WIT conference abstracts

Thursday 11h15

Erik Jan Meyer, Durham University
Helping our students: Learning, metalearning, and threshold concepts

There is much that can be said about student learning (and, more precisely, variation in student learning) and the relevance to teaching practice of a knowledge of these matters in a generic sense. Indeed one advocated ‘best practice’ form of pedagogy − that of ‘student centred teaching’ − assumes that teachers have some knowledge of how their own students engage learning. The acquisition of such knowledge leads for many teachers to a reconceptualisation of practice, and the desire to be responsive to patterns of variation in their students’ learning in a reflexive manner. It does not require a great deal of effort for university teachers (in whatever discipline) to solicit, interpret, and understand the likely consequences of, some of the more common and classic generic patterns of variation. And, in grasping these opportunities there is variation that can be captured in a ‘model of engagement’ which will be expanded upon.

It is something of a benchmark for teachers to move beyond the comfortable generic metaphors of learning and to actively solicit, and respond to, variation in their students’ disciplinary learning. And for teachers to take the next step and help their students become aware of, and take control over their own learning is even more challenging. To empower students in this manner is one of the most important things teachers can do. But creating the opportunity for teachers to extend their locus of responsibility in this manner is not as easy as may at first sight appear and will be discussed.

An emphasis on variation in learning and developing metalearning capacity requires a focus: the ‘object of learning’ at a granular level. The developing analytical framework of threshold concepts will be introduced as a means to identify transformative waypoints in students learning journeys; a lens that focuses on the learning of concepts that really matter, involving both cognitive and ontological shift.

Thursday 14h30

The Learning Innovation Network : Fostering Staff Development

Attracta Brennan, LIN Project Co-Ordinator, GMIT
Noel Fitzpatrick

Ireland is undergoing rapid change marked by demographic, social and cultural shifts and large-scale investment schemes in infrastructure.  In third-level education, this has been reflected in vast increases in participation by full-time students and a growing interest in lifelong learning. 

Within the Irish context, the Institutes of Technology were established by the Department of Education and Science “to provide balanced education to the highest international standard and provide learners with flexible higher learning opportunities”.  In order to meet their remit and respond to evolving educational demands, IoTs are being increasingly required to pay greater attention to improving teaching and enhancing student learning.  As a result they need to effect policy changes so that institutional staff and management are provided with the skills and development opportunities to better equip them for their expanding role in;

  • providing better quality teaching,
  • catering to an increasingly wide diversity of students and
  • improving the student learning experience 

The Learning Innovation Network (LIN) project, funded by the Strategic Innovation Fund, is a three year collaborative project between the Irish IoTs.  Recognising the need for student learning to be placed at the centre of institutional policy and change, one of the goals of the LIN project is scope agreed Academic Development Programmes in Teaching and Learning - consisting of accredited workshops, continuing professional development programmes (CPDs) and PG Certs/Diplomas/Masters.  These programmes will be used to support institutional staff in planning, running and monitoring “innovative activities to engage their students in effective reflective learning” and improving “the quality of their teaching, their student learning and their assessment of learning outcomes”.  .

In this paper, the LIN model is proposed as a sustainable model for teaching and learning. 
Creating a Sustainable Environment for Knowledge Transfer in Undergraduate and Postgraduate Education and Research

Siobhan Harkin, SIF Project Manager, Waterford Institute of Technology


This paper summarises the objectives and approach of a SIF II funded project on knowledge transfer in the curriculum, coordinated by WIT, in partnership with CIT, UCC, IBEC, Waterford Chamber of Commerce and the University of Kuopio, Finland.


Knowledge transfer is often seen as a by-product of higher education activities rather than a core function of institutes, related solely to research activities, at the expense of other opportunities to transfer knowledge.


Because knowledge transfer involves an ‘engagement’ between academic activities and employers, this paper argues that it requires structures to facilitate and support the process. Academic institutions however, are structured for teaching and research, with the focus on content and outcomes, rather than on the skill set of what learners can do with the teaching, learning and research components of their programmes.


The paper outlines a central precept of the project – that there is potential for HEIs to transfer knowledge as part of the learning experience itself and to build knowledge transfer competencies into the learning experience.


The objective is to develop a structure(s) to manage the interfaces between workplaces and academia and develop a more explicit focus on the theory and practice of knowledge transfer in the curriculum (at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels).


The project aims to implement appropriate changes to the structure of programme supports, such as linking programmes more directly to the workplace, e.g. through liaison roles. In addition the project will look at new types of doctoral programmes that emphasis knowledge transfer more explicitly.


Ultimately, such developments will improve the incidences of knowledge transfer and strengthen the learning experience and skill set of the learner.

Patterns of IT Usage Amongst UCC Students: What Are Our Students Doing Online?

Ciaran Dawson, Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha, UCC 

A recent report states that people born from 1990 onwards do not remember the first time they used a computer.  This is the generation which is now entering third level education.  In order to effectively engage with these learners it is vital that we get a picture of their online activities.  In this talk I will present the results of research carried out among UCC students for this purpose.  At the heart of the research is a survey carried out in Spring 2008 which was responded to by 921 students in which they presented a picture of their online activities (both social and pedagogical) as well as commenting on the effectiveness of the pedagogical use of IT in UCC and making suggestions for its possible development into the future.  This survey will be followed up by a series of minor surveys and focus groups in Autumn 2008 aimed at refining the findings of the major survey and presenting more specific data. To date, results indicate a student population who are active online learners and who are capable of reaching beyond the resources provided by UCC.  There appears to be a wide use of social networking software for both social and pedagogical purposes and, while students are satisfied with the use of Blackboard in UCC, they have definite ideas on how it should be used and are highly critical of areas where it is underutilised.  Something which comes across strongly is the high level of sophistication and pedagogical awareness displayed in the answers which suggest how Blackboard ought to be used by staff.This talk challenges the assumption that social networking software cannot seriously be put to work in Teaching and Learning on an institutional level.   

Uptake and usage of Virtual Learning Environments in the Irish Tertiary Sector: Findings from a multi institutional student usage survey.  

Dr. Robert Cosgrave, Learning Technology Unit, University College Cork.
Claire McAvinia, Learning Technologist Quality Promotion Office NUI Maynooth.
Angelica Risquez, Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of Limerick.

In early 2008 Six Irish tertiary institutions conducted an online survey of their students usage of Virtual Learning Environments in their respective institutions. The survey used a common set of questions. Five of these institutions have, on condition of anonymity, pooled their results for comparison and study and this paper presents the findings of this research. The five institutions represent a diversity of organisational histories and VLE systems. It is often assumed that technology issues are a key driver of VLE uptake and usage, however, the data indicates that these technical issues have relatively little effect on the ground. Organisational factors, such the maturity of the implementation, are shown to have a more substantial effect on uptake, usage and utility of the systems. The paper also discusses issues around the conduct of the survey, confidentiality and data sharing, and the potential for ongoing surveys to build into a longitudinal data set.


Towards Evidence-Based Policy and Strategic Planning in Higher Education:
An institutional survey of approaches to teaching, perspectives on academic practice and values held by academic staff.

Dr. Iain Mac Labhrainn, Centre for Excellence in Learning & Teaching, NUI Galway

A major survey/audit of experience, attitudes and perspectives of academic staff in all faculties across a single institution was undertaken over the period of an academic year, with a response rate of approximately 40-50% of permanent academic staff. The survey instrument combined tools developed by groups at UCLA, Oxford, Sydney and from other published (and statistically validated) work and consisted of a detailed set of Likert scale inventories and other question types, requiring some 45-50 minutes for completion and hence yielding considered and reflective responses.  The data provide a rich source of detailed information regarding approaches to teaching, perspectives on the teaching environment, the perceived challenges of contemporary academic practice (including the tensions between teaching and research demands), attitudes regarding technology use and opinions on the broader purposes of higher education.  The results show that there is a diversity of opinion and approaches, including those which are shaped by disciplinary, gender and age aspects, but even within such categories there is evidence for distinct sub-groupings in terms of approaches to teaching, for example. They also reveal a high level of commitment to teaching which in some cases is challenged by the pressures of large enrolment classes, levels of student engagement and the complexities of negotiating a career path in a time of rapid change in the sector nationally and internationally. This project has provided a fascinating insight into both the values held by and the lived professional experience of academics across the institution and will make an invaluable contribution towards the shaping of institutional strategy as well as raising fundamental questions regarding the nature of academic practice.
Perpetual construction of academic identity in higher education

Alison Clancy, UCD

For academics who work within the realm of higher education, the difficulties in finding space to learn and time to reflect and self-evaluate have increased due to the multiple roles and identities that they are expected to assume in order to meet the demands placed on them.

 The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of academic identity within higher education by determining the value of teaching and learning development programmes and the extent to which these programmes influence the construction of academic identity and to establish whether the knowledge that academic’s acquire within such programmes results in a transformational experience for him/her.  

The Glaserian, grounded theory approach used in this study produced a substantive theory entitled `Perpetual Construction of Academic Identity in Higher Education’ which proposes that each academic experiences a 3-staged process during his/her engagement in the Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning; this 3-staged process involves a possibility portal which facilitates the academic in experiencing a state of academic self-realisation.  The 3-stages are as follows: Constructing the academic self, in this stage the academic has arrived in higher education with an already existing identity.  Deconstructing the academic self is the phase in which the academic begins to reconsider his/her role in higher education and to disassemble the identity s/he had held previously.  In the stage of reconstructing the academic self, the academic begins to transform his/her identity as s/he starts his/her journey on the road toward academic self-realisation.

The theory of `Perpetual Construction of Academic Identity in Higher Education’ demonstrates that space and time within higher education are important so that the academic is provided with the ability to realise their full potential and to become who s/he wants to become. 

Making Connections: The Irish Integrative Learning Project

Dr. Bettie Higgs, UCC
Prof. Tony Ryan, UCC
Dr. Shane Kilcommins, UCC

 The move towards modularisation, semesterisation, and mobility has some benefits for students, but has the potential to create a fragmentary undergraduate learning experience. Course coordinators report that students don’t seem to transfer their knowledge and skills from one module to another. Students may be required to make connections between isolated pockets of learning themselves, and some do better at this than others. Helping students to build capacity to be integrative thinkers and learners, and make connections within and between disciplines, is at the heart of the Irish Integrative Learning Project.  This talk will highlight examples of curricula where intentional teaching for integrative learning is helping students to make connections in a variety of ways. Academic staff are documenting these examples under headings such as curriculum development, appropriate pedagogy, and assessment.  Attempts are being made to align this work with the learning outcomes approach, and the idea of threshold concepts within the disciplines. Questions arising from this alignment focus on the nature of the process of moving from naïve to deep learning and understanding.  At present 18 academic staff from X disciplines and Y institutions are involved in the project.* Ways of increasing participation are being explored.  * Up to date figures will be supplied in September    

Challenging assumptions in language learning and teaching:
a CLIL experience at WIT

Dr Áine Furlong, Lecturer in Language Education, Intercultural Communication and French
Paola Fraioli
Rosanna Molloy
Angelica Cisneros
Una Cummins
Don O’Neill

The interdisciplinary approach of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) promotes the teaching and learning of content, e.g. the subject of Science, or Geography, etc. through a language other than the main language of the school or college. This concept, in the context of growing plurilingual socio-economical and cultural realities, while gaining increasing recognition and support in Europe (European Council Conclusions on Multilingualism, May 2008), has not yet become part of mainstream education in Ireland – apart from Irish in Gaelscoileanna.


