Being a part of Turn To Teaching

Turn to Teaching runs the Think About Teaching course which is a year-long Foundation Course for Initial Teacher Education. The course aims to diversify the Irish classroom by fostering a culture among students from groups currently under-represented in teaching to consider the teaching profession as a desirable and achievable career option. The year-long course will support students academically, personally and socially; providing a pathway to the Bachelor of Education in Primary Education and the Professional Master of Education (Primary) in the Froebel department.

The TTT Team.

I was a part of the very first year of Turn to Teaching (TTT), looking back to that time, I was in a job I hated and dreading going to everyday and just really feeling low! I was at a time in my life that I felt like if I don’t try get back into college now, then it’ll never happen for me. 

I had always wanted to be a primary school teacher but for many reasons it was not the path I chose straight out of leaving school, however it was always in the back of my mind that being a primary school teacher was my dream job. Hearing about the TTT program was amazing! I firmly believe in the saying ‘everything happens for a reason’ because just as I was about to begin my search on how I could go about starting my teaching journey, this course opened up. Getting onto the course has been one of my best achievements to date!

The course itself was a great experience and I got to meet so many amazing people and friends. I learned a lot about myself in my year in TTT and the type of learner I am but also the type of teacher I want to be and the influence I would like to have on children and people around me. The course is so diverse and you meet so many people from all walks of life that you learn from. You hear of experiences that people have had in our education system, some positive, some negative but it all pushes you broader and makes you want to do better for those who have had bad experiences. 

Through reflecting while participating on the TTT program, I became and continue to be an advocate for Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) and am so passionate about getting people from DEIS backgrounds to realise their potential and that barriers can be broken! This course allows people like myself, (someone from a DEIS background) or people who are not the ‘typical teacher’ to enter the workforce, which benefits our education system greatly. My cohort of peers on the course are, or are in the process of becoming some of the best primary school teachers in the teaching profession! To think that without this course it may not have been possible (for myself included) is shocking as we bring so much creativity, diversity and enthusiasm to the profession. The children of our future would be missing out on unbelievable teachers if this course was not created, as we would be slipping through the cracks of our education system and our potential would never be highlighted. 

This course has changed my life for the better and I owe so much of my successes to it. I would not be a fully qualified primary school teacher , living out my dream job in my dream school without this course and I will be forever grateful for the opportunities it has given me – Meghan Shannon.


What has Adult Education got to do with Social Justice?

Maynooth University Social Justice Week : 6th-10th of March

In the last few weeks I visited distant relations in Leeds, England. On the visit we spoke about their life journey leaving a west of Ireland county in the late 1930s as teenagers and arriving in Leeds where an older sibling or a friend of the family had arrived a few months or years earlier. They spoke of the Irish networks for work, socialisation and accommodation. They told me of the strenuous work in factories, in construction as navvy’s, on farms and in hard physical service work. They worked to establish themselves and their families after they had sent money home and/or saved to bring a younger sibling to Leeds (See

Now in their 60s, 70s and 80s they have grown families and, in their view, have had a hard but a livable life. Some of their friends are passed on from old age, accidents, excessive drinking and smoking, or poor health due to over-work in poor conditions. Staying in Ireland was not an option for them though many, not all, came back regularly to visit. Progressing in education was not an option either and most dropped out of an oppressive school system that, to them, was not going to give them a much-needed family income.

I learned about the very big textile, printing and steel factories in Leeds, the poor working conditions, and the struggles to get by through the war years. With so many new workers coming to Leeds there were very big house-building programmes giving more employment and self-employment opportunities. Walking through many areas of Leeds these dense terraced housing estates are in poor condition and towers of high rise flats are dotted around reminding me of Ballymun, Dublin. I also saw leafy suburbs, but there were few in the city area I was in.

As I walked and listened, I thought about my career as an educator that is now going through a seismic transition. I thought “What is the purpose of adult and community education today?”

There is no such thing as a neutral educational process according to Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972). Freire posits that education is either an instrument to integrate younger generations into the logic of the present system bringing about conformity, or it is the “practice of freedom” where people deal critically and creatively with reality and their participation in societal transformation. I’ve been re-reading Tom Lovett’s 1975 book titled Adult Education, Community Development and the Working Class. Lovett says “Adult Education as it developed in Great Britain has always had a strong sense of social purpose” and so it has been in Ireland with its benefit presented in the history of adult education among women’s, youth, and community groups, and most ably presented in the government policy white paper Learning for Life (2000).

However, I am fearful that we are following the English experience where, as Alan Tuckett in the Rise and Fall of Life-Wide Learning for Adults in England (2017) states, adult education has mapped and deprecated “… the .. narrowing of public investment to an increasingly utilitarian focus on qualifications for labour market participation with the rise of Treasury (finance ministry) influence on adult learning policy from 2003.”

If we are to respect social justice, a ‘Social Justice Week’ is not good enough. Social justice must be the heartbeat of all social and democratic conversation, research, innovation and enterprise. Yet so much of our mainstream education does not explicitly have social justice central to its content, league tables, points race and cramming for exams. Adult education, particularly community-based adult education is among the last and is strongest repository of socially aware education for justice practice. How are we to address peace, democracy, equality, inclusivity, liberation from poverty, and tackling global challenges such as biodiversity breakdown and climate change without the form of adult education that Freire, and Lovett evidenced?

That visit to my relations in Leeds, stimulated my soul.

