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Educational Disadvantage Centre

Research Associates

The educational disadvantage centre currently has the following Research Fellows, Senior Research Associates, Research Associates and Visiting Researchers attached to it.


Dr Katherine Zappone is an educator, human rights activist and politician.  She served as the Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs as an Independent in the 2016-2020 Coalition Government.  With Dr. Ann Louise Gilligan, she founded An Cosan: A Centre of Learning, Leadership and Enterprise, Ireland’s largest community education organization (HQ located in Jobstown, Tallaght West) offering access, further and higher education courses in communities throughout Ireland, and early years and after school services in seven centres.  As a human rights activist, she led the marriage equality campaign with Dr. Gilligan and others, and took a leadership role, from within Government, to promote reproductive justice in the Repeal campaign. She has written extensively on educational, human rights and political issues, most recently editing Dr. Gilligan’s philosophy of education in Reclaiming the Secret of Love: Feminism, Imagination and Sexual Difference (Peter Lang, 2021). Her 2002 report for the Educational Disadvantage Centre was titled, Achieving Equality in Children's Education


Dr Siobhán O’Reilly has over twenty-five years’ experience working at all levels of formal education and in developing and leading community-based services and organisations.  She initially began her career as a post-primary school teacher and worked also as a primary and post-primary teacher in a residential health setting for children and young people with EBD diagnoses.  She spent two years in Killinarden in Tallaght coordinating a youth Garda Diversion Programme as part of Tallaght Youth Service and four years as Education Coordinator of Ballyfermot Partnership where she led on developing an area wide approach with formal and non-formal Educators culminating in the establishment of an Education Task Force which prioritised local education strategic issues and apportioned the Partnership’s Education budgets accordingly.  In 2006, as Manager of Familiscope, she worked effectively with local schools and services to begin the development of a needs led wrap around service for children, young people and families based on the URBAN 2 commissioned research Psychological Support Service for Ballyfermot: Present and Future.  Siobhán was a Board Director of a Ballyfermot Addiction Service, and the Community Representative on St. Ultan’s School Board of Management for three years.  Familiscope and another local organisation merged in 2014 and, as CEO of FamiliBase, Siobhán oversaw a significant change management process to develop a multi-disciplinary ‘one stop shop’ with the capacity to deliver both universal and targeted programmes and supports to children, young people and families.  During her time with Familiscope, Siobhán completed her Doctorate in Educational Leadership.  Her research focused on parental involvement in schools based in areas designated as disadvantaged.   During this time, she lectured on the BSc Education & Training in DCU and gave a number of guest lectures.  Further to the completion of her doctorate she supervised a number of Master’s students.  Siobhán is passionate about education, community development and social justice.  She believes that the relationships and partnerships that are co-created between families, education settings and community-based organisations are paramount to achieving equality of outcome.  Siobhán is currently lecturing the Equality, Access and Inclusion module on the BSc in Education and Training and will join DCU’s Anti Bullying Centre in February 2022 as a post-doctoral researcher.

Dr Padraic Gibson is a consultant clinical psychotherapist. He is currently the Clinical Director of the The Bateson Clinic, Dublin. He has been a Principal Psychotherapist as well as a Clinical Director with HSE funded services for over a decade. He is currently on the clinical register of psychotherapists with the Irish Council for Psychotherapy, the Family Therapy Association of Ireland, the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy and the European Association for Psychotherapy.  Padraic is an associate clinical researcher, collaborator, clinical trainer and lecturer at the Centro Terapia Strategica in Arezzo Italy with his colleague Professor Giorgio Nardone where he also trained as a Brief Strategic Psychotherapist. Currently a professional Doctoral researcher at the world renowned, Tavistock Clinic, London he has also trained as a clinical psychotherapy supervisor and Teacher training in The Mater Hospital, Dublin, as well as other post graduate training at the University of Sunderland, University of Leeds and University of East London. Padraic has also lectured at Masters level in Education and Guidance, Trinity College Dublin.  Padraic has trained and presented in Ireland, Italy and the United Kingdom on the topics of Systemic Theory and Brief Strategic treatments for psychological disorders and on the topic of clinical research in psychotherapy.

