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Educational Disadvantage Centre

Masters in Education Special Option Poverty and Social Inclusion in Education


This course seeks to familiarise students with current thought and research in the area of poverty and social inclusion in education, to explore the development of policy in relation to socio-economic and socio-cultural marginalisation and to investigate a range of approaches to tackling exclusion at a national, local and classroom level. International best practice and research of the College's Educational Disadvantage Centre will also be examined to facilitate the development of a critical and informed understanding of the key issues in this area.

The Centre's M.Ed Special Option Course, Poverty and Social Inclusion in Education offers a unique interdisciplinary focus across psychology, geography, philosophy and sociology for teacher education, engaging centrally with EU Policy initiatives on early school leaving and is a distinctive course internationally that is not available in other universities in Europe or beyond. This Course seeks to bridge the policy/research divide, as well as a research/practice divide across universities and the statutory and civil society sectors with regard to early school leaving prevention. 

Module 1: Critical Approaches To Equality In Education

This module seeks to develop your potential as an agent of change with regard to strategic policy making concerning equality in education at the school level, local community level, regional, national and EU levels and to develop awareness of the importance of a community development approach to relations between the school and local community. A specific focus will be on analysis of European policy developments for early school leaving prevention and to develop teachers’ capacity to relate to other professionals’ viewpoints as part of interrogating interdisciplinary understandings of this area.

It is sought to analyse current system supports and gaps in seeking to address poverty and social inclusion in education and to develop fresh, innovative thinking in order to reform the education system through conceptual skills to integrate theory, policy and practice for social inclusion in education. This includes developing an area wide vision of system change in including identification of emerging needs,  as well as the interplay between marginalised parental engagement and family support services.

Module 2: Equality, Education And Poverty

 This module engages students in an exploration of the ways in which poverty impacts on individuals’, families’ and communities’ experiences of, and engagement with education. It enables students to explore the structures and cultures of the education system and of individual schools and classrooms in order to understand the interface between schooling and those living in poverty. The module introduces students to a number of important theorists including Bourdieu, Lynch, Reay, Blandford, O’Brien, Willis, Sharpe & Green who explore various aspects of social class, poverty and the interface of both with education. The module affords students the opportunity to apply the theoretical lenses provided to enable them to reflect critically on their own and international education systems, the culture of their own schools as well as on their own professional practice.

The module also engages students in critical analysis of a number of education interventions aimed at addressing socio-economic exclusion including DEIS, the Home-School-Community-Liaison programme and the Incredible Years programme.

Module 3: Transformative Education and the DCU Changemaker Schools Network

Education has the potential to transform the realms of possibility for students, and in turn society. With its emancipatory potential, education can transform the lives of those most marginalised in society and in our education system. To realise these transformative aspirations for our children, the power of the relational is critical to ensure transformational agency to empower teachers and students to respond in a dynamic way to our increasingly diverse and dynamic world.

In this module, we will explore transformational leadership and the culture of schools using case studies from the DCU Changemaker Schools Network. By exploring teaching and pedagogy to foster social change and inclusion, we will focus on care and affective equality. Drawing on Fraser, Freire, Reay, Lynch and Noddings the relationship between leadership, pedagogy, care and affective equality will be appraised, to enhance the fostering of school cultures for and of social inclusion. During this module, students will be introduced to teachers and school leaders in the DCU Changemaker School Network, and will be provided with opportunities to explore their school cultures.

In considering pedagogies for social inclusion, embodied cognition and communication will be explored in this module. It will examine learning theories focussing on creativity and how we communicate, with a specific focus on non-verbal communication. This exploration creates the space for students to develop inclusive learning approaches to foster classrooms and schools for and of social inclusion.


