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Psychology of Education

Unique in the Irish context, in this programme - which rests on the principle that problems encountered in diverse learning environments may be usefully informed by psychology - we offer graduates of all relevant undergraduate disciplines the opportunity to study the rapidly developing field of the psychology of education. Put simply, we’re interested in what can go right, what can go wrong, and what we can do to help, in educational settings.


Strand Leader: Dr Conor Mc Guckin | Email

Psychology of Education

Recent years have seen increasing numbers of reports concerning the health and well-being of children and young people, and increasingly, adults, in educational settings, and this strand rests on the principle that the curricular and non-curricular problems encountered in diverse learning environments may be usefully informed by psychology. Unique in the Irish context, and comparatively rare worldwide, in this new programme we offer graduates of relevant undergraduate disciplines (including, but not limited to, education, nursing and midwifery, psychology social care, sociology and social work) the opportunity to study the rapidly developing field of the psychology of education at the Masters level. The psychology of education has been defined as '….the study of how psychological theories and research inform and support the work of educational professionals working across the whole range of teaching and learning settings' (Woolfolk, Hughes and Walkup, 2013, p. 4), and this programme has been designed to promote deep, broad and above all, critical engagement with such subject matter. Put simply, we're interested in what can go right, what can go wrong, and what we can do to help, in educational settings.

Is this course for me?

Yes - if you are interested in exploring how psychology can inform and support the work of educational professionals. Given its emphasis on the individual in familial, educational, and societal contexts, the programme is expected to be of particular appeal to those who approach, or are interested in deepening their knowledge of, concerns and issues in education from psychological and community perspectives. So whilst this list is not exhaustive, and is made in no order of priority, we would expect to receive applications from:

  • school teachers (e.g., , classroom teachers, teaching assistants) and management staff (e.g., principals, deputy principals) staff;
  • members of teaching and management staff of alternative educational settings (e.g., YouthReach);
  • the broad range of professionals who support the educational environment (e.g., home-school-community liaison teachers, welfare officers, early intervention and school age professionals, school counsellors, school psychologists, psychotherapists, adult and educational guidance counsellors);
  • patron body representatives;
  • parents, guardians, and supporters; and,
  • members of community and civic organisations.

Applications from those resident in Ireland and international applications are equally welcome.

Strand Focus and Structure


The taught component includes four strand modules, each including 25 hours of direct contact time. Each strand module normally includes twelve two-hour lectures in Trinity College on weekday evenings during term. Each strand module includes twelve two-hour lectures in Trinity College, which are taught on Monday and Tuesday evenings (4 p.m. – 8 p.m.) during term. In addition to the four strand modules, students will also take a common M.Ed. taught module on Academic Literacy and Research Methods (ALRM). This taught module generally takes place on 6-8 Saturday mornings in Trinity. The Psychology of Education strand can be studied on a one-year full- time basis, or on a two-year or three-year part-time basis. The research component involves carrying out a research project and writing a dissertation (20,000 words) under the guidance of a supervisor.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

A blend of lectures and seminars. The seminars will include activities that engage the students in group work and co-operative learning. Student participation in class debates and discussions will feature, for example, students reading assigned materials before class, and the subsequent class discussion will be based on the topics in the assigned readings. Learners will experience a flexible approach to teaching and learning, facilitated by experts in the field.

Course Modules

  • Module One: The Psychology of the Individual - Introduces the student to the foundational concepts in the psychology of education (e.g., models of the person), as related to lifespan development (e.g., continuity and change, determinism, models of development) and individual differences (e.g., personality, intelligence). Where appropriate, exemplars of historical and contemporary issues will be explored.
  • Module Two: The Individual in the Family Context - provides and promotes a critical understanding of the development of individuals within family and educational contexts. Particular attention will be paid to various (i) psychodynamic; (ii) systemic; and (iii) critical phenomenological / existential accounts of family function and dysfunction. In addressing this principal aim, a full consideration is made of (i) classic and contemporary understandings of the processes involved in, and importance of, the primary attachment relationship; and (ii) what may be offered by the various lifespan developmental approaches.
  • Module Three: The Individual in the Educational and School Community Contexts - deepens students' appreciation of the role of educational (both schools, and school communities) contexts in development. Following an introduction to the application of social psychological principles, this will be undertaken by looking at a variety of issues that affect staff and students in schools (as well as the broader school community) and school-aged people, such as bereavement, bullying, cyber-bullying, and how these challenges can be effectively responded to. A further aim is to help candidates critically reflect on the professional, legal, moral, and ethical responsibilities of those who work in educational contexts.
  • Module Four: The Individual in Broader Societal and Temporal Contexts - prompts discussion, and provide accounts of, various understandings, of the experience of human beings in the broader educational societal and temporal contexts in which they can be said to be situated. An important part of the addressing this aim will be considering the relative stances towards research, knowledge and intervention offered by mainstream and critical alternatives to psychology. Subsequently, examinations are undertaken of (i) how power is understood in psychology, and how psychological research and practice are situated within and contribute to power relationships in society; (ii) the psychology of societal marginalisation; and (iii) the psychology of religion.


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Q: Does this programme qualify me to be a teacher?

A: No. The M.Ed. is an academic programme designed to advance students' knowledge and practice; in the case of this strand, in the area of psychology applied to educational issues. As such, it is not designed to qualify students as teachers. Completing the M.Ed. programme may, however, advance graduates' employment and advancement opportunities.

Q: Does this programme qualify me to be an educational psychologist?

A: No. Educational psychology is a specific practitioner discipline, training in which is open to suitably qualified graduates of recognised undergraduate psychology degrees. You can find out more about training in educational psychology here.

The psychology of education is a much broader field, and as such is of interest to a much broader audience, drawn from across the full spectrum of the arts, humanities and social sciences. Psychological audiences may be interested in finding out more about the psychology of education as a relatively newly flourishing field from the British Psychology Society website.

Q: Do I need a background in psychology?

A: No specific background knowledge in psychology is necessary, or assumed.

Q: Who are the staff members working on the strand?

A: The taught components of the strand are delivered mainly by one full-time member of the School of Education staff: Dr Conor Mc Guckin. You may find out more about staff members by referring to their staff pages. Combined, the lecturers on the strand cover a broad range of areas of expertise within the psychology of education.

Further Information

Note: Prospective applicants should recognise that the above information is as accurate as it can possibly be at the time of production, but it cannot reflect changes to the programme which might be made at a later stage.