Book of Abstracts

The Elephant in the Living Room, or Extending the Conversation about the Politics of Evidence.

Prof Norman Denzin, Distinguished Professor of Communications, College of Communications Scholar, and Research Professor of Communications, Sociology, and Humanities at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. 

Qualitative researchers are caught in the middle of a global conversation concerning the evidence-based research movement and emerging standards and guidelines for conducting and evaluating qualitative inquiry. This conversation turns in issues surrounding the politics and ethics of evidence and the value of qualitative work in addressing matters of equity and social justice.  In some senses this is like old wine in new bottles, 1980s battles in the second decade of a new century.

Like an elephant in the living room, the evidence-based model is an intruder whose presence in the house of qualitative inquiry can no longer be ignored. In response, the reader is asked to imagine a world without data, a world without method, a world without a hegemonic politics of evidence, a world where no one counts, a world without end.


Achieving Impact with Longitudinal Data

Prof Alice Sullivan, Department of Quantitative Social Science at University College London (UCL), Institute of Education, London (UCL), Institute of Education

Publically available longitudinal datasets provide representative samples, statistical power, and the capacity to address issues of causality. This enhances the credibility of research findings, and therefore provides the opportunity to generate substantial impact. I will introduce a series of major data resources, the British birth cohort studies, and explain how powerful longitudinal analysis using these datasets is for research in education and other fields. These datasets are freely accessible, and I aim to encourage the audience to consider how they themselves could exploit longitudinal data. Having introduced the datasets, I will give examples of my own research on the birth cohorts of 1958, 1970 and 2000, including research on childhood disadvantage, single-sex schools, private schools, and reading for pleasure. I will also discuss the generation of ‘impact’ for my research, and the power of longitudinal research for informing policy and practice.


Reforming Second-level Education: Evidence and Policy

Prof Emer Smyth, Research Professor and Head of the Social Research Division, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), Dublin

This presentation draws on the Post-Primary Longitudinal Study, which followed a cohort of young people in twelve case-study schools from first year of second-level education to Leaving Certificate level. The study placed a strong emphasis on student voice, exploring school organisation and process from the perspective of young people themselves. The presentation focuses on three issues which emerged from student accounts: what they see as good teaching; the nature of teacher-student relations; and whether they see their schooling as adequate preparation for the future. The presentation discusses the challenges in informing policy using mixed methods research and describes the way in which the findings fed into the junior cycle reform agenda.

The junior cycle reform promises an emphasis on the kinds of active teaching and learning methods which second-level students find engaging and much more flexibility at the school level to engage in course design. However, it raises a number of challenges above and beyond the current debate about whether assessment should be school-based. The number of subjects to be assessed will be reduced. While schools are free to offer a larger number of subjects, recent experience points to a close link between what is assessed and what is taught. Depending on how schools organise subject choice, there is a risk of differential student access to a broad range of subject areas, an issue which has important implications for later options at senior cycle and in post-school education. Effective curriculum implementation will require a significant broadening of the repertoire of teaching and assessment methods used in the classroom, which necessitates a strong emphasis on continuous professional development for teachers. System reform must therefore be underpinned by changes at the school level – moving away from rigid ability grouping towards high expectations for all students, promoting a positive school climate, and providing active and engaging teaching and learning in the classroom. The impact of junior cycle reform will also ultimately depend on the degree to which similar changes are brought about within senior cycle education.


On being transgressive in educational research: a contemplative gaze.

Prof Ruth Leitch, Professor of Education and Director of Research, School of Education, Queen’s University Belfast

Transgression, in Foucauldian terms, is a form of resistance, one that is subversive yet never antagonistic or aggressive. Being transgressive involves crossing limits or boundaries. In this presentation, I cast a brief critical gaze on the field of educational research and the various obsessions that surround boundary phenomena – blurred genres, mixed methods, theory-practice divide, and finding the middle way between paradigm extremes. I then turn my gaze to contemplate various anxieties that inscribe my experience as an educational researcher over time, attempting to work within and without those boundaries imposed by policy and political imperatives in modern higher education and my scholarly passions. Crossing-over, I contemplate how I have managed to open up spaces that are playful and creative at the interplay of arts and social sciences research, where I can explore the ‘impossible boundaries’ of inner experience, trying to find ways to subvert the very norms that deny the sacred, whilst never calling its name. Like Foucault, I want to believe that there is nothing negative, or immoral in transgression, akin to the lightening flash in the night, it simply illuminates the line already there. However gazing on myself, in the in-betweeness, I cannot deny an underlying sense of duality that wearies, as I continuously pass from an ordered, reasoned realm that feeds the evidence-machine to an unordered, symbolic and less rational realm that nurtures the imagination. Increasingly I am drawn to identify with the archetypes of researcher as ‘trickster’ or ‘shaman’ who live insubordinately in the margins, between the boundaries, using their shape-shifting capacities to draw attention to contradictions and possibilities for transformation.