Professor Paul Downes

Telephone: +353 1 700 9245




Selected Abstracts
Mullan, Y

Mathematics and educational disadvantage: The impact of the ‘Number Worlds’ programme on the number knowledge of children in a junior infant class (2005). Mullan, Yvonne

The Number Worlds programme (Griffin and Case, 1997) is based on the Rightstart intervention (Griffin, Case and Siegler, 1994) which was used successfully to close the number knowledge gap between children in schools in low‐income, high‐risk communities and their more affluent peers in the United States.  The programme is based on the central conceptual structure theory (Griffin, Case and Siegler, 1994). During the school year 2004/05 a quasi‐experimental study was carried out to assess the impact of Number Worlds in an Irish context. The Number Worlds Preschool programme was used in a Junior Infant class in a school in an area designated as disadvantaged. The mean pre‐test and post‐tests scores on the Number Knowledge Test of the experimental group were compared with those of a matched control group in the same school and with two other control groups in a non‐disadvantaged school.  The teacher of the programme was interviewed, notes were taken from participant observation and a video recording of one of the classes was prepared and observed in detail in order to obtain a qualitative analysis of the intervention. Results of the Number Knowledge Test indicated that both groups in the disadvantaged school had started school with less number knowledge than both groups in the non‐disadvantaged school and that the experimental group had made more progress than any of the other groups. The knowledge gap, which had existed between the experimental group and the non‐disadvantaged control groups, had narrowed.  Most noteworthy was that low attaining children in the experimental group made more progress than the low attaining children in the matched control group.

This research highlighted the value of the Number Worlds intervention and the need for more curricular interventions particularly those that are based on cognitive science evidence.  The research also pointed to the need for more emphasis on counting in the early mathematics curriculum, more adult support in Junior Infant classrooms and more Learning Support at Junior Infant level, especially in disadvantaged schools.  

Mulkerrins, D

Home school community liaison co‐ordinators: Tackling inequality in education? A case study in a north Dublin area (2005) Mulkerrins, Dympna

This study seeks to address the impact of the home school community liaison (HSCL) initiative by examining the role of the co‐ordinator. The focus/purpose of the study is to investigate how and to what extent that role can achieve transformative change in schools and communities towards a more egalitarian educational system and how power relations are implicated in this. How the scheme is perceived and understood to be working for equality in education is explored. The inquiry investigates the relationships that have been created and the variety of experiences of four distinct groups, all participants in the HSCL scheme, in one school community in a North Dublin area.

Much of the research into the HSCL scheme has been within the quantitative mode and has not been meaningfully inclusive of all the partners in the scheme. This study attempts to redress that balance by adopting an in‐depth qualitative case‐study methodological approach. The participants, totalling thirty two, in the four focus discussions included parents, voluntary and statutory community representatives, principal teachers/teachers and home school community co‐ordinators. This study seeks to explore how the role of the co‐ordinator is framed within these sets of power relations.

The data generated provided insights into the constraints to the capacity of the co‐ordinator for transformative change. The themes that emerged included among others power relations and equality problems in schools, idiosyncratic understandings of the HSCL scheme and of the role of the co‐ordinator, as well as inadequate resources such as personnel and time. The vulnerability and powerlessness of the co‐ordinators is highlighted. They seem to be relatively unsupported and experience attitudes of disinterest in their role as well as lack of recognition for the role, at school and system levels. This can leave co‐ordinators, who are the key instruments to transformative change, isolated and unmotivated. It is hoped that the findings of this study will contribute to the growing research on relationships between the home, communities and schools, particularly as it relates to the HSCL scheme in Ireland. It is evident from the findings that there are challenges to be met in order to ensure that the vision of the HSCL is understood and promoted by all participants in the scheme. There is no doubt that the potential of the scheme to enable transformative change to take place is recognised by the coordinators but that there many barriers in their way at present.  

Redmond, B

The role of the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) Co‐ordinator in engaging parents in literacy and numeracy initiatives: An action research project in a south Dublin area (2007)  Redmond, Brian

This study sought to examine the impact the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) scheme had on literacy and numeracy initiatives in a disadvantaged area. The research focussed on the role of the HSCL coordinator and the involvement of parents from marginalised backgrounds. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of the HSCL coordinator in improving the engagement of parents in school initiatives in relation to literacy and numeracy. The Forward Together Reading Programme was chosen as the basis for this research as it focused on home school links with parental involvement. The research took place in two schools in the area. The programme was delivered by the teacher in the first school and the HSCL coordinator in the second.

