A new Master of Arts/Postgraduate Diploma in Arts in Inclusive and Special Education has been developed jointly by Hibernia College and the Institute of Child Education and Psychology (ICEP) Europe. We caught up with Dr Deirdre MacIntyre, Founding Director of ICEP Europe, to learn more about the partnership and programme.
Can you share more about ICEP’s background?
ICEP is an independent training and research institute made up of a team of psychologists and educators who came together 20 years ago to meet a need observed in schools and classrooms across Ireland. Teachers were struggling to meet the needs of children with significant disabilities, different learning needs and issues that were creating barriers to their learning.
I’m a trained clinical psychologist with educational psychology experience. During my career, I would visit a school to discuss one child who was referred, and the principal would be there with a list of 20 other children they wanted to speak about. Teachers were aware they didn’t quite have the skills to dismantle those barriers and to facilitate access to the curriculum to really include those children effectively. ICEP works to provide educators with the expertise to help children reach their full potential.
What are special educational needs?
Children have special educational needs and additional needs for a myriad of reasons. These can be related to a disability such as dyslexia or Down syndrome, or they can be as a result of something transitory like the child whose education is disrupted by the war in Ukraine, the child who’s suffering trauma as a result of some family issue, or the child who’s suffering a bereavement. We’re talking about 25% of learners who experience some form of special and additional learning needs at some point in their school career.
What’s so important to me is not to put a ceiling on expectations for our children with learning difficulties — education is a human right. The teachers who take on inclusive education are vindicating such an essential right and are giving children access to all sorts of capital that they will need in their life, for example, education or social capital. An inclusive approach takes many different forms and, ultimately, makes such a difference.
What is your vision of inclusion?
Inclusion is about responding to societal needs with the belief that no matter what the problem is, education is usually part of the solution. The whole point of education is how we respond to difference and diversity. It’s really about upskilling people with adapted approaches. These could include different assessment options, accessing course material through different routes, changing expectations and offering more understanding. Inclusion isn’t just about students. Inclusion is about teachers, educators, the whole school community and the wider community.
Can you share more about the partnership between ICEP and Hibernia College?
Hibernia College’s approach to teaching and learning fits very well with ours. We have been working together in the same educational sphere for a long time. There is a lot of mutual respect, and we have a nice synergy as online teacher training providers. With our shared history and shared values, it just made sense for us to collaborate.
While this is a new course, it is supported by a very established team who have been offering postgraduate courses for over 20 years. The faculty consists of experienced and internationally recognised practitioners and researchers. Hibernia College has a fantastic infrastructure.
Our partnership means that we’re bringing together strong track records — expertise in inclusion and providing access to high-quality postgraduate education. QQI commended us on the quality of the programme, teaching staff and the design of the programme. It is a huge achievement to have the programme validated and receive this incredible recognition of our joint effort.
What makes this programme unique?
The progamme has an inbuilt flexibility where you can customise the postgraduate diploma and the master’s to your own teaching context and life. This means we can include a broader range of educators than are traditionally catered to by other postgraduate programmes. This level of flexibility is a game changer for professionals — you don’t need to get in the car and travel, and you don’t need a babysitter.
This programme was originally based on a course that the Department of Education asked us to develop. It has been built on and expanded into a more comprehensive and flexible offering.
How is the programme structured?
The learning architecture of the programme is designed so that students can progress from a postgraduate diploma to a master’s if they wish. The postgraduate diploma is structured around four modules; the master’s involves a second year or longer, if needed. The programme design is very responsive; if our students tell us that they want more knowledge in a particular area, we can make this happen very quickly.
The programme is carefully crafted to give students a blend of theoretical knowledge and highly practical and applied evidence-based skills. The live webinars are key in helping to build community, and the programme uses a highly supported model where the lecturers are very accessible to students.
Who is the programme for?
The programme is for people from a broad range of backgrounds: teachers in the classroom and those returning to the classroom; educators and professionals interested and involved in the area of special education and inclusion; and psychology graduates who are interested in getting into educational psychology. While the main audience is teachers in primary, secondary and early years settings, the programme is open to a broad range of allied professionals. It is a brilliant way to get up to date with current practice.
What are you most excited about in the programme?
I am really excited about induction day and the opportunity to meet our students — to connect and get to know them and to be able to support them. We are now in the midst of getting everything ready to welcome students at the end of September, and we’re really looking forward to that.
Thank you, Dr MacIntyre, for sharing your perspective and experience of developing the Master of Arts/Postgraduate Diploma in Arts in Inclusive and Special Education. You are welcome to contact Dr MacIntyre directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are two intakes to the programme each year — in September and January. The application for the September 2022 intake is open until 8 September here. A personal statement and Level 8 transcript are required to complete the online application process. Applicants will know if they have a place in the programme within five days of submitting an application. For more information, contact our Enrolment Advisors by emailing email@example.com or by phoning (01) 661 0168 (option 2).