All posts by Tricia Kelly

John Coolahan Award 2024

In recognition of John’s contribution to the foundation of SCoTENS, the John Coolahan award is made to the authors of the Seed Funding Report which is recognised to be most in line with the values and ideals of SCoTENS.  This award is awarded annually at the SCoTENS Annual Conference.

Through his pioneering work on SCoTENS since 2003 John immeasurably enhanced cross-border cooperation in teacher education, such that the SCoTENS mission is synonymous with his name.  Thanks to John’s vision, teacher educators, student teachers, serving teachers and doctoral students have learned to work across boundaries, to build bridges and to recognise common interests and challenges facing contemporary education on both sides of the border. The opportunities provided for cross-border working through SCoTENS have yielded new knowledge and understandings that shape daily practices and attitudes.

This years successful team was Dr Gabrielle Nig Uidhir and Dr T.J. Ó Ceallaigh for their exceptional project TCL-IME – Developing Teacher and Leadership Capacity in Irish-Medium Education:  An Analysis of Immersion-Specific Competencies. 

TLC-IME English version of report for SCoTENS

TCL-IME Irish version of Report for SCoTENS

SCoTENS Research Webinar 2024 – Online

This year’s SCoTENS Research Webinar took place on 13 March 2024 online. 

The event was aimed at members of SCoTENS and comprised the following: presentations by a small group of team members who have been successful in recent SCoTENS funded projects; the launch of our Annual Report by Prof Linda Clarke, Emeritus Professor, Ulster University and the presentation of this year’s John Coolahan by Prof Noel Purdy, Director of Research and Scholarship; Director of CREU (the Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement); Head of Education Studies at Stranmillis University College Belfast to the authors of the Seed Funding Report which is recognised to be the most in line with the values and ideals of SCoTENS.  This years successful team was Dr Gabrielle Nig Uidhir and Dr T.J. Ó Ceallaigh for their project TCL-IME – Developing Teacher and Leadership Capacity in Irish-Medium Education:  An Analysis of Immersion-Specific Competencies. The last part of the evening was a short Q&A session to support potential applicants to this year’s seed funding programme. 

SCoTENS would like to thank those who participated in the very rewarding event.  We are delighted with the contributions by participants and it is reassuring to hear that the work and values held dear by SCoTENS are valued and shared by so many of our colleagues.

If you missed out on the webinar, or indeed would like to watch it again please catch up at the link below!

SCoTENS Research Webinar 2024



As part of our ongoing series of online events SCoTENS are delighted to announce that they are running a short research-focused webinar on 13 March 2024 from 7.00-8.20pm 

This event is aimed at members of SCoTENS and will comprise the following: short presentations by a small group of team members who have been successful in recent SCoTENS funded projects; the launch of our Annual Report by Prof Linda Clarke, Emeritus Professor, Ulster University and the presentation of this year’s John Coolahan by Prof Noel Purdy, Director of Research and Scholarship; Director of CREU (the Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement); Head of Education Studies at Stranmillis University College Belfast to the authors of the Seed Funding Report which is recognised to be the most in line with the values and ideals of SCoTENS; and, finally, a short Q&A session to support potential applicants to this year’s seed funding programme. 

When: 13 March 2024 at 7.00pm

Research Event Programme 2024

Please Register in advance for this webinar at the link below:


Play for Inclusive Education on the Island of Ireland – PIE


The aim of this research project was to develop a survey to gather the attitudes of primary school teachers across the island of Ireland towards play, including a special focus on attitudes towards play for the inclusion of autistic learners within primary school classrooms. Given the significant lack of research in this area, the project sought to provide insight into primary school teachers’ current play beliefs across the island of Ireland and facilitate the development of a measure of teachers’ play beliefs for future research.
Play is central to early childhood development (Singer, Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2003; Whitebread et al., 2012). This is reflected within both national (NCCA, 2009) and international policy recommendations (UNCRC, 1989). However, it remains unclear as to whether such values translate into practice. As a result, it is timely to systematically examine teachers’ perceptions of play within primary school education and to provide data on a significant gap within the play literature. Also, it is important to examine teachers’ attitudes towards play for inclusion. Specifically in the context of widening diversity of classrooms, including increasing numbers of autistic children accessing mainstream education (DES, 2019), as well as a dearth of knowledge on play for inclusion within the primary school classroom (O’Keeffe & McNally, 2020).