The methodology chosen was Action Research using qualitative and observation methods. This method was seen as appropriate as it would enable the research to understand, evaluate and to improve educational practice. The qualitative data was generated through the use of three focus groups with the parents involved. These focus groups investigated the parent’s experiences and attitudes around the programme. The observation sessions took place in the two schools. The HSCL coordinator carried out the observation sessions in both schools.

The study attempted to give a greater understanding the role the HSCL had in involving parents from marginalised backgrounds in their children’s education. The data generated provided insights into the perceptions parents had around their ability to help with their children’s education. Their confidence and self esteem in dealing with their children’s schoolwork was low. The programme enabled them to become more confident. The children were retested at the end of the programme. The majority of the children showed a significant improvement in their literacy levels. That would indicate that parental involvement and commitment to their children’s education could bring around significant gains. A key theme that emerged in the research was the issue of homework. The parents were finding it very difficult and frustrating before they started the programme. There was now a more positive atmosphere around homework in the home. Another key finding is that the teacher was better suited to deliver the programme with the HSCL coordinator free to provide support and encouragement to the parents. It emerged from the data that it was important for the school to engage more fully with the parents. In one of the schools the parents were given no feedback on their children’s work and this lead to negative feelings towards the school. The importance of home visits by the coordinator to encourage parents to join the programme was an important finding. The parents liked the personal touch as a result of these visits and were more inclined to become involved in their children’s education.

The gendered nature of parental involvement in the home school link was also seen to be important. The perception that educational issues were seen as the mother’s role was an interesting observation. The findings would indicate that HSCL cannot change the attitudes of society and that ways of encouraging fathers to become more involved in the home school; relationship could be investigated further. 

The research indicated that the HSCL coordinator had an important role in encouraging the parents to engage and complete a literacy programme. It is hoped that these findings will inform future literacy and numeracy programmes in disadvantaged areas. 

Crawley, E

"IT'S EASY, YOU JUST WRITE THE PICTURES" Examining the impact of using visual arts to motivate children to write: A case study of first class in a disadvantaged school (2009)  Crawley, Elaine

Evidence from empirical research points to a disproportionate number of children in disadvantaged schools achieving very low levels of literacy with some of the most recent studies declaring that that literacy standards have actually fallen. Many reports indicate that teachers in general have difficulty teaching literacy. Yet, analyses of recent policies and interventions to combat educational disadvantage show a continuing neglect to focus on the relationship of teaching to learning.

The purpose of this research was to examine the impact of using visual arts to motivate children in a disadvantaged school to write. Recognising the negative influence of poor literacy levels on the life chances of children, this thesis focused on the possibility of raising literacy levels by increasing children’s motivation through engagement in an integrated art and writing workshop.

The inquiry was framed within a case study in an urban, boys’ primary school, designated as disadvantaged. The participants were 19 first class boys, their class teacher and some parents. The boys participated in a visual arts and writing workshop called Artists/Writers Workshop for six weeks, lead by the class teacher. Data was generated through interviews, observations, conference recordings, the children’s art and writing samples, and the teacher’s reflective diary. Using dimensions of the construct of motivation, data sets were analysed and embedded within each other under the themes of (1) autonomy, (2) competence and (3) social relatedness in order to provide a more complete picture of the intervention.

Findings illustrate that integrating visual arts with writing was a powerful motivator for children. The data showed that visual arts acted as a scaffold for children’s writing and this increased their confidence, interest and motivation to write. The positive social environment this workshop created was also a motivating factor for the children. Final interviews indicated that the children’s confidence and enjoyment had increased and that there had been a positive influence on their perception of writing and motivation to write.

Concerns are highlighted about how previous programmes focusing on enhancing literacy attainment failed to focus on child‐centred pedagogy and crucial role of the teacher. The thesis concludes with specific implications for Irish policy and practice and recommendations for future research are outlined.

Larkin, J

A study of the impact of participation in the medium of clay on the oral language skills of students in first class in a designated school setting. (2009) Larkin, Joan

The educational attainment of children in areas of socio‐economic disadvantage is of national concern.    Research suggests the language experiences of children from disadvantaged communities do not prepare them for the linguistic demands of school and may be a factor in academic underachievement.  The purpose of this study is to integrate oral language development with clay to investigate how this visual arts medium can be employed as an effective vehicle for the classroom teacher to develop child‐centred pedagogical strategies to enhance and benefit disadvantaged children’s language development in a school setting.