Michael Kenny teaches and researches in Maynooth University’s Department of Adult and Community Education, was course director of the Post-Graduate Higher Diploma in Further Education (HDFE), with Dr. Camilla Fitzsimons, and the Programme Design and Validation (PCPDV) Certificate, and continues as principal investigator (PI) on a number of European research projects. He has recently retired from full time employment.

All views are those of the author only.



Teachers Upskilling aiming at a holistic inclusivity in learning. 

TUTOR is a 3 year European Union funded Teacher Academy project. The Department of Adult and Community Education, Maynooth University is a lead partner in TUTOR

Ensuring inclusion in education has been a strong motivator for the Department of Adult and Community since its inception and over several decades. The Department is focused upon holistic, dialogical and pedagogical accompaniment of marginalised communities. It does this by co creating spaces for traditionally excluded voices to be heard,  and on ensuring a standard of excellence is achieved in qualitative, engaged and participatory research. The department’s philosophy of education, initial teacher education and continuous professional development is leading and influencing pedagogy and practice within adult, community and further education and training settings. That philosophy is strategically aligned with, and supportive of, the aims and objectives of the TUTOR project, and with the TUTOR consortium partnership.  The TUTOR project, alongside all of the international research projects the department partners with, encourages wider impact of inclusive education across the teaching profession at a European level.

Key messages of the TUTOR Project 

Summary of the TUTOR Project  

TUTOR aims to create partnerships between teacher education and training providers to set up Teacher Academies developing a European and international outlook on inclusion in teacher education.  These Academies will embrace inclusivity in education and contribute to achieving the objectives of the European Education Area. In particular, the project will address the need for educators to develop their capacities to understand, analyse and develop strategic responses to the diversity in their classroom and to promote a more inclusive learning environment. TUTOR project intends to foster a more inclusive environment in education, that is open to students from migrant, LGBTQI+, and socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, with a particular focus on safeguarding the elements of tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion.

The TUTOR objectives 

To contribute to the improvement of teacher education policies and practices in Europe by creating networks and communities that bring together providers of secondary teacher education and providers of continuing professional development, and other relevant actors (such as ministries) and stakeholders to develop a Train the Trainers approach, focused on inclusivity in learning, 

  • To define a forward-looking strategy upskilling strategy for secondary school teachers, 
  • To enhance the European dimension and internationalization of teacher education through innovative and practical collaboration and by sharing experiences for the further development of teacher education in Europe, 
  • To foster holistic inclusivity in the learning environment, covering all its aspects such as tolerance, non-discrimination, flexibility, etc, 
  • To assess current and future skill mismatches in the targeted (teaching) profession, 
  • To disseminate widely all project products & maintain them in future communications. 

Who is the TUTOR project for?  

It is for teachers, students and policy makers who have an interest in inclusive education 

  • Educators/Teachers/ Trainers from the four participating countries of Greece, Ireland, Austria and Turkey 

Reasons for engagement:  

  1. To update inclusivity skills of secondary education teachers in inclusive education.  
  1. To raise awareness with regards to the inclusivity needs of students being discriminated because they are part of the LGBTQI+ community, have migrant background and they face socioeconomic difficulties.  

The TUTOR Consortium will 

1) conduct desk and field research on the inclusivity skills needs of teachers, exploring both the desired status of inclusive education and the actual status within the partner countries, and at European level. 

2) design a training program to match country-specific needs  

3) promote and provide access to TUTOR e-learning platform – access to training materials and a network of professionals within their sector.  

4) support teachers to develop skills to enable a more inclusive teaching experience for students from LGBTQI+ community, migrant backgrounds, and socioeconomically disadvantage to ensure that they are being equally treated.   

5) work with policy-makers including ministries, local & regional authorities, EU bodies, (and other officials with the ability to influence policies) to make changes at a European and national level regarding transitions to a more inclusive teaching environment. 

What has the TUTOR project achieved so far? 

We commenced in June 2022 with a meeting of all partners in Athens, Greece, where the consortium partners developed an overall strategy including an assessment methodology, a Project Management Handbook and Financial Plan, a Dissemination Plan and a project website. Desk research was undertaken across the four countries and at EU level. Partners produced country specific literature reviews on inclusive education, and an overarching Transnational Literature Review.  

The Department of Adult and Community Education, Maynooth University is the lead partner for Work Package 2 (WP2) Definition of a forward looking upskilling strategy for teachers. Partners have conducted focus group meetings with teachers and stakeholders in Ireland, Austria, Turkey and Greece. 

What is currently happening in TUTOR? 

TUTOR’s Transnational  Partner Meeting (TPM) is being hosted by the Department of Adult and Community Education, Maynooth University on 1st and 2nd February 2023, where we welcome partners from Greece, Turkey, Austria and Belgium. All partners are advocates for and are specialists in inclusive education. We will discuss the implications of the key findings of desk and field research to date and plan our strategy for defining a future looking upskilling strategy for teachers across Europe. For further information,  

The TUTOR website is 

The TUTOR Facebook: TUTOR Facebook 

What’s next? 

Large scale research activity and needs analysis on upskilling of teachers on inclusive education for students from LGBTQI+, migrants, ethnic minorities, and socio economically disadvantaged contexts. 

TUTOR partners are exploring National-level and EU-level research on the current skills levels of secondary education and VET (Vocational Education and Training) teachers on inclusivity. As part of that process we will be conducting surveys and interviews with 800 teachers, engaging with 500 stakeholders and policy makers. We are developing a professional network of teachers, and developing opportunities for training and mobilities for teachers across the consortium partnership. 

