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Dr Johanna Fitzgerald

Dr Johanna Fitzgerald

BA; HDE (UCC); MA Inclusion & Disability Studies (IOE, London) & Ed D (IOE UCL)
Head of Department, Senior Lecturer

Research interests

Johanna's current research focuses on enhancing teaching and learning for all students, particularly those with additional and special educational needs, across three main domains- educational leadership, pedagogy, and teacher professional learning- all of which interact to influence student learning and the quality of outcomes for diverse learners. Her research is concerned with the development of an integrated systematic approach to inclusive and special education provision and an understanding of how special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) and school leaders can improve their practice. Underpinning her research is recognition of the importance of collaborative and situated approaches to professional learning, processes of individual reflective practice and school self-evaluation, all of which coalesce to identify the need for reform in the first instance, but more importantly, promote evidence-informed strategic direction for whole school improvement.

Current Research Projects

  • Strategic School-wide Responses to Inclusive Special Education: Johanna is interested in the development of school-wide capacity to promote universal approaches to inclusive and special education, with a particular emphasis on integrated systematic approaches. She is currently collaborating with a number of ETBs nationally to support the implementation of provision mapping as a strategic school-wide response to inclusive provision which involves integration of the Continuum of Support (NEPS 2010) with the Looking at Our Schools Quality Framework (DES Inspectorate 2016). 
  • Inter-Professional Education: Inter-professional collaboration for children with speech and language difficulties: speech and language therapists and teachers in primary and post-primary schools; collaborative research and practice project with Department of Allied Health, University of Limerick.  

Publications

Commissioned Research Reports

Book Chapter

  • Fitzgerald, J. (2018) ‘Leading Learning for Children with Autism Spectrum Difference’, in E. Ring, P. Daly, and E. Wall (eds.), Autism from the Inside Out: A Handbook for Parents, Early Childhood, Primary, Post-primary and Special School Settings. Oxford: Peter Lang.

Peer Reviewed Articles

  • Fitzgerald, J. and Radford, J. (2017) ‘The SENCO Role in Post-primary Schools in Ireland; Victims or agents of change?’ European Journal of Special Needs Education, 32(3), 452-466.
  • Higgins, E., Fitzgerald, J. and Howard, S. (2015). ‘Literacy Lift-Off: an experimental evaluation of a reading recovery programme on literacy skills and reading self- concept’. Educational Psychology in Practice: theory, research and practice in educational psychology, 31(3), 247-264.

Other Articles

  • Mannion, N. and Fitzgerald, J. (September 2018) ‘Addressing the Wellbeing of Learners with Complex Special Educational Needs: Using Junior Cycle Level Two Learning Programmes for explicit teaching of wellbeing for wellbeing.’ LEARN- Journal of the Irish Learning Support Association, 27-41.