The SCoTENS seed funding supported a pilot study of teacher and child attitudes to play in education and involved several key data collection phases in order to develop a robust and rigorous measure of teacher attitudes to play in education. First, the literature was systematically searched to identify questions that had previously been used in empirical published research to assess teacher attitudes to play in education, with an additional search specifically for research on play for inclusive education. Second, parents and primary school-aged children (aged 8 or older) were invited to interviews to inform the development of the survey measure content. Lastly, primary school teachers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were interviewed in semi-structured online interviews (20-30 minutes) to facilitate the development of an appropriate survey instrument in order to ascertain teachers’ play beliefs. During the interview, participants were prompted by the facilitator with a series of questions to ascertain their attitudes towards play in education more broadly and play for the inclusion of autistic pupils. Drawing together input from children, parents, teachers and the published literature, we developed a teacher questionnaire to measure attitudes to play in primary school education.

The questionnaire developed in this study will be tested and validated beyond the lifecycle of this project and will become an openly accessible resource, making an important contribution to play research. By developing a robust instrument to ascertain teachers’ attitudes towards play and play for inclusion of autistic learners within the classroom, our measure will facilitate future rigorous research in this field. Given that this is an emerging area of research, this project involved close consultation with key stakeholders (Milton, 2019; Fletcher-Watson et al., 2019) whereby parents and teachers of autistic children and school-aged children were invited to contribute their views at the beginning of the project, in formulating interview and survey content including aspects that they feel are important in the context of this research.

SRASI – Shared Responsibility Across a Shared Island: Teaching social justice in initial teacher education

SRASI Report

The Shared Responsibility Across a Shared Island (SRASI) project aimed to (i) develop and share a teaching approach to social justice across two Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) programmes from North and South, and (ii) encourage teacher educators and preservice teachers (PSTs) to learn with and from each other, within and across their respective jurisdictions. The participants were teacher educators and PSTs attached to two teacher education programmes in the North (Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) Physical Education) and in the South (Professional Master’s in Education (PME) Physical Education). Three teacher educators and 12 PSTs were attached to the programme from the North and five teacher educators and 24 PSTs were attached to the programme from the South. Multiple data sources (including online recorded meetings, one face-to-face meeting, focus groups and debriefs) were collected and analysed throughout the thematic analysis.
The findings are presented as multiple ways of considering the experiences, positions and directions of those involved in the project and are captured with reference to ‘space’. PSTs and teacher educators occupy multiple spaces (sometimes at the same time) that are considered to be connected to exposure to, and experiences of, social justice matters. The concept of space allows the findings to be presented in a way that directly relates back to addressing the research questions of (i) the way in which facilitating shared discussions around social justice (in PETE programmes North and South) enhance PSTs’ and teacher educators’ perspectives and experiences of addressing social justice in schools, and (ii) considerations that need to be addressed in formalising a shared North and South PETE space to discuss and enact social justice in schools.
The key findings focus on (i) the integration of social justice matters across two jurisdictions and within PETE programmes, (ii) teacher educators’ exploration and experience in teaching about and for social justice, (iii) setting realistic expectations to encourage engagement with social justice matters, (iv) School Placement as an opportunity to experience the realities of social justice matters, (v) the similarity of experiences between jurisdictions, and (vi) PSTs’ acknowledgement of personal growth with respect to social justice matters.
Six recommendations are aligned with the six key findings:
Recommendation 1: To create a safe space, teacher educators and PSTs should continually engage within and across their respective jurisdictions to determine how best to maximise the engagement in discussing social justice matters, appreciating that this takes time.
Recommendation 2: Teacher educators’ understanding of their positionality and vulnerabilities in exploring social justice matters is central to appreciating their role in encouraging PSTs’ engagement with social justice matters.
Recommendation 3: Sufficient time needs to be allowed to determine the ‘readiness’ of teacher educators and PSTs to develop appropriate dispositions and aligned skill-sets that will enhance engagement with social justice matters.
Recommendation 4: Appreciating that the realities of teaching in a school heightens PSTs’ exposure to social justice matters, PSTs need help to consider how best to encourage teachers and schools to adapt approaches and practices that address social justice matters.
Recommendation 5: Consider the extent to which teacher educators and PSTs can learn from each other about social justice matters which arise in different school and teaching contexts as well as geographical jurisdictions.
Recommendation 6: Provide PSTs with opportunities for modelling practices and regular reflection on experiences and exposure to social justice matters with a view to acknowledging personal growth and determining how best to develop an ongoing commitment to social justice matters.