Contact and for further information and if you would like to find out more and become involved in the project. 

TUTOR partner consortium 


P2. School of Pedagogical & Technological Education (ASPAITE), Greece  

P3. Symplexis, Greece 

P4. EVTA, Belgium  

P5. EVBB, Belgium 

P6. Maynooth University, Ireland 

P7. BPI OJAB, Austria 

P8. Die Berater, Austria 

P9. National Education Directorate of Serik District, Turkey

P10. SERGED Teaching Academy, Turkey 

P11. IGLYO, Belgium 


Dr. Margaret Nugent is an academic and researcher with the Department of Adult and Community Education. Her professional experience and research interests extends to international peace building, conflict intervention, reconciliation in post conflict contexts and inclusive education. She specialises in qualitative, engaged and participatory research methodologies, and is an experienced practitioner and innovator in developing peacebuilding pedagogies. Margaret has delivered a very extensive portfolio of consultancy work with the adult, rural and community development sector, within further and higher education.

Bernie Grummell is Associate Professor in the Department  of Adult and Community Education. She is co director of the Centre for Research in Adult Learning and Education and is the lead researcher for the TUTOR project in Maynooth University.


CREATE2Evaluate: Enhancing evaluation practice of Adult Education policies and programmes at regional and local levels 

Between 2017 and 2019 an ERASMUS+ ‘Competitive Regions and Employability of Adults through Education’ (CREATE) project aimed to enhance performance and efficiency in adult education by addressing the gap between EU/national strategies and local/regional implementation at adult education policy level. CREATE identified a lack of policy tools and resources to evaluate the impact of adult education (AE) interventions, policies, and initiatives across Europe. This gap was particularly acute within regions tasked with AE policy formulation and implementation to progress towards the EU pan-European target of 15% AE participation. A second project, the CREATE2Evaluate project, was supported by ERASMUS+ from 2020 to 2022 to progress these findings. 

The Create2Evaluate project and Partners 

The Create 2 evaluate project is a transnational and multi-agency collaboration seeking to enhance the efficacy and valorisation of adult education at policy and governance levels. The primary aim of the project was identifying reliable tools for adult education evaluation at various layers of governance. The project has eight organisational partners from seven countries (Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Spain) committed to identifying and operationalising these tools.  

Click here for more information on the Eight collaborative partners 

The first meeting of the partners, hosted by the German partner lead AEWB, took place online via teams on the 12th and 13th of November 2020. The project ‘Kick-Off Meeting’ discussed the overall project implementation of the defining timelines, respective duties and activities that will take place in the following months. 

A snapshot of the first Create2Evaluate partners meeting 

IO2-Report: Mapping the Impact, Validation and Evaluation of AE Policies 

The eight partners researched and mapped their current adult education policy landscape regarding evaluation, assessment, and monitoring. Primary and secondary research was undertaken. Twenty-seven stakeholders in the field of adult education were interviewed and a key stakeholder survey was disseminated to provide thirty-six additional responses.  The project partners mapped and identified tools, methods, and resources employed to evaluate adult education programmes and initiatives throughout their regions. A mapping press release went live on the 03-03-2021. 

Stakeholder collaborative conversations in action at Maynooth University. 

Mapping Outcomes 

Mapping and research enabled the CREATE2Evaluate partners to identify the lack of a centralised systemic evaluation framework, common definitions and standards. Feedback indicated that current evaluation policy is primary focused on quantitative outputs and student specific learning outcomes, and inconsistencies were apparent among targeted groups and in non-formal evaluation provision. Additionally, it was evidenced that although copious and significant qualitative evaluation is conducted across adult education centres, this data remains relatively difficult to access due to a lack of centralised systematic overarching analysis and learner protection requirements. Thus, it is very challenging for policy makers to assess the effectiveness of their adult education policies. To view result of the consolidation of findings stemming from the mapping at country and EU level performed by partners click here (full IO2 report) 

 The CREATE2 Evaluate Toolbox:  

In response to the IO2 findings the partners collaboratively collected and developed helpful tools for the evaluation of adult education at various layers of governance. The CREATE 2 Evaluate ToolBox was conceived to ensure that local and regional policy makers from across Europe will be able to use the policy tools to better plan, design, implement and monitor AE policies with a clear vision of sustainability of public funding in AE. The selection of tools takes into account different purposes of evaluation (e.g., process, persuasive, symbolic, instrumental) as well as their place in the policy cycle. The tools are free, easily accessible and multilingual. The toolbox invites users to adopt the tools to their work realities with ease.  

The Toolbox is structured in six different areas, each with specific resources and references that sustain local policy makers in better strategizing the alignment, consistence and coherence of local lifelong learning plans to EU horizons. There are a total of 42 tools; 4 best practice recommendations; 5 networks/ Forums; 4 networks/platforms, and a collection of policy documents and strategies are available. The toolbox was officially released on the 26-09-2022. 

Overview of the Toolbox sections and tools 

Click each area to view the distinctive tools and resources 

1.  Consistency of the objectives and outcomes  

2.  Programme creation at the policy/public administration level 

3.Inclusivity of AE policies and availability of AE programmes 

4. AE trainings and programmes delivery 

5. Value added stemming from the participation in AE 

6. Continuity of programme evaluation and use of its results to improve AE policies 

To view the full toolbox and additional resources click ToolBox

CREATE2Evaluate implementation Package and Green Paper 

The CREATE2Evaluate implementation Package and Green Paper are the final two components of the CREATE2Evaluate project. These two deliverables were consolidated, and the press release went live on the 19-10-22.  

