ideals evident in the first democratic programme of the government in the Irish Free State towards the education system that subsequently emerged. It will also explore the parallel journey north of the border. Research questions are: - Did the ECEC sectors North and South follow divergent or similar paths post-partition? - What were the impacts of wider societal issues (political, social, religious, economic, gender, linguistic) on the development of ECEC systems North and South post-partition? - How did young children become the object of educational focus, and what educational (and other) discourses underpinned development of the sector North and South? - What part did the governance systems play in the development of the sector North and South pre- and post-partition? - What tensions existed within power-bases that have traditionally been viewed as monolithic? Who and where were the radical voices? While extensive histories of primary education in Ireland exist North (Farren, 1995) and South (O’Connor, 2010), we are not aware of any comprehensive work on the history of the ECEC sector. Therefore, this represents an important contribution to the field, since we are well served to identify where our practices fit within a historical perspective in order to deconstruct current discourses and policy-making for education (Ó Breacháin and O’Toole, 2013). Farren, S. (1995). The Politics of Irish Education 1920-1965. Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies. Ó Breacháin, A. and O'Toole, L., (2013). Pedagogy or politics?: cyclical trends in literacy and numeracy in Ireland and beyond. Irish Educational Studies, vol 32 issue 4, pp.401-419. O’Connor, M. (2010). The Development of Infant Education in Ireland, 1838-1948. Bern: Peter Lang. 02-SEP-19 03-SEP-20 4401
Teaching for Holistic Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education (THRIECE) Co-PI / Government State Bodies 05-DEC-17 31-MAY-20 284704
Parental involvement, engagement and partnership in their children's education in the primary years Co-PI / Government State Bodies 01-NOV-17 01-MAY-19 26544

Books

  Year Publication
2019 Supporting Positive Behaviour in Early Years Settings and Primary Schools: Relationships, Reciprocity and Reflective Practice.
O'Toole, L. and Hayes, N. (2019) Supporting Positive Behaviour in Early Years Settings and Primary Schools: Relationships, Reciprocity and Reflective Practice. London: Routledge. [Details]
2019 Parental involvement, engagement and partnership in their children's education during the primary school years.
O’Toole, L., Kiely, J., McGillicuddy, D., O’Brien, E. and O’Keeffe, C. (2019) Parental involvement, engagement and partnership in their children's education during the primary school years. Dublin: National Council for Curriculum and Assessment / National Parents Council. [Details]
2017 Introducing Bronfenbrenner: A Guide for Students and Practitioners in Early Years Education.
Hayes, N., O'Toole, L. and Halpenny, A. (2017) Introducing Bronfenbrenner: A Guide for Students and Practitioners in Early Years Education. London: Routledge. [Details]

Book Chapters

  Year Publication
2019 'Animating systems: The ecological value of considering Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model of development'
O'Toole, L., Hayes, N. and Halpenny, A. (2019) 'Animating systems: The ecological value of considering Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model of development' In: Barnett, R. and Jackson, N (eds). Ecologies for Learning and Practice: Emerging Ideas, Sightings and Possibilities. London: Routledge. [Details]
2014 'Toward Integrated Learning: Linking Psychology, Sociology and School Experience in Initial Teacher Education'
Ryan, A. and O'Toole, L. (2014) 'Toward Integrated Learning: Linking Psychology, Sociology and School Experience in Initial Teacher Education' In: Daniela, L. and Rutka, L (eds). The Teacher of the 21st Century: Quality Education for Quality Teaching. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. [Details]

