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Research in School Education (RISE)


RISE was established in 2012 to research the complex nature of learning and education in the twenty-first century. The aim of the group is to investigate, influence and impact on educational policy and practice. As such, its work is central to local as well as global education development. The group maintains an emphasis on linking theory and practice, and exploring how this translates into various educational settings, systems and processes. It could be argued that much research in education is divorced from practice. This group aims to address that gap. Our theoretical frameworks are wide and developing; in the words of Karl Popper: “Whenever a theory appears to you as the only possible one, take this as a sign that you have neither understood the theory nor the problem which it was intended to solve”. The work of the group encompasses a range of perspectives and methodologies with emphasis on collaboration, participation and voice.

Research focus

The research in this group focuses on the following areas:

  • Schooling in 21st century learning environments
  • developing models of teaching and teacher professional development;
  • the 21st century learner;
  • incorporating assessment in teaching and learning,
  • educational policy, practice and evaluation (including junior cycle reform in Ireland;
  • theoretical frameworks and their use in practice (e.g. sociocultural theory, Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development [ZPD] and constructivism).

The first major project of the RISE group in 2012/13 and 2013/14 was to address a key aspect of contemporary educational change in Ireland: Junior Cycle Reform from different stakeholder perspectives. To this end, we ran two daylong seminars (May 2013 and May 2014) involving keynotes, panel discussion and interactive audience participation, using start-up funding provided by the School. The first was aimed at teachers, teacher educators, curriculum developers, industry leaders and policy makers. The second was developed with and for students. Both of these events attracted considerable media interest and the data collected provided the basis of a report and research paper on Junior Cycle Reform to be completed by the group in 2014/15.

During the 2014/15 academic year, RISE will appoint a new convener and set targets for the next five years. Colette Murphy will convene the STEM-ERC Research Group.


May 21st June 2014

Neil Hoey Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub



Web Version

International Association of Applied Linguistics European Junior Researcher Meeting

18th - 20th June 2013

Ph.D student Gene Dalton is presenting a paper. Title: 'Learning Irish in a virtual world: Can new technologies be effective in bridging the motivation gap in the child’s language learning experience at school?'

May 22nd 2013

Neil Hoey Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub


RISE seminar_Schooling in the 21st century

Education in the 21st Century: Philosophy, Aims and Opportunities associated with Junior Cycle Reform [PDF]

PRESS RELEASE [PDF] 22nd May 2013

22nd April 2013

Trinity College Dublin, The School of Education, The Arts Block, Room 3105 from 1.00 to 2.00pm


Interactive Whiteboards in Education (Dr Sara Hennessy, University of Cambridge)

To access the presentation, please click here

Jan 10 2013 Research seminar Colette Murphy: Vygotsky’s ZPD: Theory and Practice
Nov 29 2012 Research seminar Damian Murchan & Keith Johnston: Enacting a Key-Skills based curriculum - lessons from the Bridge 21 project

Staff Members of the Group

Convenor: Dr Colette Murphy | Email:

Dr Ann Devitt

Prof. Noirin Hayes (adjunct)

Dr Keith Johnston

Ms Marita Kerin

Dr Damian Murchan

Dr Colette Murphy

Ms Melanie Ni Dhuinn

Ms Elizabeth Oldham (adjunct)

Dr Mark Prendergast

Recent publications


Colette Murphy

Murphy, C and Scantlebury, K (eds) (2010) Coteaching in International Contexts: Research and Practice, New York: Springer ISBN: 978-9048137060


Ann Devitt Devitt, A. & Ahmad, K., Is There a Language of Sentiment? An Analysis of Lexical Resources for Sentiment Analysis, Language Resources and Evaluation, 2013.
Alison Egan

Egan, A., FitzGibbon, A., Oldham, E., Girvan, C. & Hallissy, M. (2013). A Vision for Education in 2026 – the Views of a Cohort of Pre-Service and In-Service Teachers. In R. McBride & M. Searson (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2013 (pp. 1275-1282). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved November 21, 2013 from