The research was undertaken in an urban disadvantaged school with 20 participating students in first class, (aged 6 – 8 eight years).  It adopted the method known as action research from within the qualitative paradigm to form the basis of the research design. The study generated data which provided insights into the children’s use of language during pupil‐to‐pupil interactions and pupil‐to‐teacher interactions as they participated in the clay workshops.

Findings in this study indicate that clay facilitates the development of children’s cognitive skills, provides opportunities to use the ‘literate’ style school language genres of narrative and procedure, increases children’s own awareness of the purpose of speaking and listening and promotes collaborative learning.  The main recommendation of this study is the need to inform and instruct teachers in disadvantaged school settings on how enjoyable and purposeful hands‐on learning media such as clay can be employed as an effective, medium for meeting the individual linguistic needs of children and benefiting their language development in classroom settings.  

Odidi-Jibson, T

Nigerian immigrants' children: Full integration into the Irish primary school system (2009) Jibson Odidi, Toyin

The aim of this research is to investigate how the separation of Nigerian children for English language support lessons can have negative effects on their full integration into the Irish primary school system. This research is centred on a few of Paulo Freire’s ideas and investigative themes; the contradiction between the oppressor and the oppressed, theory of value, knowledge, human nature and learning. It shows how the practice concerned purports to be directed towards integration yet have been formulated without a total appreciation of the holistic needs of these children. Difference should not form the basis for withdrawal of these children from the classroom during English language classes.

It is clear from the classroom situation that cultural barriers exist in the daily teaching of these children which educational policies are trying to address. An important finding of this research shows that taking these children out of their classroom on a regular basis can hinder the integration process; it is very distractive in the classroom setting and slows down the teachers’ plans for the day’s achievement. The parents of these children felt that their children are being segregated which does not augur wells for inclusiveness. The investigation of the children’s own perceptions uncovered negative emotional feelings of otherness. This small‐scale research can merely highlight the negative effects of the current practice in some schools and offer tentative recommendations. This study concludes with a proposal for a mentoring programme to enhance integration of immigrants and ethnic minority children into the Irish Education System. It also suggests that policy makers re‐examine the crucial importance of integration and the value of diversity in education so that practices that hinder the development of a well implemented integration practice in Irish primary schools would be removed.

O'Neill, U

“Family reading fun”: Approaching infant literacy through parental empowerment in language development, using Bronfenbrenner’s theory of dyadic interaction (2010) O'Neill, Una

This thesis examines the development of a course for parents, in which the participants explore ways of enhancing their child’s language and literacy skills, through storytelling, questioning techniques, and game‐playing.  The study was located in Killinarden, Tallaght, Co. Dublin, in a school which participates in the D.E.I.S. (Developing Equality of Opportunity in Schools, 2005) scheme. The conceptual framework of the study follows Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of mesosystemic relationships, upon which key findings and recommendations are based.  

Criterion sampling was used to select the participants, who subsequently engaged in a three‐week course of language development and storytelling techniques, entitled ‘Family Reading Fun’, based on Whitehurst et al.’s (1988) dialogic reading techniques. Participants explored the enhanced learning opportunities derived from working in a ‘joint‐activity dyad’ with their child, and the benefits to learning of the emotional, affective bond they shared with their child.  

Data for the development and evaluation of the course was collected in the form of semi‐structured interviews, prior to and after engagement in the programme. Participants were asked about their perceived roles in their child’s language development both before and after participation. Key findings include the development to parental awareness of their influence on their child’s narrative ability, the enhancement of the parent‐child dyad, and an increase in the critical skills of some participants.  

Key recommendations include the provision of parent learning opportunities in schools to encourage language and literacy skill development using dialogic reading techniques. It is also recommended that the learning‐enhancement afforded by engagement in a dyad would be acknowledged in the policy and practice of other schools. This is likely to enhance children’s language and also strengthen the micro‐, meso‐ and exo‐systemic relationships of every child.

