The focus of research in Education is applying theory in practice, with the emphasis on influencing policy, curriculum and pedagogy. A core strategy is to identify educational need and then to secure funding for research and development work which embraces diversity; promotes inclusion; and contributes to building a shared future beyond conflict.
Educational research currently coalesces around three clusters connected through their application to practice. The first concentrates on teacher education, the second has a broader inter-disciplinary focus on children and youth, and the third specialises in conflict and peace-building.
Professional Education and Pedagogical Practice
The Professional Education and Pedagogical Practice strand focuses on learning and teaching issues which both emanate from, and inform, the School’s teacher education programmes, its TESOL programme, its work in continuing education and its Library and Information Management activities.
The School has had a long commitment to researching the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in teaching and learning, encouraging the seamless application of ICT innovation to curriculum and practice. Research in this area includes the creation of learning communities linked through technology at primary, second, and tertiary levels, on-line learning and the creation of e-portfolios to enhance teacher creativity and reflection and the investigation of the potential use of iPad technology in Teacher Education.
Children, Youth and Adults
Children, Youth and Adults: Educating for Inclusion, Improving Outcomes for Children, Youth and Adults: was strengthened by the establishment of a rights-based Children and Youth research programme (CYP) supported by grants of £1.4 m. from Atlantic Philanthropies and operating in collaboration with NUI Galway to monitor the welfare of children and youth across the island of Ireland. CYP has developed child’s rights outcome indicators (O’Connor and Monteith) that have been acknowledged by First Minister, Peter Robinson, as a core resource that will: inform reporting to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child; monitor outcomes for children and young people; and inform the development of children’s policy in Northern Ireland. Improving outcomes for children, youth and adults has been a research focus in the School over an extended period of time, with an emphasis on Special Educational Needs, inclusive education and social marginalisation (O’Connor, Irwin, Bates). This work has generated a strong inter-disciplinary profile and strong partnerships have been established across health, welfare, social policy and youth justice domains inside and outside the University. Research emanating from the School’s work in Library and Information Services (Bates) has increasingly focused on issues of access to information, literacy development and the marginalisation and inclusion of both youth and adults.
Education, Conflict and Peace-building
Education, Conflict and Peace-building, is a longstanding research theme within the School.
From the 1970s the School has pioneered a series of educational interventions in Religious Education, Integrated Education, Community Relations and Citizenship Education which have been the focus for important education policy responses to conflict in NI. Roulston and Hansson, jointly funded with the School of Environmental Studies, are using GIS systems to monitor young people’s social movements beyond their own immediate environs, in the context of divided communities. In relation to the formal curriculum a Standing Conference of Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS) funded initiative in the field of history education is examining the contrasting importance given to political history in primary schools, north and south (McCully). O’Connor has undertaken an evaluation of the implementation of the Local and Global Citizenship programme within the NI Curriculum. Reilly, working with QUB, has assessed the impact of Global Citizenship Education in a NI context. A recent UNESCO report (Smith and Hansson) has challenged a shift in government policy towards support for the concept of Shared Education (co-operation between religiously separate schools without commitment to structural reform to bring about a fully integrated system).
Education and Conflict cluster outputs, through the UNESCO Centre, have informed research, policy and practice on education, conflict and peace-building in a range of international development contexts. Smith was an advisor and contributing editor to the Education for All, Global Monitoring Report (2011) and is currently technical advisor to the UNICEF Peace-building, Education and Advocacy programme (2012-15), a $150 m. global initiative in 14 conflict affected countries, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands. Field based research has been completed in Nepal (DFID and EU), Sierra Leone (GiZ) and Uganda (UNICEF). An analysis of Norway’s support to education in fragile situations (Smith Ellison) has been compiled for NORAD and presented at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Oslo, 2013).