Recent National and International Conference Papers

  • Fitzgerald, J., Lynch, J., Martin, A., and Cullen, B. (2020, January).  Schools As Adhocracies: An Exploration Of Organisational Systems Promoting Inclusive Leadership in Irish Post-Primary Schools. Paper accepted for oral presentation at International Symposium entitled: ‘Leadership for Schools Serving Marginalized Communities – Part I: Comparative Perspectives from Africa, Australia, and Europe’. International Congress of School Effectiveness and Improvement, Marrakech, Morocco, January 6th -10th 2020.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, November). Leadership for Learning: The critical role of the senior leadership team in building schoolwide capacity to meet diverse needs of learners.  Invited keynote address Principals and Deputy Principals Association Annual Conference, Strand Hotel, Limerick.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, November). Mapping Inclusive and Special Education for All, Some, and Few Learners: Provision mapping as a response. Invited speaker National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) Annual Conference, Athlone.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, October). Provision Mapping to Support a Whole-School, Strategic Approach to Inclusive and Special Education. Invited keynote address Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools Special Education Conference, Mount Wolseley Hotel, Tullow, Carlow.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, September). SENCOs as agents of change: Harnessing research informed practice and practice informed research to promote SENCOs as leaders. Invited keynote address Joint Managerial Body (JMB) SEN Conference, Unlocking Potential: Support for All, Some and Few in the Secondary School: Inclusion - Intervention – Innovation. Dublin. Video recording can be accessed here: https://www.jmb.ie/#cbp=mediaid555
  • Fitzgerald, J. (January 2019). ‘Leading Inclusive Special Education in Mainstream Post-Primary Schools in Ireland: An Exploration of the SENCO Role’. Paper Presented at International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement, Stavanger, Norway.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (January 2019). ‘Leading Learning for All, Some, and Few: Provision Mapping as Process and Product.’ Invited speaker Education and Training Board Ireland (ETBI) Annual Conference for Principals and Deputy Principals, Carlow.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (April 2018) ‘Looking at Our SENCOs: Leading Learning for Students with Special Educational Needs in Post-Primary Schools’. Educational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) Annual Conference, UCD, Dublin.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (September 2018). ‘Leading a Whole-School Response to Inclusive and Special Education in Post-Primary Schools. Invited speaker Education and Training Board Ireland (ETBI) Induction Conference for newly appointed Principals and Deputy Principals, Mullingar.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (September 2018). ‘A job that doesn’t exist’: Isn’t it time to conceptualise the SENCO role in post-primary schools?’. Irish Learning Support Association (ILSA) Annual Conference, Carlow.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2017) ‘Leadership in Inclusive Special Education: A Qualitative Exploration of the SENCO Role in Post-Primary Schools in Ireland’. Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Annual Conference and Expo, Boston, USA.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2015) ‘Special Educational Needs Coordinators in Post-Primary Schools in Ireland: An Exploration of the Role’.  British Educational Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference, Belfast.
  • Fitzgerald, J., O’Sullivan, S. (presenting authors), Daly, P., Ring, E., Egan, M., Griffin, C., Long, S., McCarthy, E., Moloney, M., O’Brien, T., O’Byrne, A., Ryan, M. and Wall, E. with Madden, R.  Research Associate (2015) ‘Teaching and Learning for High School Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Ireland: A National Evaluation of Provision’. American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, Chicago.

 

More information

Brief Biography

Johanna  taught in various educational settings both in the UK and Ireland and in a variety of teaching roles for eleven years before being seconded to the SESS as an Assistant National Coordinator with responsibility for the post-primary sector. Since her secondment to the SESS in 2006, and her subsequent appointment to Mary Immaculate College in 2011, she has been involved in the design and delivery of initial teacher education and continuing professional development relevant to inclusive and special educational needs.

Teaching

  • Bachelor of Education
  • Professional Master of Education
  • Master of Education in Special Educational Needs
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Special Educational Needs
  • Professional Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology

Advisory/ Reference/ Expert Groups

  • Joint Managerial Body (JMB),  Chairperson of the SEN Advisory Group.
  • Limerick and Clare ETB Steering Committee on Inclusive Education.
  • Kerry ETB Developing Schools Enriching Learning (DSEL) Steering Committee.
  • ETBI Inclusive Education Task Group (Provision Mapping Project)

Community Engagement

  • MIC SENCO Forum: In 2015 Johanna established the Forum with support from the Limerick Principals and Deputy Principals Association. Underpinned by evidenced-based frameworks supporting sustainable professional learning for teachers (Communities of Practice and Professional Learning Networks), the Forum provides networking and professional learning opportunities for SENCOs in the mid-west region.
  • Collaborative JMB/ AsIAM initiative to develop school resources to promote inclusion of learners with ASD in mainstream schools. 

Recent Educational In-Services and Workshops

  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, October). Schoolwide literacy provision for older struggling readers. Whole staff in-service, Youthreach Service, O’Connell Avenue, Limerick.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, August). Teachers as leaders of inclusive and special education practice in Kilkenny City Vocational School. Whole staff in-service, Kilkenny City Vocational School, Kilkenny.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, August). Inclusive approaches to teaching and learning for diverse earners in St. Joseph’s Secondary School. Whole staff in-service, St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Ballybunnion, Kerry.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, August). Strategic leadership of inclusive and special education in Ard Scoil Mhuire. In-service Ard Scoil Mhuire, Limerick.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (January 2019) ‘Support for All, Some and Few: Models of Inclusive Provision in Colaiste Na Riochta’. Whole staff in-service, Colaiste Na Riochta, Listowel, Kerry.

