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MIC Plays Major Role in Pioneering €2.8 million Study Charting Teachers’ Professional Journeys

MIC crest on sign with MIC Limerick library building in background

Mary Immaculate College (MIC) Professor Aisling Leavy is one of three lead researchers who will coordinate Ireland’s first longitudinal study of teachers, Teachers’ Professional Journeys: The First Decade, commissioned by the Department of Education and the Teaching Council of Ireland.

Head of the Department of STEM Education at MIC, Professor Leavy, represents MIC in a consortium with the University of Limerick and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), which will carry out this major piece of research, due to be completed in 2030.

Professor Leavy with fellow PIs, Prof. Paul Conway (UL) and Prof. Emer Smyth (ESRI) commented that: "The Teachers’ Professional Journeys (TPJ) longitudinal study will provide a valuable opportunity to understand the learning and development of teachers during their first decade in the profession. Central to realising this potential will be the contributions of teachers and other stakeholders in enhancing our understanding of their experiences of teaching and teacher education.”

Prof. Leavy emphasised that the objective is to investigate the key personal, educational, professional and systemic influences that influence teachers’ early career experiences. The study will involve research with cohorts of graduates from initial teacher education from the classes of 2019, 2022, 2025 and 2026—covering primary, post-primary and further education. 

The research is supported by two teams of Associate Researchers at Mary Immaculate College (Professor Déirdre Ní Chroinín, Dr Johanna Fitzgerald and Dr Mairead Hourigan) and the University of Limerick (Dr Antonio Calderon, Dr Aoife Neary and Dr Niamh O’Meara). A project manager has recently been appointed and it is hoped that two UL PhD candidates will join the project also. 

Professor Michael Healy, Vice-President of Research at MIC stated: “Teachers’ Professional Journeys is a significant and ambitious research project commissioned by the Department of Education and the Teaching Council. It has the potential for fundamental and progressive effects on education policy in Ireland. As a consequence, it is likely to positively influence the work of all professional educators who play such a vital role in wider society. The award of €2.8 million funding to the MIC, UL and ESRI research consortium testifies to the high-quality education research taking place at MIC and in our partner institutions. I wish the MIC Principal Investigator Professor Aisling Leavy and collaborating researchers at MIC, UL and the ESRI every success with this important work.”

Announcing the funding, Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, said: "The research study demonstrates the strong commitment of both the Department and the Teaching Council to listen to the voices and experiences of teachers in a way that can shape and reshape future policy on teaching and teacher education. I hope that all teachers in the relevant cohorts and other education stakeholders will see the value in contributing to this study, which is the first of its kind for this country.”

Chairperson of the Teaching Council, Michelle Keane, added that: “Collaborative engagement with the Department, key stakeholders and the teaching profession is fundamental to everything that we do. As this project is jointly commissioned with the Department, and will involve a collaborative, participatory approach to research design and implementation. it very much reflects our commitment to a partnership approach…I will follow its progress with great interest.”

Explaining the move to undertake the research, the Department of Education referred to the fact that teachers have experienced significantly reconfigured initial teacher education programmes [now in a second cycle of accreditation, Céim, 2020] and a new model of induction (Droichead) as well as the introduction of a national framework for their ongoing professional learning (Cosán). There have also been significant national curriculum and policy developments.

This research will therefore “adopt a ‘future focus’, identifying where and how the findings can inform and shape initial teacher education, induction and early professional development, to ensure all teachers have the best possible start to their careers”.