Alison Egan

Egan, A., FitzGibbon, A. & Oldham, E. (2013). Teacher Identified Uses of Technology in the Classroom - an Irish cohort. In R. McBride & M. Searson (Eds.),Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2013 (pp. 5034-5039). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved November 21, 2013 from

Alison Egan Conneely, C., Murchan, D., Tangney, B. & Johnston, K. (2013). 21 Century Learning –Teachers' and Students' Experiences and Views of the Bridge21 Approach within Mainstream Education. In R. McBride & M. Searson (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2013(pp. 5125-5132). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved November 20, 2013 from

Damian Murchan

Murchan, D., Shiel, G., Mickovska, G (2012).   An education system in transition: assessment and examinations in the Republic of Macedonia.   Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 19(4), 487-502.

Colette Murphy

Colette Murphy, Laura Lundy, Lesley Emerson & Karen Kerr (2012): Children's perceptions of primary science assessment in England and Wales, British Educational Research Journal, DOI:10.1080/01411926.2012.674921

Colette Murphy

Murphy. C and Kerr, K (2011) “Marks tell you how you’ve done… comments tell you why”. Primary Science, 117, 32-35

Colette Murphy

Murphy, C., Murphy, C and Kilfeather, P. (2010) Children making sense of science. Research in Science Education 41 (2) 283-298

Colette Murphy

Murphy, C., Carlisle, K and Beggs, J (2009) Can they go it alone? Addressing criticisms of coteaching.  Cultural Studies in Science Education, 4 (2) 461-475

Colette Murphy

McCrory, C and Murphy, C (2009) The growing visibility of creationism in Northern Ireland: are new science teachers equipped to deal with the issues? Evolution Education Outreach, 2 (3) 372-385

Colette Murphy

Scantlebury, K. and Murphy, C. (2009) Maria Edgeworth: Nineteenth century Irish female pioneer of science education. Irish Educational Studies 28 (1) 103-113

Elizabeth Oldham

Sean Close, Elizabeth Oldham, Gerry Shiel, Therese Dooley & Michael O'Leary, Effects of Calculators on Mathematics Achievement and Attitudes of Ninth-Grade Students, The Journal of Educational Research, 105, (6), 2012, p377 – 390

Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin

Researching in-school professional development as a community of practice, Science: official journal of the Irish Science Teachers' Association, Volume 48 (1), November 2012


Colette Murphy

Murphy, C (2012) Vygotsky and Primary Science, in: Fraser, B.J., Tobin, K.G. and McRobbie, C.J. (Eds) Second International Handbook of Science Education, pp. 177 – 187, pub: Springer ISBN: 978-1402090400

Colette Murphy

Kerr, K. and Murphy, C (2012) Children’s Attitudes to Primary Science, in: Fraser, B.J., Tobin, K.G. and McRobbie, C.J. (Eds) Second International Handbook of Science Education, pp. 627 – 649, pub: Springer ISBN: 978-1402090400

Colette Murphy

Kamen, M. & Murphy, C. (2011). Science Education at the Golden Key Schools: Learning Science in Vygotskian-Based Elementary Schools in Russia. In Berlin, D. F., & White, A. L. (Eds.) Science and Mathematics Education: International Innovations, Research and Practices. (pp 3 - 17.) Columbus. OH. The Ohio State University: International Consortium for Research in Science and Mathematics Education. ISBN:0-9727338-4-1.

Colette Murphy

Murphy, C (2010) The Reluctant Scientist, in: Scantlebury, K., Kahle, J. and Martin, S. (eds) Re-visioning Science Education from Feminist Perspectives: Challenges, Choices and Careers. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers ISBN: 978-94-6091-085-2

Colette Murphy

Murphy, C (2009) Schools, Revised Curriculum and Initial Teacher Education in Northern Ireland, in: Capel, S., Leask, M and Truner, T (eds): Learning to Teach in the Secondary School (5th edition), pub London: Routledge ISBN: 978-0-415-47872-4

Elizabeth Oldham

League tables: measures of quality or distractions from meaningful critique? in, editor(s)Imelda Elliott, Michael Murphy, Alain Payeur, Raymond Duval , Mutations de l'enseignement supérieur et internationalisation / Change in higher education and globalisation, Brussels, De Boeck, 2011, pp. 45 – 58.

