The NFTL Research Fellows

Dr Brett Becker (University College Dublin)

Dr Brett Becker is an Assistant Professor in Computer Science at UCD where he researches computing education. Brett strives to make computing education more accessible and useful to students of all disciplines. He is author of the textbook Computer Science for Leaving Certificate and President of the All-Ireland Society for Higher Education. He holds several international positions including Steering Committee Chair for the ACM Global Computing Education Conference and Associate Editor for the journal Transactions on Computing Education. Brett holds an MA in Higher Education and received the UCD College of Science Teaching Award for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning.

‘Brett Becker was awarded this Fellowship because of his remarkable ability to balance scholarly activity with teaching and learning excellence, because of his capability of sustaining international and national networks in teaching and learning, because of his evident passion and leadership across the sector and because of the relevance of his work to the priorities of the National Forum.’

Dr Manuel Joao Costa, University of Minho, Portugal
International Panel Reviewer (listen below)

Brett’s Fellowship Research

Teaching and Learning for the Next Era of Digital Innovation

This research aims to help teaching and learning in Ireland plan for the next digital era. It will explore how disciplines and departments are advancing towards emerging digital technologies with an eye to the future world into which graduates will enter. The project will inform the professional development of those who teach so that they might be better positioned to foster skills, knowledge and competencies to deal with realities that are hard to imagine from today’s perspective as technologies such as big data, the internet of things and artificial intelligence revolutionise all disciplines.

Dr Michelle Flood (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland)

Dr Michelle Flood is a lecturer at the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, RCSI. Michelle’s research focuses on radical interdisciplinarity and workplace-based learning, from both theoretical and practice perspectives. Awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to further this research at the Design Institute for Health, Dell Medical School, UT Austin, she remains a visiting researcher there. She holds a PhD from the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University and has significant experience leading curriculum change at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. She is passionate about student engagement, innovation, and teaching and learning enhancement, and has won national and institutional teaching awards.

‘Michelle was awarded this Fellowship in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning landscape nationally and internationally throughout her career to date. The panel were particularly impressed with the clear vision that Michelle was able to articulate for the Fellowship and her visible passion for inspiring change in teaching and learning within and outside of her discipline. Michelle has a commendable track record in transformational change in teaching and learning and the panel were particularly struck by her commitment to meaningful student engagement and partnership and facilitating tangible impact, not only for the students she teaches directly but for a much wider cohort.’

Kevin McStravock, Union of Students in Ireland
International Panel Reviewer (listen below)

Michelle’s Fellowship Research

Understanding and Enhancing Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in Irish Higher Education

The ability to work effectively with others from different disciplinary backgrounds to find creative solutions to complex societal problems is increasingly recognised as a core skill for Irish graduates. Policymakers have therefore positioned interdisciplinarity as a priority area for higher education. There is a strong need, however, for robust evidence to inform excellence in its delivery. This research will support the realisation of the promise of interdisciplinarity in Irish higher education through an examination of understandings and applications of interdisciplinarity across Irish higher education and the sharing of related insights across institutions. With interdisciplinarity at the forefront of the employability discourse, strengthening and enhancing this practice will help develop graduates’ skills in ways of working that are vital to industry and addressing complex societal challenges.

Prof Chris Lynch (University College Cork)

Chris Lynch is Professor & Consultant in Restorative Dentistry at University College Cork, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Dentistry, and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Previously, Chris was Professor in Restorative Dentistry & Dental Education at Cardiff University. Chris was awarded a Senior Doctorate based on his published works in clinical dental education in 2019. He is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and has received the Award of Excellence in Dental Education from the Association for Dental Education in Europe. Chris has published widely and lectures and examines internationally.

‘Prof Lynch’s publications are oriented to key issues in teaching and learning in his discipline. His achievements on many national and international bodies are impressive and wide-ranging. But perhaps most importantly, Prof Lynch’s engagement with students as partners from their first through final year, his influence on national and transnational guidelines for updating courses and curricula and his leadership in primary care, community-based clinical teaching and outreach all signal his deep commitment and capacity to positively impact Irish higher education.’