‘Qualifying’ evidence and its relationship to impact in education: beneficial knowledge and less absolute claims?

Prof Paul Conway, Faculty of Education & Health Sciences,  University of Limerick

To qualify: “be entitled to a particular benefit or privilege by fulfilling a necessary condition; to make (a statement or assertion) less absolute, add reservations”. The issue of what counts as evidence and how evidence, if at all, might count (i.e. ‘make an impact’) in education has been central to the appeal of social science-informed policies in the last one hundred years across a wide spectrum of sectors in society. Recently however, evidence, and its relationship to and the manner in which it impacts practice, has become a highly charged issue in, for example, education. The ‘charge’ reflects wider concerns about the status of social science evidence: What counts as a good or worthy research question? How best to design studies? What counts as evidence? How does evidence accumulate, if at all, to inform policy (rise of evidence review bodies e.g. Cochrane Collaborations; What Works Clearing House; appeal of Hattie’s synthesis of meta-analyses…etc.)? In this paper, I argue that the differing constructions of the knowledge-practice relationship are central to understanding the dynamics of ‘qualifying’ evidence in the field of education. Differing construals of the knowledge-practice have consequential implications for positioning questions, evidence, ‘effects’ and impacts. Recent debates in the philosophy of social science have focused on the status of knowledge claims emanating from studies informed by, for example, claims emanating from research informed by the diverging ‘isms’ of post-postivism, pragmatism and post-structuralism. The paper examines how these and other ‘isms’, are central to understanding contemporary debates and calibrating our optimism in the findings emanating from research on teaching (e.g. effective teaching) and teacher education. In considering the relationship between evidence and impact, the paper addresses how the different meanings of ‘qualify’ – entitlement of privileged benefits/knowledge claims and make less absolute – captures the necessary and inescapable tensions in the evidence-impact relationship and prompt us to pause as social scientists, practitioners and policy makers.


Graduate Futures: Turning Evidence into Impact – Troublesome Knowledge in Practice Education.

Ms Aoife B Prendergast, Department of Humanities, Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown, Dublin, Ireland.

Humanities education, particularly in the areas of early childhood education and applied social studies must engage with professional practice education. There is urgency for the need for practitioners and educationalists to communicate, and for practitioners to be aware of developments in educational theory. The idea of ‘threshold concepts’ is currently widely discussed by educationalists. Threshold concepts are described as areas of knowledge without which the learner cannot progress, and which, when grasped, lead to a transformation in the learner’s perspective and understanding. Threshold concepts have been criticised on conceptual grounds, and there is a lack of clarity as to how to identify them empirically. While they may represent a fruitful approach to the task of engaging humanities students in teaching, it is suggested that further development of the idea is required before it could be usefully applied. However empirical studies in other disciplines suggest that there may be associated benefits to the teaching of the discipline from trying to identify threshold knowledge.

For placement educators, they must continue to ensure that practice placement education is relevant to constantly changing and diverse work practices (Lloyd et al 2002). Although there is an extensive body of literature on clinical education and the traditional practice placement models, there has been limited research on alternative practice placement education such as inter-professional learning and supervision.

Collaboration between practice education settings between universities, institutes of technology and practice provide an opportunity for academia and practice settings to collaborate in a partnership to enhance practice learning and fulfil one of the main aims of the practice educator role in any contemporary setting : to narrow the theory-practice gap. However tensions and conflict will exist.