The CREATE2Evaluate implementation Package consists of a training suite for the policy making target groups. It is provided as a guide, with step-by-step procedures on the use and implementation of the tools to evaluate policy interventions in the domain of AE. The Training Suite includes user-friendly and flexible training resources for policy makers. Included are guidelines on the policy evaluation tools, scenario setting and profiling tools and a users’ manual and Introduction CREATE2Evaluate ToolBox 

The CREATE2Evaluate Green Paper advances the debate and stimulates the discussion on policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation of adult education. It provides incite into the challenges and drivers that contributed to the project and the final output of the CREATE2Evaluate Toolbox.. Additionally, it considers the marginalisation of adult education and considers the context in which policy is developed and implemented in adult education, thus enhancing the awareness of the issues evident across the EU adult education landscape. Importantly it offers a critical analysis of the current landscape of adult education from the perspective of the stakeholders and considers the position of the learners. The CREATE2Evaluate resources and CREATE2Evaluate Green Paper should stimulate policy dialogue and exchange on how to advance adult education for socio-economic development and integration.  

All CREATE2Evaluate results are available in multilingual versions, free and without restrictions through the dedicated open educational resource (OER) platform. To know more about the project, the organisations involved and all resources available, please feel free to consult the Open Education Resource Platform of Create2Evaluate: 

Michael Kenny is a lecturer in the Department of Adult and Community Education. He is co-director of the Higher Diploma in Further Education (HDFE), and the director of the post graduate Certificate in Programme Design and Validation (PCPDV). He is currently the Principal Investigator (PI) on 6 Erasmus+ Projects, including the CREATE2Evaluate project.  

Margaret Nugent is an associate academic, researcher and lecturer with Department of Adult and Community Education. Margaret is research associate on the Diversity and several European projects. She is a specialist in engaged methodologies, conflict intervention and peace pedagogies. 


Mindfulness as self-care in professional practice

Each year during the summer months I have a practice of going on a silent retreat. When I tell people that I am heading away to sit and do nothing for 7 days as part of my annual leave – no writing, no reading, no talking – I get some wry looks indeed. But I also get some interested looks, and indeed some looks that I interpret as envious. It seems that the endless hurry that characterizes many people’s lives, the constant demand of work, social media, the on-duty and high alert nature of the social world, can wear out our resources without our full knowledge or consent.  

Not that a retreat is an easy thing to do. For my part I experience the removal of stimulation and demand as a challenge for sure. There is a true sense of disorientation when you don’t have phone, e mails, internet, constant distraction, or indeed the affirmation that often comes from work. Who am I if I don’t have those things in my psychic space?  

But, despite, or perhaps because of, the challenge, I keep going back.  It seems to me that the single most important resource that I draw on in my work as an adult educator, the thing that sustains me in my pedagogical life as well as my psychological life, is the practice I have had for over three decades of taking time each day to sit and to be, to allow for a short time the world to be the world and me to be me. In this space I detach from constant doing and come in to the realm of being. Doing this every day, supported by my annual retreat, together with a like-minded community of practitioners, seems to have the impact of refreshing, renewing and resourcing the core part of me that I draw on in my pedagogical life. 

I work in the Department of Adult and Community Education in Maynooth University in the contexts of both adult education and adult guidance counselling. I see these as rewarding and demanding vocational choices. We work to animate change in individual lives and in the wider society, enacting and embodying a commitment to values of equality and justice.  In our work lives we find ourselves in the midst of group participants’ challenging experiences and stories, and we extend our hearts and minds to support the people we work with, often at a cost to ourselves that our institutions don’t recognize, reward or support. There is a sense in which self-care can seem like another demand on our time and energy, another task on top of the stresses of our work, another. 

Mindfulness practice offers me something important that resources me in the face of the requirements of the neo-liberal world: it offers a set of formal and informal practices that can teach me how to ground myself in the present moment with curiosity and openness and to relate to myself and to my own experience with kindness and compassion (Kabat-Zinn 2005, 2013). This can nurture a freedom to be with whatever is, in a way that offers supports in the midst of the challenges and demands of daily living. Mindful practice can support us to be present to ourselves at one and the same time that we are present to others, and to the myriad demands on our time, attention and care throughout our days.   

It also offers something in addition, a philosophy of living that is congruent with my values as an adult educator. Though mindfulness has been correctly critiqued for its susceptibility to neo liberal discourse, at its best it brings with it a radical critique of power, greed and narcissism. It emphasizes holistic connection: between body, mind and emotion, between self and other, between the human community and the environment we are embedded in, and on which we depend for well-being (Kabat-Zinn, 2005, 2018; Bristow et al 2022). There is nothing like a retreat from the daily compulsive consumption – of news, of goods, of resources – to alert you to the core difference between what is needed and nourishing, and what is compulsively consumed at the expense of well-being. 

As another academic year begins, I have a practice of asking myself a core question that I take from Joanna Macy’s work on hope: what would I most like to do to contribute to healing our world? Or as the subtitle of her book asks: how do I face the mess without going crazy (Macy & Johnstone, 2012)?  A retreat is a good place to address this challenge and the answer emerges easily: I will continue to resource myself with a daily mindfulness practice, strengthen my learning about the contemplative origins of mindfulness and continue to teach the practices I have learned to others.  

