Research Areas by the Education Department

Research AreaDetails
School Placement
(2020)
Research is currently being completed for a project linked with student teachers experiences of Paired Placement in school settings. This is a Teaching Council Funded Project under the CROI Research Support framework. This project commenced in January 2020 and will be complete in September 2021.

Staff Involved: Kate Mohan

Education
(2019)
Description inc. when research took place:2019-present: LIFETWO NUIG Research Team Member (with Prof. Gerry Mac Ruairc, Dr Manuela Heinz, and Dr Elaine Keane), LIFETWO: Learning Interculturality from Religions Towards Outreach Activities (Erasmus+). Affiliated Institutions:NUI Galway and St. Angela’s College, Sligo. 

Staff Involved: Prof. Gerry Mac Ruairc, Dr Manuela Heinz, Dr Elaine Keane, and Dr Mary Shanahan.

Wellbeing During School placement: Eat, Exercise, Sleep, Repeat? Realities From the Cold Face.
(2019)
Teaching is ranked as a high stress profession, with burnout a reality for many. Teachers’ working conditions have undergone many changes recently, often impacting their wellbeing negatively. Yet, most prevail, suggesting some enrichment/s sustaining their wellbeing. To this end, a range of work-related contributors, which promote teacher’s wellbeing, have been identified; a feeling of meaningfulness, caring and social support. Unsurprisingly, student teachers (STs) cite school placement (SP) as the most stressful component of initial teacher training (ITT). SP entails learning the profession through assumption of the teacher role and engaging in many teaching (e.g. planning, assessment, lesson implementation) and non-teaching activities (e.g. lesson observation, teacher collaboration) thus endeavouring to uncover the true intricacies of the profession. Like their qualified counterparts, STs invest much in their schools, with strong feelings and commitment evident. Yet, there is a minimal research relating to SP conditions and ST wellbeing. This lack of attention is notable, given current difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers, whilst simultaneously focusing on pupil wellbeing. 
The current study explored ST’s wellbeing during SP. Specifically, how did STs maintain their wellbeing during this time? What challenges and supports did they encounter which impacted their wellbeing? Through use of a case study, wellbeing was explored on three fronts; physical, emotional and social. STs (N=84) from one ITT College, in the Republic of Ireland were purposively selected to participate in an online questionnaire. 
Key findings reported a range of challenges. Sleep was implicated for most (91.7%) during SP; reduced duration, later sleep initiation, earlier rising and broken sleep. Eating behaviours were also problematic for many ST’s (67.5%) due to altered routine; eating less than usual, eating quicker than usual and skipping meals entirely. Negative impacts on physical activity were widespread (81.5%) due to limited time, tiredness and locations not conducive to such activities (e.g. geographically remote). Overall themes of workload, stress, time pressure, location and psychological detachment are expanded, in order to gain a wider understanding of the challenges to wellbeing during SP. 

Staff Involved: Dr Deirdre Harvey

Review of the Pilot Altered Provision Project
(2017-2019)
National Council for Special Education Funded Research Project 


Staff Involved: Dolores McDonagh, Ann Marie Casserly, Evelyn Deac, Bairbre Tiernan

Student Teacher Collaboration:Student Teachers' Collaborative Experiences During School Placement.
(2017-2019)

Teacher collaboration entails two or more colleagues working and reflecting together, for a shared purpose. In doing so, a range of positive outcomes may be garnered, such as heightened moral support and communication, improved teacher effectiveness and confidence, and reduced workload and personal isolation. Yet, obstacles may stifle its success. A lack of universal endorsement, teacher competitiveness, conflict, decreased autonomy, time limitations, increased workload and pressure to conform, can be challenging. Further adding to these mixed findings, most research focuses on the qualified teacher, with a paucity of research on the nature of student teacher (ST) collaboration. The purpose of this study was to explore ST perspectives and experiences of collaboration during school placement (SP). 
A mixed method approach (i.e. sequential explanatory design) was adopted in this two-phase study. Participants were full-time, undergraduate STs, studying a BA PME programme in one third level ITE institution. Purposive sampling was employed. Phase 1 entailed STs (N=119) completing a questionnaire on their understanding and perceptions of collaboration to date and intentions for collaboration during SP. Phase 2 was conducted two weeks post SP. All phase 1 participants were invited to complete a second questionnaire (n=38) and one focus group. Both instruments explored STs experiences and perceptions of collaboration during their recent SP.  
Findings demonstrated that STs enjoyed collaborating, citing many benefits: contributed to their development, professional skills and effectiveness, expanded pedagogical approaches, offered new perspectives on effective teaching, and reduced uncertainty. Collaborations occurred with several colleagues, in particular the co-operating teacher. The purpose of these varied (i.e. practical class preparation, class set up, supporting behavioural management, developing student profiles, and creation of resources). Interestingly, STs’ collaborations concentrated on the immediate class and/or themselves and less on learning, learners or the wider school. Most collaborations occurred between lessons and during lunchtime. Time availability and lack of awareness of collaboration at the school level, were considered problematic. Ironically, the themes of forcing collaboration, as well as, responsibility for its’ initiation and continuance by others, thereby devolving STs of responsibility, suggested a misunderstanding of collaboration by STs.The current study further informs SP policy and practice and contributes to the understanding of the role of SP in influencing attitudes towards collaboration. Further input on the nature and importance of collaboration is recommended, particularly at early stages of ITE programmes, thereby developing STs’ competencies during this time. The study also forms a basis for expansion of school-ITE institution partnerships, to enhance SP experiences. Existing research, along with our findings, suggests such partnerships are not universal, with ST experiences varying.  

