|Dr. Santoli and South Paw in Dr. Waldron's office |
at St. Patrick's College in Dublin, Ireland
After speaking with Dr. Waldron, we were so honored to meet the President of the college, Dr. Daire Keogh. His office is in a beautiful part of the building which was built in the 1960s-a wonderful contrast to the older part. He showed us several of the lovely rooms in the original building and we were able to speak with him about The University of South Alabama. It is such a small world: He was familiar with Mobile because he has in-laws in Pensacola.
|Dr. Fionnuala Waldron, Dr. Susan Santoli, Dr. Daire Keogh, Dr. Paige Vitulli|
|President Keogh sharing the beauty of St. Patrick's with us.|
Like USA, Pat's has recently undergone revisions in its teacher programs. In both cases, the addition of more extensive field experience was part of the revision. At Pat's, the primary (elementary) degree changed from a 3 year to a 4 year degree and the secondary program, which is all graduate, will be increasing from 18 months to 2 years.
The Special Education Dept. at Pat's is celebrating its 50th anniversary and was the first SPE department in Ireland. They do not have a dual elementary degree as we do, but we all agreed that one of the biggest challenges facing our students is effectively reaching students with special needs.
Secondary social sciences consists of history, geography, and science. There is no economics, civics/government or behavioral sciences component. Citizenship is addressed in Social Person and Health Education. As in the US, elementary social studies is often sacrificed for math and literacy instruction.
In secondary education, students enter the program with undergraduate content degrees. They are admitted to the graduate program through interviews. As with our elementary program, it is difficult to balance what content courses should be taught along with the pedagogy in order to provide a sound foundation in both. When the program was extended to 4 years, the humanities courses were reduced. Dr. Waldron said that the goal for their primary program was a very holistic, child centered curriculum. We all agreed that the content/pedagogy balance is a difficult one.
As in the US, Dr. Waldron said there is a real concern that many subjects taught in the schools are taught as more fact based, exam oriented, textbook centered. The goal of Pat's as, is our goal, is to provide future teachers with the tools they need to practice more inquiry teaching and to focus on critical thinking skills which transfer to all subject areas.
We asked about online courses as part of teaching training and were told that the online courses were mostly postgraduate courses, but they were moving toward a blended program in the graduate program. Technology use is definitely a part of teacher training, although the availability of technology differs among the schools, just as it does for our students.
Teaching is a very popular occupation in Ireland. The entrance requirements into Pat's are high and they take students from the top 10% in the country into the elementary program. Teaching has a very high status and teachers in Ireland are the highest paid in the European Union. Because Ireland is part of the EU, it recognizes teacher certification from other EU countries. Teachers can be asked to make up content gaps, but the certification is recognized. As in the USA, teachers can get certified through online providers and these vary greatly in quality. Certification qualifications do differ among institutions, but are fairly consistent between Pat's and Limerick College. There are different models in smaller institutions. We told them this was true in the U.S. as well, and that each institution in Alabama submitted its certification proposals to the Alabama Department of Education so that there could be a variance in requirements. Interestingly enough, Dr. Waldron said that there is sometimes the view among other academics that a degree is education is not as rigorous as in other areas. We told her that was true for us as well.
As in the US, insuring teacher quality is a national focus. On the morning news, before we went to Pat's, we heard a report from Charlie Taylor, Chief Executive of the recently created Teaching Agency in the UK, that additional entry tests in English and math would be required of those applying to teacher ed programs. Dr. Waldron said that similar conversations were going on in Ireland.
At the end of our conversation, we were so impressed with what we had learned about Pat's and with the wonderful hospitality of Dr. Waldron and Dr. Keogh. We will definitely be pursing some collaboration possibilities, especially those which require us returning to Pat's!
Dr. Waldron then took us to the gate house of Belvedere House which is the home of The National Induction Programme for Teachers. We were so inspired and impressed by Billy Redmond and Mary Burke who are the NIPT National Co-ordinators. MUCH more on this later.
(Daire, Fionnuala, Billy and Mary - please do not hesitate to clarify or correct any misconceptions or errors documented...post a comment or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
***Students, please feel free to comment on any aspects of our post you found interesting or pose questions you may have.***