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Dr Stephen Roulston, Lecturer in the School of Education, was part of the SCoTENS (Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South) project team which has been named winner of the 2021 SCoTENS John Coolahan Award for the RAP Project – Readiness and Practice to Teach and Learn in a Digital World.

The John Coolahan Award was created by SCoTENS to recognise outstanding educational research that brought together professionals from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is presented annually to the authors of the Seed Funding Report which is recognised to be most in line with the values and ideals of SCoTENS.

Funded by SCoTENS, the RAP Project’s research explored Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Students’ use of ICT on the island of Ireland. It was conducted between 2018-2020 and comprised a comprehensive survey, lecture observations and a series of interviews that was carried out with a team including Dr. Pamela Cowan, Queen’s University Belfast (Lead Partner – North), Dr. Martin Brown, University College Dublin, and Miss Rachel Farrrell, University College Dublin.

Key findings from the research Readiness and Practice to Teach and Learn in a Digital World (RAP) suggest that;

  • While earlier research has traditionally suggested that non-STEM ITE tutors were less confident or knowledgeable about ICT than their STEM colleagues, this was not replicated in the pre-service teachers in this study.
  • There was more confidence in the suggestion that the length of the course had an impact on readiness to employ ICT, with the respondents on a four-year course more likely to have higher scores for innovativeness although, paradoxically, they also had higher discomfort levels. This might be explained as the combination of a willingness to use ICT, alongside a pragmatic evaluation of the challenges of ICT implementation in pedagogy in these students.
  • In schools with high levels of connectivity and ICT resources, the student teachers were keen to utilise all available opportunities to develop their pupils’ ICT skills in the classroom with the ongoing support of the teachers. However, many student teachers were faced with the ‘lottery’ of school placement and the resultant ‘challenge’ of having to make the best use of the limited facilities available to them in the school – both hardware and the lack of support afforded by formal mentors, perhaps in the role of Cooperating Teachers, and other teachers in the school.

SCoTENS is a network of colleges of education, university education departments, teaching councils, curriculum councils, education trade unions and education centres on the island of Ireland with a responsibility for and interest in teacher education.

For more information on Ulster University’s involvement in SCoTENS, contact Professor Linda Clarke, Research Director for Education.