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Further Education & Training Research Centre

Further Education & Training Research Centre | Research Overview

Research Overview

A research perspective

Some important developments in this area suggest the need to move this work to an altogether higher level and in effect to develop a research capacity in the area capable of informing innovation across the sector at both regional and national levels. These new developments include reformed structures in the form of SOLAS and the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and the increasingly important national and EU-wide qualifications and quality assurance frameworks. All of this is occurring in the context of high levels of youth unemployment, skills deficits holding back economic growth and the need for innovative approaches to the content and processes of education and training including work-based learning and new forms of assessment. The urgency and importance of this work was demonstrated recently by the EU Council of Ministers' decision to include some six billion euro in the budget between now and 2020 devoted to initiatives to tackle youth unemployment.

Short to medium-term objectives

From the outset, FETRC has set out a unifying vision that derives from sound guiding principles.

Key research questions include the following:

  1. How will the emergent system develop appropriate policies and processes integrating the best available research evidence, particularly from comparative studies? It will require good data-gathering templates and mechanisms that yield comprehensive quantitative and qualitative data including evidence on economic and labour market trends and skill needs.
  2. How will the ETBs be led and managed? This will require appropriate internal evaluation processes yielding good qualitative intelligence, including comprehensive satisfaction feedback from participants and ‘receivers’ (eg employers, providers of progression programmes, etc). It will also require regular and systemic independent external evaluations.
  3. How will learners be encouraged and empowered in their dealings with the new system? In addition to the emphasis on skills for the economy, the promotion and assumption of self-agency should underpin all statements and actions. The learner experience is key. This will require first-class research on emerging theories and practices in teaching and learning including digital, distance and blended learning and the assessment of qualities and attributes as well as knowledge and skills. It will also require much greater clarity on the role and effectiveness of the national framework of qualifications and the mechanisms for progression between levels and across programme providers. None of the above is possible without high-quality, research-led education for FET Sector staff.

In addition, there is, and will continue to be, a need for broad social and economic research that complements good administrative data so that external variables and masking factors can be recognised and applied in the analysis of effectiveness. Apparent effects of training may actually be caused by external factors and these must be known and included.

It will also be important to know what proportions of target populations are being reached and included (especially early school leavers, Travellers, migrants, disadvantaged communities, rural populations, etc) and good basic research intelligence should achieve this. Data gathered (including evaluations) should facilitate analysis over time – patterns, developments, etc.

To achieve the above it will be necessary to develop expert support frameworks towards the objective of creating a comprehensive evidence-led FET Sector. The new dedicated FETRC research Centre in DCU builds upon the significant expertise and experience already there and can play an important strategic role in concert with the stakeholders in progressing this important national objective. The Centre plans to attract high-level significant ambassadors within the European FE/VET arena to help champion the research activities of FETRC in DCU's School of Education.

Research Activities/ Projects (ongoing, applications or just completed

Funded project: PAIDEIA: Preparing Teachers for AI Development in Education as an Innovative Asset

The project value to the consortia is 1.2M (€240,000 to DCU)  The Project Aims to investigate the state of AI in European schools to determine specific gaps and needs project will develop a curriculum to provide teachers with the skills and competencies to harness the potential of AI in education the project will also provide guidelines for the integration of AI including guarding against possible counterproductive uses.


The award title: Erasmus plus partnerships for innovation forward-looking projects:

Lot 1:  digital education cross-sectoral

Priority 3:  Teacher training and curriculum development in tackling disinformation and promoting digital literacy.

Principle Investigators: Dr Peter Tiernan & Dr Enda Conlon  

DEMOCRAT - Funded by HORIZON European Commission (2022-2025)

DEMOCRAT is a European HORIZON-funded Project to the value of €4M across the consortia (€400,000 to DCU) which aims, through a participatory approach, to elaborate curricula for Education for Democracy (EfD) based on a framework of responsible democratic competences, to test them in open, local, innovative learning projects and to develop a toolbox to support the development of transformative EfD practices in the EU and beyond.

Principle Investigators from FETRC: Dr John Lalor & Dr Justin Rami

This project has received funding from the European Union’s HORIZON-RIA HORIZON Research and Innovation Actions under Grant Agreement No. 101095106.

CitEdEV - Funded by EU Jean Monet    2021-2024

Citizenship Education in the Context of European Values (CitEdEv) is an Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Network focused on citizenship and values education.It is brought by the Faculty of Education at Charles University, in cooperation with partner organisation Children’s Identity & Citizenship European Association (CiCea). The project involves 28 universities from 19 different countries and 78 researchers of various specialisations, from experienced academics to Ph.D. students.

The Network has the ambition to become a platform for knowledge sharing and cooperation of experts in the field of citizenship and values education, to which it wants to bring current elements and trends. The outputs of the project should contribute to increasing the quality and innovation of teaching in this area. Charles University is the coordinator of the entire international expert network.

