Monthly Archives: November 2019

I’ve had ethics on the brain for a while – building and submitting the ethics submission for my PhD research has been done and delivered. Awaiting approval is providing a short period of slacking off relative calm and a chance to catch up with the real world.

So when on November 12 I read a tweet (which quickly grew to be a long thread) from someone I really admire, the banlaoch* that is UK researcher and senior academic Trisha Greenhalgh, both the content and the context stopped me in my tracks. I had time to react and reflect on the fact that this had happened, that it had happened to someone at the top of her profession, and that it had been done before her professional peers. Ugh.
[*banlaoch = the Irish term for a female warrior or heroine]

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A couple of weeks later, this subject of ‘conduct unbecoming’ during post-presentation discussions arose again for me, as it became part of the exit conversation among researchers attending an IPA (Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis) colloqium at the Technological University of Dublin. I recounted the recent experience of Prof. Dr. Greenhalgh, and my dismay at the unethical behaviour towards her of the Chair who should have been steering everyone’s behaviour by example. It also brought to my mind the times the exact opposite was in place, and and the rules of engagement are declared openly at the beginning of a meeting, conference, or seminar. I am now thinking that declaring the rules of engagement should be the formal opening action of every meeting, providing a point of reference to anyone at the meeting who may need to to call out inappropriate behaviour by anyone (including the Chair!). Hopefully it would be like one of those ‘break glass in case of emergency’ things, never needed but unambiguously available if necessary.

Photo by Brett Sayles on

Reflecting on all of this, here is my personal appreciation of the upfront declaration of expected ethical behaviour … an important part of my research journey is being in the company of others working in the same sphere as me – my supervisors, my fellow PhDs, and special interest groups – formal and informal – that form around a topic of interest to me. One such SIG is the Network for Educational Action Research in Ireland. I attend meetings of this group several times a year. Each meeting starts with display of the same slide – a summary of the ethical stance of the group and the agreed standards for procedures and protocols. These are also openly declared on the NEARI website, and combine the particular values of the group with the universal values espoused in the Teaching Council of Ireland. I find this practice offers a professional reminder to all present of the expectations we have of each other, and infuses the meeting from the start with a collegiate atmosphere. The ritual aspect of the practice acts as a subtle personal safety blanket for me – I am assured that the meeting will be steered by a Chair guided by a moral compass visible to all. It is a practice I would like to see more widely adopted at the meeting of other special interest groups in academia and education.

The NEARI statement that is displayed at the beginning of each NEARImeet is online at

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mags amond holding and looking into a bevelled mirrored framed by a mosaic of white, silver and coloured tiles

here’s looking at me looking at me at 60!

It is a busy time, turning 60 – that happened on October 17th, and probably will continue as an excuse to celebrate for a whole year! Lots of cake and cards and gifts, and special times with friends and family – lots to be thankful for.

In the learning world, lots of people to be thankful to this autumn – Mean Fómhair, Deireadh Fómhair, September and October in Galway, Dublin and Cavan – people moving each other, and me, ever onwards …

Rang Bianca – On September 28th, all the meets (Teach-, Research-, Lead-, Student-, Breakfast-) were on the programme at Féilte in NUIG; special mention for the annual inclusion of Rang Bianca, it is momentarily startling but lovely to see it each time:

NeariMeet – Also in NUIG that day was the latest NeariMeet hosted by Cornelia Connolly and curated by Mairin Glenn and Bernie Sullivan of the EARI group.


NEARImeet hosts, presenters, and discussants, NUIG, Sept 2019.

I presented an update of my research plan to use IPA (interpretive phenomenological analysis) to make sense of data generated during imminent field work among TeachMeet participants (slides are at link above). The feedback was very helpful to me, as was hearing the progress being made by other researchers Jean McGowan, Jane O’Connell and Ciara O’Donoghue. The cycle of reflection and sharing with peers, fostered by Mairin Glenn, Mary Roche, Catriona McDonagh and Bernie Sullivan has been a terrific motivational and developmental scaffold for me moving onwards on the doctoral research journey.