One of the assumptions often made with regard to content-based teaching is that language teachers are not in a position to teach a subject for which they have no training and conversely, subject teachers cannot teach language/s without a thorough knowledge of the target language. While the integrated nature of the curriculum enables the merging of languages with subjects at primary level (see the work conducted by the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative or the NCCA), the compartmentalization of subjects remains unchallenged at second and third level. This paper will show how a group of language lecturers at WIT are tackling the issue through cooperation with subject specialists, alignment of the language syllabus with relevant content and careful adaptation of subject materials. The languages are French, German, Italian, Spanish and English as a second language. The subjects include marketing, art and design, communications, environmental science and literary criticism. For this purpose, models of CLIL programmes (Clegg, forthcomning) accompanied by a brief introduction to the structure of a typical CLIL class (Coyle 2005) at third level (Furlong 2005) will be presented. In this context, language learning and teaching strategies will highlight the foreign language specialist’s contribution to the teaching of specialized material in core subject areas. The presentation will be supported by empirical evidence from third level students’ reactions to a CLIL experience at WIT.

Poster sessions

A Fresh Approach to Teaching Embedded Systems

Martin Bradley, Letterkenny Institute of Technology

This poster outlines a new approach to teaching microcontrollers and mixed signal arrays in Universities and Institutes of Technology. It involves initially the use of PSoC Express, which allows students to develop small embedded systems employing various sensors without having to write any C code. The students then move on and write C code and develop systems using a low cost In-Circuit Emulator (ICE). The PSoC development system allows students to develop simple applications rapidly. This instils a confidence and an interest in the students and allows them to develop more complex systems in a shorter period of time. Technologies used can be found in modern day products such as the iPod nano, iPhone, Smart Shoe, Wii, Chocolate phone, Wireless Mouse & Keyboard, Game Boy and many more.

Applied research conducted in LyIT with local and national companies in this area has created technology transfer in both directions. Modern Electronic technology and devices have been introduced by the companies and these have been incorporated into courses and the same companies have been introduced to other new technologies and techniques for their new product designs. In short, companies get access to the latest technologies, students gets realworld experience, and LyIT provides the foundation that ties it all together. Everyone wins.

A Wireless controlled Skeleton using PSoC technology has been designed and acts as a teaching aid in this area. RoboSkeleton (Fred) can move around the floor, move his head randomly or in response to touch, speak, sing, sense humidity, temperature, light, motion and touch. Laboratory work is designed to allow the student to develop all the technologies used in Fred. RoboSkeleton is being used extensively by Forfas to promote Science & Technology to schoolchildren around Ireland.

The applications for entrance to Science & Technology courses in Ireland have dropped significantly in recent years, causing concern to Multinationals and SMEs. Irish government agencies have recognised the problem and have started various initiatives to try to increase awareness and interest in these fields of study. This approach to what many believe is a very daunting discipline could encourage more students to take up courses in the Science & Technology area.

On-Campus Learning: Rethinking learning outside of the classroom

Maria Gallo, St Angela’s College, Sligo

The poster challenges a common paradigm of undergraduate education in Ireland—a student acquires knowledge and skills in the classroom and hones the skills in a practical situation, such as a work placement.

This poster demonstrates the potential to rethink opportunities for learning outside of the classroom, but on campus. As Ireland builds more sophisticated higher education institutions (HEIs), they are a microcosm of society- from a complex administrative and management services, medical services, a canteen and crèche, accommodation and athletic facilities. What can an institution itself through its administrative, ancillary and student services provide as learning opportunities? This poster is a reflection on rethinking and applying the third-level institution itself as a legitimate learning environment. Job shadowing, on campus work placements, engaging students on committees and on-campus activities will enhance the student experience while enabling those in the institution to engage directly with students.

Whether it is the estates manager and the engineering student; the Communications Department and the marketing student; a SIF-funded project and an undergraduate as a research assistant; the student services committee and the social studies student; the philosophy student and the President—the complementary scenarios on campus are endless and invaluable. What are some of the challenges to enhancing on-campus learning?

This poster explores some of these potential on-campus learning opportunities outside of the classroom to spark discussion and debate over the role of the whole institution to a student’s learning.

Assessing Examination Assessment

Peter Mannion and Aisling Fahy, Union of Students’ in Ireland & NUIG Students’ Union
This poster examines student views on the different types of examinations they undertake as undergraduates. The link between research led teaching and examination results is also examined and compared to traditional book based teaching. The student views on the multiple styles of examination they encounter is ascertained and we wish to challenge the assumption that students prefer and fare better using examination techniques such as continuous assessment etc.

Tailoring in the Practice of Teaching and Learning

Adrian O’Riordan, UCC

This poster describes the use of tailoring in teaching and learning. By tailoring I mean built-in flexibility to change course content and delivery mechanisms on-the-fly using feedback from students while the course is progressing. I investigated a couple of methods to conceptualize this. One approach was to provide the students with course and teaching evaluations midway through the course and earlier. Another approach was to adjust individual lectures, labs, and lesson-plans based on informal feedback. I give examples of what occurred in laboratory sessions.

I have chosen the word tailoring because I don’t envisage large visible changes in the course but rather a number of small changes that can nonetheless have a major impact on the overall experience. The term tailoring is not widely used in educational research but tailoring as a methodology is present in the professions. Gardner (1998) identified what he calls “tailored feedback” in “our most rewarded professions”, medicine and law. In particular I draw on the experience of tailoring in the engineering profession. Engineering is well suited to such a method because knowledge is often tacit and each situation in practice has several possible alternative actions. From a teaching perspective tailoring entails monitoring or “seeing” a class, planning for flexibility, and reflecting on difficulties. The goals of tailoring from a student’s point of view include: student taking responsibility, organizing own work, and allowance to pursue preferred approaches. Tailoring can be viewed as being connected to but distinct from personalized and individualized education. I make links between tailoring and other educational and psychological ideas such as Schön’s reflection-in-action, in-situ learning, Cognitive Flexibility and intuitive practice. 

Learning styles of Level 7 first year engineering students at DIT

Aidan O’Dwyer, DIT Kevin St

This contribution reports on research into the learning styles of first year, Level 7, mechanical and electrical engineering students at DIT. Felder [1] suggests that engineering students (in particular) have four dimensions to their learning styles. Each of the dimensions is described in opposite terms (active versus reflective, sensing versus intuitive, visual versus verbal and sequential versus global). In summary, active learners learn by trying things out or working with others, while reflective learners learn by thinking things through or working alone; sensing learners are oriented towards facts and procedures, while intuitive learners are oriented towards theories; visual learners prefer visual representation of presented material, while verbal learners prefer written or spoken explanations; sequential learners learn in incremental steps, while global learners are systems thinkers who learn in large leaps. Felder measures student learning styles by means of an Index of Learning Styles (ILS) on-line survey [2], composed of 44 multiple-choice questions, with two possible answers for each question.
In a series of papers, Felder and co-workers (e.g. [3], [4]) suggested that most engineering students are active, sensing, visual and sequential learners. The DIT student cohort results are compatible in the latter three aspects with these and other such results; however, the majority of students surveyed show no strong preference for active learning. This challenges the prevailing disciplinary assumption (at least in Ireland) that Level 7 engineering students are predominantly active learners, reflected in the traditional stress on such learning in laboratories and workshops. The contribution will explore the results obtained in detail, placing them fully in their national and international contexts.

1. Felder, R., Engineering Education, 1988, 78(7), 674-681.
2. Felder, R., Soloman, B. (1991), http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html.
3. Felder, R., J. Engineering Education, 1995, 84(4), 361-367.
4. Felder, R. et al., J. Engineering Education, 1998, 87(4), 469-480.

Case study: Using student presentations for learning and assessment
at undergraduate level

Aidan O’Dwyer, DIT Kevin St

This contribution will report on, reflect on and evaluate the author’s experiences of using formal student presentations as a means of learning and assessment in a final year elective module on the Level 8, honours B.E. degree in Electrical/Electronic Engineering at Dublin Institute of Technology. The author has previously reported on experiences of the learning and assessment method on a postgraduate programme [1]. Peer and tutor assessment of undergraduate student presentations has been reported in a number of contributions (e.g. [2], [3]), though the method appears to be undeveloped in Irish third level education.

Students were asked to prepare an individual 10-minute PowerPoint presentation on a control-engineering topic; relevant references, principally from technical papers, were provided as assistance. Presentation topics were chosen at random; all topics had a control systems applications emphasis. Peer and lecturer assessment of the presentations was employed, following a structured guideline agreed with the students. The contribution will discuss the peer assessment experience in detail, including formal student feedback on the process. The wider context of learning and assessment on the module will be reported, including lecturer time expended on the different assessment methods used, and comparisons of peer and lecturer marks recorded; preliminary work suggests that there is no significant difference between these marks for the assessment, and the marks are comparable to those earned from other assessments employed.

The author’s experiences are that the learning and assessment method is learner-centred, motivates independent learning, caters to a diverse student background, unlocks previous student work and learning experiences to the benefit of all learners and provides case-study material that may be used on other programmes. The learning approach assists in the aim of providing students with the fundamental skills required for life-long self-learning. The profile of the students is well matched to the learning approach.

[1] O’Dwyer, A. (2007). “Peer assessment of oral presentations: some experiences”, International Perspectives on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Poster abstracts, p. 3, University College Cork, November.
[2] Falchikov, N. (1995). “Peer feedback marking: developing peer assessment”, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 32(2), 175-187.
[3] MacAlpine, J.M.K. (1999). “Improving and encouraging peer assessment of student presentations”, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 24(1), 15-25.

That Art cannot be taught?

