Coláiste Mhuire strives to be a leader in the field of educational change and improvement. As a learning community we are committed to embracing new ideas and methodologies to enhance the teaching and learning environment. We have an excellent track record of involvement in school self-evaluation and school improvement initiatives through the Learning Schools Projects and the Action Learning Networks which places Coláiste Mhuire in an excellent position to move forward with current educational change and reform.
Teachers Lorraine O’Loughlin & Máire O’Brien with Principal Norma O’Brien at Féilte, the Festival of Education in Learning & Teaching Excellence in the RDS Dublin in October 2014
During our Whole School Evaluation, Management, Leadership & Learning in 2012, (WSE-MLL: 2012) the inspectors recognised that “The teachers’ willingness to engage with these projects means that students are the ultimate beneficiaries through enhanced learning opportunities in the classroom.”(WSE-MLL: 2012) A Follow-Through Inspection in 2014 highlighted our ongoing commitment to the school self-evaluation and school improvement process. “It is evident that school management and staff is continuing to take a well-organised and pro-active approach to all aspects of school improvement and in particular to teaching and learning. (WSE-MLL Follow-through Inspection: May 2014)
The Learning School Projects (LSP)
The Learning Schools Projects require a change of mindset involving re-conceptualising the teaching-learning dynamic, focusing on learning, re-imagining the roles of teachers and students in the process and developing a new vision for the school. Coláiste Mhuire became involved with the Learning Schools Projects during Phase 2 in 2012 and we have been involved ever since.
Learning Schools Project 6: Critical Thinking in the Project Maths Class
In the academic year 2014/2015 teachers Ms Enda Bell & Ms Deborah Dalton set out to identify how the Critical Thinking materials developed during LSP5 could be used to address the challenges posed by the new Projects Maths Syllabus. As part of Coláiste Mhuire’s longitudinal study for the Learning Schools Project, it was decided that the LSP6 would explore and assess the benefits of teaching Critical Thinking to students, using the lesson plans developed in LSP5, in the Mathematics classroom. The evidence gathered showed that by implementing a compact Critical Thinking module, a difference in students’ ability to analyse data, draw conclusions and justify their statements was noted. It was recommended that all students be taught the Critical Thinking module early in their school life in Coláiste Mhuire not only as a preparation for the new project Maths syllabus but for many of the challenges and choices they will face in their education and in their daily lives.
Féilte: The Festival of Education in Learning & Teaching Excellence
In October 2014, Coláiste Mhuire was invited to Féilte, in the RDS Dublin, to showcase our Learning Schools 5 Project, Connecting Our Classrooms. There was a considerable amount of interest in the project at Féilte with Irish Times education columnist Joe Humphries tweeting that he “loved Coláiste Mhuire’s programme on Critical Thinking”. Máire O’Brien and Lorraine O’Loughlin also discussed the project with Minister Jan O’Sullivan who commented their work during her address at Féilte Máire & Lorraine are now working with Dr Joe O’Connell of the Limerick Education Centre to produce a publication of their work as a resource for all schools.
Learning Schools Project 5: Connecting Our Classrooms
In 2013/2014, teachers Ms Lorraine O’Loughlin & Ms Maire O’Brien worked with a group of teachers on a project called Connecting Our Classrooms. With changes to Junior Cycle education and the current discourse around education focussing on skills and methodologies, the primary objective of the LSP5 study was to embed critical thinking theory and skills in the delivery of lessons using group work methodologies across the school. The first aim of the project was to assist teachers to teach critical thinking skills by providing them with innovative teaching ideas, resources, methodologies and strategies, in particular group work, for delivering lessons at all levels but particularly for the new Junior Cycle Student Award. Secondly, the project was created to assist and inform the development of a whole school Teaching and Learning Policy. The most important aim of the project was to promote the development of students’ confidence in self-evaluation, emphasising their values and views by allowing them the opportunity to form independent judgements. It was also the intention to help students to communicate as objectively as possible with their own perceptions and views on particular topics. Furthermore, to be truly successful, students must learn to reflect. Critical thinking permits students to become accustomed to associating successful learning with reflection on learning.
Teachers Lorraine O’Loughlin & Máire O’Brien with Dr Joe O’Connell, Director of the Limerick Education Centre, at the Learning Schools 5 Showcase in Charleville in September 2014
Teachers Lorraine O’Loughlin & Máire O’Brien with Professor Barrie Bennett, at the Learning Schools 5 Showcase in Charleville in September 2014
The Learning Schools Project 4: Towards Critical Thinking
During the academic year 2012/2013, teachers Ms Lorraine O’Loughlin, Ms Maire O’Brien and Mr John Bourke worked on a project called Towards Critical Thinking with some of their English & History students in 2nd year. Drawing from last year’s LS3 project, “Effective Group-Work Strategies”, it was identified that students often lack initiative and resilience for problem solving and research skills, preferring to rely on the teacher to supply an answer. We felt that this was a fitting exploration for this year’s project. The action research took place in January for a period of 5 weeks with an extended assignment at the end. Students self-assessed their work, and evaluated and reflected on the quality of their work. A rubric, a word bank of vocabulary and critical questions were provided to allow students to complete this successfully. Students thoroughly enjoyed the experience and have now developed some very useful skills which will enable them to become more autonomous learners, questioning with more confidence and seeking solutions themselves.
Teachers Lorraine O’Loughlin & Máire O’Brien at the Learning Schools 4 Showcase in Charleville in September 2013
The Learning Schools Project 3: Effective Groupwork Strategies
In the school year 2011/2012 Coláiste Mhuire took part in phase 3 of the Learning schools project. Teachers Ms Lorraine O’Loughlin and Ms Niamh Hogan led the project and worked with Ms Therese Kelly and Ms Mary Nolan. focusing on an investigation into how effective group-work strategies can impact positively and productively on teaching and learning and classroom management. This project drew from our experiences of Barrie Bennett’s Instructional Leadership programme and forms an important element of our Literacy & Numeracy strategy. It also fits very well with preparations for the introduction of the new Junior Cycle.
Teachers Lorraine O’Loughlin & Niamh Hogan at the Learning Schools 3 Showcase in Charleville in September 2012
The Learning Schools Project 2: ICT in Teaching & Learning
In the school year 2010/2011 Coláiste Mhuire, led by Mr Michael McSherry, undertook an innovative project on the integration of ICT into teaching & learning in Coláiste Mhuire. The development of the e-Learning Plan was the theme of the project. The introduction of ICT into the classroom was met with great enthusiasm. The collaboration between the LS2 team and the e-Learning team in drafting the e-learning policy and plan provided a pedagogically based vision for ICT in the school’s curriculum.
Action Learning Network: Investigating Strategies for Provision for Exceptionally Able Students in the 2nd year Cohort
During the academic year 2009/2010 teachers at Coláiste Mhuire, led by Ms Norma O’Brien, carried out an action research project which aimed to raise awareness amongst staff of the needs of Exceptionally Able Students in the school. The focus of the project was on an inclusive approach using differentiation as a strategy. A collaborative approach was taken in order to try to establish how best to work with students of exceptional ability. All of the teachers involved said how enthused they were about differentiation and felt that their own approach to differentiation has changed positively. They all appreciated the collegial nature of the work and said that such an approach would make it easier to provide ideas and resources for Exceptionally Able Students within subject departments. As a result of this project, Colaiste Mhuire became one of only 12 schools involved nationally in the ‘Equality of Challenge’ initiative which aimed to pilot models of educational provision for Exceptionally Able students in post-primary schools.