Photo of Niamh Owens

Alumni profile

Niamh Owens

PME in Post-Primary Education



Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School in Waterford


Degree in Business and Marketing; Master’s in Research into SMEs and PhD on Technology and Knowledge


Hibernia College Business Award

Why did you choose teaching and why Hibernia College? 

I came late into the teaching profession. I have always had a love of learning, which is why I spent 12 years in college earning my degree, master’s and then PhD in Business. It was my intention to lecture but life took me in another direction and I entered into the research space. I ended up working in the sciences section of WIT; working with my good friend Prof. John Nolan and disseminating his work into visual blindness and nutrition. I was introduced to a lot of amazing science and researchers and spent seven years promoting John’s work. My love of learning never left me and I was constantly drawn back into my own research and how to revive that part of me. My husband and I then welcomed our daughter Lucie into the world and my focus changed slightly. I wanted to spend more time with her whilst also fostering my love of learning and education. I decided to become a post-primary teacher and share my love of business with young adults and inspire them to be the next entrepreneur. With a 6-month-old, this was going to be a challenge; but I love challenges. After an exhaustive search and conversations with my sister (a past graduate of Hibernia College), I decided to apply for the post-primary education course. It gave me the flexibility to be a Mum but also to become the best teacher I could be. It hasn’t disappointed and here I am 2 and a bit years later graduating with a 1st class honours.

What field of work or study were you in before you started your PME? 

As I mentioned before, I spent 12 years studying and working in the higher education sector. I did my degree in business and marketing, a research master’s into SMEs and their marketing challenges and was awarded a scholarship to do my PhD. This scholarship allowed me to work with amazing people in the technology space and I learned a lot about technology and how it can benefit and help people in so many ways. Towards the end of my PhD, I worked and helped many SMEs in Waterford before moving on to work with Prof. Nolan. Over the years, I got to be involved in research projects helping people with age-related macular degeneration, one of which was a European funded project. I organised conferences and developed education programmes in this space and enjoyed it immensely. Moving on was hard, but my passion for learning and passing on my knowledge to the younger generation never left…and the rest, as they say, is history.

Can you tell us a bit about your research project and why you focused on this area?  

I focused on formative assessment and the perceptions of students and teachers. It was an integrative literature review (which was new to me) which required me to study 12–14 journal papers on the topic and assess their findings and derive findings and recommendations of my own. I found it fascinating and very informative. My research examined the factors affecting the successful implementation of formative assessment strategies in post-primary education in Ireland. My research of the papers highlighted that there is a disconnect between education and understanding of the formative assessment process. I found, from reading the papers, that even though teachers feel that they are not supported in the implementation of these strategies, this is down to the continued dominance of final summative assessments. However, when teachers engage in the formative assessment process, the positive impact on students is evident. During the course of my research, the big factor I found was that more support is required from policymakers in order to ensure that important information is being filtered through to teachers and schools. I focussed on this area as I have always believed, since my leaving cert (20 years ago!), that there is way too much emphasis on a summative assessment to determine your future. It should not be like that. The introduction of CBAs has addressed it somewhat but the problem with its adoption is the lack of clarity from the government on its inclusion in the curriculum. I would like to work in this area and in the implementing of a proper formative assessment strategy in schools. Maybe that can be my next career move!

Now that you have graduated, what are your plans? 

I have been lucky enough to secure some learning support classes in the school I did my Advanced Placement. I am learning a lot and meeting new people every day. I am also getting the chance to work with teachers to apply for funding for teacher CPD and European funding for our school. What is great about it, is that I am getting to use my skills as a researcher to the benefit of my new chosen career. My plan is to apply for new jobs in September and continue to learn and develop my skills as a teacher and researcher.

What piece of advice would you give to any person considering starting a PME?

My advice would be, if you are thinking about going into teaching, then just take that leap of faith. It will be the best decision you make. My advice would be to keep on top of the workload; it is not unreasonable but can become a mountain if you are not organised and disciplined. Remember, it is a master’s so it requires a level of thinking and commitment that is different to a degree. Hibernia are different to many educational colleges as they require a certain level of work from you. It may seem overwhelming at the start but you will stand out from the crowd as a Hibernia graduate. We are equipped with skills that, in my opinion, make us stand out from the crowd in terms of teaching excellence and the ability to adapt to change and the constant demands our profession ask of us. Ask for help when needed and make sure you enjoy the experience — it will fly by.

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