The novelty of this study lies in its exploration of dialogic reading techniques and game‐playing in the dyadic setting, with an emphasis on the parent’s role in language development and literacy skills.    The study aims to bring the parents’ skills as educators further than ‘the school gate’, and to promote parents’ intrinsic ability to enhance their child’s academic experience.

Henry, S

To develop literacy skills through the strategies used in reading recovery (2011) Henry, Siobhán

The focus of this research study was to evaluate a reading programme called Reading Recovery. This present study set out to examine the opinions of teachers towards the Reading Recovery programme, which has been implemented in an urban designated disadvantaged primary school for a total of six years. The efficacy of this programme was identified with specific focus on student profiles and teacher feedback. The current Irish research into Reading Recovery is largely unpublished (Marino, 2010; Sorensen, 2006) and the level of the success of this intervention from an Irish perspective is difficult to access. It was anticipated by the researcher that this present study would provide concrete evidence of its success from an Irish context in one inner city, designated disadvantaged primary school. The primary school referred to in this study is the school the researcher has taught in for the past seven years. The researcher carried out this study while training as a Reading Recovery teacher. Four children, who were approximately six years old, from senior infants, participated in this study over a period of twelve to twenty weeks.

The present study implemented the use of a Case Study methodology. It utilised a range of qualitative and quantitative data sources: interviews with three Reading Recovery teachers, thirteen questionnaires with the teachers in the designated disadvantaged school, pre and post literacy assessments on the four participating children, the researcher’s reflective journal on the Reading Recovery in‐service sessions and the class teacher’s pre and post observational survey of the four participating children. The data was then analysed using the triangulation method. Findings from literacy profiles of the participants suggested that children’s literacy skills improved after they received the Reading Recovery programme. Furthermore, findings from teachers’ opinions identified three main themes. The first theme was the importance of professional development of teachers. This theme highlighted the most important aspects of professional development. The second theme was the identification of the important elements of the Reading Recovery programme. This theme was divided into the structure of the Reading Recovery programme and the importance of peer observation throughout the training year in Reading Recovery. Finally, the third theme was the impact of Reading Recovery on the children participating in the programme experienced by the class teacher and Reading Recovery teachers interviewed.

This current research study sought to add to the sparse amount of research into Reading Recovery from an Irish context. It did so by focusing on both obtained literacy profiles of the participants in the study and on the opinions of teachers, both trained and untrained in Reading Recovery. Gathering information of the teacher feedback on Reading Recovery is an important contribution in the current Reading Recovery literature that presently highlights the benefits of this programme predominantly by means of statistical information.   

McCafferty, K

The experiences of Gifted and Talented children and their families in a community of socio‐economic disadvantage (2011). McCafferty, Kate

The research herein documents the organisation and implementation of the Bright Sparks Club, an afterschool club for gifted and talented children in a community of socio‐economic disadvantage.  Children, parents, and teachers were all recruited as participants in this action research study to represent the various stakeholders in education.  Their many voices were captured in a process of continuous consultation throughout the cycle of action and reflection.

Findings from the research suggest that the Bright Sparks Club is a valued, worthwhile after‐school programme in the school.  That being the case, a number of accommodations are necessary to ensure its development for future years.  Firstly, identifying gifted and talented children was noted as being a complex process for which a multi‐dimensional referral system would be better suited.  Secondly, successes were recorded in directing children towards identifying learning strengths and exploring new potentials in multiple intelligences.  These new skills must be celebrated and endorsed at whole‐school level to encourage their transference from the club to the classroom setting.  Finally, in building home‐school links, parental involvement could be extended beyond the current practice of consultation, towards more active participation and partnership.

A study on such a small scale can only provide tentative hypotheses.  The context and content specificity of this research mean that findings are most relevant to the participants involved in informing future practice.  Despite a narrow focus, this work contributes to the diminutive literature on gifted and talented education in DEIS schools and highlights the necessity to celebrate and explore a diverse range of potentials with children, particularly at a time when policy focuses almost entirely on literacy and numeracy.    