Elizabeth Oldham

Changing the culture of learning in mathematics and science: facing the challenge in Ireland in, editor(s) Issa M. Saleh and Myint Swe Khine , Fostering scientific habits of mind: pedagogical content and best practices in science education, Rotterdam, Sense Publishers, 2009, pp. 295 – 317.

Elizabeth Oldham

Paul Conway, Elizabeth Oldham, James Urwick, Sarah Kisa, Justine Otaala and Ann Mugwera (2012) The teaching and learning of mathematics in Ugandan secondary schools: poised for change? in, editor(s)Rosarii Griffin , Teacher education in Sub-Saharan Africa: closer perspectives. Oxford, Symposium Books, 2012, pp147 - 164


Colette Murphy

Colette Murphy (2012) Keynote presentation: Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development: A Russian Perspective. Sweden: Uppsala University

Colette Murphy

Colette Murphy (2012) Keynote presentation: Coteaching: Ten Years’ Research and Practice. Sweden: Linkoping University


Ann Devitt Ann Devitt, A New Apprenticeship in Language Teacher Education, AERA 2012 (Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association 2012), Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 13-16 April 2012, 2012
Ann Devitt Ann Devitt, Marita Kerin, Helen O'Sullivan, Threshold Concepts and Practices in Teacher Education: professional, educator and student perspectives, 4th Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference, Trinity College, Dublin, 28-29 June 2012, 2012
Ann Devitt Weiming Liu and Ann Devitt, The use of peer teaching in a Chinese classroom in, editor(s)Dian, H. & Xing, M. , Innovations in Teaching and Learning Chinese as a Foreign Language, London, Sinolingua, 2012, pp145 - 154
Ann Devitt Ann Devitt, Elizabeth Oldham and Marita Kerin, Beginning a career of learning about learning: a case study of student teachers in an initial teacher education programme in Ireland, Teachers' Life-cycle from Initial Teacher education to Experienced Professional: 2011 ATEE Annual Conference, Riga, 26-30 August 2011, edited by Irēna Žogla and Lūcija Rutka , Association for Teacher Education in Europe, 2012, pp283 – 296
Ann Devitt Ann Devitt, Lexical cohesion in the language of science textbooks , ECER 2011 (European Conference on Educational Research), Berlin, Germany, 13-16 September 2011, 2011

Keith Johnston

Damian Murchan

Conneely, C., Murchan, D., Tangney, B. & Johnston, K. (2013). 21 Century Learning –Teachers’ and Students’ Experiences and Views of the Bridge21 Approach within Mainstream Education. In Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2013 (pp. 5125-5132). Chesapeake, VA: AACE

Keith Johnston
Damian Murchan

Enacting Key Skills-based Curricula in Secondary Education: Lessons from a Technology-mediated, Group-based Learning Initiative The European Conference on Educational Research 2012, Cadiz, 18-21 September 2012.

Keith Johnston

Damian Murchan

From Brussels to Belmullet: Policy and situational factors influencing the introduction of interactive whiteboards
into primary classrooms in Ireland Educational Studies Association of Ireland 2012, Cork, 29-31 March 2012

Colette Murphy

Murphy, C. (2011) Children’s perceptions of primary science assessment. Paper presented at ESERA, Lyons, September, 2011

Colette Murphy

Murphy, C and Scantlebury, K (2011) Coteaching in science and mathematics: a Vygotskian framework for enhancing teacher professional development to effect classroom transformation. Paper presented at NARST, Orlando, April 2011

Colette Murphy

Murphy, C., McCullagh, J and Doherty, A. (2011) Creativity in Science Investigation. Paper presented at IASSEE, Dublin, February 2011

