In line with its objective of providing a supportive framework for collaborative research and professional activities in teacher education in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS) provides ‘SEED FUNDING’ for projects such as research, conferences and exchanges which further this objective.
For more information download the Seed funding application form 2013 – 2014 1
The tenth annual SCoTENS Conference took place on the 11-12 October 2012 in the Radisson Blu Farnham Estate Hotel, Cavan. The keynote speaker was Sir Ken Robinson, the international expert on education and creativity who addressed the conference on video from the United States. Other speakers included Professor Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (Literacy) at the Open University; Professor Lisbeth Goodman, Chair of Creative Technology Innovation, University College Dublin; Dr Anne Looney, Chief Executive, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment; Mr Richard Hanna, Interim Chief Executive, NI Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, and Sacha Abercorn, the Duchess of Abercorn.
The title for the conference was Creative Teachers for Creative Learners: Implications for Teacher Education and it was jointly opened by the Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Mr Ruairi Quinn TD, and the Northern Ireland Minister for Education, Mr John O’Dowd MLA
Video of Conference Speakers
Download conference programme (pdf 764KB)
It is traditional within courses of Initial Teacher Education (and indeed many Continuing Professional Development courses) for teachers to be taught some fundamental psychology, and there exist many comprehensive psychology textbooks which describe in great detail the theories of Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner etc. There are however fewer textbooks which successfully manage to apply psychological theories to everyday educational issues in the classroom.
Stephen James Minton’s new book Using Psychology in the Classroom manages to do just that in a refreshing and accessible way, creating a useful text for undergraduates but also for serving teachers who are seeking new, evidence-based insights into everyday issues. Minton (a Lecturer in Psychology of Education at Trinity College, Dublin) notes in the introduction that this is not a book about popular self-help psychology (phew!), nor about educational psychology (the testing work of educational psychologists), but is instead concerned with how everyday teaching can be supported by the theories and research of psychologists.
After a useful overview of child and adolescent psychological development, the book comprises seven core chapters, each of which takes a topic of contemporary concern to teachers: the self, self-esteem and self-esteem enhancement; intelligence, learning styles and educational practice; positive discipline, conflict resolution and cooperative learning; special educational needs; preventing and tackling bullying in schools; dealing with prejudice; and stress and stress management for teachers and educators.
Of particular interest to readers here will be chapter six ‘Thinking about Special Educational Needs’. In this thought-provoking chapter Minton does not attempt to provide exhaustive coverage of the enormous topic of SEN. Instead he encourages the reader to think critically about three main issues: how one thinks about SEN (through a discussion of general and specific learning difficulties); the question of neurodiversity (through considering the case of autism where some individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome argue that they do not want to be ‘cured’ and are happy to be different); and the nature of research into SEN (through looking at ADHD where some of the research supporting the existence of ADHD is commissioned by the very drug companies which supply the medication often prescribed).
In this way, Minton’s book does not attempt to offer merely a set of ‘teaching tips’ for dealing with children with SEN in the classroom, but encourages the reader to ask more fundamental questions about their own perceptions and assumptions about what special needs actually are or might be.
As such, this chapter is typical of the others in the book, in that it provides a stimulating read for those who wish to think more critically about a wide range of issues about which psychology has something to say.
For those who want an unreflective tick list for the classroom, this is not the book of choice. For those who want a novel, questioning look at familiar issues, this comes highly recommended.
Written by Nick Dubin, who has Asperger Syndrome (AS) himself, this book gives both a personal and professional insight into the experiences of people with AS as they go through school and enter adulthood. The author recounts how, as a child in the US, he was humiliated by teachers, taunted by his neighbours, tormented by his tennis coach and ostracised by many of his school peers. As a result he contemplated suicide on several occasions.
This book is however more than a personal account of a troubled childhood. The author also provides a useful summary in chapter two of the nature of AS, which is concise and accessible to the non-expert. In addition to the standard descriptions of AS, Dubin adds personal accounts of his own experiences as a result of his increased gullibility, lack of dating experience (as a teenager), unusual use of language, and ‘cultural illiteracy’ where people with AS often spend more time on their particular special interests (he cites his own interest in interstate highways) than on pop culture, thus further distancing themselves from their peers. The example is given of a girl with AS who was singled out in her class for not watching American Idol and not knowing what being “voted off” meant.
