Learning Innovation Unit, Dublin City University
Learning Innovation Unit
Learning Innovation Fund Awards
Debbie Ging - Finglas for diversity - a collaborative action research project between DCU and the finglas-cabra partnership
School or Unit
School of Communications
Carmel Mulcahy, School of Education Studies, carmel.mulcahy@DCU.ie
Aileen Pearson-Evans, SALIS, aileen.pearson-evans@DCU.ie
David Denby, SALIS, david.denby@DCU.ie
Finglas for Diversity is a collaborative, practice-based research project whose task is to explore and document the existing cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity in the Finglas area.
A key outcome of the project (Nov. 2005 - Nov. 2006) is the publication of a research report by Research Coordinator Kerry Lawless (employed by the group on a part-time basis with funding from the Finglas-Cabra Partnership and DCU).
The second core objective is the provision of data, media artefacts, educational materials and events, which will highlight the research findings and promote diversity in the community. The involvement of DCU students (as researchers, translators, learning resource designers and media producers) is crucial to this part of the project.
Funding is sought to support the involvement of students as follows:
- Supervision and coordination of students who have undertaken to do a term project, group project or (BA/MA) thesis on the Finglas for Diversity Project
- Delivery of a series of interdisciplinary workshops to students from the different schools.
- Documentation, publication, exhibition of the students' work
- Documentation of the experience and success of this approach to student learning (action research)
The project website is being designed by a small team of 3rd year Multimedia students within INTRA programme
The project develops enquiry-based learning skills, supports student-managed learning and provides flexible learning opportunities. It is also in keeping with the objectives of the Wider Community Engagement Strategy.
The project addresses many of the core objectives of the LI Strategic Plan:
- It is innovative, multi-disciplinary and underpinned by student-centred learning
- It promotes learning beyond the classroom - students apply theoretical knowledge (of education theory, intercultural theory, media production) to real social contexts with concrete outcomes for the community in question.
- Students are thus encouraged to view their qualification not only as a 'passport' to a job but as a valuable skillset with which to research, document and contribute to social and cultural life.
- Students work with socio-economically disadvantaged and otherwise marginalised groups.
- The project creates awareness among the wider community of the relevance of the skills taught in DCU and will encourage members of ethnic-minority groups to view the university as a resource to the community.
- The project thus dovetails with the objectives of the DCU Wider Community Engagement Strategy
The project will be coordinated by Kerry Lawless, Debbie Ging, Carmel Mulcahy, Aileen-Pearson-Evans and David Denby. Already the project has been introduced to a large number of undergraduate and postgraduate students and the response has been positive. The following student projects have been approved:
- A short animated film by BSc Multimedia students using interviews with children from different ethnic backgrounds in Finglas
- An intercultural awareness pack for primary-school teachers (of which the animated film will be a part) by students from Grad Diploma in Education
- A (BA Communications) thesis on media use among diasporic groups in Finglas
- An (MA in Intercultural Studies) thesis to identify the range and profile of members of ethnic minorities now living in Finglas
- Project website design and implementation by team of 3 BSc. Multimedia students
- Action Research Project conducted by members of the BSc in Education and Training class, (part/time programme) to examine the approaches adopted by the Further Education providers in the Finglas area to ensure that planning for diversity is part of the whole school plan in a range of further education colleges and centers. This research will be practitioner led as these students are employed in these centres as trainers and facilitators.
- A project looking at the use of a Learning Style Inventory in a culturally diverse education setting. Underpinning this project will be the work of Honey and Mumford and Kolb. It is hoped that the findings from this practitioner-led research will inform future practice and form part of a bigger Action Research Project at a later stage. It is envisaged that this further research would also be interdisciplinary.
Pedagogical basis for the project
- It addresses one of the key research areas in Irish Education i.e. planning for diversity and moving towards an intercultural reality. Research in the US and Britain (Thomas and James, 2000, Gundara, 2000, Thomas, 2001 and Milem, 2000) has identified the positive role that universities can play in highlighting the benefits of diversity and publicising the outcomes of research in this field.