Affiliated Institutions:Funded by the John Coolahan Research Support Framework, Teaching CouncilPrincipal Investigator: Dr Deirdre Harvey

Staff Involved: Dr Deirdre Harvey (Principal Investigator), Dr Louise Lehane, Dr Kate Mohan

The Professional Development Needs of Special Needs Assistants in Irish Post-primary Schools.
(2017)
 According to government policy in Ireland, special needs assistants (SNAs) may be employed in post-primary schools to support students deemed to have chronic and serious care needs. There is currently no national policy regarding the continuing professional development (CPD) of SNAs, to meet the requirements of their role. This study investigated the CPD needs of SNAs, working in post-primary schools, in the Border, Midland and Western region of Ireland. Findings from a survey of SNAs and principals revealed that while the majority agreed CPD for SNAs should be compulsory, an ad hoc approach to provision of CPD prevailed, and barriers to CPD were identified. Findings also indicated that CPD in supporting students with Emotional and Behaviour Disorders was a key requirement identified by principals and SNAs. Supporting students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and promoting student independence were also identified as areas for CPD. The need for a national policy with regard to CPD for SNAs is highlighted.

Affiliated Institutions:CSENID and Education DepartmentFunded through the Angela Merici Research Fund 

Staff Involved:Dr Pauline Kerins (Principal Investigator), Dr Ann Marie Casserly, Evelyn Deacy, Dr Deirdre Harvey, Dolores McDonagh, Dr Bairbre Tiernan

Co-operating Teacher Support and Working Relations; Unearthing the Reality.
(2016)
School Placement (SP) is an essential component in the process of becoming a teacher. Teaching competencies, knowledge and skills are acquired along with a multitude of personal, professional and broader gains. Student teachers require help, in the form of a supportive school environment with quality relationships, to succeed in SP. In particular, the approachability, guidance and assistance offered by the Co-operating teacher (CT) is key. Specifically,CT support, feedback, and collaboration are important for role affirmation, development and emotional well-being of student teachers. This study investigated the perceived CT support and working relations of seventy post-primary student teachers, during SP, in the Republic of Ireland. Results demonstrated student teachers had a clear understanding of the CT role. However, inconsistencies in the nature and quality of support and working relations were apparent. Student teachers who reported positive CT working relations gained academic, practical and emotional support. Reciprocal trading of ideas and resources as well as positive interactions pertaining to lessons and learners were common, allowing student teachers to feel valued, connected and included. Clear expectations were placed on them resulting in an associated sense of belonging and security. Conversely, trainee teachers who disclosed negative CT working relations highlighted little time, support or expectation afforded by the CT, rendering them isolated and ignored. CT control and criticism of the student teacher were also mooted, resulting in perceptions of inconvenience, undermining and stress on the part of the trainee teacher.

Staff Involved: Dr Deirdre Harvey

Reconceptualising School Placement as Part of Initial Teacher Education in Ireland, North and South: The Role of Specialist School Placement.
(2016)
This study investigated student teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion and their perceptions of competence in meeting the needs of students with SEN, before and after teaching placement in a specialist setting, on concurrent and consecutive ITE programmes for post-primary teachers, North and South.