McCauley, S

Examining the relevance for teachers of in‐class sensory integration approaches for children in DEIS schools: Developing a theoretical framework and a focus on process (2011) McCauley-Lamb, Sinéad

Children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds who experience emotional and behavioural difficulties are the most vulnerable to exclusion from the educational system because most school structures cannot meet their needs. Therefore there it is crucial to examine the factors contributing to emotional and behavioural difficulties in schools and to identify possible in class intervention strategies. The aim of this research is to examine the relevance for teachers of in‐class sensory integration approaches for children in DEIS schools. As part of this aim, teachers’ perceptions of the benefits of in‐class sensory integration approaches will be examined.

This research presents a comprehensive framework providing evidence for a possible link between sensory integration imbalance and emotional and behavioural difficulties. The behaviours and needs of children experiencing sensory integration imbalance are outlined initially. This is followed by an introduction to Bowbly’s (1988) attachment theory construct. Finally, a link between sensory integration imbalance and insecure attachment is identified combining the theories of John Bowlby (1969, 1973, 1988) and Jean Piaget (1948, 1954).  

This research employs an exploratory, interpretive, qualitative approach. It aims to highlight the significant deficits in the provision of children’s mental health services in regards to both practice and policy. This research presents findings based on meaning construction by teachers that in‐class sensory interventions must be put in place to address the needs of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Finally, the research recommends that in‐class sensory integration approaches must become a part of teacher training early education modules to assist children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and sensory integration imbalance and ensure their full participation in the education system.

McDonagh, S

Increasing physical activity and its affect on children’s participation in class, and possibly integration with the feminisation of education (2011)  McDonagh, Sorcha

The scope of this study was to gain an insight into the topic of the ‘Feminisation of Education’. The purpose of the research was to understand the attitudes of the participants to the imbalanced gender of the teaching profession at present. This study was conducted in a DEIS band 1 school in the North Inner City of Dublin. This was an all‐female teaching school. The classes are of mixed gender up until first class, and the older classes are all female.

A qualitative research method was applied in this study. Eleven focus groups were involved in the study, covering participants from a parental, teaching, school staff and pupil background.

It was identified that the majority of participants voiced a concern for the lack of males in primary education today. Also, noted was the importance of the inclusion of male teachers as regards providing a male role model for young boys in primary education. This study is relevant to schools of a designated disadvantage status. The proposed assumption that boys and girls in such schools require male role models is central to this study. This is with particular relevance to schools designated as ‘educationally disadvantaged’ as it is possible that many children in these catchment areas maybe of a background where fathers and males are absent in children’s personal lives.

Murphy, F

‘I can't yet': an exploration into the empowering potential of growth mindset in a DEIS school (2017) Murphy, Fiona

Growth mindset advocates that intelligence is malleable and can grow and become stronger with practice, belief and effort. The purpose of this study is to investigate if an intervention in a classroom where growth mindset is taught can have a positive impact on children’s expectations, motivation and learning. This is with the aim of moving beyond deficit models inherent within a deterministic model of intelligence.

A fixed entity model of intelligence has been shown to underlie educational discourse and is further accentuated by a growing proliferation of standardised testing in primary schools. This can lead to inevitable deficit labelling most damaging to children at risk from being socio-economically excluded from the education system. Carol Dweck (2012) presents growth mindset as a practical tool to resist this by increasing children’s self-efficacy and expectations over their own learning. 

This research employs a qualitative exploratory approach aiming to gain a deep understanding of a growth mindset intervention in the classroom from the child’s and teacher’s perspective. A series of ten lessons were taught to second class by a participating teacher in a DEIS band one junior school. The lessons were video-taped for analysis and a semi-structured interview with the participating teacher was carried out.   

The research presents findings that the intervention had a perceived positive impact on both the children and the teacher. It highlighted the possibilities of transforming expectations, enabling empowerment and meta-learning opportunities. Emotions and learning appear as inextricably linked.  

Recommendations arising out of the study that extent to educational practice include the relevance of teacher’s beliefs surrounding intelligence and how a fixed ability mindset explicitly and implicitly affects children in the classroom. Pedagogical implications include advocating for a renewed focus on learning rather than performance. This can act as a buffer against children at risk of becoming excluded from the education system. Recommendations for policy makers include recognising the link between marginalisation and learning and how perceived failure can potentially influence early apathy from school.