David is hosting a CPD opportunity over 8 weeks on Zoom for adult educators and adult guidance counsellors who would like to learn about Mindfulness and develop their own contemplative practice. If you would like to further details, please see flyer at the end of this blog post, or contact: Ann Smith at  

Bristow, J., Bell, R., Wamsler, C. (2022). Reconnection: Meeting the Climate Crisis Inside Out. Research and policy report. The Mindfulness Initiative and LUCSUS. 

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to our senses: Healing ourselves and the World through mindfulness.  Piatkus. 

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living, revised edition: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation (Revised ed.). Piatkus. 

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2018) The Healing Power of Mindfulness: A New Way of Being. Hachette. 

Macy, J. and Johnstone, C. (2012) Active Hope: How to face the mess without going crazy. New World Library.  


The Adult Education Teachers Organisation (AETO) – the 5 Ws

Adult Education is the study of how we learn and develop as adults to collaborate in the creation of a just, equitable and sustainable society'. In the provision of education for adults who may not have been well served by the formal education system, adult education tutors provide a valuable service. The Department of Adult and Community Education at Maynooth University works closely with many professionals in adult education including with adult education tutors. The Department promotes a view of education which recognises the importance of learning which promotes justice and equality in society. The AETO shares these values and can support our department in promoting these values in education spaces in which their members work and to promote adult education in broader society

Who is in the AETO?

The AETO is a National Organisation of teachers in diverse roles in adult education. Adult Education involves teachers who work in Community Education, Literacy, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and other sectors. Membership of the AETO is open to any teacher working with adults in Ireland, be they working with an ETB or for an organisation funded by an ETB. There are about 3,000 adult education teachers nationally and the AETO has been able to engage 300 adult education teachers in its group so far. We expect that many more teachers will join as we raise our profile nationally. 

A committee has been set up to further the work of the organisation. The Chair of the Association is James O’Keeffe who works in CDETB, the treasurer is Lorcan McNamee from MSLETB, Sinéad Hyland from CDETB is the secretary of the organisation and Avril Tierney from CDETB is the PRO.

The organisation can be contacted by email at

What are the aims of the AETO?

The AETO has various goals, all of which aim to improve the working lives of members and to help maintain a focus on learner centred education which will improve access, transfer and progression in the provision of adult education.

We believe that respect for adult learners involves respect for their teachers. The AETO provides a valuable network for teachers in adult education by providing support for them and in turn for the learners with whom they work.

Apart from those who have participated in adult education, there seems to be little public awareness of the work of Adult Education teachers. The AETO would like to inform the public of the work and practice of Adult Education Teachers and the life improvements that they help to bring about for students.  

The AETO would like the importance of our sector to be visible to the public and to the government. Our contribution to education for adults who are vulnerable and marginalised is specialised and of great value to the communities in which we work. We want to achieve working conditions that are merited by this contribution including:

  • a public service contract
  • recognition of prior service and a pay scale
  • recognition of teaching and other qualifications
  • terms and conditions that reflect these qualifications, service experience and status as teaching staff
  • a career path with progression pathways for teachers

We believe that this will encourage others to join us in the important work that we do and that will make our work sustainable.


Adult Education Teachers work in diverse roles and, so far, have had few opportunities to network. This national organisation provides a space for teachers to get to know and support one another and to share best practice in terms of their teaching.

There has been a realisation of late of the power of adult education and lifelong learning to address many of the issues that Ireland faces and to equip its population with the skills to survive and prosper in an ever-changing environment. Adult education teachers work with adults to develop skills which enable better communication. resilience and critical skills. 

The AETO recognises that, in the future, there will be a greater need for committed adult education tutors, to offer learning to adults who wish to re-engage or start out with their education. Many of the actions from the Learning for Life: The White Paper on Adult Education from July 2000 have not yet been put in place regarding adult education teachers. Since then, strategies have been published by various bodies including SOLAS (Future FET: Transforming Learning), Department of Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science (Adult Literacy for Life- A 10 year strategy for literacy, numeracy and digital literacy) and Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI Strategy Statement 2022-2024) that depend on adult education teachers to deliver learning for adults to achieve the goals set out.

As a response to the fragmentation of the sector there is a need to engage colleagues who work in different areas. What is common to all adult education teachers is working with participants with various motivations, some of whom are returning to education having had negative experiences of education in the past. As such, their needs for support are complex. Adult education tutors are ready to provide those supports, allowing learners to develop whole person skills, as well as skills that can lead to work or further study.


There is representation on the group from all 16 ETBs.  There are also local groups based in ETBs who contribute to the national group and who organise locally.

Much of the communication is on the AETO WhatsApp group but we have had meetings face to face as well as online.


The AETO aims to unite adult education teachers in a safe and communicative space where we agree on actions together and can act as the voice for Adult Education Teachers in Ireland.

We are in contact with our members and are engaging in different ways to with Adult Education Teachers so we can ensure that we are representing the wishes of the group.

Without adult education teachers there is no adult education.

Sinéad Hyland is a Tutor and Researcher with Maynooth University Department of Adult and Community Education and City of Dublin Education and Training Board. Sinéad has worked on many projects in adult education and in her work on the Return to Learning Programme in MU has focussed on helping adults to make transitions to higher education.



