This week our Spotlight on Research is with Maeve Dupont, Lecturer in Psychology at the School of Human Development, DCU Institute of Education
You are interested in educational psychology, what have you been working on recently?
“I have just finished a project where we used an intervention in the form of a book for primary school children to read in order to reduce prejudice towards members of the Traveller community.”
What prompted the study?
“There is a high level of prejudice towards Travellers, so we wanted to see if an intervention could help to reduce that.”
What did you do?
“We introduced books into five primary schools in urban areas, and encouraged 118 children aged 8-12 to read them.
The books featured stories of children having adventures together.
In one group, the stories mentioned the ethnicity of the children, that they were Traveller and settled children having adventures together, and in the other group, the stories were the same but there was no mention of ethnicity.”
How did you measure the impact?
“We did pre- and post-intervention tests. We measured the attitudes of the children towards settled and Traveller children and their intentions of friendship, whether if they met them in the park they might want to play with them or invite them over for a meal to their house.
We found that the children who read the books where the ethnicity was mentioned were more likely to approve of friendship with Traveller children.”
What else arose from the study?
“We carried the studies out in schools where no Traveller children were enrolled. Something that emerged during the study was that many of the children taking part had never heard of Travellers, which I found interesting.
In a way, perhaps this is a good thing as it meant the books introduced them to Travellers in a positive story about shared adventure.”
You did that research for your PhD. What are you working on now?
“I have just started working with Dr Ger Scanlon in DCU on a project investigating challenges experienced by children with and without special needs as they transition from primary to post primary school in Dublin’s inner city.”
How did you become interested in educational psychology?
“I initially studied psychology at University College Dublin, and what drew me to educational psychology is that the early interventions in this age group can be so practical and effective.
I studied to become a primary school teacher and I taught in schools in Dublin. Then I studied educational psychology in Cardiff and I have just defended my PhD in a viva there.”
What do you like about research?
“Generally, you choose to research a topic that interests you, and it’s lovely to have the time and space to deepen knowledge in that area.
Plus, it’s fascinating to see the theory of psychology in practice when you carry out an experiment or an intervention.
I also lecture to students of education and psychology in DCU, and I find that the research really enriches the lecturing.
I think it makes it more meaningful for the students when you have carried out your own research in that area.”