Education - Doctoral Theses

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Now showing 1 - 5 of 59
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    Inclusionary leadership: a qualitative study of principals’ experiences, practices and perceptions of leading autism classes in Irish primary schools
    (University College Cork, 2023) Dennehy, Linda; Cahill, Kevin; Moynihan, Joseph
    This study explores the experiences, practices and perceptions of primary school principals currently leading autism classes in Ireland. Autism classes in mainstream primary schools are becoming increasingly common in the Irish education system. The prevalence of autism classes highlights the importance of their role in enabling autistic children to attend mainstream schools. It reflects the increasing number of autistic pupils who require these specialised placements. Primary schools serve all children. It is essential that autistic children are supported in the best way possible so they can reach their full potential. The principal has a pivotal role in all aspects of his or her school, including leading the autism classes. Given the centrality of their role, it is imperative that the principal is supported by the best practices and theory available. This study sought to give the principals time to reflect on their inclusive leadership and decipher what it meant for them in their lived experience and context. Theories of leadership through a socio-cultural lens frame the overall study. A qualitative research design was adopted using semi-structured interviews with 15 primary school principals. Analysis of the data was conducted using a reflective thematic analysis approach. Findings of the research reveal that there are particular leadership styles that align with an inclusive leadership approach. These styles are distributed leadership, transformational leadership and instructional leadership. A positive disposition towards inclusion is an important factor in the principal’s perceptions of their leadership. The idea of inclusionary leadership is borne out of the study. This term indicates that leaders striving for inclusion in their schools do not view it as a destination to be reached but rather a long-term journey they travel. Reciprocal leadership within the whole school community has an influence on the sustainability of the principal’s role. The autism class as a model of a professional learning community emerges from the research and has potential to enhance the professional life of the stakeholders in the school. This research is a pathway for further study in the field. It has implications for pupils, principals, school communities and policy makers regarding the value of the work of inclusionary leaders.
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    An investigation of the development and evaluation of online approaches for improved kinaesthetic learning in science
    (University College Cork, 2023) Scanlan, Anna M.; McCarthy, Tommie V.; Kennedy, Declan
    Kinaesthetic learning approaches (KL) offer great potential to enhance learning in the advanced molecular sciences. However, online KL remains under-researched and poorly implemented on affordable, scalable platforms. Furthermore, there appears to be a disconnect between the fields of education psychology and neuroscience when discussing kinaesthetic techniques. This research connects what is known from both disciplines to provide a coherent overview of what constitutes kinaesthetic learning. Here, an online KL assembly model is presented which proved effective for learning advanced molecular science topics as exemplified by three different lessons: the Lac Operon gene regulation system in E. coli, DNA transcription and translation, and Salmonella virulence factors. A mixed-methods study was conducted including three pilot studies, three randomised control trials and two sub-studies. Study participants included over 100 students from a variety of secondary schools (typically aged 16-19 years), over 250 first-year undergraduate science and medicine students, and 18 postgraduate students from both science and non-science disciplines. Topics were chosen for which each cohort would have little to no prior learning. Results show that KL assembly was at least as effective and, in some instances better than, some top learning strategies identified in education psychology namely, computer notetaking (Trafton & Trickett, 2001; Bui et al., 2012; Chi & Wylie, 2014) and retrieval-practice (O’Day & Karpicke, 2021). KL assembly involving both movement and recall was most effective overall for long-term learning retention, and for learning science material that is represented in a complex graphical and text format.
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    The powerful impact of space on student learning at three universities: a design thinking, and scholarship of teaching and learning approach
    (University College Cork, 2023) Power, Catherine (Katie); Supple, Briony; Chambers, Fiona; Carnell, Brent; University College Cork; Munster Technological University
    Learning spaces are a crucial component of the student journey through university education. This study investigates the impact of physical spaces on learning experiences at three universities: Munster Technological University, University College Cork, and University College London. The study employs a range of user-centric qualitative data collection methods (survey, observation, think-aloud, creative sticker choice and empathy mapping), and produces findings that I propose could be universally applicable in higher education settings. The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (Boyer, 1990) and Design Thinking (Brown, 2008) are brought together as a dual methodology for the exploration of learning spaces. Through this fusion, I introduce a Theory of Learning Places, whereby space is transformed into place through meaningful interactions as students and teachers engage in praxis. A conceptual framework underpins the study and three research questions explore the perceptions learners and teachers have about the spaces where they learn and teach; how these end-users (students) and key stakeholders (teachers) articulate the impact of spaces on the learning experience; and the opportunities that exist to develop new approaches in the use of spaces. This study adopted a qualitative research approach (social constructivism as a macro-paradigm), and with the adopted dual methodology of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and Design Thinking, utilised novel approaches to data collection. The data were analysed through two rounds, firstly using an inductive analysis approach (Harry et al., 2005) and secondly by an ethnodrama persona explicitation role-play. The research themes identified were identity and belonging in spaces; social justice and human rights in respect of spaces; and empowerment of persons in spaces. These themes are broken into a spectrum of sub-themes to provide strategic foresight and guidance on how to incorporate the user experience in the design, planning and use of university learning spaces. I argue that students and teachers must be afforded a voice in the planning and design of learning spaces, to embed a people-centric research-informed approach to their use. A set of best practice guidelines are suggested for early and ongoing engagement with students and teachers in the creation and use of physical spaces.