Share and McElwee (2005b: 58) claimed that ‘it is crucial to the future of social care in Ireland that practitioners themselves engage seriously with the concept of professionalism and begin to discuss what it might mean’. There is no doubt that professionalization has emerged onto the agenda for policy-makers in the Irish social care field. Much of the debate and discussion on the topic is teleological: it is generally assumed that a) social care practice will ‘eventually’ become a ‘professional’ activity and b) that this is a good thing. In a sense the question of ‘what is a profession?’ has been bracketed and the discussion over ‘what type of profession should it be?’ has begun to take over. Inevitably, however, the two questions are inextricably linked. This presentation will contribute to the identification and development of such models or frameworks. It aims to clarify the appropriate models of supervision in practice education and address elements of threshold concepts in the practice setting.


Collaborating, Sharing and Reflecting: How it Impacts on Concepts and Theory of Practice.

Ms Carol-Ann O’Siorain, School of Education, Trinity College, Dublin.

The ‘National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy Among Children and Young People 2011-2020’ (DES, 2011) includes developing the literacy potential of all children and young people with autism. Parsons et al. (2009:11) suggest that research is needed on educational practices in ASD specific settings and how they ‘operate and their influence on individual outcomes’.

This research project ‘An Inquiry into of Literacy Skills Development among Pupils with Autism in an Irish Context’ engages practicing teachers in reflecting on classroom observations. It provides an exploration of pedagogical approaches to teaching literacy to pupils with ASD.

This paper seeks to present emerging data from this research project. It will evidence the interpretations of ‘literacy’ from parents and teachers of pupils with a diagnosis of Autism. It explores how collaborating partners in a research project consider the concept and theory of emergent literacy skills.   While this research is still at an embryonic stage, emerging data provides opportunities to reflect on how we value play, social-interactions, self-talk and restricted, repetitive and stereotypical behaviours and link them to literacy.

The data examined here is drawn from classroom observations and reflections from a case study of literacy skills development among pupils with autism in Ireland.   It provides evidence that the sociocultural factors within the autism classroom support contexts for emerging literacy skills that are meaningful, motivating and developmentally appropriate. While Ireland supports an eclectic approach to teaching pupils with autism via evidenced best practices (NCSE, 2009) this paper will argue for an acknowledgment of teacher’s practical and professional knowledge.


Seeing the Beauty of God: The role of religious paintings in RE, in three catholic post-primary schools

Ms Caroline O’Sullivan Ryan, School of Education, University College Cork.

The focus of this paper is on the role of religious paintings in RE, in three catholic post-primary schools. Theological aesthetics is a reflection on issues concerning God, involving perceptions and sense knowledge such as feelings, imagination, beauty and the arts. The writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar highlight how the aesthetic experience can reveal a certain ‘truth’ about divine reality and assist religious knowledge and understanding. His writings express the notion that if the experience of the aesthetic is to have a theological dimension, the experience must be revelatory, participatory and transformative.

The views of four teachers and ninety five students from three catholic post-primary schools are discussed in this paper. A case study methodology was employed, providing an insight into teachers’ and students’ attitudes to using the religious paintings in RE. Multiple data gathering and evaluation strategies were used, including teacher interviews, teacher journaling, student feedback sheets and questionnaires that measured students’ attitudes to the experience of viewing religious paintings.

The results show that the majority of teachers and students were positive that the inclusion of religious paintings in RE can enrich the experiences of students in the RE classroom. The findings demonstrate that when students are provided with opportunities to study religious paintings, an energy is generated in the learning environment that contributes to students’ religious understanding, enabling them to see connections between their own lives and God.


‘Shining through the Smoke & Mirrors’ – A Thematic Analysis of Extra-Curricular Portfolio Preparation Tuition

Ms. Dee Maguire, National College of Art & Design, Dublin.

This paper presents evidence from a mixed methods research study which has practical implications for second level art education. Extra-curricular portfolio preparation tuition is a grey area in Irish visual arts education and while this is a common practice for students who wish to transition directly from secondary school to art college, very little research has been conducted on it. These classes facilitate the production of an entrance portfolio – a requirement for most art colleges – and a body of work not normally compatible with the second level art curriculum. The aim of this research was to investigate such initiatives with a particular emphasis on the teaching and learning methodologies employed within and explore if and why this additional instruction is required in the current landscape of Irish visual art education. The evidence was collated from semi-structured interviews conducted with tutors of extra-curricular portfolio preparation tuition who are considered successful in the field. The qualitative analytical method selected for the data set was thematic analysis, and the process of this inductive analysis will be explored in the discussion. It was found that there is a genuine requirement for extra-curricular portfolio preparation classes and the evidence further suggests that these initiatives have the ability to construct an art college appropriate habitus. Successful portfolio tutors therefore construct a habitus which employs scaffolding systems which nurture and imbue relevant art practices which can assist in a smoother transition from school to art college practices. However they can also be perceived as a situational barrier for many students and when combined with the ambiguities uncovered in a content analysis of published portfolio guidelines, these factors contribute to inequality of access to tertiary art education in Ireland.