Dr Eemer Eivers is a research consultant and a Senior Research Fellow in DCU’s School of Arts Education and Movement, where she is evaluating the Arts Council’s Creative Schools initiative. Before leaving the Educational Research Centre in 2018, she led Ireland’s participation in multiple international large-scale assessments (PIRLS, TIMSS, PISA) and two cycles of Ireland’s National Assessments. This led to her interest in comparisons of the structural characteristics of educational systems (e.g., Shaping Schools, Left to their own Devices). More recently, Eemer led National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) work on home learning during COVID, and contributed to NFER reports on England’s participation in the International Early Learning Child Well-being Study. She led an International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement review of early school leaving (ESL) in Malta (funded by the European Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service), and subsequently advised Malta's Ministry for Education and Employment on the development of their new national ESL strategy.  Eemer has a long interest in educational disadvantage. In Ireland, she led multiple reviews of initiatives targeting ESL, reviewed service provision for at-risk young people, and evaluated the Breaking the Cycle programme (a precursor to DEIS). She led the first nationally representative study of literacy in disadvantaged schools, the outcomes of which informed the development of DEIS. She is also familiar with Northern Ireland’s education system, having been a member of their Literacy and Numeracy Taskforce, and one of a team of three that reviewed the Common Funding Scheme (the mechanism by which Northern Ireland’s education budget is allocated and distributed). In both roles in Northern Ireland, she successfully argued for greater targeting of resources.

Dr Gerry Shiel worked as researcher at the Educational Research Centre, St Patrick's Campus (DCU) from 1993 to 2020. His work focused on a range of topics including national and international assessments, test development, and studies on the functioning of different aspects of the educational system. He has served on the OECD PISA Governing Board and on a number of NCCA Committees, and is currently on the Board of the Literacy Association of Ireland. Prior to his career as a researcher, Gerry worked at primary level as a classroom teacher, a learning support teacher, and a teacher of children with speech and language disorders. He completed a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction (literacy education) at the University of Texas at Austin. He is interested in literacy development across a range of contexts including schools in the DEIS programme.

Dr Andrew McCoshan is an independent researcher with a special interest in poverty and social inclusion in education across Europe.  He works extensively for the European Commission and its agencies in education and training. Recent work includes being Senior Researcher on studies on: obstacles to the recognition of skills and qualifications (Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion); second chance education  (Directorate-General for Education and Culture); and key competences in work-based learning (for Cedefop).  He also directed the first inventory on the validation of non-formal and informal learning for the EC in 2003-04 and was lead author for the study of VET pathways and VET’s role in tackling social disadvantage which was published by the EC as Beyond the Maastricht Communiqué (2008). He has also previously provided senior expert inputs to two Lifelong Learning Programme projects including EVALVET which focused on vocational education and training provision and its impact on disadvantaged groups. Andrew was until recently the external expert for the ESF Transnational Learning Network on mobility for disadvantaged youth and young adults, and was also a High Level Expert for DG Employment's apprenticeship advice service in 2013-14.  Andrew is currently the Thematic Coordinator on Quality for the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe (EPALE). Andrew has also been a Visiting Research Fellow with the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. Until March 2011 he was a Director with the consultancy Ecorys. Andrew was educated at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Economics (LSE).

Dr Laima Vaigė is a Senior Lecturer at the Law faculty of Uppsala University. She defended her first doctoral thesis at Mykolas Romeris University (Lithuania) on prohibition of violence against women under international law, and her second doctoral thesis at Uppsala University (Sweden) on cross-border recognition of same-sex marriages and registered partnerships. She has over 10 years of experience in academic teaching, and teaching of specialist courses, such as trainings of civil servants in Lithuania on gender mainstreaming, government officials on gender equality, and advocates on representing LGBTQ rights. She has undertaken research for the European Union Fundamental rights agency (FRA) and worked with and within civil society organisations in Lithuania and Sweden. Her research interests are: feminist methodology in law, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, confluence of ‘public’ and ‘private’ in law, and especially, international human rights law and private international law. Dr Vaigė provided background research documents for EU Commission NESET (Network of Experts on the Social Aspects of Education and Training) on early school leaving in Lithuania and legal aspects of school violence internationally. Her publications include Laima Vaigė (2022), Cross-Border Recognition of Formalized Same-Sex Relationships in Europe. Cambridge: Intersentia. Laima Vaigė (2023), Child Right’s Perspective in Response to the Humanitarian Crisis at the Belarus-Lithuania Border, in R. Argren and J.Jonsson (eds), Child Rights in Humanitarian Crisis: Improving Action and Response, Routledge.