Dr Peter Jordan andCordula Hansen, Department of Creative & Performing Arts, WIT

This paper challenges the assumption, prevalent in art practice, that “art cannot be taught”. This assumption has two sources – the first being that of the Bauhaus – the seminal twentieth century art school.  In his founding manifesto of 1919, Walter Gropius claimed that ‘art cannot be taught’. He implied that whereas techniques in the utilisation of various media for creative purposes, and an understanding of previous ‘successful’ works of art could ‘lay the foundation’. The creative act itself he saw as intuitive and not learned.

 The second source arises from Modernist theory, as propounded by Clement Greenberg, the foremost American art critic of the mid-twentieth century. He maintained this emphasis on the intuitive capabilities of the practitioner, prizing the quality of originality above all else.

In many art schools such authoritative views still govern the nature of art education. Students are largely left to their own devices, and teaching consists of critical assessment of their work. In our experience as art teachers (and previously, art students) such ‘tutorials’ are vague rather than insightful. This may reflect the discrepancy between the belief that art practice relies on intuition, and the attempt to 'transmit' the ability to make 'good' artworks to students.

In the light of HETAC's current emphasis on critical rather than purely technical skills in Art and Design at Level 8, new demands are now placed on art teaching. These include the assessment of the thought processes involved in the making of art, and more emphasis on reflexivity and self-evaluation in art students.

This paper gives examples of projects and modules which seek to facilitate the development of students' critical skills and their understanding of creative processes. If these skills can be developed, it does suggest that art processes can indeed be taught. 

Autoethnography: Informing the present based on the past’

Joanne Malone, Waterford Institute of Technology

This paper gives an overview of autoethnography in action research. It is argued that this approach to research is particularly appropriate for educators as it allows reflective practice in professional practice. Autoethnography challenges traditional research methodologies. In essence, Autoethnography is a “blend of ethnography and autobiographical writing that incorporates elements of one’s own life experience when writing about others” (Scott-Hoy 2002:276). Traditionally autoethnography was used in the observations of social phenomena. Recently educational researchers such as Scott-Hoy and Ellis (2008), Radnor (2001) and Sinding et al (2008) have embraced autoethnography. Abbs (1974) hypothesis that the use of autobiographical accounts can enhance teacher educational training, he envisages the process as follows:

“The discipline of autobiography which I am advocating is primarily an inward and creative discipline centred on the related acts of reflecting on and recreating the personal past. It is not academic. It begins and ends with what is given to experience” (Abbs, 1974:12-13)
Ellis and Bochner (2000) proposition that autoethnography has come to the forefront with the increasing emphasise on new experimental methodologies and the role of reflection in the research process. For many years researchers in the social sciences have used personal documentation in its many forms; journals, diaries, letters and autobiographies to shed light on various problems Jung (1972). Further consideration is given to the validity and reliability of autoethnography as a research medium along with ethical considerations faced by researchers.

The influence of a cardiopulmonary resuscitation training programme on challenging nursing students’ attitudes and willingness to perform life-saving interventions
Kate Madden, Tony Reid, Suzanne Denieffe, Antony Martin (Lecturers in Nursing, WIT)

The aim of this study was to assess the impact of a cardiopulmonary resuscitation(CPR)  training programme on nursing students’ attitudes and willingness to perform CPR and Automated External Defibrillation (AED).
The data was collected from a convenience sample of first year nursing students (N= 140).  A pre- and post-test design, using focus groups and a structured questionnaire was used.  The study was ethically approved.  All students undertook a 5 hour Heartsaver AED training programme, which was DVD-based, with instructor-led discussion and simulation. There was also an additional component addressing students’ concerns about causing harm, civil liability and protection from cross infection. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS version 15 for Windows and Medcalc software.
While one might assume nursing students to be positively disposed to performing life-saving interventions as they have chosen a career as a health care professional, this study highlights that this assumption needs to be challenged.  In fact, this is not the case, as demonstrated by pre-training attitudes in this study.  Students had greater knowledge of, and greater confidence in their ability to perform lifesaving interventions and willingness to intervene at a cardiac arrest after training. There was a positive training effect in students’ attitudes about the benefits of CPR and defibrillation and knowledge of the emergency number.  The findings also highlight that students were more concerned about their lack of ability and fears of harming the patient and other people than fear of litigation. 

These results have important implications for the discipline of nursing education and practice.  They particularly highlight the need to challenge assumptions that nurses have positive attitudes towards lifesaving interventions.  Tailoring existing CPR programmes to include a component addressing students’ concerns about life-saving interventions removes barriers and positively influences attitudes and confidence in ability to perform the critical skills of CPR and defibrillation.

Re-designing a curriculum to achieve integration and reflect the values of student and client centeredness: The NUI Galway Speech and Language Therapy Team’s experience.

Rena Lyons, Clare O’Shaughnessy, Maria Logue-Kennedy, Ruth McMenamin, Laura Loftus, Stasha Antonijevic-Elliott, Mary Pat O’Malley,NUI Galway

Background: In 2007, the first cohort of students graduated from the new four-year BSc. (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy programme at NUI, Galway. On reflection, the team recognised that while the ethos of the programme team was a developmental psychosocial model the structure of the programme reflected a medical impairment and disorder-based focus, which was not integrated.      

Purpose: The core aim of the curriculum review was to design a high quality, integrated, transparent curriculum which would provide the student with a clear pathway to becoming a competent clinician.

Methodology:  Process mapping was used as the methodology for the process of redesign. This was undertaken firstly with 16 speech and language therapists in training and secondly with a group of ten stakeholders (8 university staff and two practicing clinicians). The programme team subsequently formulated and delivered on a project plan to write the new curriculum.

Results: The process mapping exercises indicated the need for a more transparent, integrated curriculum which reflected the values of the team.  The project team developed a shared vision of the curriculum with a focus on a more client-centred inclusive social model.  Gaps in the curriculum have been addressed and there is now continuity across the curriculum. Duplication of teaching, content and assessment for both students and staff has been reduced.   The team has designed a curriculum which will facilitate integration of knowledge, skills and attitudes required to be a competent clinician across modules for each year.
Conclusion: The curriculum re-design allowed the team to develop a curriculum that truly reflected the group’s ethos and mission statement.  This process and learning contributes in teaching and learning in higher education at all levels local, national, disciplinary and internationally. The curriculum design process challenges assumptions about integration of learning across disciplines. 

Challenging assumptions in health and social care

Phil McGowan, UCC

Final year occupational therapy students in University College Cork complete a research project from idea-generation and ethics submission stage through to fieldwork in messy reality onto finally making their own argument or case in a research paper and poster. Throughout the various stages of this research process, the professional and personal assumptions of the students are being challenged.  This may range from challenging their theoretical and personal views on local society, indicated through their chosen inclusive or exclusive criteria for participants, to questions asked within their research projects.  Finally, the unstated assumption of many, that either qualitative research with people is easy is also well challenged through this learning project.  This project also enables students to learn much about the administration and professional disciplinary realities of local or regional life, thereby challenging their assumptions about the role of professionals in health and social care in Ireland today. The involvement of service-users whenever possible in these research projects also assists to challenge certain assumptions of our own professional literature.  All of the above continues within a framework of maintaining and developing even greater passion for their work as future occupational therapists in Ireland.

While our department continues to educate and/or prepare professional citizens, occupational therapy graduates in this case, these under-graduate research projects assist local clinical staff, academic staff and students to learn more about contemporary occupational therapy practice in Ireland.  Some of the issues expressed or features exposed through our student projects above may be the basis of further professional development or post-graduate programmes in our new, small but energetic Department within University College Cork. Thus, learning,  research and teaching are intertwined throughout the undergraduate and post-graduate modules.  

Challenging Assumptions
Dr. Seamus O’Tuama and Ms. Lyndsey Power, UCC

The teaching of human rights is critically important in the contemporary world, given both widespread violations of rights throughout the planet and the advent of new rights challenges emerging from a host of sources including migration, climate change, the availability of water and food and the depletion of  hydro-carbon fossil fuels. While our approach attempts to address the learning processes within a formal university setting we see its potential in a diversity of educational contexts and cultures.

Teaching human rights theory to third level students in developed countries can often be an abstract exercise, as many of these students tend to have little personal experience with human rights violations. In order to efficiently convey the true lessons of human rights education, it is worthwhile to attempt to personalise the learning of these concepts. This paper considers the role the learning journal can play in human rights education by encouraging students to engage in reflective learning. The case study detailed in this paper examines the innovative approach of using a fictional novel based on real events (John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) to deepen the quality of learning of a group of first year university students following a course in citizenship and human rights. The use of the learning journal assignment is to provide a ‘vehicle for reflection’ in order to enhance the learning process for students. By writing a journal in conjunction with reading the novel, students are afforded the opportunity to engage in active learning and to link human rights theory with concrete examples of human rights abuses in the book. This exercise then stimulates critical thinking and allows students to gain a deeper understanding of the course’s core concepts. This exercise also encourages students to make their learning personal by allowing them to immerse themselves in the book and to engage on a personal level with the book’s protagonists. By bringing this subject to a more personal level, students can more effectively understand the key lessons that they have learned in class.

Friday 9 h00

The Role of Mindfulness in First year Psychology Lectures

Dr Zelda Di Blasi, Department of Applied Psychology, UCC
Ms Anna O'Reilly Trace, Department of Applied Psychology, UCC
Dr Louise Burgoyne, Department of Applied Psychology, UCC

Background: The transition from secondary school to university is a major life change.  The start of university life demands an adaptation period which can impact on students learning process and their psychological well-being. Described as a process of bringing a quality of attention to moment-by-moment experience, mindfulness is increasingly recognized as an essential educational support.  Indeed mindfulness has been shown to enhance attention and academic performance.  Aims: Funded by the Presidents Awards into Innovative Forms of Teaching, this study examined the role of mindfulness among students attending first year psychology lectures on students’ attention, concentration, engagement, psychological wellbeing, mindfulness and academic performance. Method: During the academic year 2007-2008, a brief mindfulness exercise was conducted at the start of each lecture of two first year psychology modules at University College Cork.  Approximately 100 students completed a questionnaire assessing attitudes towards the mindfulness exercise, psychological well-being and optimism.  Psychological well-being was assessed using three scales, the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS), and the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS).  Mindfulness was measured using the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS). Results: Findings show that over sixty percent of students felt that the mindfulness exercise helped them concentrate and enabled them to pay more attention during their psychology lectures.  A majority of participants (68%) reported that a mindfulness exercise at the start of each lecture would be beneficial for future teaching and learning.  Results on changes in psychological well-being and the role of mindfulness are currently being analysed. Conclusion: Mindfulness appears to be a useful means of aiding student concentration and learning.  Further rigorous research with the boarder student population is required.
Crossing boundaries and strengthening links:
the research-teaching hybrid in psychology