Féilte TeachMeet – I was yoyo-ing (yo-yoing? yo-yo-ing?) back and forth across the newer sections of my alma mater campus to also attend the Féilte TeachMeet – thank to Phil Fox and Sinéad Kelly this was a vibrant affair – an attentive and curious audience, seven short sharp smart presenters – not much more one could ask for. Phil made a remark about her observation of TeachMeets to date…there is quite a lot of emotion involved among presenters…food for thought, that!

Learnovation – October began in Croke Park, representing CESI, with chair Adrienne Webb, at the Learnovation summit (thank you Peter Hamilton for the invitation). I really enjoyed learning from Gavin Henrick – so much to learn about accessibility and inclusion in presentations – and from Martyn Farrows of Soap Box labs who gave a terrific overview of AI (the artificial intelligence AI). It was good to add CESI’s voice to the dynamic discussion on CS in education that took place in the afternoon.

Index Survey launch – An academic launch on a Monday morning, in a cinema, with film, music, memoirs, and even dancing – who could say no? I was chuffed to represent the university students of the 70s, especially when I found myself between Martin Downes of the 50/60s and John Hurley of the 80s! Thank to Catherine Cronin and Terry Maguire for this imaginative kickstart to a very important piece of work. My nano stream of consciousness contribution pointed to my just-in-time first meeting with a computer at the very end of the very analog 70s ….

I spent the years 1976-1980 in UCG, entering the year when Elvis died and punk was born, the youngest member of a student body with a leader called Speedie who mustered us higgledly piggledly into a socially conscious army in support of the presidential poet prophet you may know as Miggledy. Lucky me.
I studied for a BSc and HDip in E, the subjects low tech mathematics, analogue biochemistry then a year of lectures on education history – trying to decipher projected notes handwritten in yellow marker – TP in The Jes interspersed with hours and hours of projects making amazing admirable acetate audiovisual aids for the overhead projector.
Look a’ me!
But then
approaching the last stroke of midnight before it was time to head out into the The Real World – a nun, who’s name to my shame I don’t know – asked if we would like to try out the new COMPUTER … and in the beating blink of the phosphorescent green/yellow eye of an Apple 2e (BASIC, drive A, drive B, floppy disks that were proper floppy), came the life changing tech turning point for me.
The end became the beginning.
History. Epiphany.

Lucky me.

MathsMeetIE – for Maths week 2019, a Maths TeachMeet hosted at Microsoft by Stephen Howell and Caoilinn Tighe and curated by Pamela O’Brien and Neil Butler (who’s workshop on Japanese maths games has me now addicted do SkyScrapers). My nanopresentation was a shout out for a crossover between Maths and Art citing Turtlestitch and the fabulous visualisations of Joachim Wedekind using SNAP! The deepest satisfaction of this event for me (apart from yet another birthday cake) was seeing The Next Generation take up the TeachMeet mantle; to put it diplomatically, Caoilinn and myself “were in school together”.
The variety of ideas and activities in this rollercoaster TeachMeet were a joy to watch unfold – teachers from primary, secondary, third level and informal education all learning together. Has to be said, the Dreamspace is a wonderful venue for a TeachMeet, thank you Microsoft Ireland for such warm hospitality from Stephen, Caoilinn and Corey..

SCoTENS – This year I didn’t have to go far to attend SCoTENS (standing committee for teacher education north and south, born of the good Friday agreement), it came to Cavan. And thanks to Conor Galvin, Noel Purdy and Maria Campbell for continued inclusion of a doctoral round table at the annual gathering of SCoTENS. To present your work in progress, and see the work of others at various stages of progress from other researchers, is a most formative part of the doctoral journey for me. Both keynote speakers, Prof Marilyn Cochran-Smith, [Cawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools, Boston College] and Prof Paul Miller [Head of the School of Education and Professor of Educational Leadership and Social Justice, University of Greenwich] spoke on matters of equity in education (or its lack thereof) and left us with many questions to ponder. Hopefully the funding of SCoTENS will be fully restored – for teacher educators across Ireland this is a really important body, and it needs to continue the ongoing collaborations between north and south from which we all benefit.

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