Dr Anthony Cullen is an Associate Professor in Law at Middlesex University, London. Dr Cullen is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Bordeaux, France, an External Examiner at Dublin City University, Ireland, and a Senior Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. His research interests include international humanitarian law, international human rights law, the use of contemplative methods in teaching, the decolonization of higher education and student well-being. Forthcoming publications include: ‘The Implementation and Enforcement of International Human Rights Law: Reflections on the Drafting History of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ in Borhan Uddin Khan and Md Jahid Hossain Bhuiyan (eds.), Human Rights after 75 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Reflections from the Global South (Brill, forthcoming 2024), and ‘Guaranteeing Inclusive Education under International Human Rights Law: A Proposal for the Use of Structural Indicators Addressing Issues of Equality, Non-discrimination and Wellbeing’ (with Paul Downes) in Downes, P., Li, G, Van Praag, L., & Lamb, S. (ed.) The Routledge International Handbook of Equity and Inclusion in Education Routledge (forthcoming 2024).


Elizabeth Costello is a graduate of St. Patrick's College where she gained an Honours B.Ed degree in 2012 with a special focus on social inclusion in education.  Subsequent to this, she undertook a two-year part-time Masters in Education with a special option on Educational Disadvantage which she completed in 2014. As part of her M.Ed thesis she examined the effects of mindfulness on stress in DEIS school-children in order to identify possible intervention strategies. Her research presents a comprehensive theoretical framework providing evidence for a possible link between mindfulness intervention and stress reduction.  The study outlines the causes and experiences of stress in DEIS school-children, and employs an exploratory, interpretive, qualitative approach, which aims to highlight the significance of the issues of stress in low SES school-children.

Bronagh Fagan graduated from Marino Institute of Education in 2014 with an Honours Bachelor in Education degree and has worked in various roles in mainstream education, including for the School Completion Programme, which involved targeting and providing supports to children identified to be most at risk of early school leaving.

Bronagh also has experience in alternative education settings for young people who have experienced varying degrees of social adversity and have become alienated from mainstream school. She currently works in a high support special school, teaching young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties who are in need of care and protection and require the provision and delivery of an education service in a secure and therapeutic environment.

Bronagh also has a keen interest in working with prisoners and their families towards initiatives to strengthen positive family ties and to enable parents in prison to play a role in their children’s educational and holistic development. In 2016, she completed a Masters in Criminology in Technological University Dublin and was awarded the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development prize for outstanding academic performance in a youth justice related dissertation. Her research investigated the role of alternative education provision in supporting pathways out of crime for young people. In Irish prisons, Bronagh has facilitated parenting courses with incarcerated fathers and facilitates ongoing workshops in conflict resolution and restorative practices for the Alternatives to Violence Project. She has also volunteered in prisons in Africa and South-East Asia. Bronagh is a research associate with the Educational Disadvantage Centre in Dublin City University.

Ciara Hargadon graduated from St. Patricks College, Drumcondra with an Honours B.Ed. degree in 2009. She completed a 2 year part-time Masters in Education from the college in 2014, specialising in Educational Disadvantage. Her M.Ed. thesis  explored the importance of sleep health in tackling ESL in both an Irish and international context. The study comprised of an action research element in which small-scale research was carried out with a non-probability sample of twenty-four DEIS-2 sixth class pupils. The aim was to ascertain whether a five-week school and home based intervention can improve; sleep behaviours among the participants; self-reported daytime sleepiness of participants; and self-reported motivation to improve sleep health. The results indicated a notable improvement in child-reported daytime sleepiness, particularly among high-risk children reporting that they 'sometimes', 'often' or 'always' go to school feeling that they need more sleep. There was also a reduction in children reporting a bedtime post-midnight after the intervention. These results, coupled with positive feedback from children, parents and class teacher of the participants, suggest positive potential for curricular multi-disciplinary model interventions in addressing sleep health needs among school-aged children. The pervasive policy gaps across national and European levels for addressing issues of sleep health as part of an early school leaving prevention strategy requires serious and urgent consideration, and this study aims to contribute in a meaningful way to the research available in doing so. 