Including Migrants through Organisational Development and Programme Planning in Adult Education

Ireland is no stranger to waves of migration, spanning 5,000 years, from the first documented migrants arriving on the shores of the North Mayo Ceide Fields to the recent wave of Ukranian refugees. Following the second world war in 1946, Operation Shamrock, in the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, (then an Army barracks) supported 500 traumatised children arriving from war torn Germany who were then hosted by families in country Wicklow and beyond. We welcomed migrants from Vietnam in the 1970’s and in the early 2000s refugees and asylum seekers from the continent of Africa arrived in numbers previously unforeseen, the impact of the Direct Provision system has yet to be fully appreciated or resolved.

Internal displacement has also been a recurring them on the island of Ireland. Displacement of western farming communities occurred through the Land Commission from its establishment in 1881 throughout the 1900s, as well as displacement of communities fleeing conflict across the border in the 1970s.  Describing the impact of displacement in The ‘Emerald Curtain’, it is estimated that 11,000 people were internally displaced as a result of partition of the island. RTE Archives documented the arrival of displaced people from Belfast to Gormanstown Army barracks in the 1970’s.  Fifty years later, we are considering using the same army buildings in Gormanstown to host Ukranian refugees, that were  used to host families fleeing the troubles in Northern Ireland. Global flows of migration continue to be topical issues for us.

Europe is currently experiencing the greatest number of economic and conflict migrants since the second world war. Modern society knows of internal displacement and external migration from African countries for some years but set it aside as a problem to be dealt with by the European Union. Few of us have had to actively deal with the issue until migrants began to arrive in significant numbers from war-torn Syria and economically and ecologically depressed North Africa.

As the numbers grew, emergency responses were adopted. Dedicated budgets were set aside, and willing educators were allocated to migrant groups primarily to teach English and assist them in their integration process. In many cases, “adult education for migrants” was subdivided into “adult education for refugees” and “adult education for other migrants”. Thus, migrants are considered as a “special” target group of adult education, with specifically tailored solutions. This approach may be appropriate in emergency response to a sudden migrant inflow, but long term it leaves migrants outside the mainstream adult education provision and contributes to isolation and ghettoization.

Now every statutory adult learning provider is required to meet the needs of the newly arrived migrants and refugees to a greater or lesser extent. We now realise what we have been doing  is not an adequate or sustainable response.

DIVERSITY Partners Meeting

The Erasmus + funded DIVERSITY project seeks to facilitate a policy and practice shift across Europe from focusing on migrants as distinct group requiring preparation for integration into the society around them, to including migrants in adult learning providers’ regular programs as equals.  The adult education ethos, principles and practices can actively and directly fosters diversity and inclusion in society.

Diversity project logo composted of multipled blue, navy and pink rings
EU flag logo with text: Co-funded by the Erasmus + Programme of the European Union

The Diversity Project-Including Migrants through Organisational Development and Programme Planning in Adult Education, emerged from the desire of European Adult Education providers to welcome refugees, and provide needs based appropriate adult education. It aims to support adult education management, programme planning and executive staff to assess their current practices for implicit barriers and to develop appropriate modes of inclusion for migrants in adult education.

The DIVERSITY Project is situated within the context of European emergency response mechanisms. It is focused primarily on supporting Adult Education managers, planners and providers to embrace and include migrants through organisational development and programme planning in Adult Education spaces. DIVERSITY project partners have developed several resources including country gap analysis reports, a training curriculum designed to address the specific requirements for this organisational shift and a policy recommendations and action plan report. To achieve good policy recommendations that reflect the needs of diverse migrant and refugee groups of adult learners, consultation with member organisations and representative groups is vital. Such an approach will ensure that policy is grounded in practice and is cognisant of experiential knowledge. The engagement of adult education actors in the Diversity Project to date suggests that having a genuine interest in people, their culture, traditions and language is important to facilitate inclusion. It is also important for adult education  organisations, staff and students to be aware of the semantics, the wording and labelling of people as ‘other’ creates barriers to integration and inclusion and can create miscommunication.

While most adult education providers would agree that a diverse learning community is a desirable goal, most are also less clear on how to create this respectful, caring, supportive, appreciative, mutually beneficial reality. Changing organisations is notoriously difficult and while agreement on the overall vision is crucial, identifying manageable, specific steps to take in the workplace can eventually make a bigger difference.  We have developed resources which we hope will be of use to adult education providers.

The Diversity Gap Analysis Report consolidates the current state of play in migrant related AE provision in each partner country and across Europe. The report profiles the readiness of adult education systems in Europe to develop more sustainable approaches towards managing diversity. It provides a review of relevant policy and practice documents along with interviews, surveys and focus groups involving managers, planners and learners (both migrants and non-migrants) as immediate target groups.

Cover of the diversity gap analysis report
Click on the image to open the report

The Diversity Curriculum is aimed at management, programme planning and executive staff with the modular curriculum allows providers to a) assess their current practices for implicit barriers to migrant participation, and to b) develop appropriate avenues of evolution to realise their full potential. The curriculum modules can be turned into tailor-made trainings.

Cover of the diversity curriculum
Click on the image to open the curriculum

The modules follow the mix-and-match approach – participants can pick only one, a couple or complete all of them, depending on their organisations’ needs. This offers the greatest possible degree of applicability. This curriculum is not a self-study course; it serves as the basis upon which trainers will build their trainings. The curriculum is available for free on comes in five languages.

The Diversity Policy Recommendations and Action Plan recognises that the inclusion of migrants into the wider planning strategies of adult education requires European policymakers to align their regional AE strategies. Adult education providers are important stakeholders in facilitating these changes. Therefore the Diversity project prepared a set of policy recommendations aiming at enhancing inclusion in Adult Education.

