00.10 Dr Michael Shevlin, School of Education, Trinity College.
Michael focused on inclusion and special educational needs, and how research can make a contribution to teaching and teacher education. “What constitutes a mainstream education, when you’re including children who have difficulties in learning?” – this question affects every area of school life. He highlighted a recent three year study of special education needs provision in 24 Irish schools – and the role of communication and relationships in special education provision was found to be influential. Michael emphasised the need for balance between specialist and generalist teacher education programmes in providing skills for supporting students with special educational needs and the need to listen to the voices of children in identifying key issues.
20.00 Dr Colm O’Reilly, Director at the Centre for Talented Youth, DCU.
Colm outlined the work of the Centre for Talented Youth (http://www.dcu.ie/ctyi/index.shtml), in identifying and assessing high ability children and providing support from them, their parents and teachers. He discussed the myth that bright kids are social misfits – they need a peer group like any other children. Colm also highlighted work that the centre has done with disadvantaged children and bringing them onto gifted programmes. He acknowledged the contested nature of the term ‘gifted ed’ and discussed a recent study into Irish teachers’ views on gifted children, which highlighted how teachers felt ill equipped to manage the differentiation of gifted children. Colm informed the conference of the recent publication Gifted Education in Ireland and the United States, to identify best practice in working with gifted children.
38.38 Dr James O’Higgins Norman (session chair)
Highlighted the common theme that the challenges created by difference (whether with special education needs or particularly talented) result from a system structured around children all being the same.
39.45 Huge amount of research is being done; do the panel have any practical strategies to suggest for communicating these findings to teachers working at the grass roots level? Is compulsory CPD necessary?
44.17 Regarding the Irish exemption for students with SEN – the speaker read that some students with such exemptions are taking other languages – do the panel have any views on this?
46.09 Speaker was disappointed to hear that teachers were found to be not differentiating the curriculum – is this due to time pressures, or what are the reasons?
40.14 DCU has done great work with the gifted students – is there anything in the model developed so far, regarding students who find it hard to achieve – are there lessons to learn from the model?
52.40 On the issue of differentiating – need to be careful about generalised statements about teachers – the issue of the place of inclusive education in teachers’ learning, SEN is now included in Initial Teacher Education, what work is being done to teach teachers about these issues?
59.00 Speaker argues that teachers are going to look to their leaders – can the panel comment on the role of leadership in promoting teachers to do research within the school context; bridging the gap between research, policy, practice; in school context where homogeneity dominates? Do the panel have question to cultivate and foster teacher leadership?
1.03.27 Chair thanks panellists and audience.