Ready to Learn – Taking the First Step

‘Oh I was just wondering have you got a moment, I just want to ask you about something‘ she had arrived at NCI reception and they suggested I might meet with her. ‘No problem at all‘ I assured her while thinking how much I had to do that afternoon. Five minutes later she sat in my office. She was very nervous and I thought I noticed a slight trembling in her voice. Her name was Susan. ‘It’s like this‘ she said ‘I was thinking of doing a course here but I am not sure if I’d be able for it‘. She went on to tell me her story. She left school at sixteen without a Leaving Cert. She worked in the retail sector for the last twenty five years and now she is a manager. She is married with three kids and two of them are in college. She reads a lot and is well liked by her colleagues. Generally, she’s happy. But there’s always been a niggle. An unease and sense of being often left out, ignored and taken-for-granted. ‘Sure what would Susan know‘ she once overheard a younger colleague remark. Susan explained that she has been thinking about Read More …

New Learning and Education Degrees at National College of Ireland

I am delighted to introduce two new degree programmes at NCI the BA (Honours) in Early Childhood Education and the BA (Honours) in Adult and Workforce Education.  These are new awards developed by our team to address the growing interest in education at all stages of life and in all contexts. An important idea underpinning our approach to learning is that education is not confined to school. We learn so much in early childhood that stays with us throughout life and likewise when our school years are over we continue to learn as we progress through our career and meet the challenges of our lifespan. It is natural to learn. This seems like an obvious statement but it is so simple we often overlook its importance. We are ‘natural born learners’ and more than any other living organism we are destined to learn all the way through life. Early Childhood Educators are now rightfully regarded as professional practitioners who require advanced qualifications and specialist knowledge and skills. The sector is now the subject of important legislative and policy developments. It is a wonderful area to work in and requires committed educators trained to the highest level. Adult and Workforce Educators Read More …

Learning Without Assessment and The Willie Clancy Summer School

If you’re ever lucky enough to find yourself in Miltown Malbay, County Clare, Ireland, around the early part of July each year you will find a most wonderful musical and learning event taking place: the Willie Clancy Summer School. Sadly, one of its founders Muiris Ó Rócháin passed away this year. Many years ago I made a TV documentary called Up Sráid Eoin about the wren boys of Dingle and Muiris featured prominantly in the film. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam usual (trans: May he be honoured at the right hand of God) . Now let me tell you about this school. It uses a form of cascade to facilitate musicians of all levels (and ages) to improve their playing of traditional music. The development of Irish set dancing skills is also an integral part of the week long programme. So experts teach the proficient, the proficient teach the novices etc.. In addition, there is a very strong social aspect to playing traditional music, its fullest expression is through group playing with a mixture of fiddle, flute, tin whistle, uilleann pipes, accordion, guitars, banjo and bodhráns. Throughout the week there is a mix of structured classes and spontaneous Read More …

How to Write a Literature Review for a Dissertation

Writing a Literature Review Writing a dissertation is one of the great learning tasks of college education. However, many students find it a daunting process. One of the first challenges you face is writing a literature review and the purpose of this post is to help you get started with the process, to keep you on track as you proceed and to provide a means of self-reviewing your outputs when you (think you) have completed. Let’s start with a simple set of questions: What constitutes a literature review? What is it used for? and What distinguishes a good literature review from a poor one? As the name implies, a literature review is a review of other people’s work in a particular field of scholarship. Such a review is always directed and informed by the research question to be addressed. For example, if your research question is related to adult literacy then you will need to provide a review of other works, be they theoretical models, research reports or practice studies, that relate to adult literacy. Most importantly, a literature review cannot be of any value unless it is referenced to some form of research question or problem. It is a common mistake for students to misunderstand the purpose of a literature review – Read More …

Really Useful Websites on Learning and Teaching

As a follow-up to my previous blog on the Top Ten Insights on Learning I would like to provide a list of web sources and resources that may act as good places to start with insights on learning and teaching. I’ll try to give a brief description of each and why it makes the cut for me.Starting Points: Aggregation SitesTheory into Practice (TIP)Greg Kearsley has put together an excellent resource that deals with a wide variety of learning theories.  This is an excellent starting point and it will give the beginner a good appreciation of the breath of theories and their practical applications. Emtech’s  Learning TheoriesThis is another excellent starting point with a comprehensive list of learning theory orientations.  What I like about this list is that each section is authored by a different person and you can cite each as an individual resource. Martyn Ryder’s Instructional Design ModelsMartyn Ryder’s very comprehensive listing of instructional design and learning theory resources -this site is well maintained, comprehensive and deals with an wide expanse of theoretical orientations. Learning and Teaching Teaching Tips Index This is another great starting point for lot’s of interesting exploration.  The index is compiled by the faculty development Read More …

Top Ten Insights on Learning

It’s the time of year for reviews.  I call it the season of the “top tens”: we have the top ten songs of 2009, the top ten sporting moments, the top ten films and so on. I have decided to step on the band wagon and am now pleased to present my Top Ten Insights on Learning. Here we go: Learning is constructed People are curious We learn best in social settings Much adult learning is child’s play We have a Learning Identity Meet the Digital World Adults learn what they want to learn Learning can be additive or transformative We learn throughout life We strive to be all that we can be  1 Learning is constructed  The best analogy is that of a tree with many branches. We learn through the integration of present and past experiences.  As we experience the world we connect new experiences with our past – in other words we construct knowledge. Learning has nothing to do with transmission of knowledge – it about personal construction. Educators who recognise this focus on process rather than output and encourage students to make their own meaning rather than reproduce the work of others.  2 People are curiousWe Read More …

My Learning Identity

The term “identity” is widely used in many different contexts – we often speak or our national, cultural, linguistic or sporting identities. This multifaceted aspect of identity signifies that we should really think about our identities rather than a singular identity.There seems to be two ways in which we use identity in everyday life; firstly, we identify with a particular group or practice – in this we seek to belong or to be a part of something and secondly, we develop an internal notion of our own identity – this is self-identity – and it is often used to compare ourselves with others.It is not difficult to see how the two are intertwined.Imagine a situation where you meet someone for the first time and you wish to get to know more about them – you might start by asking where they are from etc.. There follows an exchange of descriptive information usually in the form of identity signifiers: “I am from Dublin”, “I am an educator”, “I have teenage children”.In no time there is common ground and perhaps you find a mutual area of interest with your new friend.Identity signals serve a useful function in social situations they help us Read More …