The remainder of the book offers very practical advice on how the bullying of children with AS can be prevented. The focus here is on empowerment: of the victims, bystanders, teachers, parents and schools. In terms of the children themselves, Dubin speaks of the fundamental challenge faced by children with AS: as a result of their AS, it can be very difficult to make friends and relate to others in ways which might be considered socially appropriate. Moreover bully-prevention strategies often focus on the building of friendships with peers as the main pre-emptive strategy, the very thing which children with AS often find hardest. Dubin writes however that parents should be encouraged to find other opportunities for social interaction based on their areas of special interest, where their passion for a particular subject can be appreciated and nurtured, irrespective of the age of the other people involved. Dubin himself spent hours playing tennis at a club and was never bullied in that context, where he felt comfortable. The chapter on empowering bystanders complements the research of Salmivalli, Olweus and others in recent years who have identified the importance of encouraging peers to move from a position of passive support or indifference to one of prevention, intervention and defending.
The book concludes with an interview with the author’s parents who look back at their experiences of parenting a child with AS, even before there was a clear diagnosis. Interestingly, they note the importance of the diagnosis itself, and the reassurance it gave. Mom: “What I wish I could go back and change is all the pressure I put on you to socialise more while you were growing up. It made you feel that I didn’t love you for who you were and created terrible conflicts between us. The diagnosis gave me an understanding, which I previously lacked, and has finally enabled the love that we feel for each other to be uncluttered by my placing unreasonable expectations on you” (p.150)
There is much that teachers could learn from reading this powerful book.
See more details here.
The Education and Training Inspectorate of Northern Ireland (ETI) has recently published two short reports based on an innovative new pilot project to promote greater collaboration between mainstream and special schools in the province.
Given the rise in the number of children with SEN in mainstream schools, it is both important and timely that expertise is shared between the two sectors. In addition, such inter-sector collaboration was identified as an area for development in the NI Chief Inspector’s Report (2008-2010).
The first report Special and Mainstream Schools Working Together (ETI, April 2012) is essentially a series of case studies based on a pilot project facilitated by the ETI. In total twenty-four special schools were invited to participate in a project of their own choosing with a neighbouring mainstream school, and were asked to submit a joint self-evaluation report at its conclusion.
Projects were many and varied. Two examples are outlined below:
- Erne Special School worked in partnership with Portora Royal School, Enniskillen on a music and drama project. Pupils and teachers from Erne Special School benefited from the subject expertise of the Portora teachers (the school has had specialist status in Performing Arts), while the mainstream pupils developed greater awareness of disability and SEN. The mainstream teachers identified their own capacity building in the area of teaching pupils with SEN, and were encouraged to disseminate their differentiation skills to colleagues.
- Kilronan Special School worked together with Magherafelt Primary School on an early years play project. Here pupils interacted and played with the toys in their respective schools and were able to interact very successfully. Staff were impressed by the increased independence of some of the children from the special school, and also by the way in which some pupils from the mainstream school took an interest in a non-verbal pupil from the special school, came and sat beside her, held her hand and said hello. The report notes that this was “a lovely moment”.
The report includes many more inspiring reports of projects which have produced very positive outcomes in a very short period of time. Plans are already being made to extend the projects in the coming year.
Accompanying this set of case studies is A Guide to Collaborative Practice (ETI, April 2012). Here the evaluative reports submitted at the conclusion of the pilot projects have been distilled into a series of guidelines to support schools in the future as they would seek to develop effective partnerships and overcome the practical challenges of turning the vision into reality. The guide highlights four key strands of effective collaboration, each of which is explained in detail:
- Identifying a clear rationale and strategic approach to collaborative working
- Deploying resources and agreeing shared responsibilities to enable the collaborative work to progress smoothly and to address any difficulties which may arise
- Building a collaborative ethos and school commitment to inclusive planning
- Monitoring and evaluating the impact and establishing the sustainability of further collaborative action and outcomes.
To read the reports in full, click on the links below:
Special and Mainstream Schools Working Together
A Guide to Collaborative Practice
This year’s annual conference organised by the NI branch of NASEN (National Association for Special Educational Needs) will be held on Saturday 20th October 2012 at Stranmillis University College, Belfast.
The theme this year is ’Spotlight on the SEN Resource File’, published recently by the NI Department of Education, and written by teams of teachers, ELB advisors, ITE lecturers and other educationalists from across the province.
The conference opens at 9am and concludes at 1.30pm. The busy morning will begin with a keynote address by Gillian Boyd (DE), responsible for the publication of the resource file.