Raegan Murphy PhD, Lecturer, Department of Applied Psychology, UCC

This paper seeks to challenge assumptions at disciplinary level


Current trends within the area of psychological measurement, neuropsychology and intelligence assessment call for stronger collaboration with natural scientists. The science of psychology in this area can be better serviced as a methodology if the subsequent research is multidisciplinary in nature and international in scope. To this end, a small replicated project is taking place in the Department of Applied Psychology at UCC to gather data on neuropsychological test performance indicators and its associated neurocognitive links to character and temperament. This study was successfully implemented in South Africa. The research is particularly meaningful in terms of NAIRTL’s mandate:

  • this research has a number of stakeholders including the University of Pennsylvania, (USA), University of Pretoria (South Africa) and the University College Cork (Ireland)
  • highlights the inherent limitations of psychology as a behavioural endeavour as the tools of the trade need to be added to and refined
  • teaches students and psychologists-in-the-making that psychology in the 21st century needs to make a number of methodological and ideological changes
  • allows students to learn and become active participants and collaborators in future projects of this nature
  • the model used proved that
    • can fund postgraduate student projects
    • exposes students to aspects of the research cycle
    • leads on to publication and research dissemination
    • has the opportunity of leading onto separate modules in the syllabus, growing a research base within the department and even eventual development of postgraduate programmes
  • highlights the movement towards a more fulfilling natural and social science collaborative activity which does not view the two as dichotomous areas of investigation

 Towards the Development of a Learning Model that Integrates the Social Structural Causes Of Clients’ Needs in to Social Care Practice

Tom O’Connor - CIT 

The research challenges certain assumptions about social care practice. These assumptions are that clients’ care needs can be treated through a care plan, which ignores the structural factors contributing to the client’s need in the first instance. There is belief in the profession, emanating in the main from the discipline of therapeutic care, that the wider social-structural causes of illness and diseases, though interesting as context, are not part of the overall treatment plans. This is incorrect.

The research attempts to reflect a holistic teaching practice arising from proposed research on the needs of a variety of social care clients. The research will focus on detailed case-studies and life histories of social care clients in the areas of: homelessness drug abuse and young offenders, working in close co-operation with Fr. Peter Mc Verry.

The manual could be a tool used for the co-facilitation of integrated lectures or the design of sample care plans incorporating the different strands of the holistic approach, which could ultimately result in the delivery of interventions having a multidisciplinary focus.

This research will provide a learning manual utilised by teachers and students, which will seek to challenge certain current underlying assumptions in regard to social care education and practice. Social care education and practice heretofore, does not adequately acknowledge the societal causes of social care clients’ care needs. The assumption is that this is outside the scope of the profession. The work of Prof.Mike Oliver and this research challenges this assumption. This research seeks to demonstrate the centrality of the social structural failure in addressing holistic care priorities for client, moving it away from the assumption, that care is an individualised act predominantly.

How can technology be efficiently used to support communication, collaboration and assessment associated with the PBL process?

Laura Widger, eLearning Coordinator, Waterford Institute of Technology,
Ms Siobhan Drohan, Waterford Institute of Technology,


Problem Based Learning (PBL) is an interactive learning process requiring participants to communicate, collaborate and work as a group, with a view to solving a set problem. Social Networking Software (SNS) has facilitated the communication and collaboration of users who share a common interest regardless of demographics or geographic location. The merging of SNS with teaching and learning practices is an evolving area of pedagogical research. This paper builds on the results of an exploratory investigation which concluded that SNS can support the PBL process. Findings also indicated that students desired greater integration of technology into their teaching and learning practices. In support of this, the facilitator concluded that greater use of technology helped reduce the time intensive commitment normally associated with monitoring and evaluating PBL group work. However, the facilitator reflected that technology could have been applied more efficiently in the PBL assessment process and questioned whether a piece of software could be used to simplify this procedure. This paper investigates the feasibility of using SNS to further improve the students learning experience, specifically communication and collaboration. This study challenges the assumption that effective use of technology and PBL can be time consuming to implement by presenting a strategy for significantly reducing this work load for PBL educators with regard to assessment.  It is proposed that the appropriate use of SNS, specifically Google Apps, can serve the needs of both the learner and facilitator engaged with PBL. Google Apps offers a suite of communication and collaborative tools that were spontaneously utilized by participants in the initial study.  This paper supports the integration of research into the undergraduate learning experience and enables educators to improve their teaching and assessment practices.


“Learning by doing…”: Can we assume that successful completion of a Problem-Based Learning curriculum provides the student with a good enough understanding of their own learning to maximize continuation of self-directed learning skills in professional practice? 

Dr Catharine Pettigrew, Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, UCC 

Introduction: Problem-based learning is becoming more widely used in the education of healthcare professionals, including Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs). However, students’ lack of understanding of their own learning within PBL may form a barrier to the continuation of self-directed learning skills. This notion challenges the assumption in health disciplines that simply experiencing PBL will adequately facilitate this continuation of self-directed learning skills in professional practice. The current paper outlines an innovative PBL assessment that requires students to actively reflect on and critically evaluate the importance of the PBL approach in facilitating the development of their professional competence and life-long learning skills, to improve their understanding of their own learning.


Methods: A retrospective analysis was carried out on the results of a third year assessment, whereby 25 third year SLT students completed a 1000-word essay, entitled “From Theory to Practice: Applications of the Problem-Based Learning Style to the Professional Practice of Speech and Language Therapy”. The students were assessed on content, style and formatting. Students also completed teaching evaluation forms on the taught module.

Results: Students performed well on this essay (mean % = 67.08 ±12.25), and 78% of students agreed that the assignment was consistent with course objectives.

Discussion: This is a valid method of assessment in a PBL curriculum, which aims to facilitate active student reflection on the PBL approach whilst integrating the prerequisites of meaningful and deep learning necessary for the continuation of self-directed learning skills.

Conclusion: Further qualitative research is now required to objectively determine the direct impact of this assessment on students’ understanding of their own learning and hence its contribution to maximizing life-long learning skills. It may then be applied by a wide variety of educators to enhance the carryover of self-directed learning skills from education to professional practice.

Impact of problem-based learning on professional work practices

Deirdre Connolly, Discipline of Occupational Therapy, School of Medicine, TCD


Problem-based learning (PBL) originated in medical education in the mid 1960’s and is now used across a wide range of third level educational programmes. Evidence of its increased use within higher education includes the range of published literature related to the learning processes and outcomes of PBL. Two of the prominent areas of debate in current PBL literature include the impact of different implementation models of PBL in third level institutions, such as, curriculum-wide PBL versus modular-based or hybrid PBL (Savin-Baden and Howell Major, 2004). The second area of discussion involves the effectiveness of PBL. Meta-analyses of PBL research have demonstrated no significant advantage for PBL in students’ acquisition of knowledge. But, in knowledge application, PBL showed a greater effect than traditional learning methods (Newman, 2003, Colliver, 2000, Albanese and Mitchell, 1993). However, it has been proposed that any research, which considers PBL as a single variable, is problematic and unlikely to demonstrate significant effects (Dolmans et al. 2005, Norman, 2003, Albanese, 2000). Albanese and Mitchell (1993) identified professional practice as the most appropriate environment in which to examine the impact of PBL, however, there is little published research in this area. This paper will present the findings of a study, which examined the impact of modular-based implementation of PBL, on the work practices of occupational therapy students. Students identified different categories of knowledge (Eraut, 2004) and a range of professional skills such as multidisciplinary team skills, group dynamic skills, and self-directed learning skills, applied in professional practice, which they acquired through PBL.  This research challenges assumptions related to (i) implementation models of PBL and (ii) difficulties in researching the effectiveness of PBL. This paper will be of interest to those using PBL or considering its’ use, and for those involved in professional education both within academic and work-based contexts.

Curriculum development for non traditional university students

Fiona Buckley, Department of Government UCC
Dr Clodagh Harris, Department of Government UCC
Monica O’Mullane, Department of Government UCC
Dr Theresa Reidy, Department of Government UCC


This paper is the briefing document that informs part of a NAIRTL funded project’s consultation exercise. The Integrating Research, Teaching and Learning in a Multicultural Setting: Developing a FETAC level 6 Certificate in political issues and community action for the immigrant community project will design and develop the curriculum for a UCC accredited Certificate (FETAC level 6) to be offered to the immigrant community from the greater Munster area. This paper will draw on national and international examples of good practise in curriculum design for non-traditional university students. It is also envisaged that it will act as a discussion document for consultations with the relevant community groups, state agencies and curriculum specialists whose active engagement and input forms a key part of the project.

This paper proposes to investigate the use of two teaching strategies - service learning and enquiry or problem based learning (PBL) as part of the curriculum development process. A key aspect of the proposed curriculum will be voter education.  Students of UCC’s MBS Government and MA Politics will train immigrant students in this area, thus, providing them (the MBS/MA class) with the opportunity to gather relevant experience in the fields of citizenship training and community empowerment.  PBL which has its origins in the work of Sweller and Cooper (1985 and 1987) on cognitive load theory will drive a research led curriculum which will develop the research skills of the students. As the curriculum is being designed, it will be piloted in an existing non-FETAC accredited certificate class – the Certificates in Political Issues and Community Action.   
To marry or not to marry Formative and Summative Assessment?
Views and values of key stakeholders in Irish second level education.

Kathryn Mc Sweeney, Lecturer at St. Angela’s College, Lough Gill, Sligo

 Recent advances in our knowledge of how pupils learn have placed the limelight on assessment for learning rather than the assessment of learning.  The paper demystifies the concept of assessment for learning and formative assessment.  A toolkit of strategies and effective ways of embedding formative assessment principles proposed by Sutton, R. (1995) and Black, P. & William, D. (1998) into the existing traditional system of summative assessment are identified.   

Formative assessment links everyday assessment practices with learning and teaching.  Assessment is no longer solely considered as an accountability measure or a way of performance differentiation.  An early diagnosis of problem areas can help eradicate any stumbling block a pupil may have and can help close the learning gap by helping the pupil understand what they need to do to improve.  A learning gap can occur when a discrepancy exists between how pupils acquire knowledge effectively and prefer to learn and the way they are taught in reality.  The changes proposed are oriented around regular reflection upon classroom practice, generating higher satisfaction and productivity levels and achieving a high value return on effort invested. 