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    ‘Is That Enough?’ An examination of the conceptual metaphors post-primary pre-service teachers use to make sense of collaborative learning
    (University College Cork, 2023) Harrington, Fergal; Long, Fiachra; Ni Riordain, Maire; Rutherford, Vanessa; National University of Ireland
    Collaborative Learning (CL) is resoundingly endorsed throughout the academic literature and developing more collaborative cultures at all levels of education has become an explicit goal, nowhere more so than in Initial Teacher Education. Despite this, it continues to encounter noticeable ‘student resistance’ and stunted rates of propagation. This investigation centres on the language-in-action of seven groups of Pre-Service Teachers from 2016 to 2019, as they engage in CL as part of their Initial Teacher Education. Adopting a duality of Cognitive Linguistic and Conversation Analysis lenses allowed audio recordings of these collaborative conversations to be scrutinised and understood in terms of the interactional behaviours and learner- expressed goals, as well as the conceptual models depicted through the metaphoric language embedded in that speech. This revealed an absence of a clear and shared understanding of CL, a problem compounded by the systematic alignment of the conversation away from epistemic engagement and development, commonly exhibiting discomfort with epistemic authority. This phenomenon was echoed in the emergence of a system of cognitive metaphors which structurally provided for conceptualising their collaboration task, not in terms of an epistemically- developmental activity, but as a labour-centric one. This inquiry uniquely builds on both existing CL and ITE literature, particularly in the context of student resistance and the epistemic ramifications of various conceptual metaphors. It further contributes to literature which recognises the critical role PSTs’ epistemic beliefs can impact their teacher training.
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    Investigating the relationship between perceived motor competence and actual motor competence in adolescent youth
    (University College Cork, 2022-10-05) Philpott, Conor Timothy; O'Brien, Wesley; Chambers, Fiona; Belton, Sarahjane
    Background: Research across the globe has highlighted that adolescents are lacking proficiency in fundamental movement skills (FMS) and functional movement patterns, i.e. in their actual motor competence (AMC). Additionally, research in the domain of self-perceptions illustrates that adolescents possess inordinate levels of perceived motor competence (PMC) relative to their low level of actual ability. Evaluating the role of the school community (i.e. physical education class and other classroom settings) in the development of AMC and realistic self-perceptions is key, as they form essential facets to growth in these areas. This PhD research encompassed three phases. The first phase saw the gathering of cross-sectional baseline motor competence data on adolescent youth by sex and school year (i.e. grade) across the first three years (Junior Cycle) of post-primary education. The second phase formed part of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to examine and evaluate an eight-week multi-component, school-based motor competence intervention entitled Project FLAME (Fundamental and Functional Literacy for Activity and Movement Efficiency), and its role in improving the alignment between PMC and AMC among youth. A third phase of this research comprised of a validity and reliability study to gauge the utility of a tool (utilised in phase one and two) to assess PMC data among adolescent youth. Methods: Phases one and two (baseline and RCT) recorded data among adolescents (phase one: N = 373; mean age: 14.38 ± 0.87 years; phase two: N= 324; mean age= 14.5 ± 0.88 years), in six schools (two all-male, two all-female, and two mixed-sex). In both phases, the primary outcomes measures involved 10 FMS (locomotor, object-control, and stability subsets) assessed through established measures the Test of Gross Motor Development-2 and the Get Skilled Get Active resource, in addition to 7 movements from the Functional Movement ScreenTM (FMS™). Perceived Motor competence was assessed using the Project FLAME Perceived Movement Competence Tool (PF-PMC) and the perceived functional motor competence tool. The Project FLAME intervention was structured around four components, the (i) Teacher component, (ii) Student component, (iii) Whole-School component and (iv) Digital component. Multi-level regression models were used to assess the effect of the intervention for improving the alignment between PMC and FMS. Age and sex were controlled for during these analyses, with interaction effects for the intervention and time assessed. The phase three reliability and validity study (N = 147; mean age: 13.61 ± .93 years) recruited participants from three second-level schools (one all-male, one all-female, and one mixed-sex) for a seven-day test-retest reliability assessment of the PF-PMC and concurrent validity which compared the PF-PMC with the pictorial scale of Perceived Movement Skill Competence (PMSC). Results: Results from baseline data indicated that fundamental and functional movement proficiency remained low, with high levels of self-perception not reflective of AMC. Pre-Post-intervention data following the Project FLAME intervention trial observed no significant effect for the intervention on alignment between PMC and AMC, however a small significant relationship between PMC and AMC remained (β = .23, p < .001). Phase three reported strong concurrent validity between the PF-PMC and PMSC (r = 0.83, p<.001), in addition to excellent internal consistency, and test-retest reliability. Discussion: The findings from phase one demonstrate the necessity for movement-oriented interventions in adolescent youth. Though prior research under the Project FLAME remit has previously demonstrated an ability to improve AMC in youth across 8-weeks, phase two indicates that an increase in the number of sessions may be needed to provoke greater alignment between PMC and AMC. Phase three illustrates that the PF-PMC is fit for use, though additional research for construct validity may be needed.