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Reflective Pedagogy & Early Childhood Studies


The Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies at Mary Immaculate College comprises of a dynamic team with a range of diverse experiences and expertise in the field of Education. Departmental staff contribute to all the main undergraduate programmes delivered in the Faculty of Education including the BA Early Childhood Care and Education, the BA Early Childhood Practice and the Bachelor in Education (B Ed)/ B Ed in Education and Psychology.

We, in the department, are committed to promoting the principle of reflection to enable early years’ educators and primary teachers to reflect on their practice and thereby enrich their knowledge and beliefs about curriculum, pedagogy and children as learners. The concept of life-long learning is cultivated within the department through our contribution across several postgraduate programmes in the Faculty of Education.

In accordance with the mission statement of Mary Immaculate College, the Department seeks to foster an ethos that is grounded in respect for cultural diversity and individual values, the promotion of equity in society and a spirit of justice and compassion in the service of others. In this context, the holistic development of each student is valued and students are encouraged to be active and critical participants in their own learning.

Doctoral Research in Professional Learning for Teachers & Other Education Professionals

Head of Department
Dr Lisha O'Sullivan
+353 61 204385

Subject Overview


BA in Early Childhood Care and Education (BA ECCE)

The BA in Early Childhood Care and Education is an innovative four-year Level 8 degree programme, which focuses on providing students with the knowledge, understanding and skills to enable them to become professional leaders in the provision of care and education for children from birth to six years in a variety of education and care settings. The strong practical element of the programme provides opportunities for students to develop their skills through engaging in placements in a range of early years settings. The inclusive focus of the programme develops students' awareness of the needs of children from a diversity of backgrounds and children with special educational needs. More information on BA in Early Childhood Care and Education here.

The following are modules on the BA ECCE programme, in descending order from First Year onwards:

ECE153: Chid Development
ECE101: Foundation Studies
ECE102: Child, Family and Community 1
ECE103: Language Development in the Early Years
ECE154: Child Health and Well-being 1
ECE155: Professional Development 1
ECE104: The Role of Play in Development
ECE151: Creative Music Making in the Early Years
ECE202: Child, Family and Community 2
ECE403: Curriculum and Pedagogy: Birth to Three Years
ECE200: Professional Development 3
ECE201: Creative Arts in the Early Years
ECE202: Child, Family, and Community 2
ECE203: The Early Years: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives and Analysis
ECE204: Child Health and Wellbeing 2
ECE250: Professional Development 4
ECE251: Models of Curriculum
ECE252: Educational Psychology
ECE253: Language and Literacy in the Early Years
ECE254: Sociological and Global Perspectives
ECE300: Professional Development 5 (Off-Campus Placement)
ECE350: STEM in the Early Years
ECE351: Management 1: Policy for Early Childhood Education and Care Management
ECE352: Research Methods
ECE353: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity: Implications for Professional Practice
ECE354: Including Children with Special Needs in the Early Years
ECE400: Professional Development 6
ECE401: Management 2: Early Childhood Education and Care Leadership and Management
ECE402: Advanced Issues in Child Psychology
ECE403: Curriculum and Pedagogy: Birth to Three Years
ECE404 Dissertation 1
ECE450: Professional Development 7
ECE451: Curriculum and Pedagogy: Three to Six Years
ECE452: Dissertation 2

B Ed/B Ed in Education and Psychology

Department staff contribute across the B Ed/B Ed in Education and Psychology programmes in areas including School Placement, Microteaching, Educational Methodology, Early Childhood Education, Research Methods and Dissertation. More information on the B Ed programme here and the B Ed in Education and Psychology here.