Peer Reviewed Journals

  Year Publication
2021 'Philosophy of education in a new key: publicness, social justice, and education; a South-North conversation'
Biesta G.;Heugh K.;Cervinkova H.;Rasiński L.;Osborne S.;Forde D.;Wrench A.;Carter J.;Säfström C.A.;Soong H.;O’Keeffe S.;Paige K.;Rigney L.I.;O’Toole L.;Hattam R.;Peters M.A.;Tesar M. (2021) 'Philosophy of education in a new key: publicness, social justice, and education; a South-North conversation'. Educational Philosophy and Theory, [DOI] [Details]
2021 'Contested childhoods across borders and boundaries: Insights from curriculum provisions in Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State in the 1920s'
O’Toole L.;McClelland D.;Forde D.;O'Keeffe S.;Purdy N.;Säfström C.A.;Walsh T. (2021) 'Contested childhoods across borders and boundaries: Insights from curriculum provisions in Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State in the 1920s'. British Educational Research Journal, 47 (4):1021-1038 [DOI] [Details]
2020 'Participant Action Research (PAR) for Early Childhood and Primary Education: The example of the THRIECE project'
Leah O'Toole (2020) 'Participant Action Research (PAR) for Early Childhood and Primary Education: The example of the THRIECE project'. Problemy Wczesnej Edukacji / Issues in Early Education, 49 (2) [Details]
2019 '‘To learn with’ as an alternative voice for children's education. Introduction to a European Project: Teaching for Holistic, Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education (THRIECE)'
O’Toole, L., Regan, C. and Nowak-Lojewska, A. (2019) '‘To learn with’ as an alternative voice for children's education. Introduction to a European Project: Teaching for Holistic, Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education (THRIECE)'. Problemy Wczesnej Edukacji / Issues in Early Education, 251 (1):175-182 [Details]
2015 'Student-centred teaching in Initial Teacher Education'
O'Toole, L. (2015) 'Student-centred teaching in Initial Teacher Education'. International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education, 6 (1):2111-2119 [Details]
2014 'Cooperative learning in Initial Teacher Education: Student experiences'
O'Toole, L. (2014) 'Cooperative learning in Initial Teacher Education: Student experiences'. Problemy Wczesnej Edukacji / Issues in Early Education, 25 :7-20 [Details]
2019 '‘To learn with’ in the view of holistic, relational and inclusive education'
Nowak-Lojewska, A., O’Toole, L., Regan, C. and Fereira, M. (2019) '‘To learn with’ in the view of holistic, relational and inclusive education'. Problemy Wczesnej Edukacji / Issues in Early Education, 251 (1):151-162 [Details]
2014 'A bioecological perspective on educational transition'
O'Toole, L. (2014) 'A bioecological perspective on educational transition'. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 140 :121-127 [full-text] [Details]
2013 'Pedagogy or Politics: Cyclical Trends in Literacy and Numeracy in Ireland and Beyond'
O Breachain, A. and O'Toole, L. (2013) 'Pedagogy or Politics: Cyclical Trends in Literacy and Numeracy in Ireland and Beyond'. Irish Educational Studies, 32 (4):401-419 [full-text] [Details]

Published Reports

  Year Publication
2021 Parental Involvement, Engagement and Partnership in Children’s Education during the Primary School Years: Final Report.
Kiely, J. O’Toole, L. Haals-Brosnan, M., O’Brien, E. Z., O’Keeffe, C. and Dunne, C. (2021) Parental Involvement, Engagement and Partnership in Children’s Education during the Primary School Years: Final Report. Marino Institute of Education, Dublin. [Details]

Other Journals

  Year Publication
2020 'Relationships, reciprocity and reflective practice in challenging times'
Leah O'Toole (2020) 'Relationships, reciprocity and reflective practice in challenging times' Early Pedagogy, Summer 2020 . [Details]
2014 'Literacy and numeracy: Are we on the right track?'
O Breachain A. and O'Toole, L. (2014) 'Literacy and numeracy: Are we on the right track?' In Touch, 141 :54-55. [Details]

Conference Publications

  Year Publication
2017 A bioecological perspective on parental involvement in their children’s education
O'Toole, L. (2017) A bioecological perspective on parental involvement in their children’s education The Future of Education Conference [full-text] [Details]
2016 A bioecological perspective on educational transition: Experiences of Children, Parents and Teachers
O'Toole, L and Hayes, N. (2016) A bioecological perspective on educational transition: Experiences of Children, Parents and Teachers The Future of Education Conference [full-text] [Details]

