In this episode, I talk with Dr Eoin Ó Donnchadha. Eoin is a teacher of history, economics and business,who has taught in a post-primary context in both Ireland and England. He is also an occasional lecturer in economics at the UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. We spend about an hour discussing human capital, the contribution of doctoral education in post-primary teaching, the importance of lifelong learning, continuous research and so much more.
Eoin, a passionate educator and supporter of continuous learning, explains that his research explored the impact and experiences of post-primary teachers in Ireland that hold a doctoral degree through human capital theory and the idea that education and worker skill level can impact productivity. His largely qualitative study provides so much rich data through teacher’s lived experiences and dialogue.
We talk about his desire to teach at the post-primary level, and the Irish requirement that even someone with an earned PhD must undertake a recognized programme in education to receive the teaching certification necessary to teach post-primary students. He discusses the benefits that his PhD qualification had on his own learning during the PME programme, as well as the expertise and advice that he could provide to fellow peers because of his prior qualifications.
Eoin talks about the very distinct differences between teaching in the UK and in Ireland and the way the teachers communicate with their students and their families. Increased teaching autonomy, teacher-to-student ratios, variation in paperwork and procedures, and employment interview requirements are all discussed.
The stories that Eoin shares from his participants as well as his own experiences as a teacher with a doctoral degree are so relevant and interesting. His participants reported benefits and challenges that a doctoral education provides for teachers. There is greater confidence, subject knowledge, and skills demonstrated that are needed to really inspire their students to embrace higher order thinking skills and processes.
Teachers are able to support students with questioning sources and resources, critical evaluation and problem solving. They also report that there is increased effectiveness of their communication with fellow staff and parents. Some challenging experiences that teachers with doctoral degrees face are needless worry from administrative staff and others in the field around ‘stop-gap’, impacts on job acquisition, pay inequality, and the perception that teachers with a PhD are ‘too big for their boots’.
Eoin’s latest publication speaks about social media as a great way to share knowledge in the profession and varying professional associations in education. These online platforms are helpful for encouraging the sharing of high quality subject knowledge and for disseminating creative resources from teaching professionals at varying levels. High quality and accessible education resources are critically needed when there is so much rubbish out there and online, to sift through. There is an important element of relationships and community working together to improve the system for those that are at ground zero – teachers teaching, practicing, and researching in the classroom.
Eoin shares some final words of wisdom in true historian form. A medieval Irish maxim – ‘knowledge is the better for enquiry’. Come, #ListenAndLearn