This paper reveals the awareness and views of key stakeholders in second level education regarding the effectiveness, vices and virtues of current assessment practice in second level schools in Ireland.  The research identifies the challenges, perceived and concrete, to the widespread application of formative assessment theory to current pedagogical practice and visualises how an effective marriage and enduring relationship between formative and summative assessment could be attained and how assumptions can be challenged.  How influential the leadership infrastructure is in supporting and transforming pedagogical practice is another key question discussed in this paper. The relationship between theory and practice is a thorny issue that is often difficult to broach. The research exposes what drives instruction and if classroom practice is performance driven, where the emphasis is on teaching to the test. 

A Dramatic Intervention

Kate McCarthy, Assistant Lecturer in Drama, Waterford Institute of Technology


In this presentation, I will discuss the challenges of teaching Drama to the first year students of Early Childhood Studies at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT).  The BA in Early Childhood Studies is now in its third year.  Drama is an elective module chosen by students in the second semester.  The broad aims of the Drama module are to develop the creative imagination of the students and to explore the uses of Drama, through practical workshops and group work, for the early childhood setting. 

I am an advocate of practice-as-research being equal to the more traditional writing practices that exist at third-level institutions; therefore, my research in semester two was primarily, practice based.  I knew I needed a ‘real’ experience within which I could try out the Drama games I was teaching at third-level and had assumed would work in any setting.  Thus, I picked up my workshop box, leaving the comfort of the Drama studio, and headed out into a local crèche facility to try out Drama games and exercises.  I facilitated workshops for two to three year olds and three to four year olds over a period of six weeks, an experience that was hugely beneficial and enjoyable for me as a practitioner.   

In my presentation, I will review the planning and facilitation of the workshops with the Drama students at WIT before I commenced the workshops in the crèche, illustrating my discussion with some photographic evidence and workshop artefacts.  I will share the challenges I faced in the crèche and my own learning as a result of the experience.   I will also outline the various changes in my facilitation and in the Drama students as I integrated my research findings into the third-level classroom. 


Reorienting Home Economics Teacher Education to address Education for Sustainable Development


Amanda Mc Cloat and Helen Maguire, St Angela’s College, Sligo


The UNECE Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), 2005, highlights the need to reorient education towards participatory, process and solution-oriented methodologies which assist in the development of critical thinking.  This action research project, funded by the Ubuntu Network and Irish Aid endeavours to reorient Home Economics teacher education in order to address ESD and to challenge assumptions regarding the integration of ESD themes in teacher education An educational intervention conducted with Year 1 pre service teachers aimed to promote improved awareness, attitudes and behaviours towards ESD themes and to positively influence future practice.


Value of research in teaching & learning: Education is regarded as an important tool in addressing wider societal issues. Quality education can be a key agent of change; initiating, promoting and achieving sustainable development. Teacher education, particularly, can shape the knowledge, skills and attitudes of future generations thus creating a more sustainable world. Reorienting teacher education to integrated ESD themes must involve not merely curricular change. University teachers and researchers must actively and attentively assess knowledge and challenge assumptions, philosophies and frameworks in order to engage in critical discourse of current accepted practice. 


The project in question here provides an exemplar of innovation and change in higher education and demonstrates the integration of action research principles and methods into academic practice. It reveals the opportunities as well as challenges in this effort towards reorientation to participatory, process and solution-oriented methodologies. Such investigations link ESD and research, action and reflection with the ultimate goal of reorienting existing teacher education programmes towards facilitation of higher order thinking and skill development in order to influence future practice of teachers. The importance of reorienting programmes in higher education is apparent from this intervention which encouraged pre-service teachers to engage in critical dialogue on philosophical and ethical issues in relation to ESD themes.



Less trodden paths: alternative routes to the taught MA

Dr Orison Carlisle Waterford Institute of technology


There is student pressure to reduce the time taken to complete taught Masters programmes, whether in full or part-time mode. In response, institutions have tended to reduce the amount of time necessary to complete programmes. This may lead to poor quality research and dissertations in some cases.


Especially vulnerable to failure are international students completing a one year’s Masters in Europe. These often have weak English and little experience of research and extended writing. There is pressure on institutions to nurse these international students through their programmes and a consequent risk of lowering academic standards, in order that such students may gain this reward.


This paper challenges the assumption that the acquisition of a taught MA includes a significant research project and minor dissertation. A typical taught MA programme involves:

a number of taught modules

small scale research and a minor dissertation


This paper examines what is meant by an MA and considers a range of ways of achieving the qualification. It investigates alternate routes to the taught Masters and alternate modes of delivery from the traditional face-to face method


These routes include:

Taught modules + minor dissertation (the traditional method)

Taught modules entirely

Taught modules + a project report

Taught modules + ten-week internship and report

Taught modules + research outline (research question and extended literature review)

Taught modules + portfolio.


The paper argues that there is a need for greater flexibility in the routes to the achievement of Masters awards and recommends alternative delivery methods including Blended and e-learning, collaboration with other universities and programme exchanges or franchising. Greater flexibility in routes leading to the award would lead to more appropriate curriculum and learning experiences.

Challenging Pedagogical Cultural Assumptions

Michael O’Toole

Learners spend most of their learning time within learning environments such as classrooms, laboratories and libraries. These places are categorised as learning spaces and it is within these spaces is where campus culture is imparted to the learner. However, is the culture that the learner senses, one of a previous era? Does campus culture encumber learners in attaining their learning potential? In this paper, my intention is to challenge the cultural assumptions of traditional pedagogical approaches. The paper discusses a number of cultural related issues such as the cultural relationships of space and place within the classroom which is followed by a discussion on, ‘what space(s) will give learners the most educational value?’  Overall the paper aims to provide a focus for thinking about how pedagogical culture influences learning.

Ageing, Wisdom and Links between Generations: Challenging Professional Assumptions

Dr Ricca Edmondson, School of Political Science and Sociology, NUIG

This paper reports on the progress of an on-going course dealing with ageing in the community, intergenerational relations, and wisdom. It aims to challenge conventional approaches within gerontology about how ageing should be studied. The course itself begins from literature dealing with the formation of life-courses in the contemporary world, concentrating on the question of wisdom – which used to be regarded as a central aim for a human lifetime. But more now needs to be known about what wisdom is, what wisdom among older people in Ireland entails, and what effects it has on intergenerational issues and relations. The course aims to develop and explore new strategies for supporting interaction between older and younger people in the community, and in doing so it explicitly links teaching and learning with participation in research activity and the construction of knowledge.


Wisdom, in the past, used to be considered a resource offered by older people to society, making them valued as a group as well as conferring meaning on individuals’ life courses as they aged (Edmondson, 2005). But older people are now rarely expected to be wise, and the concept of wisdom itself has become unclear. This course aims to investigate how this concept can be explored and, if possible, restored – with impacts on how we interact with older people. This paper tries to evaluate the effects of teaching and learning in such a way that students can interact with older people in the community, appreciating older people’s insights, experiences and personalities; and so that they can also participate in eliciting significant new knowledge. Does this form of study produce identifiable benefits, both for the students and in terms of the results of their work?


The Clinical Skills Website

Linda Sheehan and Therese O’Callaghan 

In Ireland, as elsewhere, there is an increasing emphasis within modern health care on multi-disciplinary shared knowledge and learning. In this context there is a need to provide a medium, other than didactic teaching, through which clinical skills in the simulated environment can be taught and supported from multi professional perspectives.  As most people use the internet nowadays, it was decided in 2007 that a web site would be developed to provide support, practical assistance and research findings across and between the many health care disciplines, to assist professionals, enhance student learning and facilitate greater collegiality amongst the health care disciplines. This website will also provide links to established networks nationally and internationally making it a “one stop shop” for easy access to the latest clinical knowledge and practice.  It is expected that there will be a sharing of learning, teaching and assessment resources so that they are more accessible to the wider health care community involved with the teaching of clinical skills in a simulated environment while providing an opportunity to share innovations and developments.  It is hoped that this will further maximise the students’ experience of learning clinical skills in the simulated environment while providing greater student independence and autonomy.  It is not anticipated however that the web site will replace the teaching of clinical skills.


The clinical skills web site, “Clinical Skills Ireland®” has now been developed and it is expected to go live before September 2008.  As a result it cannot be evaluated at present but will be available for publication in November, after the expected launch of web-site.  This paper will describe the web site’s developmental process, its content and how we propose to evaluate its efficacy. 


Digital utopia or dystopia: can educators assume ICT literacy? 

James G. R. Cronin, Adult Continuing Education & History of Art, University College Cork. 

It is often assumed that undergraduates entering higher education are fully ICT (Information Communications Technology) literate. This survey paper draws upon case studies from History of Art and Adult Continuing Education, University College Cork, to question this assumption. It argues that students, both undergraduates and lifelong learners, greatly benefit from an ICT workshop programme supporting disciplinary teaching and learning. Support workshops assist in developing confident researchers and assist in developing transferable work-life skills. The paper will explore the following topics: the role played by e-moderation in knowledge construction; cyber ethics, especially understanding intellectual property; barriers to full participation as expressed by ‘digital divide’ issues and building disciplinary Communities of Practice. 

From Field Research to the Teaching Classroom:
Gull Populations and Mathematical Modelling

Dr. Thomas C. Kelly, Department of Zoology, Ecology and Plant Science, UCC
Dr. Michael J.A. O’Callaghan, Department of Applied Mathematics, UCC

Gulls (Laridae) are seabirds and are the focus of long-term research by our group which has monitored their feeding biology, behaviour and population status at various off-shore islands and in urban locations including landfill sites, airports and wetlands. An observed rapid increase in the numbers of breeding Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus) on Cape Clear and Great Saltee Islands was both unexpected and of considerable scientific interest. A detailed programme of research into their breeding biology on Cape Clear Island (Crème, G 1995) did not in itself explain why the L. fucus population there had grown exponentially over a ten year interval, but it did provide parameter values for use in a mathematical model using a difference equation. Mathematical modelling was the only possible approach as the use of a capture-recapture methodology was precluded by the absence of a gull ringing (i.e. banding or marking) programme on the island.


Our presentation is the outcome of a collaborative interdisciplinary programme between the Departments of Zoology, Ecology and Plant Science and Applied Mathematics in University College Cork to meet the particular requirements of biology students “wrestling” with a mathematical model. We developed a MS-Powerpoint package for teaching students how to model population change in a gull colony using a classic difference equation. A MS-Excel programme which we developed permits the student to “de-construct” the relevant difference equation and to then reassemble the different mathematical model “components” in a user-friendly way using one integrated package which has an interactive graphical interface to model population changes both numerically and visually. The package is used by both undergraduate and postgraduate students.  This is one illustration of the link between Field Research, and the Teaching and Learning of some investigative techniques which employ mathematical models.

Friday 10 h 10
Challenging Assumptions:
Student engagement and language learning – a novel approach.

