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COVID-19 Crisis Blog: Adapting in a Time of Crisis Education in a time of Pandemic

28 April 2020 - As we navigate a national and global public health crisis with the spread of Covid-19 Coronavirus, we hear from our research and policy fellows, and members of our research community in a new weekly blog which reflects on these new societal challenges. This week, Melanie Ní Dhuinn from Trinity's School of Education will look at how her work life has changed as a result of the pandemic, and how our approach to education research might be shaped by this crisis.

Dr Melanie Ní Dhuinn, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, School of Education, TCD

I should be in San Francisco right now having presented papers with colleagues at one of the best Education conferences in the world, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual conference.

Submissions for AERA are prepared and submitted in July of the previous year and then we wait and dare to hope that come November an email pops into the inbox deeming it appropriate for inclusion. Last July, when finalising submissions for AERA as one of the Trinity College Dublin’s summer series concerts blared loudly and distractingly in an adjacent sports area of College it took all my resolve and resilience to stay on task and optimise the offering for the reviewers.

Summer in Dublin is wonderful, long days, bright evenings, tourists aplenty and TCD summer concerts. Longing to be at the concert rather than inside the Arts block, channelling energy to complete the submissions is a bit like being back studying for the Leaving Cert or taking College examinations. Simply put, inside in the Arts Block late on a July evening is not the place to be.

Head down, noise-cancelling headphones on, fuelled with coffee and chocolate I battle on. In one click submissions hurry westward towards the AERA repository. Immediate email acknowledgement pings into the inbox and all is well in the world. I’m reasonably sure that other academics on here will identify with and recognise the deadline debacle and the deadline dilemma that we find ourselves in time and time again.

Walking to my car that July evening, notifications ping and I see that Twitter is awash with posts from other academics having submitted for #AERA. Sikes et al (2003) talk about educational research being grounded epistemologically in the moral foundations of educational practice and that it is the epistemological and moral purposes underlying the “usefulness” and “relevance” of educational research that matter (Sikes et al., 2003, p. 2). This is what we get at AERA, useful and relevant educational research, that matters.

So fast forward from that late July evening, 2019 to April 2020 and despite getting that loud ping (x2) into my inbox last November, I am not in San Francisco, I am not at AERA, I am at home.

The norms and mores of the final teaching semester have changed fundamentally not only does the familiar seem strange and distant, our whole existence feels surreal.

The virtual learning environments (VLE) of our Higher Education Institutions are in overdrive. We have adapted in super-quick time and coped with an unannounced, unexpected disruption to our roles and our very existence.

The landscape from the end of February here in Ireland has changed utterly and sadly many of our population have experienced some of the darkest days and nights ever. Students’ needs are different now.

As a Gaeilgeoir/Irish speaker, I note a new public discourse both in Irish and in English and indeed a new lexicon related to the virus itself. I find myself using new words in the Irish language.

The use of Irish sign language (ISL) and the provision of sign-language interpreters signing at COVID-19 press conferences represents an inclusive communicative approach in managing the crisis and is very welcome. As a college tutor for many TCD students who have studied on the Deaf Studies undergraduate course I am proud of our Deaf Studies graduates and their role in communicating this reality. I remain in awe of my highly esteemed colleagues who teach and lecture our DS students, preparing them for all eventualities. Their contribution has been immense in all of this.

In my own school, in the School of Education this is a busy semester. Online and remote provision has been good, both for staff and students. There have been bumps along the way but nothing catastrophic because catastrophic doesn’t really apply in what we do when we look at the bigger picture of COVID-19 and what frontline health service and public service staff do in their roles.

unsplash-logoNathan Dumlao

So, to revisit San Francisco and #AERA, suffice to say it didn’t work out. Disappointing at worst but not the worst that could happen, at all. Looking at July 2019 now the “urgency” all looks very different, indeed if I had a periscope then to force upwards above the waterline from the submerged entanglement of scheduling and view the reality that lay ahead I would not have believed any of what I saw.

There will be further research opportunities and more conferences. Many of our epistemological viewpoints may change from our experiences, and our newfound positionality and possible new ontological values will test us. We will find much to problematise from the educational perspectives and outcomes of  COVID-19 which will feature in future AERA gatherings. What will be interesting of course will be, from where I will find myself listening to the TCD summer concert series.

Dr. Melanie Ní Dhuinn is Assistant Professor of Teacher Education in the School of Education, Trinity College, Dublin. Melanie works across Teacher Education (B.Mus Ed and PME), Master of Education (M.Ed) and Doctorate (D.Ed and PhD) courses in the School of Education and is a research supervisor and examiner for PME, M.Ed, Ph. D and D.Ed candidates. She is also a School Placement tutor across various strands of the PME. Melanie lectures in Teaching Pedagogies, School Placement, Research Methods and in the Sociology of Education.

To read the full blog, click here.

Recent posts in the COVID-19 Crisis Blog:

Power in the Name of Emergency with Róisín Costello & Conor Casey (21 April 2020)

Human Rights in a Time of Crisis with Donna Lyons (14 April 2020)

Solidarity in a Time of Crisis with Rory Montgomery (6 April 2020)

Art in a time of Pandemic with Rita Duffy (1 April 2020)

Leadership in a time of Crisis with Mary Doyle (25 March 2020)

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