- From a DCU student perspective, it is also important to note that study in the field of diversity fosters critical thinking and raises awareness of the rights and responsibilities of inclusive citizenship.
- The project is based on the premise of learning by doing and of allowing students to earn credits outside the classroom. It thus provides a space for students to become involved in community based learning.
- As well as being informed by the principles of action research, it is underpinned by a strong inter-disciplinary logic - as the boundaries between disciplines become increasingly blurred both in academia and beyond, it is considered essential to enable students to learn from each other's research traditions and to develop their own tailor-made approaches to complex individual situations.
- The research could act as a template for other such community involvement by DCU in the future. The experience of taking project and thesis work out into the field may also be of interest to the DCU Extra Curricular Awards Committee.
- As part of their research process students will be encouraged to keep an experiential learning log, thus providing a model for reflective professional practice as advocated by Donald Schon, Jennifer Moon and others. Opportunities will be provided to test the concept of diverse learning styles in educational settings and how these might influence practice.
Timeline: January 2006 - November 2006
Obstacles to meeting the schedule are not foreseen as students are bound by deadlines for submission of project and theses.
Students are encouraged to think of learning as a practice-/ enquiry-based and self-reflexive activity with concrete positive outcomes - they produce findings/work that will be published, screened or exhibited.
Students are exposed to methodological approaches and theoretical frameworks from different disciplines: for example, media production students will be advised by students from Intercultural Studies and Education Studies on ethnographic approaches to interviewing and on issues of cultural sensitivity. Education students devising the teacher-training pack will be advised by Communications students on the scope and relevance of different media formats.
Students will submit ongoing progress and self-evaluation reports to the Moodle page, to which all stakeholders will have access and contribute.
At the end of the project, they will be asked specifically to give feedback on their experiences of this approach to learning.
Dissemination and Sustainability
All relevant research findings that arise from student involvement will be integrated into the final research report, which will be officially launched in November 2006.
A week of events will take place in November (anti-racism in the workplace week) during which all the project outcomes will be screened (documentary), exhibited (photographs, art competition) or otherwise distributed (info leaflets / fact sheets, etc.). The teacher training pack will also be launched at this time.
The DCU Finglas for Diversity Group will produce a report / paper outlining our experiences of this approach to student learning.
The project is thus envisaged as a pilot for future interdisciplinary, practice-/ enquiry-based student learning. The DCU Finglas for Diversity Group will be happy to advise or deliver workshops to other groups embarking on similar community-based projects.
Funding has already been secured from the Finglas-Cabra Partnership, the School of Education Studies, SALIS and DCU central funds. This amounts to a total of €15,000, which covers only the employment of a part-time Research Coordinator.
Funds to support student involvement in the project are therefore crucial, most notably for the intensive pre-fieldwork training that the different groups of students will require and for the public dissemination of the students' work.
Costing of 4 workshops:
Teacher buy out: €300 per teacher per day
Number of teachers per Workshop: 2
Number of Workshops: 4
Total cost : €2,400.00
Workshops would also have to involve members of the Finglas Community including the VEC Colleges/Principal of Primary schools, etc.
Materials and Planning for Workshops: €600.00
Numbers involved: 10 per workshop
Refreshments: 40 by €15 = €600.00
Travel and subsistence fund for students and coordinators: €200.00
Materials costs for publication, exhibition, screening of students' work:
- Awareness package for primary teachers: €1,000.00
- Website design: €1,000.00
- Production of animated film: €1,000.00
- Photo exhibition: €500.00
- Art exhibition: €500.00
Publication of Final Report: €3,000.00
Launch: Helix and refreshments = €800.00
A detailed brochure of research options for DCU students has been prepared by our Research Coordinator, Kerry Lawless. This is available upon request.
We are aware that some of the funding sought is to support project outcomes rather than the pedagogical process. However, a core element of practice- and community-based learning is that it produces a visible outcome for the community. Outcome is thus envisaged as an integral part of the learning process.