Performance-centred teaching/researching: gathering evidence and making an impact

Dr. Dorothy Morrissey, Lecturer in Drama Education, Department of Arts Education and Physical Education, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.

This presentation is derived from my doctoral dissertation project. The project was undertaken as part of a drama education course and my role was that of teacher/researcher. In the classroom, I sought to intervene in and transform taken-for-granted (or culturally dominant) narratives of gender.

My research methodology/teaching approach is performance-centred; it is concerned with embodied meaning making processes, with intervening in systems of power (inscribed on bodies), and with dialogue or the coperformance of meaning (in gestures, movement, sound and words). In this presentation, I explore how the process of gathering (always partial and incomplete) evidence of students’ (and my) taken-for-granted gender narratives (research methods) and the process of intervening in those narratives (pedagogical methods) overlap and combine in my performance-centred teaching/research methodology. I examine some of the ways in which this process impacted on the students’ gender narratives (and mine). I acknowledge that the representation of embodied narratives in textual form is a complex, complicated and incomplete undertaking. And I explore how, despite this, my teaching/research methodology spilled over into the writing of the dissertation text itself. I examine how, in the text, I seek to maintain my commitments to dialogue and intervention; bearing witness to my classroom intervention in textual form, I invoke readers to respond to its consequences (Madison 2012). I acknowledge my reading of any ‘evidence’ as partial and incomplete and I explore how, by using multiple writing styles and representational forms, I seek to open spaces for the reader to engage with my dissertation text in multiple ways (to engage in dialogue with it). My presentation concludes with an examination of what constitutes ‘evidence’ and ‘impact’. This examination refers to the classroom intervention, the dissertation text and to my representation of the project at this conference session.



Knowing unknowns: Researching anti-Muslim racism in Ireland in order to inform anti-racism policies.

Dr. James Carr, Department of Sociology, University of Limerick.

Anti-Muslim racism otherwise known as Islamophobia has received relatively little attention in Ireland from within academia and even less so in broader public debate. Moreover, at an official level we know nothing in terms of levels of anti-Muslim hostility or how it manifests as the Irish State does not systematically collect data on this phenomenon as a distinct manifestation of racist activity. The study discussed here set out to bridge that gap by revealing levels and experiences of anti-Muslim racism in Ireland. In addition, this research also aimed to identify opportunities for change in the official monitoring of this phenomenon in Ireland. The emergent data would form an evidence base upon which a platform could be built to challenge State policy in this area. In order to build this evidence base, this study employed a mixed methods approach. The use of quantitative research methods provided heretofore unknown statistical insights on approximate levels of anti-Muslim racism in Ireland. The resultant quantitative data were complemented by qualitative research approaches including focus group discussions and one to one interviews to deepen understanding of the phenomenon at hand. However, given the diversity of Muslim communities in Ireland, the prevalence of contemporary securitised discourses around Muslimness, and difficulties normally associated in accessing ‘hard to reach populations’, simply finding participants was a serious concern from the outset. In this paper, based on original research with almost three-hundred and fifty Muslim men and women from across the State I will elucidate how I gained access to these diverse communities; the sampling methods I used; the importance of honesty, trust and communication in the research process; and finally the importance of publicising your findings in order to inform policy.



 Scratching Beneath the Surface: Exposing and redefining my role(s) as teacher educator.

Eamonn Mitchell, AEPE/Education, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.