Clustered Continuing Professional Development

MIC SENCO Forum: In 2015 I established the Forum with support from the Limerick Principals and Deputy Principals Association. Underpinned by evidenced-based frameworks supporting sustainable professional learning for teachers (Communities of Practice and Professional Learning Networks), the Forum provides networking and professional learning opportunities for SENCOs in the mid-west region. Currently 50 post-primary schools engage with three face-to-face network meetings annually in MIC. In February 2020, in collaboration with colleagues in UCC and the Cork Education Support Centre, the Cork SENCO Forum for post-primary teachers was established. 

  • Fitzgerald, J. (2020, February). Looking at our SENCOs: provision mapping as a whole school response to inclusive and special education. Invited workshop with SENCOs, principals and deputy principals, Laois Education Centre.
  • Fitzgerald, J., Cahill, K. & O’Sullivan, D. (2020, February). The Importance of Professional Learning Networks for Special Education Teachers and SENCOs working in post primary schools. Invited workshop with SENCOs, Cork Education Support Centre.
  • Fitzgerald, J., & O’Brien, T.  (2020, February). The Importance of Professional Learning Networks for Special Education Teachers and SENCOs working in primary schools. Invited workshop with SENCOs, Cork Education Support Centre.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, November). SENCOs as Leaders of Change: Using Provision Mapping to build schoolwide approaches to inclusive and special education. Invited workshop with SENCOs, Kerry Education and Training Board.
  • Fitzgerald, J.& Egan, M.  (2019, November). The Importance of Professional Learning Networks for Special Education Teachers and SENCOs working in primary schools. Invited workshop with SENCOs, principals and deputy principals, Clare Education Centre.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, October). Enhancing the Social Skills of Students with ASD in Post- Primary. National Council for Special Education Support Service full day seminar, Charleville Park Hotel.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, April). Looking at our SENCOs: provision mapping as a whole school response to inclusive and special education. Invited workshop with SENCOs, principals and deputy principals, Cork Education Support Centre.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, April). Support for All, Some, and Few: Provision Mapping as a Strategic Whole School Response to Inclusive and Special Education in Mainstream Schools. Invited SENCO workshop Education Centre, Tralee, Kerry.
  • Fitzgerald, J. (2019, March). Enhancing the Social Skills of Students with ASD in Post- Primary. National Council for Special Education Support Service full day seminar, Dublin West Education Centre.

Postgraduate Supervision

Current Students

Doctoral Research Supervision

Current

Completed

  • O’Keeffe, A. (Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology 2019). An examination of the effect of green exercise and nature connectedness on the psychological well-being and attentional capacity of primary school-aged children. Co-supervisor, Dr Paul Mulcahy, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, Mary Immaculate College.
  • Sweeney, Emma (M Ed in SEN 2019) 'An exploration of ASD special class teacher perspectives of their role in Irish primary school contexts.'
  • Mannion, N. (M Ed in SEN 2017) What is the impact of explicit teaching of wellbeing on students’ behaviour in a special school setting?
  • Delahunty, T. (M Ed in SEN 2016) How have the Quality and Qualifications of Ireland (QQI) Programmes Impacted on the Educational Experiences of Senior Students with Mild General Learning Disabilities in Irish Special Schools?
  • Daly, L. (MA in Educational Psychology 2016) Teachers’ Perspectives of Their Role and the Role of Educational Psychology in Supporting Student Mental and Emotional Well-Being: An Exploratory Study.
  • Higgins, E. (MA in Educational Psychology 2014) An Examination of the Impact of a Whole Class Literacy Intervention Programme ‘Literacy Lift-Off’ in an Irish Primary Classroom.
  • Sheehy, M. (M Ed in SEN 2015) Learning Pals: A study of Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) to support the development of mathematical skills in a multi-class rural Irish school.
  • McNamara, S. (M Ed in SEN 2014) What impact does an inclusive mathematics comprehension intervention have upon the levels of attainment in problem-solving with children of all abilities in second and third class in a rural mainstream primary school?
  • O’Connor, M. (M Ed in SEN 2012) An Investigation into how a positive Approach to Mathematics will Change the Attitudes of Children with Special Educational Needs and Their Parents Towards Maths in a Typical Rural Irish Primary School.