Dr. Anne O’Connor, Department of Italian, NUIG


The challenges of student apathy, poor attendance and lack of engagement with the learning process are issues faced nationally by all third level institutions. In this paper, I wish to challenge the negative stereotype of the 21st century university student by presenting a course which aims to promote student engagement in both the learning process and in the community.


‘Service Learning in Italian’ is a module which teaches students the fundamentals of language learning and language teaching and then allows them to put this learning into practice by offering the opportunity to teach Italian in local primary schools. This course has won the European Language Label for innovation and creativity in language learning (2007). Using a methodology of didactic preparation, community involvement and reflection, the project aims to bridge gap between the university and the community and to foster positive attitudes towards language learning. Service Learning gives students the opportunity to work in the community while learning practical applications of taught materials, develops links with the community and gives students the opportunity to exercise social responsibility and civic engagement. It seeks to reinvigorate the civic mission of higher education and instill in students a sense of social responsibility and civic awareness.


The key objectives of Service Learning are to create opportunities to integrate and relate theory to practice, to enhance partnerships between the university and the wider community and to increase the civic, academic, personal and professional capacity of students through experiential learning. This course challenges the assumption of the university as ‘ivory tower’ by showing how the university can both contribute to and learn from the community. I will also show how, during the module, students move from a passive to an active and reflective model of learning and how their enthusiasm for their subject increases accordingly.

From Teaching to Learning:  Challenging Assumptions in Intercultural Communication.

Dr Fionnuala Kennedy, WIT
Dr Áine Furlong, WIT


This paper shows how research around the well-established approach of tandem language learning (Little and Brammert 1996, O’Dowd 2003), and learner autonomy (Ushioda 1999) inspired the development of an innovative concept that merges Intercultural Communication theory, language learning and reflection. The concept challenges current practice that isolates Intercultural Communicative Competence and language learning/use from each other.  It also questions the assumptions that language learners will automatically avail of language opportunities presented by the multicultural third-level campus.


The TaLLICo project promotes real intercultural dialogue between Erasmus and Irish students. It also provide participants with a lived experience which injects meaningfulness into the concepts associated with intercultural communication theory. The following findings emerged from analysis of student reflective reports:

  • Increase in motivation to improve and use the language
  • Discovery of the own culture through reflection on self and otherness
  • Overcoming anxiety of intercultural exchange
  • A deeper understanding of intercultural communication theories through practical application
  • Acquisition of personally relevant language skills
  • Authentic language exchange

Plurilingualism is encouraged, with some students learning languages other than their initial target language.


The approach has resulted in a change of experience for both groups: from one of academic tourists and consumers of local pleasures on the one hand and distant hosts on the other, to participants in meaningful intercultural dialogue.  The subject Intercultural Communication has evolved from a strong teacher-based subject to a powerful personal learning experience.



Little, D. (ed.) Brammerts, H. (ed.), (1996) A Guide to Language Learning in Tandem via the Internet, TCD: CLCS Occasional Paper No. 46
O’Dowd, Robert, (2003) “Understanding the “other side”: Intercultural Learning in a Spanish-English E-mail Exchange”, in Language Learning and Technology, Vol. 7, No. 2, May 2003, pp. 118-144 

A Case Study of Accounting Education and Possibilities for Assessment Innovation at Third Level

Dr Edel Barnes, UCC


This paper takes up the increasingly contentious subject of how teachers know and assess what students at third level have learned and know; and, it does so from two perspectives. It presents a case study of a teacher educator’s efforts to uncover student learning through simple classroom assessment techniques; and it documents in detail the efforts of one third-level teacher to monitor and assess student learning through self-study using the one-minute essay assessment strategy. Results reveal one important hypothesis: that self-study and assessment innovation help to make accounting education research an integral part of teaching practice.

Challenging Assumptions in Accounting & Finance:
Initial Reflections on the Role of a Subject Support Centre

Dr. Margaret Healy, Department of Accounting, Finance & Information Systems, UCC
Ms. Maeve McCutcheon, Department of Accounting, Finance & Information Systems, UCC
Ms. Michelle Carr, Department of Accounting, Finance & Information Systems, UCC


Subjects such as accounting and finance are taught on a diverse range of business courses and often as compulsory subjects.  However, both research and anecdotal evidence suggest that for many students their experience of these disciplines is negative, rather than rewarding (c.f. Geiger and Ogilby, 2000; Mladenovic, 2000). Where third level education reinforces rather than challenges existing student mis-conceptions of particular subjects, students can suffer negative consequences through restricted subject choice, distorted career plans and difficulties with progression.  In November 2007, an Accounting & Finance Support Centre was established at UCC, as an additional educational resource for students (from all programmes) experiencing difficulties with modules in Accounting or Finance.  Using survey, interview and workshop evidence, this paper reflects upon the initial experiences of operating the centre, the practical difficulties encountered by both students and support centre staff and lecturers, and the role of support mechanisms in addressing barriers and misconceptions. 

Geiger, M. and Ogilby, S.  (2000). The first course in accounting: Students’ perceptions and their effect on the decision to major in accounting.  Journal of Accounting Education.  Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 63 - 78.
Mladenovic, R.  (2000). An investigation into ways of challenging introductory accounting students’ negative perceptions of accounting.  Accounting Education.  Vol. 9, No.2, pp. 135 – 155. 


This research project is funded by a grant from NAIRTL. 

A National Study on the Attitudes of Irish Dental Faculty Members
to Faculty Development

Dr. Eleanor M. O’Sullivan, Clinical Lecturer, Cork University Dental School & Hospital


An academic institution is dependent upon the quality of its teachers. Over 30 years ago, Gaff (1975) said “faculty members are the primary educational resource of a university. As a material resource must be given special care and attention to enhance its value, so must the talents, interests, and skills of faculty be systematically cultivated”. More recently, the AADS (1999) declared “The ability of dental education to prepare dental health professionals for the next millennium is built on the pillars of a well-qualified faculty”. Similarly, the Commission on Dental Accreditation Standards (1998), stressed the need for ‘evidence of an ongoing faculty development process linked with teaching, patient care, scholarship and service’.


One might therefore believe that the dental faculty is comprised of highly trained educators, supported by a culture of active faculty development. In reality, most dental educators still have little/no formal training in education at undergraduate or graduate level. Furthermore, international reports suggest that recent initiatives in higher education offering post-graduate certificate/diploma and specialised Masters programmes to academics were greeted unenthusiastically by dental faculty. Indeed, Masella & Thompson (2004) declared “dental educators are resistant to educational research”.


Irish dental education is facing unprecedented challenges with accreditation bodies demanding radical curricular change, modularisation, vertical integration and the introduction of innovative educational techniques. Successful implementation of these changes requires the full co-operation of all faculty, a firm commitment to incorporate educational best practices into dental education, and a willingness to undertake necessary education-based faculty development.


While faculty development is critically important, participation in faculty education can not be imposed or provided against the wishes of intended participants. This paper presents the results of a national study on the attitudes of Irish Dental Faculty to faculty development and professed barriers to participation in such training, issues previously unexplored in an Irish population.

Teacher-centred learning: the importance of the teacher in guiding learning

Anne Jordan, WIT


‘Hey, teacher leave them kids alone’. These lines from a Pink Floyd song sums up the popular pedagogical approach centred on Piaget’s research on cognitive development.  This assumes that a hands-off approach by teachers is the most effective one at all levels. 


Such learner-centeredness is derived from constructivism. This views learning solely as the activity of the learner, who ‘constructs’ meaning by synthesising new information with prior knowledge. Self-directed discovery learning and problem-based learning are typical of this approach. This discourse can leave teachers uncertain of their role and the part they play in learning.


This paper challenges these assumptions, and identifies certain limitations of constructivism which, in its simplest form, posits an extreme individualism in which everyone constructs meaning differently. It is arguable to what extent a teacher could influence this individualistic meaning-making.


In its social form, constructivism assumes that meaning is socially constructed and shared.

This transfers meaning-making to socio-cultural groups rather than the teacher, and can be problematic in multi-cultural settings. Constructivism relegates the teacher to a facilitator of learning opportunities and offers scant pedagogical advice. Behaviourism, the pre-dominant psychological and educational theory up to the 1960’s, fell out of favour because of its deterministic view of learning. This paper argues for a modified behaviourist approach which sees an important role for the teacher in scaffolding and supporting learning. 

Such a teacher can:

  • embody subject and scholarly expertise;
  • model, initiate and regulate discourses of subject knowledge;
  • develop learners as critical thinkers with appropriate metacognitive strategies;
  • demonstrate the rules and norms of rational communication and argument;
  • evaluate the extent to which learners become successful cognitive apprentices;
  • encourage learners’ transitions to higher order thinking. 

Behaviourism can engage with constructivism to arrive at a synthesis which recognises that the teacher organises learner behaviours that lead to the construction of knowledge.

The Threshold Concept Paradigm and Student Use of Textbooks

Brian Foley, TCD


The threshold concept way of thinking has brought a new approach to our understanding of student learning [Meyer & Land, 2003], one which strikes an empathetic resonance among discipline teachers and which tends to orient the curriculum towards the student learning experience. While the paradigm has been primarily used for the identification of threshold concepts within particular disciplines [Meyer & Land, 2006], some contributions have been aimed at broader application of the paradigm, for example, the use of analogy in science teaching [Bishop, 2006] and teaching product design [Osmond, Turner & Land, 2008]. In this contribution, the threshold concept way of thinking is used to explore aspects of students’ use of textbooks and their approach to academic reading.


In discipline areas such as science, engineering, economics, etc, it is very much the norm for the teacher to recommend one or textbook as supplementary reading, additional to primary resources such as course notes and, increasingly, e-learning materials. While the textbook resource is typically non-mandatory, the student will be strongly encouraged to engage with it for coverage of more detailed explanation, extended application, or for the presentation of an alternative approach thereby fostering critical thinking. Our interest lies in following up on these recommendations and investigating student reading practices from the threshold concept perspective. Most studies of students’ reading practices have been in the context of their overall approaches to study, eg [Marton, Hounsell & Entwistle, 1997] and emphasise the theme of variety of practices and preferred styles. A more recent study [Mann, 2000] brought the focus beyond the core academic context to personal and socio-political perspectives.


The main basis for this study comprised a textbook review assignment conducted among a class of 170 second year engineering students. The particular course was a foundation course in digital electronics/logic design, a course which would not normally be regarded as “troublesome” but for the fact that, at this stage of their studies, the programme is general engineering with discipline specificity only coming in the third year ¾ and most of the class opting for a non-electronic choice. Results of the study include:

  • identification of a number of discipline thresholds, some expected, others less so;
  • a definite role for the textbook in grappling with the uncertainties of the liminal state;
  • confirmation of the prevalence of variation across what might be termed reading style;
  • some insights into the notion of academic reading as a threshold concept.

