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Conference Speakers

  • Dr Otmar Gassner is a Professor of English at the University College of Teacher Education in Vorarlberg, Austria
  • Paula Gladwin is Director of Programmes at Hibernia College UK and Liam Cullinan is a Deputy Head teacher from Perry Beeches
  • Dr Mary Roche is a Senior Lecturer in Education at St. Patrick’s College, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, Ireland
  • Dr Máirín Glenn is a Teaching Principal in Inver National School, Co. Mayo, Ireland
  • Dr Bernie Sullivan is a former Principal at St. Brigid’s Girls’ Senior School Dublin, Ireland
  • Dr Caitriona McDonagh is a former Learning Support and Resource Teacher in Rush National School, Co. Dublin, Ireland


The inaugural conference was a great success with a varied delegation from different areas of the education spectrum both primary and secondary. One hundred delegates enjoyed three very different presentations both in terms of content and presentation styles.

Professor Otmar Gassner from the University College of Teacher Education in Vorarlberg, Austria, presented research evidence from his experience of Initial Teacher Training in Austria. One of the key findings from this research was the way in which technology enhanced the quality of feedback provided to the student teacher by the HEI placement tutor, co-operating teacher and mentor.

Paula Gladwin, Director of Programmes Hibernia College UK, and Liam Cullinan, Deputy Head teacher from Perry Beeches, jointly prepared and delivered a highly entertaining and enthusiastic presentation on the structure and success of UK secondary initial teacher training, specifically how it worked in Perry Beaches-The Academy in Birmingham. In partnership with Hibernia College Perry Beeches has used teacher education as part of a strategic drive for school improvement.

In the afternoon session, Dr Mairín Glenn, Dr Bernie Sullivan, Dr Caitriona McDonagh and Dr Mary Roche shared their living theory of developing learning communities within a Higher Education Institution-School partnership frame-work. Their research, experientially and evidentially based, demonstrated that this kind of partnership would contribute to developing ‘researchly’ dispositions across all participants in the partnership.

Partner Schools

One of the main events during the day was Rob O’Neill’s, Hibernia College ICT Manager, demonstration of the Google Nexus 7 tablet which will be given to schools who partner with Hibernia College for student teacher placements.

In keeping with Hibernia College’s strong interactive approach, the morning section of the conference was live streamed via our website and we also engaged with queries via Twitter. If you wish to view the conference, you can access the recording of the morning session via this link:

Overall the day provided a welcome opportunity for the teaching and learning community at Hibernia College to share views and ideas. It was also an opportunity to reflect on current research evidence, both national and international relating to the factors that contribute to successful school-HEI partnerships.

Speaker Biographies

Dr Otmar Gassner

Dr Otmar Gassner is Professor of English at the University College of Teacher Education in Vorarlberg, Austria. Educated at the Universities of Vienna and Oxford, he worked as a teacher of English and German in an Austrian Lower and Upper Secondary School for seventeen years before he was appointed Head of the English Department at the University College of Teacher Education in Vorarlberg in 1995. From 1999 to 2001 he was the Vice President of the College. He has been a member of the European Network on Teacher Education Policies (ENTEP) since 2000 and was the coordinator of the network from 2004 to 2007.

His research interests are the use of information and communications technology (ICT) and e-learning in teacher education, eportfolio approaches, continuous professional development (CPD), system development, and large-scale language testing.

Presentation Title: School Partnership – An International Perspective that includes an e-portfolio approach in the school practice setting. The impact of teacher education depends on high-quality delivery of a well-balanced curriculum, and on the way practical skills are transmitted to students and graduates respectively. In this context school partnerships are critical. In Austria, school partnerships are initiated by the University Colleges of Teacher Education and involve practice schools on campus as well as a number of regional schools. The Austrian mainstream model of the implementation of such partnerships will be presented together with an e-portfolio approach in the school practice setting as a result of such partnerships.

Paula Gladwin

Paula Gladwin is the Director of Programmes for Hibernia College United Kingdom (HCUK), responsible for elearnITT, the school-centred online blended initial teacher training (ITT) programme for maths, physics and chemistry across the UK and also for the new largest Subject Knowledge Enhancement Programmes for existing teachers.

Paula has a Masters’ degree from Cambridge University in School Improvement and a Bachelor of Education degree in science. She is an Ofsted Inspector for both ITT and schools. Paula worked for twelve years prior to joining HCUK as a Programme Director for the Essex secondary and primary Graduate Teacher Programme and Essex Primary School Training Group. Prior to this she was a School Development Adviser and Local Authority Science Curriculum Adviser. Under her management, Essex Graduate Teacher Programme gained the coveted Ofsted Outstanding Grade 1 for both leadership and education. Paula has worked closely with the Teaching Agency on a number of issues including self-evaluation documents, Teachers’ Standards and the national portal for entry into teacher education.