Conference Contributions

  Year Publication
2021 Conference presentation.
Leah O'Toole, Claire Regan and Nóirín Hayes (2021) Conference presentation. [Oral Presentation], Relation Centered Education Network Annual Conference, Virtual [Details]
2020 Early Childhood Ireland Research Symposium.
Leah O'Toole (2020) Early Childhood Ireland Research Symposium. [Invited Oral Presentation], Early Childhood Ireland Research Symposium, Virtual , 19-OCT-20 - 21-OCT-20 [Details]
2019 Teaching for Holistic, Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education (THRIECE).
O'Toole, L. (2019) Teaching for Holistic, Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education (THRIECE). [Oral Presentation], European Early Childhood Education Research Association (EECERA) Conference, Thessaloniki, Greece [Details]
2019 Parental involvement, partnership and engagement in their children’s education during the primary school years.
O'Toole, L. (2019) Parental involvement, partnership and engagement in their children’s education during the primary school years. [Oral Presentation], Educational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) Conference, Sligo, Ireland [Details]
2019 Teaching for Holistic, Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education (THRIECE).
O'Toole, L. (2019) Teaching for Holistic, Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education (THRIECE). [Oral Presentation], Educational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) Conference, Sligo, Ireland [Details]
2019 Participant action research in the THRIECE project.
O'Toole, L. (2019) Participant action research in the THRIECE project. [Keynote Address], Desafiar prática Profissionais na Infância: Educação holística, relacional e inclusiva, Porto. Portugal [Details]
2019 The importance of home-school relationships in the early years of children’s education.
O'Toole, L. (2019) The importance of home-school relationships in the early years of children’s education. [Oral Presentation], OMEP Ireland Annual Conference: Relationship Matters and What Matters in Early Years Relationships, Cork Institute of Education [Details]
2019 Outdoor play provides opportunities for development not available by any other means. Therefore inequitable access to outdoor play can be perceived as a social justice issue, and this is theorised in this paper through the lens of bioecological theory.
O'Toole, L. (2019) Outdoor play provides opportunities for development not available by any other means. Therefore inequitable access to outdoor play can be perceived as a social justice issue, and this is theorised in this paper through the lens of bioecological theory. [Keynote Address], A bioecological perspective on outdoor play, Maynooth University [Details]
2019 Parents’ involvement in their children’s education in primary school.
Kiely, J. and O'Toole, L. (2019) Parents’ involvement in their children’s education in primary school. [Keynote Address], National Parents Council Primary Education Conference 2019, Tomorrow’s World: Parents supporting children’s futures, Dublin, Ireland [Details]
2019 THRIECE (Teaching for Holistic, Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education).
O'Toole, L. (2019) THRIECE (Teaching for Holistic, Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education). [Keynote Address], THRIECE (Teaching for Holistic, Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education), Gdansk, Poland [Details]
2017 The implications of multi-lingualism for parental involvement in children’s educational transitions.
O'Toole, L. and Mhic Mhathuna, M. (2017) The implications of multi-lingualism for parental involvement in children’s educational transitions. [Oral Presentation], Multilingualism in the Early Years International Conference, 18th-19th May, 2017. Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland, Dublin Ireland [Details]
2016 Invited discussant for the “Compensatory Pathways for Early School Leavers: Findings from the RESL.eu Project” Symposium.
O'Toole, L. (2016) Invited discussant for the “Compensatory Pathways for Early School Leavers: Findings from the RESL.eu Project” Symposium. [Invited Oral Presentation], ECER (European Conference on Educational Research), 22nd – 26th August 2016. University College Dublin, Ireland, Dublin Ireland [Details]
2016 Assessment of combined foundation discipline content on an initial teacher education programme: Student-lecturer interdisciplinary dialoguing of theories to practices.
O'Toole, L., McDaid, R. and Ryan, A. (2016) Assessment of combined foundation discipline content on an initial teacher education programme: Student-lecturer interdisciplinary dialoguing of theories to practices. [Oral Presentation], Dialogue across education and humanities conference, 22nd-24th June 2016. St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin, Ireland, Dublin Ireland [Details]