Meyer, J.H.F. and Land, R. (2003), Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: linkages to ways of thinking and practising within the disciplines, in C. Rust (ed.), Proceedings of the 2002 International Symposium on Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice – 10 years on, Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development (pp. 412-424).
Meyer, J.H.F. and Land, R. (eds.) (2006), Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge, London and New York: Routledge.
Bishop, S. (2006), Using analogy in science teaching as a bridge to students’ understanding of complex issues, in J.H.F. Meyer and R. Land (eds.), Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge, London and New York: Routledge (pp. 182-194).
Osmond, J., Turner, A. and Land, R. (2008), Threshold concepts and spatial awareness in transport and product design, in R. Land, J.H.F. Meyer and J. Smith (eds.), Threshold Concepts within the Disciplines, Rotterdam: Sense (pp. 243-258).
Marton, F., Hounsell, D.J. and Entwistle, N.J. (eds.) (1997), The Experience of Learning (2nd ed.), Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.Mann, S.J. (2000), The students’ experience of reading, Higher Education, 39: 297-317. 
Learning styles of Level 7 first year engineering students at DIT

Aidan O’Dwyer, School of Electrical Engineering Systems, DIT


This contribution will report on the results of research work to investigate the learning styles of first year, Level 7, mechanical and electrical engineering students at DIT. Felder [1] suggests that engineering students (in particular) have four dimensions to their learning styles. Each of the dimensions is described in opposite terms (active versus reflective, sensing versus intuitive, visual versus verbal and sequential versus global). In summary, active learners learn by trying things out or working with others, while reflective learners learn by thinking things through or working alone; sensing learners are oriented towards facts and procedures, while intuitive learners are oriented towards theories; visual learners prefer visual representation of presented material, while verbal learners prefer written or spoken explanations; sequential learners learn in incremental steps, while global learners are systems thinkers who learn in large leaps. Felder measures student learning styles by means of an Index of Learning Styles (ILS) on-line survey [2], composed of 44 multiple-choice questions, with two possible answers for each question.


In a series of papers, Felder and co-workers (e.g. [3]-[5]) suggested that most engineering students are active, sensing, visual and sequential learners. The DIT student cohort results are compatible in the latter three aspects with these and other such results; however, the majority of students surveyed show no strong preference for active learning. This challenges the prevailing disciplinary assumption (at least in Ireland) that Level 7 engineering students are predominantly active learners, reflected in the traditional stress on such learning in laboratories and workshops. The contribution will explore the results obtained in detail, placing them fully in their national and international contexts.


Felder, R.M., Engineering Education, 1988, Vol. 78, No. 7, p.674-681.
Felder, R.M. and Soloman, B.A. (1991). Index of learning styles questionnaire, http://www.engr.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb.html.
Felder, R.M., Engineering Education, 1988, Vol. 78, No. 7, p.674-681.
Felder, R.M., Journal of Engineering Education, 1995, Vol. 84, No. 4, p.361-367.
Felder, R.M., Felder, G.N. and Dietz, E.J., Journal of Engineering Education, 1998, Vol. 87, No. 4, p.469-480.

Friday 11 h 45
Student engagement and modern language learning

Tricia M Arnold, Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning, George Washington University
Yianna Vovides, Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning, George Washington University

 How do university instructors encourage students to connect with course content and their own learning processes? The term “student engagement” brings up a host of questions that range from definition to measurement and assessment to implementation in a course.  The definition of engagement has covered multiple levels of student participation and motivation. Natriello (1984) defines it as “participating in the activities offered as part of the school program” (p 14). Skinner and Belmont (1993) cite emotional and affective indicators demonstrated during a task. Pintrich and DeGroot (1990) and Pintrich and Schrauben (1992) take into account students’ metacognitive strategies, which are categorized as “surface” versus “deeper” processing. Once a definition is determined, the ensuing question is how to encourage students to achieve an appropriate level of engagement.  

Our paper comprises a literature review and discussion of theories, studies, and pedagogical strategies vis-à-vis engagement in Second Language Acquisition (SLA), specifically. The discussion aims to take into account the impact of pedagogical strategies – both technology- and non-technology-based – on perceived student interest, and also grammar, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and oral proficiency skills. Additional questions considered include: What are the perceived levels of change in student engagement since implementing instructional technologies? How can language instructors encourage “deeper” learning? The discussion also addresses the assumption, as it relates to the SLA process, that technology-based teaching strategies foster a more user-centered learning approach and, thereby, improve student engagement. We question whether or not technology-based learning strategies provide a better medium than do non-technology strategies for promoting deeper learning.


This paper is a first step in preparing for a future study of student engagement in modern language learning at The George Washington University.

Using Virtual Classes to Deliver  Health and Safety Training in the Construction Industry.

Mannix Carney (Team Leader), WIT
John Wall, WIT
Emrah Acar, Istanbul Technical University Department of Architecture
Ela Öney-Yazıcı, Istanbul Technical University Department of Architecture
Frank McNamee, Multimedia Instructional Design
Paul McNamee,  Multimedia Instructional Design

The construction sector is the worlds largest industry with 111 million people employed world wide. There is a clear need to address health and safety training through innovative methods such as e-learning. This paper reports on the work of a Socrates Minerva project focused on creating an instructional design frame work for using  virtual classes to deliver health and safety training to construction professionals.


The project delivered health and safety training to construction professionals through out Europe using virtual classes. The virtual classes were designed using the theory of multiple intelligence (MI) with which postulates that different individuals can have different learning styles. Translating MI principles from a traditional classroom to an e-learning environment represents a new and challenging initiative. In order to measure the effectiveness of the virtual classes being delivered an evaluation questionnaire was developed in order to measure participants’ satisfaction levels. This paper reports on the  evaluation process as part of the action research methodology and outlines the key areas in the  virtual class environment that effect participant satisfaction levels. Virtual classes have the potential to make a large impact on the way training is delivered in the future. The adaption of MI theory for use in a virtual class frame work, has considerable potential for successful training in the construction industry.

Emotional Intelligence – Too ‘wishy-washy’ for Third Level Education

Catherine Lowry-O’Neill, Lecturer in Education and Professional Development, WIT

 ‘Emotional intelligence’: there is something about the phrase that at once jars and feels right.  It jars because, given the centuries of celebration of the virtues of reason, emotion does not convincingly sit next to the word intelligence.  Yet it feels right at an intuitive level, because Sternberg (1982) and Gardner (1983) paved the way to the liberation of the definition of intelligence.  In 2005, Goleman published a book with the title ‘Emotional Intelligence’ and, since then, a plethora of titles that suggest a popular acceptance of a broadening of the conception of intelligence have inundated the bookshops, including: Spiritual Intelligence (Levin, 2001), Success Intelligence (Holden, 2006) and Social Intelligence (Goleman, 2007). This paper addresses the concept of emotional intelligence with regard to its relevance for higher education, which has traditionally been doubtful of the affective and of the popular and associated rather with critical thinking and the academic.  It presents the results of a research project analysing the experiences and opinions of individuals in one third level institution.  Based on the findings, it puts forward the argument that emotional intelligence (EI) is a highly relevant concept, not only for learners, but also for lecturers and leaders. Thus it challenges the assumption that arguably exists at a national level within third level education that EI is ‘wishy-washy’, ‘touchy-feely’, and therefore irrelevant. 
Exploring How Teaching For Multiple Intelligence Affects Student
Achievement In An Undergraduate Nursing Education Programme In Ireland.

Margaret Denny, Department of Nursing, WIT


This study examines the concept of Multiple Intelligences (MI) and outlines Gardner’s contention that the brain functions using eight intelligences, which can be employed to improve learning at an individual level. On exploring the International and Irish literature to date, no data were found ascertaining the potential of MI or the adoption of such teaching approaches in nursing education. The philosophical paradigm that guided the study was grounded in positivism. The theoretical paradigm underpinning this study was multiple intelligence theory (MI). The research paradigm was a quasi-experimental pretest posttest non-equivalent control group design.


Two groups of undergraduate students undertook the study, treatment group (n=26) and control group (n=18). The intervention for the treatment group involved using a five-phase model, developed by Weber (1999), known as a multiple intelligence teaching approach (MITA), while the control group received traditional teaching approaches. The multiple intelligence development assessment scale questionnaire (MIDAS), which includes three intellectual style scales (IS) was used over the three phases of the study to profile participants’ MIs and to ascertain if MITA affected treatment group scores on MIDAS and IS.

The independent variable was method of instruction, that is, MITA and traditional teaching approaches. The dependent variable was participants’ ‘Nursing Practice Studies’ exam results, other module exam results and MIDAS  and IS score results.


Statistically significant differences were found between groups with the treatment group outperforming the control group in ‘Nursing Practice Studies’ exam results. Findings on other module exam results also revealed some statistically significant differences. The MIDAS and IS scores for both groups revealed significant differences in participants’ scores. The MITA intervention was evaluated and treatment participants related very positively about the approach. It is contended that MITA has great potential in education, particularly in terms of reinforcing learning beyond the educational domain.

Social Work within a Community Discourse: Challenges for Teaching and Learning

Dr. Catherine Forde, Department of Applied Social Studies, UCC
Dr. Debby Lynch, UCC


In this paper we discuss our interdisciplinary collaboration as educators, one from a social work background and the other from a community work background, and consider the challenge of teaching community work to social work students in a way that is relevant for contemporary practice and that embraces community work principles and values. The paper begins with a consideration of the long-standing debate about the relationship between social work and community work and the relative similarities and divergences between the two approaches. It proceeds to explore Jim Ife’s (1998) framework of competing discourses of human services and how the framework has helped us to articulate our thinking and teaching practice in the Irish context.  For us, the framework reconciles social work and community work within a community discourse that provides a language transcending disciplinary boundaries. This approach represents a means of familiarising students with the community work process and enabling them to take action on issues of social justice. The framework represents four competing models of human service delivery: the managerial, the market, the professional and the community. We discuss how we use this conceptualisation to teach and engage students in a process of critical reflection. The paper discusses methods that we use to undertake this process, the development of our joint teaching practice over the last four years, and students’ reflections on their learning.

Ife, J. (1998) Rethinking Social Work: Towards Critical Practice, South Melbourne: Longman. 
Teaching and learning active citizenship – an investigation of service learning in the postgraduate classroom

Dr. Clodagh Harris, Lecturer, Department of Government, UCC

This paper will investigate the use of service learning in teaching active citizenship in the postgraduate classroom.  Recognising that service learning ' is an academic strategy that seeks to engage students in activities that enhance academic learning, civic responsiblity and the skill of citizenship, while also enhancing community capacity through service' (Furco and Holland, 2004:27) this paper will critically analyse the impact of service learning in the NAIRTL funded project 'The active citizenship approach to teaching and learning active citizenship: Integrating research, teaching and learning in the postgraduate classroom'.