Developing Teacher and Leadership Capacity in Irish Medium Education: An Analysis of Immersion Specific Competences (TLC IME)

TLC-IME English version of report for SCoTENS

TCL-IME Irish version of Report for SCoTENS

Irish-medium education (IME) is a form of bilingual education in which students receive subject matter instruction through the medium of a minority language, which they are learning at school. This type of education has grown significantly since the 1970s and in 2023-23 caters for 66477 pupils (i.e. 5%) in primary and post-primary schools throughout Ireland: 60.059 pupils in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) and 6,418 students in Northern Ireland (NI) (; In addition, the extensive network of Irish-medium (IM) feeder nurseries throughout the island provides an important foundation for IM primary education and is the access route for most families who chose IME. Notwithstanding their increased popularity and success, IME programmes remain complex to implement. Teachers are often challenged to rely on their own professional judgement and experience in the absence of research-informed resources like a language framework for pupils or a comprehensive inventory of immersion-specific competences for teachers (Ó Ceallaigh et al., 2019; Ó Ceallaigh & Ó Laoire, 2021). The need to improve some aspects of IME provision becomes more critical as the sector grows (Ó Ceallaigh & Ní Shéaghdha, 2017; Ó Duibhir, 2018). Scholars agree that immersion teaching – distinct from traditional content or language teaching – is driven by professional values and requires a particular knowledge base and pedagogical skill set (e.g. Cammarata & Ó Ceallaigh, 2020; Mac Corraidh, 2008, 2021; Ó Ceallaigh & Ní Shéaghdha, 2017; Ó Duibhir, 2018). Despite the extensive corpus of research into multilingualism, no studies nor curriculum guidelines have explicitly identified the immersion-specific competences demanded by the IME setting. There is a growing recognition that IME teaching makes higher demands in terms of disciplinary expertise and knowledge (Cammarata & Ó Ceallaigh, 2020). However, what constitutes an ideal IME immersion knowledge base has yet to be well understood or clearly described. In addition, the values which underpin, guide and shape the work of IME teachers are yet to be defined.
The aim of this study is to firstly identify this ideal knowledge base, i.e. distinctive professional competences that are considered essential to teachers in IME, and secondly to provide examples of these distinctive professional competences in practice. Utilising an online questionnaire, a student teacher symposium, interviews and focus groups, data were collected from key stakeholders (n=78) across the continuum of IM education in Northern Ireland (NI) and in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) e.g. student teachers, practising teachers, principals, initial teacher education providers.
Three broad themes emerged for data analysis – vision and values, teacher knowledge for immersion, and pedagogical skills and practices. A range of essential competences are set out under each theme in this report.
Findings from this SCoTENS study have potential to inform the design of an immersion-specific TPL framework in Ireland. Such a framework would enable IME teachers to engage in ongoing, in-depth, systematic and reflective examinations of their practice. The researchers wish to highlight the fact that the core competences of the immersion teacher are not presented as a static, complete set of descriptors. Rather, they are integral to the reflective, evolving, generative identity of the IME teacher and should be re-visited, reviewed and further developed, as appropriate. Progress towards that goal will depend significantly on a commitment by policy-makers to anchor core immersion competences in
qualification frameworks and adopt TPL standards that guide design, evaluation and funding of IME TPL initiatives, enabling IME teachers to manifest and develop these core immersion competencies.

