Three schools show how teaching methods have evolved

Traditional teaching methods have evolved in recent years. We look at three schools.

The best schools focus less on teaching, more on learning.

Barry O’Callaghan, chair of the National Association of Principal and Deputies leading for learning committee, says that the best schools focus less on the word “teaching” and more on the word “learning”.

“Look at the school’s literature and the notices on their walls. Do they talk about ‘learners’ instead of ‘kids’? Are the walls full of finished works, or is the emphasis on works in progress? A school that really gets it places more emphasis on questions than on answers.”

Here, we take a look at three schools that have developed learning-focused initiatives.


Learning hubs: Moyle Park, Clondalkin, Dublin 22

For the past few years, this all-boys secondary school has been running a voluntary weekly “learning hub”, where students pop in during their little break for a quick 10-15 minute talk on different learning techniques.

Yvonne Corscadden, an English and geography teacher, is teaching and learning co-ordinator at the school.

“We focus on a different aspect of learning every week: how to manage time, how to take effective notes – one small topic at a time to help the students learn most effectively.”

The initiative is open to all years, with a particular focus on exam years. Before the pandemic, about 50-60 students might attend any given session, but because classes cannot currently mix, the school has been running separate learning hubs.

“Because it’s bite-size, it gets buy-in,” says Corscadden. “If you can learn one thing in 10 minutes that will make your life easier, it will be worth it.”

Corscadden credits #edchatie on Twitter for inspiring the idea, and urges teachers to follow that hashtag for tips, support and advice.

School of Sanctuary: Educate Together, Stepaside, Co Dublin

Since opening in 2016, this school moved four times before finding a permanent home in its new, finished building.

All the students are “new” to the school and many are new to the locality, a growing suburb of south county Dublin where new homes are being built at a rapid pace.

"When the opportunity arose to become one of the two Dublin pilot schools of sanctuary, we jumped at the chance," says CSPE teacher Sallie Ennis. "It's about helping students, staff and the wider community to understand what it means to be a person seeking sanctuary. We extend a welcome to everyone as equal, valued members of the school community, and we work in particular with children who are refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants."

Students have signed a pledge to be welcoming and the school has murals with the word “hello” written in some of the 28 different languages represented in the school. Guidance counsellor Alice O’Connor has carried out research into how the school can support parents and grandparents by providing English language lessons.

“Ultimately, it’s about celebrating, kindness and empathy and helping our students understand what it’s like to be in the shoes of people who have nothing,” says Ennis.

Aspire to college: Mercy College Inchicore, Dublin 8

Mercy College’s principal, Michelle O’Kelly, is one of those principals that uses the power of her leadership to transform the lives of her students.

This small, all-girls school in a socially disadvantaged area of Dublin 8 has seen the number of college-goers rise over recent years as O’Kelly – herself a past pupil of the school – leads a team that promotes college-going from first year.

The school is part of Aspire2, a school support programme funded by Irish engineering company DPS Group that has provided academic support, direct funding and individual mentoring to more than 1,000 students in Dublin and Cork since 2015.

Student voice is central to the programme. “This support helps our students to improve their choices and achieve their full potential, especially given the added challenges that we’re facing as a result of the pandemic,” says O’Kelly.