This paper will provide a reflective and reflexive account of recent inquiry into my own practice and professional role(s) in initial teacher education (ITE). Starting from a single opening moment, I delve deeply into my professional role(s) transitioning from a sociological (Bourdieu 1988) to more post-structuralist (Ball 2013; Elliott 2006; Foucault 1979) stance. With an overarching methodology of self-study as professional practitioner research (Vozzo 2011; Pithouse et al 2009; Loughran 2007), accompanied by methods borrowed from autoethnography (Denzin 2014; Ellis 2004; Ellis and Bochner 2000, 1996), narrative inquiry (Clandinin and Connelly 2004; LaBoskey and Lyons 2002) and arts-based educational research (Barone and Eisner 2012; Leitch 2010), I present personal writings and art imagery to make explicit my struggles to uncover and disentangle my self, my professional role(s) and theoretical deliberations, that seemed so incoherent before I began this reflective practice. Self-study emerges as a potential way to inquire, probe and reason about my distinct role(s) as teacher educator.

As a lecturer in ITE, with a new dual responsibility in two distinct areas, visual art education and school placement, and framed around literature concerned with teacher education research of transitions toward becoming a teacher educator (Cochran-Smith 2006; Dinkelman et al. 2006; Loughran 2006), I kept diaries, made visual art prints and reflected deeply, over a short period of three months. In this paper, I forefront the methodological frame and methods, before presentation and discussion of four metaphorically-versioned images that demonstrate an identity conflict in transition, enhanced and exacerbated by conflicting role(s) (Empson 2013). Struggling with self-study has provided no grand end result, but has provided many opportunities for self-reflection, professional awakening and potential professional renewal.



Collaborative Self-inquiry as evidence and impact

Dr. Dorothy Morrissey, Mary Immaculate College Limerick & Dr. Fiona McDonagh, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.

This presentation takes the form of a performance. It stems from a project undertaken by two teacher educators with a group of primary teachers. The aim of the project was to examine the relationship between the teachers’ own development as dramatists and their efficacy as drama teachers. Throughout the project, the teachers engaged practically and creatively in the exploration of contemporary theatre practices towards creating a new piece of theatre for performance. Theatre appreciation and critical response techniques were integral to this process. In addition, the teacher-educators also engaged in a collaborative process of self-inquiry. This performance represents the collaborative self-inquiry process.

From the outset, one teacher-educator (whose background is in primary education) identified her role as that of teacher-researcher while the other (whose background is in theatre and performance) identified her role as that of artist-researcher. As they interacted with each other and with the teacher participants, their roles/identities shifted. For example, the teacher noted an emerging artist identity and the artist noted an emerging teacher identity. They also noticed concomitant shifts in practice. Evidence of these shifts is derived from the embodied interactions, conversations, and reflections engaged in with each other and with the teachers. This performance is devised using this evidence. In devising this piece, the teacher-educators mirror the practical and creative practice of creating theatre in which the participating teachers also engaged.

The performance represents how both teacher-educators negotiated and renegotiated their emerging (and overlapping) identities and how, within the process of collaborative self-inquiry, evidence and impact are recursive processes, always in the making, and inextricably intertwined.


But where is your evidence? Challenges in researching arts in education.

Ms. Jane O’Hanlon, St. Patrick’s College, Dublin City University

Arts in education, the practice of children and young people working alongside experienced artists and arts providers, in the classroom, although an established practice, is far from sufficiently researched. The reasons for this are both methodological and funding related, in particular the need for research (preferably longitudinal research) that is seen to be relevant and rigorous, such that it leads to the provision of funding and research opportunities, and the subsequent encouragement and support for researchers and research initiatives in this area.

Adopting a grounded theory approach, the aim of this three phase research project, undertaken as part of the EdD Programme with St Patrick’s College/DCU, was to explore student’s, teacher’s and artist’s perceptions of the learning that takes place both in and through these arts-in-education encounters.

This paper will present my experience of conducting this research in four sites over the past three years. Employing case studies including observation (including video recording of sessions), interviews and focus groups with teachers, artists and students, the collection of work produced by students and interviews with other key stakeholders.

In particular it will examine and outline the specific issues encountered in outlining and presenting the research, conducting focus groups and interviews in school settings and in the challenges and ethical issues involved in situating myself as participant researcher.

In particular, the paper will look at the challenges involved in researching arts learning, the particular context presented to the researcher by the classroom context, including the rich source of data it provides for the qualitative researcher.


The Impact of budgetary cutbacks on guidance counsellors’ care work across difference school types.

Dr. Liam Harkin, St. Patrick’s College, DCU.