Nasen UK Chief Executive Lorraine Peterson OBE will be leading the seminar relating to “The challenging role of the SENCO” and will also be sharing additional valuable new SENCO materials that will soon be available as online resources.
9.35am The ‘A S P I R E’ Document – Resource: Dr Brenda Montgomery
9.55am – 10.55am Session 1 – Choose one seminar
Seminar A Understanding Memory Difficulties – Dr Sharon McMurray Seminar B The Challenging Role of the SENCO Lorraine Petersen OBE Seminar C Gifted and Talented Children- Challenges and Opportunities Dr Noel Purdy
10.55am – 11.25am Refreshments Break and Publishers
11.30am – 12.25pm Session 2
Seminar D Moving from Individual Education Plans to Personalised Learning Plans- Dr John Hunter & David Ryan
12.30pm – 1.30pm Session 3 – Choose one seminar
Seminar E Supporting pupils who have specific difficulties with Maths in the Primary School Deborah Henry Seminar F Autism Spectrum Disorders – Attention Autism Jill Drysdale & Lorraine Scott Seminar G Understanding and Managing Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (SEBD) Dr Brenda Montgomery
1.35pm nasen NI Branch – Annual General meeting – all delegates are welcome to attend.
The cost of the conference is £20 for NASEN members, £30 non-members, £20 classroom assistants/parents/carers, £10 full-time students.
Booking is open now. Forms can be downloaded from the NASEN NI website.
Ciaran teaches in a primary school in Ireland. He qualified three years ago. He tells the story of one of his pupils whose behaviour is particularly challenging:
“Last year I had a class of nine and ten year olds. One of the boys, Niall, had cerebral palsy. That was tricky enough to deal with, as I had never really come across anyone with that before, and we had learnt nothing about it during my teacher training. There just wasn’t time as I did a one year postgrad course. Anyway, I quickly learnt that Niall was very bright but was also very cheeky and manipulative.
He was very quick to make nasty comments to his peers and even tripped up one of the other boys in his class as he went past. I found this really hard to deal with. I think I expected Niall to be the victim of bullying in the class, but in this case he was actually the perpetrator. I felt that I was tiptoeing aroung Niall a lot at the start because I didn’t want to be accused of picking on him. That would have been taken very badly. So for the first few weeks of the year, I did very little to tackle his behaviour, to be honest with you. After half-term, though, there was an incident when Niall said some pretty nasty things to one of the boys who would be very weak academically. You know, calling him “stupid” and “thick” and so on. I knew I needed to act, and so I did…”
Questions for reflection:
- What makes Ciaran’s experience particularly challenging?
- What insight does this give into the nature of bullying in schools, especially in relation to special educational needs/disabilities?
- What would you have done in Ciaran’s situation? Why?
This is a collection of 21 first-person accounts written by fathers about their experiences of parenting children with disabilities. First published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2007, this remarkable volume has a foreword by the then UK Opposition leader (and now Prime Minister) David Cameron who writes openly about his experiences as a parent of a child (Ivan) with severe disabilities.
In the stories which follow, these 21 ’different dads’ each tell of their experiences of coming to terms with the fact that their child has a disability. For some it came as a complete shock with no indication prior to the birth that anything was ‘different’ at all, while for others the nature of their child’s condition came to light much later, for instance, as developmental milestones were missed and diagnoses made. Some dads speak of struggling with local authorities and medical experts to gain access to appropriate services and support for their children; others speak of the responses of people they encounter in the streets (is the staring a sign of concern, curiosity, criticism?); some dads also talk of how their personal faith has helped them to come to terms with their child’s condition. Each case is unique and each perspective adds something different to the picture which is gradually built up of parents’ daily joys and challenges. It is a complex but important picture.
What is ‘different’ about this book however is that it is the fathers (and not the mothers) who are writing. Too often, they claim, dads are left out of consultation processes, sometimes quite inadvertently, sometime perhaps from an assumption that they are not interested. These dads quite rightly object to this, and argue strongly that they should be included as much as their partners. As one dad explains, a failure to make an appointment due to work commitments does not mean that they do not care. It just means that some things cannot be dropped to make room for all the appointments which parents of children with disabilities have to go along to.