Aoife Joy Keogh is a current PhD student in University College Dublin School of Education, whose research is funded by an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Scholarship. Her research interests include literacy education, educational disadvantage and policy, and access to higher education. Aoife undertook the Bachelor of Education programme in DCU Institute of Education, from which she graduated as the Department of Education Carlisle and Blake Awardee. This award acknowledges outstanding academic achievement within the Bachelor of Education programme. Aoife’s professional experience and research interests led her to undertake a Master of Arts in Education in UCD, in which her research focused on educational disadvantage and policy. Aoife’s teaching experience spans a wide variety of contexts at both primary and post-primary level, particularly urban DEIS primary and post-primary schools and working with young people at risk in both mainstream and non-formal education settings. Aoife has significant experience in the areas of social care and community-based work, working with both young people and adults within organisations such as the Peter McVerry Trust and Dublin Northwest Partnership. In 2023, Aoife undertook the Washington Ireland Program, a national service and leadership programme supporting leaders committed to building a future of peace and prosperity for Northern Ireland and Ireland. As part of this programme, Aoife completed a prestigious internship as a legislative assistant in US House of Representatives in Capitol Hill. Aoife is actively involved in the work of the Finglas Community Lifelong Learning Hub. This Hub was established by DCU Educational Disadvantage Centre with the Dublin Northwest Partnership to promote diversity within the teaching profession.

Fiona Murphy completed a two-year part-time Masters in Education from DCU in 2017 with specialism in Poverty and Social Inclusion. She works as a primary school teacher in Drogheda, Co. Louth. Her M.Ed. thesis, employing a qualitative exploratory approach, explored the empowering potential of growth mindset in a DEIS school. This involved a classroom intervention in second class where the concept of growth mindset was taught with the aim of investigating any positive impacts on children’s expectations, motivation and learning. This was delivered with the aim of moving beyond deficit models inherent within a deterministic model of intelligence. The research presented 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 include the relevance of teachers’ beliefs surrounding intelligence and how perceived failure can potentially influence early apathy from school.   Fiona is currently completing a Masters in Reading Recovery and Literacy Leadership from University College London. She will be seconded from her school from September 2020 to work with the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) as a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader.

Oisín Uíbh Eachach is a PhD candidate in the area of postcolonialism – with a focus on a reinterpretation in spatial terms of dominant postcolonial arguments, including the arguments of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Declan Kiberd, for example, and also in the area of a spatial hermeneutics – an examination in spatial terms of literary works that focus explicitly on the implications of the major language shift that occurred in Ireland in the nineteenth century from Irish to English.

The title of the research is ‘Reconceptualising the spatial understandings of concentric and diametric space to interrogate the implications of the major language shift from Irish to English that occurred in Ireland in the nineteenth century – a spatial analysis in postcolonial thought.’

Uíbh Eachach is the author of ‘Vir ex Navi: Léamh síocanailíseach doimhneachta i leith phrós Phádraig Uí Mhaoileoin,’ a Jungian interpretation of the works of Irish language author Pádraig Ua Maoileoin. He is also the co-organiser of the Meanmanra conference, a multilingual conference in philosophical and psychological thought and application, and also the co-editor of the Meanmanra conference proceedings.