Affiliated Institutions: CSENID and Education Department St. Angela’s College and the Faculty of Social Sciences at Ulster UniversityFunded through SCOTENS 

Staff Involved: Dr Pauline Kerins (Principal Investigator), Dolores Mc Donagh ,Dr Deirdre Harvey, Dr Jackie Lambe

Meeting the Needs of Children with Special Educational Needs in Multi-grade Classrooms.
(2015-2017)
Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South Funded Research Project (SCoTENS) 

Staff Involved: Bairbre Tiernan, Ann Marie Casserly, Gabrielle Maguire (St Mary’s University College, Belfast) 
Reconceptualising School Placement as Part of Initial Teacher Education in Ireland, North and South: The Role of Specialist School Placement.
(2015-2017)
Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South Funded Research Project (SCoTENS) 


Staff Involved: Dolores McDonagh, Pauline Kerins, in partnership with Jackie Lambe (Queens University, Belfast)
Student Teacher Transition to School Placement: The influence of sleep on student teachers’ daytime functioning during school placement.
(2015)
Authentic teaching and non-teaching experiences are afforded during School Placement (SP), however, facing the realities and associated demands of the profession can, for some, result in culture “shock”, pertaining to challenging workloads and time availability (Flores, 2001; Kyriacou & Kunc, 2007; Roness, 2011). Associated negative effects can also emerge in STs’ sleep, in particular alterations in durations, sleep hygiene practices and subsequent school daytime functioning. 
This study investigated the influences of sleep on STs’ daytime functioning during SP at post-primary level. Results demonstrated the majority of STs slept for less than WHO recommendations coupled with late sleep onsets. Negative sleep hygiene practices in the form of lesson and school preparations and media usage, the hour before sleep onset, were common. School daytime functioning was positively correlated with sleep durations the previous night (r=0.23, p<0.05). ST’s perception of their communication (r=0.227, p<0.01), appetite (r=0.25, p<0.01), vigilance (r=0.213, p<0.05) and anxiety (r=-0.234, p<0.01) were significantly associated with the previous night’s sleep duration. Workloads and time management were considered problematic, culminating in these trends. 


Staff Involved: Dr Deirdre Harvey

Teachers’ Perspectives on the Practicum Element of the Postgraduate Diploma in Special Educational Needs (Autistic Spectrum Disorders)
(2014-2016)
 NCSE Funding Project 


Staff Involved: Dolores McDonagh, Fiona Jennings, Evelyn Deacy
Dyslexia in Ireland: Views Regarding the Provision for Pupils with Dyslexia Since the Publication of the Task Force Reports, North and South (2002).
(2013-2015)
SCoTENS Funded Research Project 


Staff Involved: Ann Marie Casserly, Bairbre Tiernan, Therese Philips (DCU), Donna Hazzard (St. Mary’s University College, Belfast), Gillain Beck (Stranmillis University College, Belfast)
Investigating the Training Needs of Special Needs Assistants in the Border, Midland and Western Region.  
(2013-2014)
St. Angela College Seed Funding Project 

Staff Involved: Pauline Kerins, Ann Marie Casserly, Evelyn Deacy, Deirdre Harvey, Dolores McDonagh, Bairbre Tiernan
Early Number Concepts: Key Vocabulary and Supporting Strategies.
(2012-2014)
SCoTENS Funded Research Project 

Staff Involved: Bairbre Tiernan, Ann Marie Casserly, Pamela Moffitt (Stranmillis University College, Belfast)
Bus Transport Project: Developing Training for Bus Escorts based on Research with Key Stakeholders
(2012-2016)
National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education (NABMSE) Funded Research Project


Staff Involved: Dolores McDonagh, Bairbre Tiernan, Evelyn Deacy
Impact Study of Programmes in Special Educational Needs and Learning Support, (2002-2006)
(2011)
Department of Education and Science Funding


Staff Involved: Dolores McDonagh, Eugene Toolan, Bairbre Tiernan, in partnership with Mary Immaculate College.

Innovation Projects by Education Department and Centre for Special Education Needs, Inclusion and Diversity

Innovation ProjectDetails
Review of the Pilot Altered Provision Project
(2017-2019)
National Council for Special Education Funded Research Project

Staff Involved: Dolores McDonagh, Dr Ann Marie Casserly, Evelyn Deacy, Dr Bairbre Tiernan

Investigating the Training Needs of Special Needs Assistants in the Border, Midland and Western Region. (2013-2014)  St. Angela College Seed Funding Project 

Staff Involved: Pauline Kerins, Dr Ann Marie Casserly, Evelyn Deacy, Dr Deirdre Harvey, Dolores McDonagh, Dr Bairbre Tiernan

Bus Transport Project; Developing Training for Bus Escorts.
(2011 ongoing)
Affiliated Organisations:National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education (NABMSE)   

Staff Involved: Dolores McDonagh, Evelyn Deacy, Dr Bairbre Tiernan

Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma in Special Educational Needs 
(Autism Spectrum Disorder)
(2008 ongoing)
Affiliated Organisations:National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and Department of Education and Skills 

Staff Involved: Dolores McDonagh, Dr Bairbre Tiernan
BA in Special Educational Needs, Inclusion, and Diversity (2020-221) Development phase of new innovative BA programme 2020-2021 

Staff Involved: CSENID team and the Institute of Child Education and Psychology Europe (ICEPE)