Colette Murphy

Murphy, C (2010) Vygotsky and primary science: theory into practice. Paper presented at NARST, Philadelphia, March 2010

Colette Murphy

Murphy, C. and Beggs, J (2010) Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development in early science education. Paper presented at ARECE, Melbourne, January 2010

Elizabeth Oldham

Egan, A., FitzGibbon, A., Girvan, C. & Oldham, E. , Self-Reported Competency and Technology Acceptance: Investigating the Relationship for a Cohort of Irish Pre-Service Teachers, Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012, Austin, TX, 5-9 March 2012, edited by P. Resta , Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, 2012, pp3210 – 3217

Current Research Projects

Staff Members


Ann Devitt

Threshold Concepts in Language Teacher Education (TC4LTE).  The TC4LTE project is a SCOTENS funded project in collaboration with Queens University Belfast (Dr Eugene McKendry).  Threshold concepts have been described as “being akin to a portal, opening up a new and previously inaccessible way of thinking about something ...  a transformed way of understanding or interpreting or viewing something, without which a learner cannot progress” (Meyer and Land, 2003).  The notion of threshold concepts represents a model for conceptualising the process and outcome of initial language teacher education which moves away from competencies and learning outcomes.  Often, these concepts constitute troublesome knowledge that when integrated has a transformative and regenerative effect on the learner, their world view and their practice.  

This project aims to identify threshold concepts for language teacher education and the conditions that facilitate the learning of these concepts. The project will incorporate the voice of professionals in the field articulating key moments of learning in their careers and the voice of the student teacher articulating their learning over the course of their initial teacher education programmes.  The project aims to draw on the broad experience of language teachers North and South to identify threshold concepts for language teaching and to examine the degree and manner of integration of threshold concepts within ITE programmes North and South. 

Ann Devitt

The language of science. An exploration of the language of science textbooks and classrooms at key transition points in education (from primary to post-primary and from junior to senior cycle) to examine aspects of language that can facilitate or impede access to the curriculum for learners.

Ann Devitt
Marita Kerin
Elizabeth Oldham

Use of reflection in teacher education. This project explores how domain-specific learning experiences and reflection on these as part of a programme of initial teacher education can impact on student teachers’ understanding of learning in their discipline and on student teachers’ practice in the classroom.

Keith Johnston
Damian Murchan
Elizabeth Oldham

Evaluating the Bridge 21 initiative. The Bridge21 programme is a joint venture between Trinity College Dublin and Suas Educational Development.  It is designed to support an innovative 21st Century learning environment within post-primary schools that is team and project-based, technology mediated and cross- curricular.  Members of RISE are collaborating with staff in Trinity’s Centre for Research in Information Technology in Education (CRITE) to evaluate the impact of the programme in participating schools.  Central to the Bridge21 programme is the mediation of key skills to students in keeping with the Government’s current reform agenda at Junior Cycle level. The on-going evaluation investigates the viability of the Bridge21 model in facilitating the promotion of key skills and explores the factors associated with implementation of the programme in schools.

Damian Murchan

Diagnostic computer-based assessment in Primary Mathematics. Run in association with colleagues at a leading Irish publishing company, and a group of collaborating schools and teachers, this developmental research programme uses a computer platform to aid teachers better understand students’ mathematical achievement and learning processes. Designed as a frequently-administered set of online tests, the programme provides timely information to teachers and students in relation to objectives on the primary mathematics curriculum and to identify specific concepts, skills and possible underlying structural obstacles on which students may need assistance.   Research within the programme, some of which has been conducted by School of Education postgraduate students, has provided key insights into the efficacy of the initiative and has informed programme planning and implementation. The programme epitomises the valuable relationship that can be forged between the academic research community, schools and industry and offers a useful model for similar joint initiatives.