Prof Mary Deane Sorcinelli, Association of American Universities, USA
International Panel Reviewer (listen below)

Chris’ Fellowship Research

Working with Higher Education Institutions and Professional and Regulatory Bodies to Enhance the Competencies of Future Professionals

People working in the professions, such as law, dentistry and teaching, traditionally enjoy standing and respect in society, earn enhanced salaries from their profession in comparison to other areas, and enjoy privileges such as self-regulation. The development of professionals-in-training is an important area of focus to ensure they are appropriately nurtured, or ‘formed’, to enable their subsequent career success, as well as protecting the public they will serve. Situated at the interface of higher education institutions and professional and regulatory bodies in Ireland, this research will focus on collaboratively identifying and embedding the competencies needed by students as they prepare to enter professions. The research will explore this topic across a range of professions and institution types with a view to informing related professional development, curriculum design and pedagogical approaches. In doing so, it will also inform good practice in collaboration between higher education institutions and professional and regulatory bodies.

Dr Geraldine O’Neill (University College Dublin)

Dr Geraldine O’Neill is an Associate Professor and educational developer in UCD’s Teaching & Learning unit. She has supported many institutional teaching, learning and assessment projects, recently leading the development of UCD’s framework for programme-focused assessment and feedback. In a 2-year secondment to the National Forum, she coordinated the Assessment Enhancement Theme (2016-2018). A key aspect of this national project was the shift towards empowering students in the assessment and feedback process. She has a track record of research dissemination focused in particular on curriculum design, assessment, and professional development. She achieved a UK Higher Education Academy Principal Fellowship in 2018.

‘Geraldine O’Neill was awarded this Fellowship because her strong track record of research is enormous evidence of her accomplishments and longstanding commitment to the enhancement of teaching and learning in higher education. Her application highlighted Geraldine’s extensive and relevant expertise and experience, as well as her student-centred engagement and vision that is completely in line with the National Forum one. Geraldine is a transformative leader who we are sure will massively contribute to the development of the Irish higher education system through her work on this Fellowship.’

Dr Linda Castañeda, University of Murcia, Spain
International Panel Reviewer (listen below)

Geraldine’s Fellowship Research

Work-based Assessment: Exploring Barriers and Solutions to an Emerging Assessment Challenge

The learning that is achieved from work experience, as part of higher and further education curricula, is powerful and highly valued by students and other stakeholders. Ensuring that the assessment of this experience is valid and effective is key to the enhancement of student learning and to the achievement of curriculum outcomes. This research, therefore, aims to explore staff and students experiences, challenges and opportunities in work-based assessment. It will identify one key challenge, as articulated by students and staff, and interrogate how staff and students negotiate this challenge across Irish higher education, in order to identify and share good practice and inform related policies.

Dr Barry Ryan (Technological University Dublin)

Dr. Barry Ryan is a biochemistry lecturer, and programme director, in Technological University Dublin. He is an award-winning and research-active applied scientist with a proven expertise in the practitioner use of, and leadership in, evidenced-based pedagogies in modern higher education settings. He is passionate about the practical implementation of research informed teaching and in supporting others in their personal development in this area. His teaching and learning philosophy promotes (co-)creation to empower and centralise all students across all levels within undergraduate curricula. He is concurrently a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Chartered Science Teacher.

‘The selection panel was particularly impressed by Barry’s track record of scholarship, which was shown to be clearly balanced with a commitment to practice and designed to enhance the student experience. Barry also evidenced a really strong capacity for self-reflection, combined with a focus on forward-facing solutions with evidence of real impact beyond his own immediate field of practice. The panel also noted Barry’s astute and thoughtful observations of students and the rich examples of student engagement and of inclusive and student-centred practice that were evidenced in the application.’

Prof Elizabeth Cleaver, Buckinghamshire New University, UK
International Panel Reviewer (listen below)

Barry’s Fellowship Research

Identifying, Understanding and Addressing Group Work Gender Patterns in the Sciences in Irish Higher Education Settings

Group work, and associated communication, teamwork and co-operative skills, underpin many institutional graduate attributes in Irish higher education, as well as reflecting key transversal skills sought by employers. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the choice/assignment of tasks and roles within group work may follow gendered patterns, resulting in unequal learning experiences. This research will involve an empirical exploration of this topic across institutions in order to increase understanding of how gender interacts with group work in the sciences and how students and staff can be supported to ensure equitable distribution of group work roles to foster the learning of all students. While the sciences are the context for the exploration, it is anticipated that the knowledge, understanding and insights generated will be transferable to other fields of study.