School Placement Modules
EDU109: Professional Placement 1
EDU161: Professional Placement 2
EDU267: Professional Placement 3
EDU353: Early Primary Education
EDU400: School Placement 6
EDU401 School Placement 7
EDU404: Professional Placement 4: Alternative Educational Experience
Educational Methodology Modules
EDU110: Introduction to Technology and Educational Methodology
EDU353: Early Primary Education and Advanced Educational Methods
Early Childhood Education Core Module
EDU352: Early Childhood Education: Curriculum, Research and Pedagogy
Early Childhood Studies Elective/Specialism Modules
EDE354: Play and Learning in Early Childhood Education
EDE369: Early Childhood Education and the Psychology of Motivation
EDE403: Inclusion in the Early Years
EDE404: ECS Dissertation 1
EDE404: ECS Dissertation 2
EDE453: Becoming a Professional: Linking Initial Teacher Education and Induction through Reflective Practice
Research Methods and Dissertation
EDU302: Research Methods - Ethical Foundations for Teaching and Research
EDU356: Research Methods 2
EDE460: Multi-Disciplinary Dissertation 1
EDE461: Multi-Disciplinary Dissertation 2


Professional Master in Education (Primary Teaching)

Department staff contribute to the Professional Master in Education (PME) programme in the areas of School Placement, Microteaching, Educational Methodology, Early Childhood Education and Dissertation. More information on the Professional Masters of Education here.

The following is a list of modules for the PME:

School Placement Modules
PME608: Professional Placement 1
PME636: Professional Placement 2
PME637: Professional Placement 3
PME638: Professional Placement 4
Education Modules
PME624: Early Primary Education: Educational Methodology and ECE
Research and Dissertation
PME633: Professional Master of Education Dissertation

Master of Education (M Ed)

Department staff contribute to several modules on the various M Ed programmes in the faculty and provide research supervision for Year Two M Ed Students. More information on the Masters of Education here.

The following is a list of modules on the M Ed programme:

EDU600: Theory to Practice in Education
EDU601: Applied Research Project
EDU602: Principles and Practice of Research in Education
EDU603: Ensuring Criticality and Reflexivity in Educational Research Design
EDU604: Curriculum Design, Development and Evaluation
EDU605: National and International Trends and Current Issues in Education
EDU606: Dissertation 1
EDU607: Dissertation 2

Department staff contribute to a number of modules across a range of M Ed programmes in the Faculty including the following:

M Ed in Educational Leadership and Management
EDU616: Dissertation
M Ed in Special Educational Needs
EN6791: Principles and Practice of Research in Education
EN6120: Dissertation
EN6102: Dissertation
M Ed in Professional Studies in Education
PSE600: Principles and Practice of Research in Education
PSE601: Dissertation
PSE602: Dissertation

Graduate Diploma/M Ed in Adult and Further Education

There are two programmes available which offer a qualification for teaching in Further Education: The Graduate Diploma in Adult and Further Education and the Professional Diploma in Education (FE). More information about Adult and Further Education here.

Structured PhD in Education

Dr Emmanuel O’Grady is the Course Leader for Structured PhD in Education. Staff across the Department are involved in the supervision of Structured PhD students’ research. More information about Structured PhD in Education here.

Professional Development

 Level 8 Special Purpose Certificate in Professional Mentoring for Early Childhood Practice

Department staff will be delivering this new special purpose certificate programme from September 2021. This 15 credit module considers the concept of mentoring in the context of early childhood education and care settings and empowers participants to apply the principles of mentoring within their practice in settings. Funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, this programme is free of charge to all participants.

See an MS Sway presentation on Professional Mentoring for Early Childhood Practice here.


Dr Lisha O'Sullivan

BA Early Childhood Studies (UCC), Dip Womens Studies (UCC), MA Non-Directive Play Therapy (University of York) & PhD (University of Cambridge)
Head of Department & Senior Lecturer
  • Phone: +353 61 204385
  • Email:
  • Location: 311

Dr Cathal de Paor

BA (NUI), Graduate Diploma (UL), M Ed (UL), MA (NUI) & PhD (Nantes)
Senior Lecturer & Director of Continuing Professional Development
  • Phone: +353 61 204950
  • Email:
  • Location: JHN209

Dr Neil O Conaill

B Ed, M Ed & EdD
Director of School Placement
  • Phone: +353 61 204519
  • Email:
  • Location: 303

Florence Ajala

Assistant Lecturer in Early Childhood Education
  • Email:
  • Location: MIC Limerick

Deirdre Breatnach

M Ed (UL), B Ed (NUI), Dip in Remedial Education (MIC) & Dip in Religious Studies (Maynooth)
  • Phone: +353 61 204565
  • Email:
  • Location: JHN108

Mai Burke - Hayes

BA ECCE (MIC), MEd. Psychology of Education (University of Manchester), GC Academic Practice (MIC)
Early Childhood Education Practice Placement Coordinator & Lecturer
  • Email:


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Doctoral Research Scholarship

Doctoral Research Scholarship in Professional Learning for Teachers and Other Education Professionals.