Liam Cullinan is the Deputy Head teacher at Perry Beeches – The Academy in Birmingham. Liam has a Masters’ degree from Cumbria University in Leadership in Education and a BA (Hons) degree in Physical Education. Under his leadership, Perry Beeches has used teacher education as part of a strategic drive to school improvement. He is responsible for all areas of staff learning. From a position of being deemed ‘Notice to Improve’ in 2008, OFSTED deemed Perry Beeches School as ‘Good with Outstanding features’. It has also recently been voted ’National Secondary School of the year 2012’ and ’Overall national School of the year 2012’.

Presentation Title: School Partnership – A model at Post Primary, from a provider and OFSTED prospective, Paula will examine how providers can support schools in becoming highly successful teacher educators. Liam will describe how the school has transformed its ethos and culture to embody teacher education at the heart of everything they do from a very successful school perspective. 

Dr Mary Roche, Dr Máirín Glenn, Dr Bernie Sullivan and Dr Caitriona mcDonagh

A primary teacher for many years, Dr Mary Roche is currently a Senior Lecturer in Education in St Patrick’s College Thurles. Mary holds an MA in Education from University of West England Bristol (2000) and a PhD from University of Limerick (2007). Mary has worked in several academic settings including Mary Immaculate College and University College Cork as well as in a ‘visiting lecturer’ capacity with National Univaersity of Ireland Galway.

Her research interests include Self-Study Action Research, Philosophy with Children, Critical Pedagogy, Critical Literacy and Professional Development. She has worked with Education Centres nationally providing in-service professional development for teachers in creating dialogical and critical classrooms, and has developed resources for National Council for Curriculum Assessment (Aistear Toolkit). Mary has presented at several conferences and has been published widely, including RAI journal (2010); OMEP journal (2010) and EARJ (2011).

Dr Máirín Glenn works in the west coast of Mayo as a primary teacher where she is a teaching principal. She holds a BEd from St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. She completed her MEd (ICT in the Primary Curriculum) with Mary Immaculate College in 2001 and was awarded a PhD from the University of Limerick in 2006. She has also worked as a tutor and course designer for the National Centre for Technology in Education and in an informal capacity as postgraduate tutor with University of Limerick, Trinity College Dublin, St. Angela’s College and Hibernia College.

In recent years, she has been involved in promoting action research as a research methodology and is particularly interested in the use of technology as a means of developing a more holistic approach to teaching and learning.

Dr Bernie Sullivan was principal of a primary school in a disadvantaged area in Dublin. She taught mainstream classes for many years and was a Resource Teacher for Travellers for five years. She completed a BA in English and Philosophy and a HDE in University College Dublin. She was awarded a MA in Education at the University of the West of England in 2000, and a PhD from the University of Limerick in 2006.

Her research interests include social justice and equality, reflective practice, self-evaluation, continuing professional development and critical pedagogy. She has presented papers at educational conferences in Ireland, England and the United States of America.

Dr Caitriona McDonagh spent many years as a primary teacher working with students with special education needs. She has a MA in Education from the University of the West of England, Bristol (2000) and a PhD from the University of Limerick (2007).

Her particular areas of interest include learning and teaching, social justice, special education and professional development. She has delivered professional development initiatives for the Department of Education and Skills’ Special Education Support Service and for the Dyslexia Association of Ireland. She isthe author of ‘How do I improve my Teaching of Children with Dyslexia?: A living theory of learning to teach for social justice’ (2009).

Presentation Title: Learning Communities – Partnerships in Action

Mary, Máirín, Bernie and Caitriona, are convinced of the viability of self-study action research as a form of CPD for teachers who wish to improve their practice, and/or understanding of practice, while developing as professionals. They believe that the self study model – supported by the idea of teachers engaging in professional conversations – can be an inspiration to colleagues. They see self-study action research as a methodology for classroom enquiry and self-evaluation.

Their presentation, Learning Communities: Partnerships in Action, is grounded in their reflections on their learning from their ‘Practice-based Research Encompassing Professional Development’ project (Teaching Council 2011) undertaken during 2010/11. In this project, they supported teachers in making judgements about their own professionalism in terms of seeking ways in which they might improve their practice. Taking the notion of ‘teacher as theorist’ (Whitehead and McNiff, 2006; Pockett and Giles, 2008; Kadi-Hanifi, 2010), the project evolved from a value that teachers’ continuing professional development should be run as a form of support that would encourage teachers to develop their own educational theories from their practice. In the project, teachers were supported in their research by belonging to a community of teachers sharing in professional conversations (Clark, 2001).

In their presentation, they will draw on examples from their project to support their claim that self reflection and self evaluation can lead to improved practice and help practitioners gain deeper insights into why they work the way they do. They will invite attendees to discuss the ideas presented and ask them to share their views on the key ideas presented. They will conclude the presentation with an overview of comments and ideas from the floor.