Cover of the diversity policy recommendations and action plan
Click on the image to open the action plan

Michael Kenny is a lecturer in the Department  of Adult and Community Education. He is co director of the Higher Diploma in Further Education (HDFE), and the director of the post graduate Certificate in Programme Design and Validation (PCPDV). Michael is interested in formal and non-formal education in voluntary rural and urban organisations.  He is currently the Principal Investigator on 6 Erasmus+ Projects, including the Diversity project. 

Margaret Nugent is an associate academic,  researcher and lecturer with Department  of Adult and Community Education. Margaret is research associate on the Diversity and several European projects. She is a specialist in engaged methodologies, conflict intervention and peace pedagogies.


Growing Space

Recovery, Education and Capability

This was the first seminar to be held in Maynooth University since 2019, and I could certainly identify with and echo the words of Dr Derek Barter, that this event was an antidote to the fear we have been feeling over the last 2 years. The sense that some fragment of normalcy was returning was evident, the atmosphere outside the lecture hall beforehand was buzzing with relaxed chat. I must say it was nice to be at an event where the main topic was not Covid, no, today belonged to recovery. This ALL Institute and the Dept of Adult and Community Education (DACE), joint Addiction Studies/Psychology seminar did not disappoint as Dr Barter introduced Dr Mark Richardson from Growing Space.

The story that unfolded as Mark began his presentation was one of true humanity, inclusion, caring and respect. Dr Richardson was joined by co-worker Nicola Vaile, and two participants from Growing Space, Michele and Marette. It was obvious from the beginning that the relationship between all four people was very special, you could feel the deep connection between them. Marks passion for what he does, and for what he has helped create in Growing Space was evident in his presentation. It flowed from him naturally because he deeply believes in it. Growing Space has been providing a space in Wales since 1992, in a place called Nant Bran (such a lovely name), where they continue to approach mental health issues through transformational education, community engagement, situationist practice, and emancipatory participation. All of this in the hope that those who suffer mental health issues might find that spark that ignites their journey of recovery. In Mark Richardson’s own words, “education is the bedrock of recovery”.

Dr Richardson continued as he explained, in detail, the support they provide at Growing Space for the community. All the time connecting the theories and practices to the real-life experiences of Michele and Marette. This is not a medical, symptom management approach to mental health, although the medical approach is also important, as Dr Mary Ryan (Head of Dept of Adult and Community Education) alluded to. I found it refreshing to hear someone speak about people who can sometimes be forgotten about within society because of mental health issues and the stigma that surrounds it. One of the first things Mark done when he arrived at Growing Space was to paint the old building bright yellow, so as to let people know we are here and this is what we do, no more hiding. A simple but powerful statement, if we refuse to acknowledge or speak about serious social issues and the structures that support these beliefs, we give them the power to oppress. One of the first questions Mark asks anyone who comes to Growing Space is, what can you do, what do you want to do? Instead of, what’s wrong with you? Growing Space joins a person’s recovery journey and supports them by focusing on a person’s strengths. Mark goes on to tell us that Growing Space is there to “inspire learning”, and to “help people find their own recovery”.  

Dr Richardson kept referring back to both Michele and Marette’s stories throughout his presentation, so as to give the audience a sense of their mental health issues, their pathways to recovery and their experiences within Growing Space. I for one found this approach very inclusive, a clever way of keeping both Michele and Marette involved in the presentation, as there were some serious anxiety issues, in particular with Marette, as we were to find out later. Somehow they found the strength to stand up in front of a room full of strangers and tell their very personal stories. Upon reflection I can see that it was only because of the relationship that Mark Richardson and his team have with the participants at Growing Space, that Marette and Michele had the confidence to share with us their experiences.

Michele’s story was harrowing to hear at times, and by the end of it I had tears in my eyes, and I certainly wasn’t the only one. What Michele endured throughout her childhood was nothing short of horrific, at one point she did say, matter-of-factly, that she blamed her mother for her mental illness. When Michele first came to Growing Space she had literacy issues, but here Michele was, more than a stone’s throw away from home, standing in a very large lecture hall reading from her life story which she wrote herself – here was the power of adult education. This is what can happen when the barriers of stigma, language, and ignorance are removed, and replaced with humanity, cooperation, openness and exploration. The support from Nicola during the time Michele spent at the podium was visible, solid as a rock. The round of applause Michele received when she finished was emotional to say the least, it was in appreciation for her honesty and vulnerability; it’s true when Brene Brown says, there is power in vulnerability . It was not only for Michele’s honesty that such appreciation was shown, but the fact that she came through what she did, not unscathed by any means, but still standing none the less, how dare anyone stigmatise, exclude, or at the very least not strive to understand a powerful soul like Michele, is beyond me.

Left to right Derek Barter (Maynooth), Michele, Marette, Nic, Mark

When Marette made her way to the podium, the moral support of Nicola was ever present. Two very different stories in ways, but ultimately having similar outcomes, ill mental health. What did come through in Marette’s story was how important Growing Space and building a trusting relationship with Mark was in her journey of recovery. From speaking with Mark later in the day I can say that some of the obstacles that Marette has overcome is astonishing. I can only speculate that the occasion become too much for Marette during her talk and she couldn’t finish what she had written; without missing a beat in jumped Nicola to make sure that what Marette had written was heard. I can only liken it to a secret service agent jumping in front of a bullet for her president, marvellous. It was in this moment that I looked from Marette to Mark to Nicola, and what I saw will stay with me for a long time to come. What I saw was love, the type of love you see between a parent and a child or between siblings. They felt and acted with Marette in the moment, and I only hope that when they had time to reflect that they looked for the lesson in the experience.