The scholarship is intended to encourage research that focuses on any aspect of practitioner learning and continuing professional development including individual and collective reflection, classroom enquiry, collaborative action research and communities of practice.

Recent years has seen a continued focus on professional development and learning in each of the four sectors for which MIC provides qualifications - early childhood, primary, post-primary, and further education and training. The professional award criteria and guidelines in early learning and care, Cosán – the national framework for teachers' learning, the Further Education and Training Strategy) have all drawn attention to the importance of learning across the professional lifespan, from initial qualification to the later career stages. A key emphasis has also been placed on professional learning as a collective engagement and the need to foster cultures of collaborative professionalism, as conveyed in Looking at Our School 2022: A Quality Framework (DES, 2022). The Faculty of Education in MIC is committed to advancing understanding of professional learning for teachers and other education professionals. In order to support the Faculty in this mission, applications are now invited from qualified teachers, early childhood practitioners and other education professionals to apply, on a competitive basis, for a scholarship to undertake research in the area of professional learning and development. More than one scholarship may be available subject to funding availability.


The scholarship is intended to encourage research that focuses on any aspect of practitioner learning and continuing professional development including individual and collective reflection, classroom enquiry, collaborative action research and communities of practice. The potential of T-REX, the Teacher’s Research Exchange, as a resource for professional learning and CPD is also of particular interest and proposals which include a focus on this are particularly welcome. T-REX is an online national infrastructure for supporting engagement in and with educational research by Irish teachers, early childhood education practitioners and other education professionals.

The scholarship offers a waiver of programme fees each year up to a maximum of four years plus a yearly stipend of €1,150. In addition to conducting their own doctoral research and related study, the successful candidates will contribute the equivalent of 20 service hours per year in the form of CPD provision for the benefit of their peers in the sector.

Further information on T-REX is available on YouTube here.


Applications are welcome from candidates who are in a position to commence a new doctoral programme of study in September 2023 in Education (i.e. new entrants) – either a PhD in Education by research or a Structured PhD in the Faculty of Education, Mary Immaculate College. Eligible applicants will have a Master’s degree in Education, with a minimum 2.1 honours, and have at least three years’ experience working in a relevant sector post-qualification, and not have access to other awarded funding.

Application Process

There are two separate processes involved – application to the CPD Scholarship scheme and application for a PhD programme through the Research and Graduate School (RGS). Candidates may if desired, apply for the scholarship in the first instance and await the outcome of that competition before applying to Admissions. Details on applying to the Research and Graduate School are available here.

For the scholarship application, applicants are requested to submit the following to no later than 15 June 2023:

  • CV detailing academic and professional experience
  • Cover letter outlining motivation and interest in the scheme
  • Proposal for research project - further specific details are available below
  • Proposal for CPD which the successful candidate will offer each year over the project duration
  • Copies of relevant academic transcripts

Following an initial assessment of applications, shortlisted candidates will be called for interview. Conditional offers of a scholarship will be made to successful candidates on the understanding that candidates must also successfully complete the separate Admissions process. As stated, these are two separate processes

Specification for Proposal

Candidates are invited to submit a research proposal and a programme of CPD which they plan to deliver over four years. Research proposals should present detail on the following topics in less than 3000 words: aims and objectives, proposed methodology and methods, data analysis, anticipated results; anticipated impact on their own professional growth and that of others, plans for dissemination, including through innovative means that make the research accessible to a wide audience. Proposals should also identify the relevance for T-REX where this is part of the research proposed – some indicative ideas are given below.

Separately, details of the planned CPD, outlining aims and objectives, target group, should be provided in less than 500 words. Although these are two separate documents, the research proposal should indicate how both proposals are related, i.e., the relevance of the research for the programme of CPD to be offered by the candidate.