Baker’s equality discourse and Lynch’s affective care dialogue informed this study on the impact of budgetary cutbacks on guidance in schools, which found that funding inequalities between second-level school types contributed to uneven guidance reductions, primarily between fee-charging schools and schools in the Free Education Scheme (FES), resulting in unequal distribution of care and a negative student care experience. From its inception in the 1970s, guidance in Irish schools had a holistic, equality agenda, and it is discussed as an effective counterweight against many inequalities in schools.  While guidance helps students make choices, it was shown to operate differently in fee-charging schools and schools in the ‘free-education system’ (FES), with greater demands from students for help with personal decision-making and counselling in FES schools and by contrast a greater emphasis on educational decision-making and career decision-making in fee-charging schools.  Factors such as social class, familial habitus, parent-power, cultural, social and economic capitals, and institutional habitus were shown to influence young people and their parents’ decision-making, and in turn the guidance provided in schools. Students in FES schools experienced compromised care, due to a large reduction in counselling appointments. With a reported rise in student mental health issues, the demand for counselling in FES schools increased, but as schools prioritised career guidance, counselling was neglected and became a reactionary crisis intervention service, mirroring the trivialisation and neglect of the affective in education. Managing greater care demands with less time resources increased guidance counsellors’ stress.   The change from an ex-quota to an in-quota guidance allocation has thus had an unequal impact across schools and a negative impact on the distribution of student care.



Failure, Guilt, Confession, Redemption? Revisiting Unpublished Research Data through a Psychosocial Lens.

Dr. Marcus Free, University of Limerick.

The paper concerns a case of failure to bring a qualitative research project to completion and publication earlier in the author’s career. It relates to the conference theme in that the potential impact of the research was never fully pursued and realised because it was not considered possible to use certain data. The reasons for the failure to publish the research are considered with regard to insights derived from the recent ‘psychosocial’ turn in qualitative research associated with Hollway and Jefferson’s (2013, 2nd.) ground-breaking book Doing Qualitative Research Differently: a Psychosocial Approach (Sage).

The project was an unstructured interview based study of middle aged and older Irish emigrants in Britain, conducted in the late 1990s in Birmingham and Manchester. While full consent was obtained in each case, and many interviewees were keen to discuss their experiences, some of the interviews were very distressing, both to the interviewee and the author, who was the sole interviewer, as they detailed traumatic events.

The paper considers the reluctance to ‘code’ and ‘write up’ the data as a psychic defence against the anxiety that to do so would be to betray the interviewees. It was felt that the integrity of each narrative of experience, and of the trust placed in the interviewer, would be breached by reducing the uniquely affective and psychodynamic aspects of migration to a socio-historical contextualisation of ‘the Irish in Britain’, with an emphasis on structural factors. The psychoanalytic concepts of ‘transference’ and ‘countertransference’ are used to speculate as to the role of the unconscious at work in the interview encounters on both sides and how, despite class and generational differences, psychodynamic fantasies relating to migration histories and experiences may have impacted upon each other.

The paper considers whether revisiting the data with a holistic psychosocial approach may be a means of redeeming and addressing – without the sense of betrayal – the affective and psychodynamic aspects of data in danger of marginalisation or omission through more orthodox analytical methods.


Whose knowledge matters? An inquiry into knowledge production practices in an urban regeneration programme.

Mr. Martin J Galvin, University of Limerick.

Evidence is a form of troublesome knowledge, because as Harding argues, knowledge is always value-laden and moral, produced and achieved only from a certain standpoint that inevitably is taken by those who produce it. Knowledge, as Lave argues, is not primarily a factual commodity; rather it emerges through situated activity and takes on the character of a process of knowing. Thus in contrast to the positivist foundations of much evidence oriented research practice, the ontological approach, advanced in this paper agrees with Stetsenko, that knowledge is a dynamic process emerging within a broader reality of transformative social practices. Taking the standpoint of citizens and located within a wider debate about citizen participation in democracy; this paper will report on research into knowledge production practices in a large urban regeneration programme in Ireland. The ‘partnership’ status given to local communities in regeneration programmes has the potential to afford citizens influence in decision-making and consequentially status as knowledge producers. However the paper argues that in evaluating such affordances, we first need to account for the social relations in which knowing occurs, because as Fricker argues, there is often a distinctively epistemic kind of injustice at play which can undermine some citizen’s ability to participate equally. Informed by Cultural Historical Activity Theory, knowledge production is viewed in the study as a shared effort among multiple activity systems, inclusive of both conflicting and complementary voices. Of central importance was the identification of contradictions, or historically accumulating structural tensions within and between activity systems that map a zone of proximal development, or a moving area of possible development, that needs to be traversed in order to maximise citizen participation in knowledge production in the research setting.


