Innovations in learning

Cornelia Connolly

Posted: 25 September, 2017

Cornelia Connolly is a lecturer at the School of Education at NUI Galway. She has a B.Eng. (Hons) in Computer Engineering, M.Eng. through research and was awarded a PhD from the University of Limerick. Having worked with Accenture in management and IT consultancy, she returned to academia to pursue her research interests in education, technology, student retention and numerical competency. She regularly publishes in the area of pedagogical enhancement in education.

Learning and education are central for society and a fulfilling life: from early childhood education through to adult further education, lifelong learning and upskilling are essential for each of us.

Many of the research ideas and trends, which have become popular in education today, such as the power of projects and design, and how technology can change learning, are rooted in ideas and research originating at the School of Education at NUI Galway. Our research is paving the way in innovative design-based research, mobile and science education, Irish language medium education, as well as diversity and leadership within, and of, education.

Innovations in our education system, new school subjects and modern technologies have all assisted in reframing our learning landscape. However, technology alone does not solve the central problems surrounding education – those solutions lie in the processes, systems and people. The learner must be central to all education and learning innovation. It is in the emotionally rewarding state of being optimally challenged, or being in a state of flow, that we are all motivated to learn. This is when our learning is richest.

Research-informed teaching and learning innovation pervades our programmes, for example the BA Mathematics and Education at NUI Galway was established with the express purpose of educating specialist, excellent mathematics teachers; the Postgraduate Masters in Education and the Máistir Gairmiúil san Oideachas have reconceptualised the professional knowledge, understanding and pedagogical skills required to become a teacher. The most recent Professional Diploma in School leadership as well as the first programme to support leaders working in the Irish medium sector an Dioplóma Gairmiúil i gCeannaireacht Scoile are further evidence of the type of innovation that is mapping the way forward in the School of Education at NUI Galway.

I have been involved in the development of the draft specification of the Senior Cycle Computer Science curriculum, itself a prime example of innovation in learning. The draft specification by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) challenges the mould of the current system in aspects such as project development, group assessment and computer based examinations for example. This is an exciting opportunity, but also one that may present challenges for school leaders and teachers in widening understanding of concepts and approaches.

The premise that the longer you remain a student, the better a teacher you will be, remains true. We are constantly learning, researching, designing and structuring new strategies to assist both educators and learners.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in our guest blogs are the author’s own, and do not reflect the opinions of the Irish Research Council or any employee thereof.

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