The overall application will be assessed on the basis of: quality of the candidate’s prior academic and professional achievement; quality of the research proposal and the extent to which it aligns with the stated priorities; quality of planned CPD provision. Successful applicants will have an opportunity to develop their proposals in consultation with their supervision panel.

An online presentation will be provided in advance to assist applicants in writing their applications. Arrangements for this will be sent to candidates who express interest to before 30 April 2023. Informal enquiries may be made to

Some indicative research topics in T-REX

With regard to T-REX, the Teacher’s Research Exchange, relevant topics for proposals might include but are not limited to exploring its potential for enabling: inquiry-based professional learning, online communities of practice; collaborative research between student teachers and in-service teachers; mapping post-graduate educational research in Ireland or elsewhere, and exploring its impact. There is also a need to learn more about the potential role of local and blended (online) learning through TREX in supporting a cascade model of professional development, enabling professional conversations both within and between schools, and how initiative such as these could be allied to the use of digital badges.


Doctoral Research in Professional Learning for Teachers & Other Education Professionals

Members of the Department in partnership with colleagues across the College and in other third-level institutions are engaged in the wide range of additional research-related activities.

The Centre for Early-childhood Research at Mary Immaculate College (CERAMIC) has an exceptional track record in conducting research. Members of the department have recently been involved in two large national research projects. The first of these projects was a collaboration with Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and involved an investigation of parents’ and educators’ perspectives on school readiness while the second collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Educational Psychology, Inclusive and Special Education (MIC) involved an evaluation of educational provision for children with Autism. 

An Examination of Concepts of School-Readiness among Parents and Educators in Ireland, Dublin: Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Ring, E., Mhic Mhathúna, M., Moloney, M., Hayes, N., Breatnach, D., Stafford, P., Carswell, D., Keegan, S., Kelleher, C., McCafferty, D., O’Keeffe, A., Leavy, A., Madden, R. & Ozonyia, M. (2016)   

An Evaluation of Education Provision for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Ireland, Trim: National Council for Special Education.

Daly, P., Ring, E., Egan, M., Fitzgerald, J., Griffin, C., Long, S., McCarthy, E., Moloney, M., O’Brien, T., O’Byrne, A., O’Sullivan, S., Ryan, M., Wall, E., Madden, R. and Gibbons, S. (2016)

Autism from the Inside Out

Autism from the Inside Out: A Handbook for Parents, Early Childhood, Primary, Post-Primary and Special School Settings, a collaboration with colleagues across the Faculty of Education and PhD students, was launched at the International Play Conference Revolutionising Play: Possibilities, Perspectives and Promise at MIC in September 2018 by Adam Harris, CEO AsIAm. The book is  co-edited by Dr Emer Ring, Dr Patricia Daly and Professor Eugene Wall, with chapters being provided by a range of experts in education and psychology at Mary Immaculate College. The book emerged from the findings of the national evaluation of education provision for children with autism spectrum difference in Ireland referred to above.

Department staff have expertise in supervising research in a range of academic areas at under-graduate and post-graduate level. Department staff are currently providing research supervision to students undertaking PhD by research and the Structured PhD in Education.

Current PhD/Structured PhD in Education Students being Supervised in the DRPECS

  • Marie Claire Murphy: Teacher and Children’s Perceptions of Forest School sessions in an Irish Primary School context: A Case Study. Supervisors: Dr Emer Ring, Dr Kathleen Horgan & Dr Lisha O’Sullivan.
  • Shirley Heaney: An investigation of how the well-being of children with additional needs is supported within Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) settings in Ireland. Supervisors: Dr Emer Ring, Dr Lisha O’Sullivan & Dr Jennifer Pope.

Useful Information

Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies Departmental (DRPECS) Assistantships 2022 - Applications Open

The Department of Reflective Pedagogy and Early Childhood Studies is now accepting applications from current and potential research MA and PhD students for a funded Departmental Assistantship beginning in September 2022.

Further information on the DRPECS assistantship here, and the DRPECS Departmental Assistantship application form can be accessed here.

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