NíBhroin, S

Examining the impact of using an arts based approach to motivate a third class in a disadvantaged school to write. (2011) NíBhroin, Síodhna

The purpose of the study is to investigate the impact of using an arts based approach to motivate pupils and their parents to write and to identify the potential of the arts to transform their learning experiences. Action research was conducted with a third class teacher, her pupils, their parents and an arts facilitator in a disadvantaged school. The pupils participated in workshops over five weeks using the arts to write a script which they performed and shared with others. The pupils and their parents also completed a family scriptwriting booklet collaboratively. The approach to the enquiry was predominantly qualitative although some quantitative measures were employed. Data was gathered through interviews, observations, reflective diaries, anecdotal records, checklists, a scriptwriting rubric and free writing samples.  

The findings indicated that although the arts had an impact on pupils’ and parents’ literacy engagement and motivation to write, the extent to which they were engaged and motivated varied.Specifically, the findings suggest: (i) pupils’ levels of self‐efficacy and self‐confidenceimproved as scriptwriting was performance goal oriented and shared with an audience, (ii) scriptwritinggenerated personal and situational interest and promoted autonomy as it was pupil led, (iii) scriptwriting impacted on parents and enabled parents and the teacher to generate new insights about the literacy competencies of the pupils.

This study recommends that the strict adherence to easily quantifiable targets by schools which participate in the programme for Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) should be reconsidered to include qualitative factors so that the capacity of the arts to enhance motivation and impact literacy attainment can be exploited. The studyhighlights the significance of using pupils’ personal interests and creating situational interest to motivate those from disadvantaged schools towards literacy and illustrates how the motivational spark can be ignited when artists from the community collaborate with teachers. It demonstrates how other writing initiatives could be extended to integrate methodologies with drama and visual arts to provide pupils with a motivational entry point into writing. This study lays new foundations for engaging with parents in a disadvantaged school. It identifiesa method and the value of empowering parents as real partners in education, highlights the impact of parental involvement on pupils’ motivation andindicates the requirement for schools to link the work of the classroom with the lives of the parents.

Reilly, S

“Hitting the ‘Write’ Note”: The Motivational Impact of Musical Instruction on Reading and Writing” (2011) Reilly, Sarah

This seven week action research project sought to examine the motivational impact of musical instruction on reading and writing. The action research project took place in fifth class in an all girls’ school in North Dublin. The ability levels in this class range from low average ability to high average ability. There are also a number of girls who have English as an additional language (EAL).

Denscombe’s (2003) Action Research model was utilised during the study which was divided into three distinct cycles over the seven week period. The study used a combination of both qualitative and quantitative research methods to collect the data. In cycle one baseline data was generated through the use of pre intervention interviews and teacher questionnaires. In cycle two and three data was generated through the use of the teacher’s research journal, children’s reflective logs, work samples, audio and visual recordings, and post intervention interviews. The data was then analysed and the emerging themes identified and categorised. The main themes were: collaboration, motivation, choice of literacy activities, confidence and self‐esteem and engagement.  

The findings which emerged from the study highlight an increase in motivational levels in the fifth class girls in the area of reading and writing, particularly in children who would previously have had low levels of engagement. The inclusion of musical instruction in the literacy lessons improved the motivational levels throughout the class.

Ward, D

Video for teacher reflection: an examination of video of self teaching as a facility for self‐reflection towards improved classroom management in a DEIS school (2011) Ward, Donal

In this thesis the development of appropriate classroom management is presented as being central to addressing the educational needs of children in disadvantaged settings. Given the individual nature of teaching and the unique classroom environment in which every teacher operates, the promotion of the role of teacher as researcher of their own practice is seen as being advantageous to this development. In engaging with this role, teachers need a facility for teacher self‐reflection.  

The focus of this research study is video of self teaching as a facility for this self‐reflection. The research study was executed using qualitative methods. A practical action research model was adopted. Four teachers in the same designated disadvantaged school in the north side of Dublin City were facilitated in engaging with video as a tool for self‐reflection towards developing appropriate classroom management approaches. Each teacher individually engaged with a cyclical process of recording, viewing and documenting of experience. The knowledge gleaned from previous lessons was used to inform classroom management approaches in subsequent lessons.