Three researchers from FETRC are involved in this ambitious 4-year Project:

Dr John Lalor & Dr Justin Rami lead the DCU project entitled: Populism and its impact on young people:

Populism has been identified in the Jean Monnet application as a challenge to European values. This working group will explore the implications of populism on young people and how it informs their understanding of European values. The group should make a practical contribution that supports those working in education and young people’s organisations as they face the populist challenge in line with the outputs set out in the bid.

Dr Francesca Lorenzi leads the DCU project entitled: European Values and teaching global responsibility

The goal of this sub-project is to support staff in universities and colleges to be able to implement the aspects of global citizenship into their teaching and further university and college activities. The idea of teaching global citizenship in the 21st century is not to teach global issues in every lesson, but simply to be aware of where you can make global connections (Oxfam, 2015). The group will develop a rationale for addressing the issue of global responsibility in the context of the values on which the idea of Europeanism is built and in the context of the needs of contemporary Europe and Europeans. The attitudinal survey items focused on global citizenship aspects will be designed by WG 3 (in cooperation with WG 1). A literature review will be developed to find recommended practices and methods for supporting effective global citizenship education.

CIM: Creativity and Innovation Management - EU Erasmus +  (2018-2021)

An Erasmus+ funded project which promoted Creativity and Innovation Management (CIM)  in an innovative blended learning and validation programme at the interface between higher education (HE) and business.

The CIM project dealt with the acquisition and validation of competencies related to Creativity and Innovation. In the 3-years project more than 150 learners created innovative concepts and prototypes for products and services needed within European Societies which exist in times of changes that are existentially disruptive. While we could count “digitalisation” and “industry 4.0” still under “revolutions”; COVID and climate change led to the conclusion that the way we live is no longer sustainable and will threaten our survival.

One of the very few countermeasures we have as human beings is our ability to learn and (in contrast to machine learning) to develop innovations that not only solve technological but also societal problems and challenges.

Principle Investigator for FETRC: Dr John Lalor

EN-Abilities -  EU Erasmus +   (2017-2021)

The EN-ABILITIES project developed tools aimed at encouraging autonomous language learning for people with disabilities, informal and no-formal education settings, implementing a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and developed a new validated and evidence-based methodology and approach translated into practical guidelines for ICT and software developers and pedagogical guidelines for teachers.

This Erasmus+ funded research project focused on the improvement of learning opportunities for adults and the social inclusion of people with disabilities. More information on outputs and impact here 

Principal Investigator for FETRC: Dr Ger Scanlon

Smart Home 4 Seniors  - EU Erasmus +         2021-2024

The SmartHome4SENIORS project has as its primary objective to assist seniors (younger and older) in their everyday lives by guiding the world of DIY smart home automation solutions. 

Technological advancements make our daily lives easier, especially since technology offers a series of tools and services to organise, manage and automate most of our daily routines related to work or household. Smart home automation is not a new trend since it has existed for some years now and has helped thousands of people simplify processes in their households. In terms of specific objectives, we can identify the following: 

  • Providing seniors with a hands-on approach to make their lives easier, simplifying their daily routines, enhancing their safety and security, offering hands-free control, but also developing a sense of ownership and value in their creations and promoting civic engagement and collaboration. 
  • Developing an effective educational package that integrates principles of engineering, electronics, DIY creations, digital competencies and soft skills, tailor-made to the needs of seniors. 
  • Incorporating gamification and experiential concepts in the teaching procedure for older adults, keeping them engaged and motivated. 
  • Creating evidence-based policy and research recommendations for the use of hands-on learning in the older ages. Reinforcing the ability of educational institutions and adult training centres to provide high quality and inclusive digital education for all ages. 
  • Creating a community of practice for our seniors and individuals in elder care as well as younger adults/volunteers, through a virtual academy, which promotes collaboration, exchange of good practices and ensures continuity and further development of project outcomes.

Principal Investigators for FETRC: Dr Trudy Corrigan with Associate FETRC members Dr Alfredo Salomao Filho and Dr Tanja Tillmanns


CREATION POP   -  EU Eramus +

Engaging older and younger people in intergenerational creative activities together. This is to provide new innovative ways of social inclusion and to enhance the competences of educators and other education staff  

Francesca Lorenzi & Trudy Corrigan


Supported Transition Planning: Including All Learners (STIAL)

This project proposes to support and develop the Post- School Pathways and  Transition Trajectories for young people with disabilities from special and mainstream schools in the Republic of Ireland and is informed by Article 27 (d) of the UNCRPD which seeks to ‘Enable persons with disabilities to have effective access to general technical and vocational guidance programmes, placement services and vocational and continuing training’.

Ger Scanlon

Peter Tiernan

2022 - 2023

Progressing  Accessible  Supported  Transitions  to Education and  Employment (PASTE)   Longitudinal  Study

3 year longitudinal study on the outcomes from the rollout of the WALK PEER model of supported transition in six special schools in Ireland - Funded by the Dormant accounts scheme through the department of special education


Ger Scanlon

January 2023