Our Keynote Speakers

You can find out more about our speakers at the Biographies page.

Friday: Catherine Hiney

‘What Works Initiative – Supporting Policy into Practice through Action Learning’

The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) has an inspiring record in leading the way towards evidence informed prevention and early intervention services for children, young people and their families along with truly collaborative consultation and learning processes in developing policies and interventions such as the Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures Strategy, the Area Based Childhood (ABC) Programme, First Five A Government Strategy for Babies , Young Children and their Families 2019-20228 and the recently developed  Supporting Parents: A national model of parenting support services. This presentation illustrates how the DCEDIY, an Irish Government Department, uses action learning to support the development of policy as well as its implementation. Through its What Works Initiative and Action Learning Sets, the DCEDIY supports practitioners and parents across Ireland to come together, to share expertise, question how things are done and use all the evidence available to improve children and young people’s lives today so that they may have brighter tomorrows. It will demonstrate how Action Learning enables collaboration on complex societal challenges in order to support those working with and for children, young people and their families in doing the right things, in the right way and at the right time. 

Saturday: Dr Yvonne Crotty and Dr Margaret Farren, School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies, Institute of Education, Dublin City University.

An ethical dilemma: Taking a step forward in the right direction for action research.

Like all research, conducting action research requires researchers to seek ethical approval from an ethics review committee prior to carrying out research. The literature presents challenges for action research when seeking ethical approval due to involvement of participants in the research process and the evolving nature of action research. 
Action research, in its strictest sense, refers to research that uses a cyclical, action‐reflection model to investigate and attempt to make change in an organisation (Noffke & Somekh, 2009). Many people think that any intervention in a situation is action research. However, in an action research approach it is expected that there will be cycles of action/reflection, where insights from the reflection on action will produce further rounds of action. It is a collaborative form of inquiry in which all involved engage in democratic dialogue as co-researchers and co-subjects. Action research is not only about working with people as co-researchers but, as McNiff and Whitehead (2010) contend, it is also about influencing others to becomes critical in relation to practices and values that are rational and just, and “carry hope for the future of humanity” (p. 74).  Implicit is this is responsibility in taking steps to promote a safe and supportive research environment.
In this session we will discuss particular ethical challenges posed for action research methodologies. In the true nature of action research participants in this workshop will be invited to work through some of the challenges and propose suitable and meaningful requirements for evaluating and judging the quality of action research.
McNiff and Whitehead (2010). You and your action research project. Routledge.
Noffke, S. & Somekh, B. (Ed.) (2009) The SAGE Handbook of Educational Action Research. London: SAGE. ISBN 978‐1‐4129‐4708‐4.

Saturday: NEARI Collective

Developing new understandings of Action Research

This session explores some of the purposes of action research and examines how these can be enacted in one’s practice as a means towards transformation and the betterment of the researcher, their context, society and the environment. The presenters will invite attendees to critique the meaning of action research and how it relates to their context. The benefits of adopting a collaborative approach will be explored as a means towards a more comprehensive, robust and socially beneficial form of research. We, the presenters, view action research as educational as we feel that there is always learning in the process, both from the research itself and from the critical reflection on practice. The knowledge created in the process will enable the researcher to generate a theory of their practice.

The presenters will offer their experiences of a living educational action research approach with examples from the Network of Educational Action Research in Ireland which they co-convene. They will explain some key aspects, possibilities, and challenges that they have experienced both as individual researchers and as convenors of NEARI. Doing action research has highlighted the importance of knowing why they are acting as they are (praxis), the values they hold and taking action for change, and they believe it is a form of self- and collective- education. 

Ideas pertaining to action research will be problematised along with some questions and assumptions around it. Participants will be invited to examine and share any challenges they may have experienced when researching their practice in their contexts. The session will conclude with an exploration of the role that can be played by action researchers as they negotiate their way in these turbulent times towards a fairer, more equitable and healthier future for themselves and for the environment. 

Sunday: Dr Harry Shier, UCD

COVISION – Children as Innovators: Methodological challenges and innovations

COVISION is an international collaborative research project, coordinated from UCD with partners around the world (www.covision.ie). Throughout its work, the COVISION team has been advised by a Children’s Research Advisory Group (CRAG) made up of young people aged 12-16.

The culmination of the project is the COVISION Co-Design Workshop, through which children and young people are developing and presenting proposals for new initiatives to support children and young people building long-term resilience in the face of disasters and pandemics.

In the course of this work, the project team has encountered, and tackled a number of methodological challenges:

Working on-line during lock-down: COVISION’s biggest challenge has been recruiting children and young people interested in joining our CRAG and Co-Design Workshop.

Working on a global scale (Ireland, Australia, Taiwan, USA, Mexico): This means tackling issues of time-zones, language, school commitments and on-line safeguarding.

Rigour and reliability: It is essential that participatory research with children is recognised as a source of valid and reliable knowledge. This can involve: training and preparation for child researchers; giving children “advisory” rather than “researcher” roles; and developing a more effective model for facilitation and the role of facilitator.

Anonymity or recognition: How can we harmonise the dissonance between the guarantee of anonymity we are required to give those children who engage in our research, and children’s desire to be seen, heard, identified, recognised and valued for what they contribute?

How do we use images? Normally, researchers do not publish photographs of research participants. But in the case of participatory research with children, there are several complicating factors: Many still consider children incapable of carrying out valid research, so we need convincing evidence. Children themselves want to be seen in these roles, and children themselves should have a say in deciding how their research is presented.

UCD with partners around the world (www.covision.ie). Throughout its work, the COVISION team has been advised by a Children’s Research Advisory Group (CRAG) made up of young people aged 12-16.

Sunday: Dr Mary McAteer and Colleagues: Reflective Panel

Changing Lives through Action Research: Looking back, and looking forward

Mary will convene this panel with CARN colleagues as part of a final reflection on our own experiences of action research, and the conference itself. We will address questions such as:

  • Our personal joys, challenges, achievements and disappointments of using action research.
  • How we sustain it and use it for the greater good.
  • How we include and value all voices and perspective.
  • What difference does being involved in CARN and attending the conference make?

 We will then invite shared reflection from participants.