Upon completing the investigation of their practice, participants were interviewed on an individual and group basis as to their experiences of the project. Participants indicated that the project was a worthwhile exercise which had assisted them in developing their classroom management approaches. They pointed to the improved access to their practice that the video project afforded them as the reason for this. This access facilitated reflection on both their action and the reasons for their actions. Participants also made suggestions as to how the process could be developed. These suggestions included: extending the recording time and engaging with teaching colleagues on video of practice in a structured collaborative manner.

These findings suggest that video should be utilised as a facility for teachers to investigate and develop their practice. Benefits could be gained from both an individual approach and a collaborative approach. In order to foster the engagement of teachers, it is suggested that a whole school structured approach should be adopted.

Weldron, N.

The Importance of Student Well‐Being in Second Level Teaching. Perspectives and Practice in Three North Louth Secondary Schools. (2011) Weldron, Niall

In recent times young peoples’ well‐being has grown in importance in Ireland with both policy and legislation espousing various elements of the well‐being philosophy. School as the modus used by the majority of young people for their education can and does make an impact on students, not just educationally but emotionally and socially as well. This study aims to examine how the concept of Student Well‐Being is comprehended and applied in Secondary School.

The study was carried out in three North Louth Secondary Schools and involved both teachers and students. A sequential mixed method research methodology was used for the purpose of the study, which was qualitative in design. In the first phase of research, a student focus group was used to identify themes and lines of questioning for the next phase of research. In the second phase of research a questionnaire was used to elicit teachers’ perceptions and understanding of well‐being. The third phase of the research involved a Teacher Focus Group which probed issues and inconsistencies high‐lighted in the first two phases. In the final phase, another Student Focus Group was used to seek evidence of the application of approaches in school relevant to well‐being identified in the first three phases of the process and to probe inconsistencies and issues identified.

Findings from the study suggest there are five approaches in schools which are relevant and able to influence student well‐being, these being Pastoral Care, Teacher‐Student Relationships, Student Councils, Social, Personal and Health Education and Extra‐Curricular Activities. The evidence from the research suggests that both teachers and students comprehend the concept of well‐being. However, the research evidence from this study suggests that its application in Secondary Schools is limited.


Walsh, L

Testing implementation of an evidence informed school transition support programme in a local context and exploring perspectives on secondary school transition, with a view to recommending the development of a standardised framework (2018) Liam Walsh 

This study focused on testing the implementation of an evidence informed school transition support programme, exploring general views on school transition, with a view to proposing the   development of a standardised support programme accessible to all children preparing for the transfer to second level school.  The researcher opted for a qualitative approach as the most suitable for this study. The qualitative inquiry required participation from key members of the school community. These included parents, sixth class students, sixth class primary teachers and secondary school staff. A total of 72 individuals agreed to participate in this study, 55 of whom were students of the two sixth classes in the primary school.

The methods used for gathering data included teacher evaluation sheets, completed by the two sixth class primary teachers during programme implementation, and focus group interviews with groups of parents, students, primary teachers and secondary teachers both prior to programme                 implementation and again upon completion of programme implementation.  The research included the implementation of an evidence informed school transition support      programme with an additional emphasis on quality of implementation. The Quality of  Implementation Tool was used for this purpose (Meyers. D.C., Katz, J., Chien, V., Wandersman, A., Scaccia, J.P. & Wright, A 2012).

The main findings emerging from the data centred around the importance of the relational and experiential components in transition programmes.   Based on the findings of this study, the researcher recommends the implementation of a standardised support programme framework at a local level. The researcher also advocates the use of a quality of implementation tool adapted to suit the context of school transition for implementation at a national level.  The main implications in attempting to achieve the objective related to the need for systems to be afforded the opportunity to develop and strengthen relationships between the relevant primary and second level schools. This study identified the need for provision of resources to enable schools to develop relationships and to implement the recommended framework effectively.


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Walsh, Liam Testing implementation of an evidence informed school transition support programme in a local context and exploring perspectives on secondary school transition, with a view to recommending the development of a standardised framework (2018) Supervisor: Dr. Sylwia Kazmierczak-Murray