An Expedition Ethnography

Suzanne Kennedy, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, A. MacPhail, University of Limerick, P. Varley, University of the Highlands and Islands, Scotland.


This study explored both the emic experiences of a small group of independent adventurers during a wilderness expedition, and the challenges and opportunities arising for the complete member researcher in the field. It also examined the potential of both ethnography and auto-ethnography as enriching and complementary methodologies in an adventure expedition investigation.


During a sea-kayaking expedition in Croatia in June 2014, expedition members were interviewed individually and participated in an in-depth focus group discussion on their subjective experiences of adventure within the expedition setting. The researcher also recorded a self-reflexive narrative of the lived expedition experience. Observations, field notes and journals were recorded.

Theoretical Framework

Using Heidegger’s (1996) theory of existential authenticity as a conceptual framework and environmental triangulation to help capture the nuances of expedition life, themes arising from the ethnographic data were identified, categorised and member checked by the expedition participants. Extracts from the auto-ethnographic data served the dual purpose of evoking the lived adventure experience for the reader as well as a modus for the author’s self-reflexion and emerging insights into the phenomenon of adventure in an expedition setting.


Challenges for the complete member researcher include the task of deconstructing one’s own implicit understanding of the field, recognition of reflexive blind-spots (Kuhn, 1970), the accommodation of other, contrary or even contradictory viewpoints (MacPhail, 2004) and the willingness to re-construct a new personal perspective. In attempting to gain a deeper understanding of the subjectivity of adventure experiences in an expedition setting, an auto-ethnographic lens has the potential to enrich and compliment ethnographic data in capturing nuances and vivid live reactions from the field. Through their shared epistemology, both methodologies can offer compelling insights into the cultural setting and the exploration of subjective phenomena.




The U.S. School Reform Agenda, Charter Schools and Privatization.

Raymond Bandlow, PhD., Associate Professor and Director, Graduate Studies in Ed. Leadership.

What is the U.S. school reform agenda, what drives it, and how does it relate to research? This paper offers some answers while underscoring the need for unbiased research to inform policy and public opinion. It calls attention to the failure of policy-makers to enact school improvement policies and strategies that might actually improve schools.

School reform since A Nation at Risk (1983) has not improved the lives of children. Ironically, the much-maligned U.S. educational system has spawned many highly effective schools, teachers, and school leaders. It is wrong to label such a system as failing.

Accountability systems like No Child Left Behind place responsibility for student achievement, complete with punitive consequences, on schools. Race to the Top goes further by making employment of each teacher and principal conditioned on arbitrary measures of student performance. They fail to note that responsibility must be commensurate with authority. It is not “making excuses” to note that family stability and expectations, poverty, transience, and racism have a greater impact on educational opportunity and results than what happens in a given school.

It is time for a new national commission on education reform comprised of stellar educators from PK-12 and higher education. Each member of this commission must possess a reputation for respecting unbiased research and be strong enough and secure enough in profession and position to resist political and special interest pressure. Policy recommendations that emerge from this kind of national commission, informed by data and research without preconceived agenda, would be very different from what passes for educational reform in the U.S. today.


Is Research becoming the hand that rocks the cradle in Early Childhood practice?

Mary Moloney and Jennifer Pope, Mary Immaculate College Limerick

This paper questions the purpose of research in relation to early childhood practice. It explores the role or multiple roles that research may play/ does play/does not play in Early Childhood practice with a particular emphasis on pre-service education. Research is invariably used to justify the need for investment, to justify the provision of high quality care and education and to justify the need for research itself. In exploring the challenges facing the early childhood field, in terms of research, and the ethical dilemmas that emerge at multiple levels, the authors ask whether the purpose of research should still be all three, or, can we move beyond the ‘justification’ stance and consolidate research design in the field of early childhood advancing a more transformative power?