2016 The power of 'process': The role of relationships in supporting positive educational transitions.
O'Toole, L. (2016) The power of 'process': The role of relationships in supporting positive educational transitions. [Oral Presentation], 26th EECERA (European Early Childhood Education Research Association) Annual Conference ‘Happiness, Relationships, Emotion and Deep Level Learning’ 31st August – 3rd September 2016. Dublin, Ireland, Dublin [Details]
2015 Educational transition in bio-ecological perspective: The key role of relationships.
O'Toole, L and Hayes, N. (2015) Educational transition in bio-ecological perspective: The key role of relationships. [Oral Presentation], Educational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) Annual National Conference, ‘Educational Research and Practice in Times of Transition: Looking to the Future’, 9th – 11th April 2015. Carton House and, Carton House, Kildare, Ireland [Details]
2015 “Welcome to this one hour lecture on . . . Constructivism . . . (!)”: Rhetoric Or Reality? A Consideration of the Theory/Practice Nexus and its Implications for Approaches to Teacher Education.
Ryan, A., O'Toole, L. and Purdy, N, (2015) “Welcome to this one hour lecture on . . . Constructivism . . . (!)”: Rhetoric Or Reality? A Consideration of the Theory/Practice Nexus and its Implications for Approaches to Teacher Education. [Oral Presentation], SCoTENS, 21-22 October, 2014. Enniskillen, Ireland, Enniskillen [Details]
2015 The baby and the bathwater: Integrating theoretical stances to enhance children’s experiences of educational transitions.
O'Toole, L and Hayes, N. (2015) The baby and the bathwater: Integrating theoretical stances to enhance children’s experiences of educational transitions. [Oral Presentation], RECE International Conference, ‘Narratives of Difference: Translations, Transgressions and Transformations’, 27th-31st October, 2015. Blanchardstown Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland, Dublin Ireland [Details]
2014 ‘Freedom to learn’ in Initial Teacher Education. (Awarded best poster).
O'Toole, L. (2014) ‘Freedom to learn’ in Initial Teacher Education. (Awarded best poster). [Poster Presentation], London International Conference on Education (LICE), 10th-12th November 2014. London, England, London [Details]
2013 A Bioecological Perspective on Educational Transition.
O'Toole, L. (2013) A Bioecological Perspective on Educational Transition. [Oral Presentation], World Conference on Psychology and Sociology, 27th-29th November 2013. Brussels, Belgium, Brussels [Details]
2013 Going round and round with the 3 R’s: International experiences of standardised testing and league tables: Implications for educational policy in Ireland.
O'Toole, L. and O Breachain, A. (2013) Going round and round with the 3 R’s: International experiences of standardised testing and league tables: Implications for educational policy in Ireland. [Oral Presentation], Educational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) Annual National Conference, 21st-23rd March, 2013. Limerick, Ireland, Limerick [Details]
2013 Towards Integrated Learning: Linking Psychology, Sociology and School Experience in Initial Teacher Education.
Ryan, A. and O'Toole, L. (2013) Towards Integrated Learning: Linking Psychology, Sociology and School Experience in Initial Teacher Education. [Oral Presentation], Association for Teacher Education in Europe Spring Conference: Teacher of the 21st Century, Quality Education for Quality Teaching, 10th-12th May 2013 Riga, Latvia, Riga [Details]

Invited Seminars

  Year Publication
2021 Teaching for Holistic Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education (THRIECE).
Leah O'Toole and Claire Regan (2021) Teaching for Holistic Relational and Inclusive Early Childhood Education (THRIECE). Invited Seminars [Details]

Teaching Interests

Leah is the Programme Coordinator of the BA in Early Childhood Teaching and Learning. She lectures on the degree in Reflective Practice, Learning and Development Practices, Transitions and Research & Dissertation. She also teaches on the Masters in Education in Contemporary Issues in Working with Families and Communities.

Internal Collaborators

  Name Institute Country
IRELAND
MUSSI IRELAND

External Collaborators

  Name Role / Description Country
Marino Institute of Education Research Partners IRELAND
Early Childhood Ireland Partners in programme development and delivery IRELAND
University of Porto Research Partners PORTUGAL
University of Gdansk Research Partners POLAND
Relation-Centered Education Network, Sacramento State University Conference development U.S.A.
An Cosán Research Partners IRELAND
ICATA (International Cognitive Analytic Therapy Association) Research Partners IRELAND
Fisher Price Early Childhood Education Research Centre, State University of New York at Buffalo Research Partners U.S.A.
Trinity College Dublin Research Partners IRELAND