Özden Bademci, MA, PhD is the founder Director for Research and Application Centre for Street Children (SOYAC) at Maltepe University in Istanbul. Bademci obtained BSc degree in Psychology from Ege University. MA in Psychoanalytic Observational Studies from  Tavistock Clinic and PhD from the University of Kent (UK). Following her PhD research on the phenomena of street children, Özden has played a leading role in the establishment of the first University Centre in Turkey that is dedicated to address the rehabilitation and protection needs of street children. She holds an Associate Professor post at the Universıty. In collaboration with social workers, policy makers, clinicians, academics, postgraduate and undergraduate students, Dr. Bademci carries out national and international research studies, consultancy work, teaching activities and practical projects which are intended to build on the resilience of vulnerable children and young people. She provides psychosocial training programmes to service providers that work with street children and vulnerable children. Service providers such as correctional officers working in youth detention centres. She has developed and coordinated several projects in states schools to provide psychosocial support in collaboration with various departments of the university, to the students who are at risk of school leaving including Roma children.  Dr. Bademci and her colleagues revised the classical attachment theory in order to respond to the specific safety and secure attachment needs of street children and young people who have experienced recurrent vulnerability at various stages of their life course. In 2017, Dr Bademci was granted with UK Alumni Social Impact Award for her contribution and commitment to creating positive social change and improving lives of vulnerable children. She recently hosted two internatıonal conferences, one on Creatıve Arts and Mental Health and the other on Early School Leaving which was the fırst of the its kind in Turkey in terms of policy and practice for early school leaving prevention.

Melike Beste Arslan is a psychologist currently working at Maltepe University Research and Application Centre for Children Working and Living in the Street (SOYAÇ). Throughout her childhood, she has lived and studied in various countries including the United Kingdom, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. She has earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Leiden University. Afterwards, she has continued with her master’s degree in the same university, studying clinical child and adolescent psychology. During her master’s internship she has worked in the Leiden Brain and Development Lab and helped various research teams collect fMRI data investigating prosocial development in children and adolescents. Currently she is in the process of finishing her master’s thesis on interpersonal emotion regulation and empathy. In SOYAÇ, Melike is involved in a project aiming to increase disadvantaged children’s access to quality early childhood education.

Professor Jim Anderson is a professor in the Department of Language and Literacy at UBC, where he teaches and conducts research in the areas of early literacy and family literacy. His other interests include working with children and adults who struggle with literacy learning and issues of social and economic disadvantage. His research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the UBC Hampton Foundation, the Canadian Council on Learning, and the UBC Humanities and Social Sciences research fund. He has been involved with the development of a number of family literacy initiatives including Parents As Literacy Supporters with Fiona Morrison and Literacy for Life with Victoria Purcell-Gates and colleagues. He continues to work with a number of MA and Ph.D. students doing innovative work in early literacy/family literacy.

Cristina Arenare, an Italian student enrolled in the Master of “Pedagogia” (Pedagogy) at the University of Bologna, is writing a thesis about innovative methodological approaches for early school leaving prevention, relating her internship in a school community project in a district of Bologna. In December 2009 she obtained a Master in ‘Relazioni di aiuto in contesti di vulnerabilità e povertà nazionali e internazionali’ (Helping relationships in National and International vulnerable and poverty-stricken environments), from Università Cattolica di Milano. In March 2009, she received a three years Degree in Studi Filosofici (Philosophical Studies) from the University of Parma, with a thesis entitled ‘The critical thinking in education system’ based on Marx Horkheimer’s essay ‘Traditional and critical theory’, the Philip Zimbardo psychological experiment  ‘The Lucifer Effect’ and the approach of Philosophy for Children founded by Matthew Lipman in 1974.

Diego González (M.Sc) is a PhD candidate and researcher at the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Philosophy at the University of León. He has a predoctoral contract from the Spanish Ministry of Education for Doctoral Candidates within the  University Teacher Training Program (FPU). He is member of the research group of the University of León on Evaluation, Guidance and Educational Policies (EVORI). His research is focused on early school leaving and academic performance during the transition from Primary to Secondary education. He currently participates in two Erasmus+ projects: Supporting Entrepreneurial Development in the Field of IT in Vietnamese HEIs (ICTentr), as a partner member, and in the project Developing Teacher Competencies for a comprehensive VET system in Albania, as member of the coordination team. Additionally, at Bachelor level he teaches subjects on Educational Research Methods and on Guidance and Tutoring for Teachers.

Cecelia Burke is a research intern with the Educational Disadvantage Centre (Summer 2018). She is pursuing an M.A in Forensic and Legal Psychology at Marymount University, in Arlington, Virginia, Washington DC area