Teacher Preparation that Integrates Technology and Pedagogy.

Ms. Melissa Reed, Gwynedd Mercy University.

The twenty first century learner and learning environment have changed with the advent of technology. Students of the twenty first century are multi-taskers; they expect that information be accessible, instantaneous, and multidimensional (Prensky, 2001). Teachers’ integration of technology is mired by the lack of successful development opportunities in the constructs of technology and pedagogy (Levin & Wadmany, 2008). Teacher preparation programs need to offer theoretical and practical knowledge that enhances pedagogy and technology is paramount.

This action research study examined the barriers that graduate students perceive in the integration of technology in their classrooms and the training they require to integrate technology in their classrooms. The conceptual framework for this research focused on constructivist principles that encourage learning that is authentic, active, and social using technology integration as the instructional tool. To validate and substantiate the reliability of this research inquiry, a comprehensive analysis of the teachers’ perceptions of the problem included in-depth interviews, follow-up interviews, surveys, and document analysis.

The results of this study provided evidence of the perceptions that preservice and inservice teachers had towards technology integration and teacher education curriculum. The findings of this study indicated a relationship between teaching philosophies and the teachers’ positive perspectives of technology integration in the classroom, as well as, professional development limitations and the impact on technology competency level. This research shows that there is a potential for positive social change by illustrating the need for a new curriculum in the teacher preparation program that incorporates technology integration in classroom instruction.




The Tip of the Iceberg in Focus Group Research

Professor Kathryn Ryan, University of Illinois, USA.

Focus groups are fundamentally group interviews or collective conversations about a limited set of topics (Kamberelis & Dimitriadis, 2011; Morgan, 2002). The character of participants’ interactions as well as the type of data collected distinguish the focus group from other methods—specifically, participants interact with ‘‘each other as well as the moderator’’ (Wilkinson, 1998, p. 182). While not a naturalistic setting, the ‘narrative focus group’ allows a closer approximation to natural interaction (Kamberelis & Dimitriadis, 2005). The structure of participant interaction is configured by the researcher to be free flowing, to allow participants to activate and even build collective experiences and memories about their social world (Ryan, Gandha, Culbertson, & Carlson, 2014). The moderator’s role is inhibited or subordinated through the use of loosely structured protocols composed of a few open-ended questions. The group dynamics, social interactions, and social relations that emerge during the focus group help to clarify and reveal what is hidden but often understood by participants and sometimes by researchers (Farnsworth & Boon, 2010). Social relations involving occupations, gender, age, and so on, may significantly affect how participants engage with each other and in the group.

In this paper, I draw on case materials to illustrate ‘moments’ when researchers see beneath the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in narrative focus groups. It is through the stories focus group participants tell themselves and each other that multiple meanings and the richness of their social world emerge, sometimes in surprising ways. The collective identify generated helps individuals and groups explain themselves about shared real struggles–what seems to be uniquely personal can make visible power and its relations. New narratives are generated or old ones told and perhaps revised, complexities and contradictions of experience are uncovered and emerge.


Multi-methods research and triangulation in psychology: A counter-intuitive fit

Dr. Jennifer Yeager, Lecturer in Psychology, Waterford Institute of Technology

This presentation will discuss the relevance of combining quantitative and qualitative methodologies for investigating the provision of social support in the context of an online support group for survivors of sexual violence. Multi-methods research and triangulation of methods afford a better depth of understanding as to how and why survivors use online groups for support. Multi-method approaches to research are uncommon in the field of psychology; this presentation will discuss examples of research in practice, demonstrating the benefits of such an approach to psychological investigation. I argue that multi-methods research can provide a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of the community under investigation, where triangulation between qualitative and quantitative methods provides a platform to examine data for “logical pattern(s) in mixed-method results” (Jick, 1979, p.608). In this sense, validity can be viewed in terms of the researcher’s ability to organize findings within a plausible interpretive framework drawn from multiple vantage points (Brannen, 2005; Jick, 1979).   Ultimately, such an investigation allows for adding a depth of understanding to how survivors of sexual violence utilize online social support, which will be of benefit to mental health practitioners, researchers, and survivors of sexual violence.




Finding the Right Research Question: Mapping as a Method for Managing the Muddle

Dr. Des Carswell, Mary Immaculate College Limerick