Interactive Apps and Narrative Writing

Interactive Apps and Narrative Writing – 2023

In a recent Briefing Paper entitled ‘Education across the island of Ireland: comparing systems and outcomes’, Roulston (2021) argues that the curriculum, pedagogic approaches and assessment in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are markedly different and he asserts that there is a need for both jurisdictions to learn from other systems and to move towards systems of education which meet the needs of all, and not just a privileged few. From its establishment in 2003, as a safe space for teacher educators to come together and discuss issues of common interest and from its deep rooted commitment to quality teaching and learning for all (Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South[SCoTENS], n.d.) the SCoTENS Seed Funding Scheme is ideally situated to allow this learning about specific issues in education to take place.
One such issue in education is the teaching of writing in the primary classroom. Good writing is not only essential to students’ success in school it is pervasive in the world of work (Graham et al., 2015). This prevalence of writing in everyday life exacts a toll on those who do not learn to write well and can limit personal attainment (Graham, 2006). The complexity of writing means that teachers face many challenges in teaching it, yet supporting children to generate and share their thoughts in authentic writing experiences is crucial (Gerde et al., 2019). It has been suggested that there is far less research on the teaching of writing than on the other elements of the 3 Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) (Slavin et al., 2019). Given the influx of new technologies in everyday life and also within the classroom, there has been a growing body of research which is beginning to identify some of the affordances of digital technology within literacy (Kucirkova and Sakr, 2015). Dunn and Sweeney (2018) argue for thoughtful and intentional use of technology to allow for children to be engaged in learning in ways that are meaningful, creative and allow children agency in developing texts which resonate with their everyday technoliteracy practices.

SCoTENS Doctoral Workshop 2023

The Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS) invites proposals for participation and working papers at the 5th SCoTENS Doctoral Studies Roundtable.  The Roundtable will provide a mix of short presentations by participants on their work in progress and will also feature participation by SCoTENS colleagues who are leaders in the field of Teacher Education and related research in Ireland and beyond.

The Doctoral Studies Roundtable will be held in conjunction with the Annual SCoTENS Conference, which runs on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 October 2023 in the Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh. The conference theme this year is Celebrating 20 years of SCoTENS: HOPES, DREAMS AND POSSIBILITIES FOR TEACHER EDUCATION. The Roundtable will take place on the Thursday morning at 11am.

This Roundtable will bring together doctoral researchers working on topics relating to education and educators in its broadest sense on this island.  In Ireland, north and south, diversity and inclusion remain significant challenges and the conference will explore the links between education, schooling and societal wellbeing and inclusion. It will debate the purposes of education and consider what pedagogies are needed to challenge oppression and marginalisation.

A limited number of accepted contributions will address issues in the general field of educators and education – ideally in light of the concerns of the conference theme as noted here. We, therefore, invite doctoral students interested in these and related issues to apply for a place at the Roundtable. The Roundtable will provide a space for doctoral researchers to meet and discuss their interests, to showcase their work, and to participate in the SCoTENS Conference more broadly.

Accommodation and meals will be provided, and participants will also have full access to the main conference.  Please submit your proposal on the attached form to before the deadline of Friday 15 September 2023 at 4pm.

Doctoral Workshop Application Form

Invitation to Submit Proposal to present at the SCoTENS Conference 19 and 20 October 2023, Lough Erne Resort, Co Fermanagh

The committee is delighted to host this conference to mark twenty years since SCoTENS was established. In this special year, our conference will be a celebratory one, and inputs will follow a slightly different format than those at previous conferences. The new round table format has been designed to facilitate speakers and delegates in reflecting on the last twenty years, celebrating all that has been achieved in teacher education, and looking to the future with hope.  

The conference has also been designed to facilitate conversation, creativity and connection. In that regard we invite proposals to present at the Round Table Conversation.  The Round Table Conversation (replacing the traditional workshops) will take the format of a series of parallel conversations in the main conference room. Each conversation will take place at a round table, with seating arranged to allow for two contributors, one facilitator, and up to seven other delegates at each table. Contributors at each table will present separately on their chosen topic (10-15 minutes), while the session chair will facilitate a conversation whereby delegates respond to what they have heard, offer feedback, or pose questions to the two contributors.  Thus we invite proposals where the presenter will select a theme of their own choice related to teacher education and possibly drawing on one of the themes of the SCOTENS conferences over the past 20 years.  Inputs should encourage dialogue and do not require power point presentations.  Questions that should inform your proposal include the following:

  • What should we be celebrating from the past 20 years?
  • What should we be aspiring to / imagining for the next 20 years?
  • What in the present gives you hope?

If accepted, the SCOTENS committee will arrange for each RTC to have a facilitator and up to 7 participants. Selection of presentations will be based on fit with SCOTENS conference themes over the past 20 years and/or fit with issues in contemporary teacher education on this island.

Please submit your proposal of no more than 300 words by Monday 11 September 2023 at 12.00pm on the following form:


If you require any further information please contact