The project forms part of a module entitled ‘the dynamics of public participation’ that explores the relationship between democracy and participation and examines theories of active democratic citizenship, empowerment, and political participation. It centres on training students of the MBS Government/MA Politics in the internationally respected Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice (VSPJ) voter awareness/voter education active citizenship programme.  Students of this programme have delivered it in Cork prison in advance of the General Election 2007 and will deliver it in the Carrigtwohill SVP family resource centre in advance of the 2009 European and Local elections. The proposed paper will evaluate the impact of the project assessing if it meets its learning outcomes and asking if it offers students an opportunity to integrate and relate theory to practice and advance their civic engagement as is in keeping with the tradition of service learning. It will also document the challenges of assessing service learning and the integration of the students’ research into their teaching and learning.

Action and Research: Challenging teaching and learning assumptions in an executive development programme

Felicity Kelliher, Department of Management and Organisation, WIT
Seán Byrne, Department of Accounting and Economics, WIT


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore an Action Research (AR) Tutor Initiative, established to provide a collegial approach to learner facilitation, and enable a research informed model of practice in an executive development programme.


Programme Delivery: The programme in question – a Masters in the Management of Change – is built on the principles of experiential learning and critical thinking, and has a distinct action approach to curriculum delivery. It seeks to hone reflective practice among participants, each of whom is either a senior executive or business owner.  The programme ethos is to help participants to improve business performance through conscious intervention designed under the tutelage of a trained AR tutor. The tutor challenge is therefore to provide these executives with the knowledge and confidence to influence change, and facilitate professional development through the application of the programme curriculum in practice.


Methodology: The AR tutor initiative was run in conjunction with an AR module, both delivered by the AR programme team, who are also the authors of this paper. The authors established criteria relating to the development and transfer of knowledge under an AR mantel, and applied these findings to the programme design, delivery and analysis.

 Findings: The tutor programme enabled cross-pollination of Action Learning and Action Research perspectives, and strengthened the interaction between practitioner and academic, and among academics themselves, in this environment. Furthermore, the early involvement of tutors informed the AR module and larger research programme, and facilitated a matching of research interests between practitioner and tutor.  

Contribution to knowledge: The AR tutor programme facilitated deeper learning by encouraging action-reflection among and across all contributors (students, tutors, and programme managers). It also attempts to reconcile the tension between proponents of Action Learning and Action Research, showing that these can co-exist with benefit to each party.

Challenging Assumptions: That Art cannot be taught?

Dr Peter Jordan, Department of Creative and Performing Arts, WIT
Cordula Hansen, Department of Creative and Performing Arts, WIT

This paper challenges the assumption, prevalent in art practice, that “art cannot be taught”. This assumption has two sources – the first being that of the Bauhaus – the seminal twentieth century art school.  In his founding manifesto of 1919, Walter Gropius claimed that ‘art cannot be taught’. He implied that whereas techniques in the utilisation of various media for creative purposes, and an understanding of previous ‘successful’ works of art could ‘lay the foundation’. The creative act itself he saw as intuitive and not learned.


 The second source arises from Modernist theory, as propounded by Clement Greenberg, the foremost American art critic of the mid-twentieth century. He maintained this emphasis on the intuitive capabilities of the practitioner, prizing the quality of originality above all else.


In many art schools such authoritative views still govern the nature of art education. Students are largely left to their own devices, and teaching consists of critical assessment of their work. In our experience as art teachers (and previously, art students) such ‘tutorials’ are vague rather than insightful. This may reflect the discrepancy between the belief that art practice relies on intuition, and the attempt to 'transmit' the ability to make 'good' artworks to students.


In the light of HETAC's current emphasis on critical rather than purely technical skills in Art and Design at Level 8, new demands are now placed on art teaching. These include the assessment of the thought processes involved in the making of art, and more emphasis on reflexivity and self-evaluation in art students.


This paper gives examples of projects and modules which seek to facilitate the development of students' critical skills and their understanding of creative processes. If these skills can be developed, it does suggest that art processes can indeed be taught.  


Friday 14h00 workshops
Erik Meyer, University of Durham with Mick Flanagan


Subject tbc.

Threshold Concepts: Enabling Open Dialogue on Teaching and Learning within and across Traditional Boundaries?

Anne Graham, Literacy Development Centre, Waterford Institute of Technology
Jacqueline Potter, CAPSL, TCD


Entwistle (2003) identified one of the outputs of the UK ETL research project as developing more precise ways of thinking about university teaching and learning. An important outcome of this research project has been the development of a set of concepts in respect of the quality of learning, particularly focusing on the pedagogical concepts of troublesome knowledge, threshold concepts and delayed understanding. 


Meyer and Land (2005) suggest that within each discipline, field or profession there are threshold concepts which integrate and define the scope of the academic community with which a student is engaging. These threshold concepts can be 'considered akin to passing through a portal, or conceptual gateway, thus opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something' (Meyer and Land, 2003). Such concepts lead to a transformed way of understanding, or viewing something that may represent how people 'think' in a particular discipline, or how they perceive, apprehend or experience particular phenomena within a discipline.  These concepts usually have five attributes: they are transformative, irreversible, integrative, bounded and troublesome.  Threshold concepts have potential to encourage students towards deep rather than surface learning.


The workshop will introduce some of the international current research on threshold concepts. It will focus on their application both as an analytical framework for understanding the student learning journey and for developing and evaluating curriculum and assessment in Higher Education. 


The workshop will be a forum for discussion with classroom practitioners and educational researchers on the potential for threshold concepts to be an enabler and energiser of open dialogue and inquiry into teaching and learning within and across traditional institution and disciplinary boundaries.

Teaching for Understanding (TfU): How do we learn to understand and what are the implications of this process for our teaching and student learning?  

Marian McCarthy, Ionad Bairre, The Teaching and Learning Centre, UCC


This workshop will invite participants to explore a series of questions devised by the Project Zero Team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to elicit the nature of learning to understand and its implications for teaching and learning.  The process of answering the questions begins to open up assumptions we make about teaching, learning and assessment and, hence, also frames research about teaching and learning. The three questions are asked sequentially as follows:

  • What do you understand really well?
  • How did you develop that understanding?
  • How do you know you understand your chosen topic?  

The workshop will then explore the findings of participants regarding these questions and will pose further questions to chart the process of learning to understand. Sample questions in this phase of the workshop include:

  • In what way does learning in the ‘real world’ contrast with college classroom learning? What do your answers to the TfU questions tell you about successful student learning/understanding?
  • What are the implications of the TfU exercise for your teaching and student learning?

The final phase of the workshop will then consider how participants might begin to take a teaching/learning for understanding approach to a selected text/topic in the light of what has been learnt in exploring the TfU exercise.  The concept of a variety of Entry Points to learning, as embedded in a Multiple Intelligences approach to teaching and learning, may be invoked at this point in the workshop to develop and harness learning.    


The workshop will draw on disciplinary and international perspectives.


The role of Creativity in Helping Teachers to
Explore their Professional Identity in the Classroom.

Geraldine Mernagh, WIT
Margaret O’Brien, WIT


The Literacy Development Centre houses the NALA/WIT accreditation project. This accreditation project was established in 1997 and is funded directly by the Department of Education and Science (DES). The mission of the Project is to design, develop and deliver third level qualifications, from Higher Certificate to Honours Degree level in the Literacy and Adult Education Field for the professional development of Adult Literacy Teachers.


Our student teachers within the third level environment are expected to create knowledge by engagement with the world of ideas through the cognitive processes of the head.  The literature indicates that creative engagement, allied to cognitive processes, enables professionals such as teachers to interrogate their practice and beliefs for new understandings (Bolton, 2006 and Winter, 1991).


We are currently engaging in a research project undertaken with our student teachers taking modules on Literacy Methodologies 1 & 2 at Higher Certificate level and the module Language & Power at B.A. (Ord) level. The aim of our research project is to challenge assumptions regarding the limits of our understanding when cognitive processes are the sole route through which knowledge is created. The workshop will present participants with the opportunity to engage with cross-disciplinary teaching and learning approaches. This will test some of the assumptions that third level colleges make about what are appropriate teaching and learning strategies within the sector.  It will further explore how in this case these approaches yielded insightful discussions with teachers about definitions of progress and the value base underpinning their practice.


The workshop will be highly interactive using creative methodologies.


Geraldine Mernagh and Margaret O’Brien are lecturers in Literacy Studies in Ireland’s only Literacy Development Centre (LDC), which is based in the Waterford Institute of Technology.  The Centre houses the WIT/National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) Accreditation Project designed to professionalise teacher education in the area of adult literacy in Ireland.

Who has a disability?

Sheila O’Driscoll, UCC

This presentation, drawing on a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) pedagogical approach, invites participants attending the conference, to an interactive seminar. This workshop has a dual role.  While challenging their own assumptions around the notion of disability and what counts as ‘disabled’,  participants are simultaneously encouraged to reflect on their preferred learning styles. Who has a disability?This calls into question what counts as ‘disabled’? For example, forty five year old man, a psychotherapist, paralysed as a result of an accident, uses a chair, works with people with mental health and emotional difficulties, does he have a disability? Working individually and in groups, we will debate some key concepts in Disability Studies using a PBL approach. We will consider if this teaching approach is a useful tool and share how appropriate (or otherwise) it might be in different disciplines.  At the conclusion of the seminar, participants are requested to complete a One Minute Paper (OMP) and the findings will inform future research. What is Disability Studies?

Disability Studies, is a relatively new and diverse field of inquiry and is informed by scholarship from such different disciplines as history, sociology, literature, political science, law, policy studies, economics, cultural studies, anthropology, geography, philosophy, theology, gender studies, media studies and the arts.


Upcoming Events
University College Cork
EuroSoTL 2015: Bridging Boundaries through the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning
Inaugural EuroSoTL ConferenceEuroSoTL 2015 was held in University College Cork on 8-9 June 2015 and attracted more than 300 delegates. The conference theme Bridging Boundaries through the Scholarship of Teaching ...
8 June, 2015
University of Limerick
EdTech2015 : Beyond the Horizon -Policy, Practice and Possibilities
Beyond the Horizon: Policy, Practice and PossibilitiesRecent European and national policy reports have identified the enabling and transformative role of technology in supporting learning over the medium term at individual, ...
28 May, 2015

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