Keith Johnston
Damian Murchan

Interactive Whiteboards in Primary Education This project is a longitudinal investigation of the policy antecedents, current practice and efficacy of interactive whiteboard (IWB) use in primary education.  Through analysis of the broader national and international policy and non-policy contexts in which IWBs have/are being introduced, the study will help understand the complex milieu in which this advanced technology has been adopted in schools.  Decision-making processes at local school and community levels are also investigated, along impacts on teaching and learning.  Situated in the broader context of the smart-economy and e-learning, it is hoped that the research will retrospectively reveal the complex rationale behind the embracing of IWBs and highlight best practice in optimising the technology for the curriculum and learning.

Elizabeth Oldham

An exploration of Mathematical Identity using Narrative as a Tool (MINT) The project involves investigating the Mathematical Identity of cohorts of student teachers and others who are, will be, or may be involved in mathematics teaching. The chief aim is to propose an efficient and effective protocol by which third level mathematics educators can explore the Mathematical Identities of their students, with a view to improving the teaching and learning of mathematics. This is a SCoTENS-funded project involving colleagues in St. Patrick's College (Drumcondra), Stranmillis University College (Belfast), Trinity College Dublin, the University of Limerick, the Institute of Art, Design and Technology (Dun Laoghaire) and NUI Galway.

Colette Murphy

Science Coteaching in Teacher Education (SCITE) The SCITE project is a collaboration with Stranmillis University College (Dr John McCullagh and Andrea Doherty) and involves the creation of eleven coteaching pairs comprised of a primary classroom teacher and an undergraduate student teacher.  Each pair will coplan, coteach and coevaluate a series of innovative science lessons.  In the USA, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)’s Blue Ribbon panel on clinical preparation and partnerships has noted the critical role of coteaching as a model for linking theory and practice in preparing teachers to teach.  However, there has been no robust model for how to coteach, so as to encourage larger scale implementation. This project seeks to pilot a model for coteaching based on the way in which coteaching can lead on to improved ‘solo’ practice.  In the SCITE project coteaching pairs will attend a series of continuing professional development seminars focusing on ideal practice, followed by a period of science coteaching.  ‘Solo’ teaching will then proceed during which students and teachers will then reflect upon the practice they developed during the coteaching phase.

RISE group

Investigating the use of Personal Response Systems (PRS) in educational settings.  The School of Education, together with the School of Physics, is piloting the use of personal response systems (PRS) as a means of engaging students more actively in their learning during lectures. The problem of lack of student engagement leads to attrition from some courses, particularly in physical science. Increasing rates of attrition reduces the pool of good scientists required in Ireland in our efforts to re-stimulate the Irish economy. Use of PRS has demonstrated improved student engagement with content as it promotes small group discussion and ‘voting’ on group decisions during a lecture. It is well established that such levels of motivation lead to better engagement and deeper learning. Colleagues in the two schools will work together, in collaboration with colleagues from other Irish, UK and American universities who have experience of utilising this technology, to investigate the impact of PRS in physics lectures and in initial teacher education courses. We will combine our knowledge of science and pedagogy to optimise use of the technology within a sound pedagogical framework. The value of this project lies in its potential to improve student engagement and achievement, and thus improved retention rates, in science courses and beyond.

Research Student Members


Title of research

Isabel Blanco

A focus on learning styles for younger second language learners

Eamon Costello

The key influences, decision-making processes and stakeholders involved in the development of open source educational software

Majella Dempsey

Unlocking learning using key skills – myth or reality?

Alison Egan

An investigation into pre-service teachers' attitudes to technology

David Hamill

An exploration of the educational viability of tablet PCs

Helen Heneghan

The implementation of differentiation in language arts/literacy in elementary schools – a comparative study.

Weiming Liu

The use of Peer Teaching to create a transformative learning context

Peter John Lombard

Investigating the efficacy of blended learning and e-assessment on the learning process in a first year mathematics class within an Irish secondary school.

David Moroney

Threshold Concepts in Teacher Education

Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin

Project Maths: A design study of professional development and pedagogical implementation.

Ann O’Reilly

A model of professional identity for teachers in further education.

Patsy Stafford

Children’s understanding of place value


Last updated 27 March 2015