This is a refreshingly honest book, at times very moving, at times very humourous, but always engaging. Each story is only a few pages long (and includes a short explanatory note on the nature of the disability) so it is perfect book for busy dads to read in short bursts. It would also make recommended reading however for (student) teachers, classroom assistants and healthcare professionals to gain a valuable and rarely glimpsed insight into the world of fathers in their daily interaction with the children they love.
See link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Different-Dads-Parenting-Disabled-Children/dp/1843104547
Saturday 24th March 2012
Stranmillis University College, Belfast
9.15am – 1.15pm (registration from 8.40am)
NASEN (NI) - the NI branch of the National Association for Special Educational Needs is holding a Study Day in the Conference Hall, Main Building at Stranmillis University College, Belfast on Saturday 24th March 2012 (9.15am – 1.15pm with registration from 8.40am). Entitled “The Building Blocks of Child Development – towards the effective and efficient learner” the study day will be led by the Northern Ireland Regional Multi-Disciplinary Support Teams for Schools.
The Study Day is specifically designed to meet the needs of individuals working with children in the ‘early years’ from birth to around the age of eight – including children attending nursery and primary education Year 1 to Year 4.
The Study Day programme will:
- highlight the regional approaches in Northern Ireland to Education and Health working together
- review the many facets of child development: sensory processing, motor co-ordination, behaviour, speech, language and communication
- provide a holistic understanding of child development
- share strategies to help children achieve their learning potential
NASEN events are attended by teachers, classroom assistants, students, parents and other professionals.
Further information and an application form can be found on the NASEN NI site.
Download a copy of the 2011 SCoTENS Evaluation
In May 2011, a team of three academics from Oxford University (Professor John Furlong, Dr Anna Pendry and Dr Patricie Mertova) was selected to carry out an evaluation of SCoTENS. The team identified a number of key questions to be addressed through their evaluation.
- How well has SCoTENS addressed its mission and objectives during the time of its existence?
- What have been the highlights of its work over the eight-year period?
- Are its mission and objectives still relevant in 2011 in the context of teacher education in Ireland, North and South?
- How is it viewed by its main stakeholders – notably the university education departments, colleges of education, government Departments of Education and other agencies which contribute to its funding?
- How appropriate, effective and sustainable are SCoTENS’ funding, governance and administration arrangements?
- What priorities might be worthy of pursuing for the next 5-10 years?
In order to address these questions, the team employed the following evaluation tools:
- Face-to-face interviews (a 3-day fieldwork visit in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by the two principal evaluators)
- Telephone interviews
- An online survey
- Documentary analysis – website, other publications, minutes and accounts.
Drawing on this evidence, this report is divided in to a number of sections. Section 1, Introduction, describes the background and methodology of the evaluation while Section 2, Aims and Objectives – introduces SCoTENS as an organisation. The following four sections consider each of SCoTENS’ major activities: Section 3, Research Projects; Section 4, Conferences; Section 5, the Website; and Section 6, the Student Exchange Programme. Section 7, considers Future Challenges and Recommendation while Section 8, provides a Conclusion.
Taken over all, the findings of the evaluation are overwhelmingly positive. Despite limited and sometimes precarious funding, significant dependence on the good will of volunteers and the support of a paid secretariat with myriad other responsibilities, SCoTENS has achieved a great deal. For those teacher educators aware of and involved in its work, SCoTENS is highly valued. Many we spoke to believed that the majority of initiatives SCoTENS was involved in would not have happened without its leadership and expert administration. Our evidence makes clear that SCoTENS has enabled the development of networks and encouraged communication and contacts between significant numbers of teacher educators in the North and South of Ireland. Many respondents felt that through SCoTENS they had developed a greater knowledge and understanding of the educational systems and practices across the island of Ireland. The forms of collaboration encouraged by SCoTENS have, we found, stimulated genuine professional and personal development; they have also, many or our respondents believed, contributed to the peace process by helping to normalise relationships within and between the North and the South. There was widespread belief that despite its achievements, without SCoTENS’s continued existence, those achievements would rapidly fade.
Not surprisingly, after eight years of extensive activity, and now operating in a changing political, economic and educational landscape, the evaluation team were able to identify challenges for the future. In Section 7 we discuss a number of them: the ‘reach’ of the organisation; the consistency of the quality of some aspects of its work – particularly the research projects; issues of succession planning; the challenges of future finance. None of these will come as any great surprise to those most involved in SCoTENS, and although each presents a serious issue for to the leadership to address, none should be seen as undermining the very strongly positive findings of our evaluation.