REX – Research Expertise Exchange

Partner Institutions

Project Lead: Mary Immaculate College

Project Partners: University of Limerick, National University of Ireland, Galway:

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Primary Contact(s)


Prof. Teresa O’Doherty

Mary Immaculate College

Email: teresa.odoherty@mic.ul.ie

Detailed Proposal
The profession of teaching in Ireland has recently seen substantial developments in policy and practices. Significant policy documents, such as Circular 0039/2012, the Literacy & Numeracy for Learning and Life document (DES, 2011) and School Self-Evaluation Guidelines (2012), have mandated that school policy decisions must be made on the basis of clear research-derived evidence. Thus, teachers are effectively being asked to act as research-practitioners, without a strong history of research within the profession. In tandem, newly developed Initial Teacher Education (ITE) courses are attempting to foster research-practitioner skills with limited access to school-based research contexts.
This project brings together three institutions involved in all levels of ITE to build a digital bridge between academic and professional practice through the creation of a web-based portal, the Research Expertise Exchange (REX), to nurture the digital skills for research and meet a real world demand for expertise.
There are three facets to the REX portal:
1) Communication: a means for student teachers, established HE researchers, and practising professionals to find one another and link research needs with capability. It will facilitate collaboration between these groups by providing a point of contact and will help to identify those already working in complementary areas.
2) Skills development: within the National Digital Skills Framework for Irish Higher Education (All Aboard Project), the portal will develop and curate OERs suitable for novice, competent and expert researchers, addressing the skills of “Find and Use”; “Tools and Technologies”, “Teach and Learn”, “Communicate and Collaborate” and “Create and Innovate” (see http://allaboardhe.org/digital-skills/). Activity tracking and peer review will enable micro-credentialing within REX.
3) Pedagogic Resource: the portal will be embedded within Research Methods and Dissertation modules across the three institutions on B.Ed. and PME Programmes and can be used as a means of ‘live project’ assessment.

The Research Expertise Exchange has the potential to transform educational research practices on a national level. The collaborative research model fostered by REX is an extensible and sustainable model which can be adopted within other ITE settings. REX access will not be limited to the partner institutions, but rather will be developed as a shared resource for the development of teacher research within the broader discipline of Initial Teacher Education. From its early stages, REX will recruit teachers from outside of the three partner institutions as members and users of the REX system. The enormous potential of REX is driven by the possibility of a national reach that is unconstrained by the normal boundaries of academic practice.

In a recent online forum (#edchatie, 2nd November 2015, http://chirpstory.com/li/291590), working teachers identified isolation and lack of a research culture in the profession as key barriers to their engaging in research activity. REX can dismantle those barriers. Providing a medium of mutual support and encouragement for people with similar passions who might otherwise never encounter one another, the Research Expertise Exchange will be able to foster a vibrant research culture amongst teachers across the country. The social networking elements of REX offer a means by which the rich experience base of working teachers, and their research needs, help to shape and guide the research activities of pre-service teachers and academics. Academics will be able to provide support for teachers’ research needs, or themselves find support from amongst professional teachers at the “coalface” of contemporary practice across the country.

REX can help to maintain professional relationships that are grounded in research interests, and in a shared model of professional educator as research-practitioner. As such, it can protect and support the growth of that identity of research-practitioner within the challenging “real world” of professional activity. REX will provide a fertile environment for the formation of new partnerships and collaborations unfettered, in principle, from geographical constraint and will see the educational research agenda grow from the ground up

The project has five work packages and will be overseen by the Dean of Education, the Director of Teaching and Learning (MIC), and the Project Manager Plenary Implementation Group:

MIC
Prof. Teresa O’Doherty, Dean of Education
Dr Marek McGann, Lecturer in Psychology
Marie Ryan, BEd Ed & Psychology Programme Leader
Dr John O’Shea, BEd Programme Leader
Dr Aisling Leavy, PME Programme Leader

UL
Dr Oliver McGarr, Head of Education and Professional Studies
Prof. Paul Conway, Professor of Education
Dr Jennifer McMahon, Lecturer in Educational Psychology

NUIG
Dr Mary Fleming, Head of the School of Education
Dr Anthony Hall, Lecturer in Education

WORK PACKAGE 1: Project Management
ROLES: Project Manager (PM) – MIC
ACTIONS: Project planning and management
PERIOD: JAN 2016 – JUNE 2017

WORK PACKAGE 2: REX Platform Design & Build
ROLES: Programmer analyst, graphic designer, project manager – MIC
ACTIONS: Development of alpha version of REX social networking platform using open-source technologies

PERIOD: JAN 2016 – JUNE 2016
WORK PACKAGE 3: Content Development
ROLES: PM, Educational Technologists & Content specialists – MIC, UL, NUIG
ACTIONS: Development and curation of OERs for digital research skills
PERIOD: JAN 2016 – SEPT 2016

WORK PACKAGE 4: Alpha Test Phase
ROLES: PM, research assistant (RA), programmer analyst (PA), content specialists – MIC, UL, NUIG
ACTIONS: Coordination of alpha test users (ITE students on PMEs) Communication with education centres “seed” group
of professional educators Report and review of REX platform alpha test

PERIOD: SEPT 2016 – JAN 2017
WORK PACKAGE 5: Beta Test Phase
ROLES: PM, RA, PA, content specialists – MIC, UL, NUIG
ACTIONS: Coordination of beta test users (multi-site ITE students and faculty supervising research) Scale up of network
with regional education centres and professional educators Report on REX platform beta test, revised and roll-out ready