I really enjoyed the couple of hours I spent in the company of Mark, Nicola, Michele and Marette. It was a privilege to hear their stories and I hope I have done them justice in this piece. There is so much more to Dr Mark Richardson’s work and Growing Space. I was glad to have the chance to talk with Mark afterwards, and I asked him how he would approach stigma within people who were in recovery from addiction. His reply was, change the language you use. Now, I have to say, I was expecting more but, what I wasn’t expecting was that I would be still thinking about his answer a week later. I have been engaged in those five words ever since and thinking of different ways to put them into action. Mark didn’t give me the answer I was looking for, he joined me on my journey to finding the answer for myself. Thank you Mark.


Glen Patrick Smith began his journey through Maynooth University in 2018, when he completed the certificate in Addictions Studies. From there he progressed on to the part-time evening degree in Community Studies, which he will complete in the summer of 2023. Returning to education, in particular the Adult and Community Education Department in Maynooth, has been the most important decision of his life thus far. It has given him a confidence to express himself, and it has afforded him opportunities he never though possible. As a result of his studies and the passion it has instilled in him for adult and community education, Glen has recently been employed by the local Family Resource Centre in Newbridge as a family support/community development worker. Glen intends to continue his studies in the near future.


Transformative Engagement Network: working together to create a sustainable future

Professor Anne Ryan writes about our involvement with colleagues in Malawi and Zambia since 2008 in the Transformative Engagement Network to address issues of climate justice from the standpoint of smallholder farmers.

I need to wind the clock back more than a few decades to set the scene for this project…

I first went to Zambia in 1974 when I was twenty-one.  I taught maths, history and English in a very rural secondary school in Chivuna. It was only when I returned to Ireland in 1977 that I fully realised the depth of the economic divide between rural Africa and the west. What shocked me most was not the poverty I’d witnessed but the affluence and waste I saw on my return. I’d grown up in rural Ireland. I was seventeen and in digs in Dublin before I experienced the luxury of having running water and all the amenities that go with that. Adjustment to living in Zambia was easy for me. I loved staying in the villages where my colleagues’ parents or grandparents lived. It was usual to leave the village laden with eggs, a chicken and whatever was in season. It reminded me of my childhood and how my father always farewelled visitors with whatever could be picked or dug up from the garden.  Zambia felt like home to me in the 1970s and has done ever since. Whenever I read or hear about subsistence farmers, I always recall particular individuals and families in Southern Province, Zambia. 

In the intervening decades I never lost contact with Zambia and was very aware that climate change was exacerbating poverty and taking a very heavy toll on subsistence farmers right across Africa. Between 2012 and 2015 along with colleagues in Maynooth University I was fortunate enough to lead a project that linked us to small scale farmers in Zambia and Malawi.  The aim of the project called TEN – Transformative Engagement Network – was to model a process that would transform the nature of the engagement between the various stakeholders impacted by or concerned with climate change. Those of us involved in TEN believed that inequalities between and within countries was getting worse not better and therefore our thinking about development and our actions to promote development needed to change. We also believed that to make meaningful changes in our thinking and actions we needed to create opportunities that would allow information flows and dialogue between all the stakeholders.  These stakeholders included scientists, researchers, subsistence farmers and all the agencies that work with them. Four universities were involved – one in Ireland, two in Zambia and one in Malawi. Each university had an interdisciplinary project team, including climatologists, plant and animal scientists, and community educators. We wanted a two way exchanges between these stakeholders. Universities and other agencies would not just disseminate information but would also position themselves as learners. We wanted accountability to be two ways. Instead of only upward accountability whereby those who are funded account for their spending we also wanted those who fund to be accountable to meeting the most pressing needs / concerns of vulnerable communities.

The Zambian and Malawian Universities drew on their links to local and national government, local rural communities and agencies working in these communities. We knew that within the academic world scientists easily and effectively engage with each other. Within TEN we wanted to build a network that would allow scientists to also dialogue with those who are most effected by climate change in their everyday lives. For example traditionally research in universities tends to be driven by the concerns of the discipline. Within TEN we hoped that the concerns of communities and those who work directly with them would play a role in formulating each university’s research agenda. In doing this we also hoped that research findings would become available to communities.   We also wanted to enhance the capacity of universities and policymakers to recognize and make use of community knowledge. We wanted to combine the western scientific knowledge that dominates our education systems with the lived knowledge of subsistence farmers whose very existence is testimony to their resilience and capacity to adapt.

 The networking aspect of the project necessitated layers of collaboration between entities that are frequently separated by issues of power and status. We learned a lot over the lifetime of TEN. In particular we learned that power and status are everywhere – between the disciplines in universities, between agencies working in rural communities, between individuals, families and groups in communities, within national and local governments and of course between all these different stakeholders.  We learned that although disciplinary specialisation has led to great advances in the natural and social sciences, it alone is often not sufficient to address complex problems such as poverty and climate change. We learned that traditional structures within universities prefer discipline-bound knowledge making it difficult to bring together the expertise to address these complex challenges. We learned that the key to an inclusive participatory process is to acknowledge the existence of power and status even when that power and status is not immediately evident and or is not easy to address.

Perhaps most importantly of all we learned that when invited to participate small-holder farmers eagerly responded. They appreciated the reciprocity of knowledge flows between the stakeholders.  They were keen to know the findings of the research conducted in their communities and throughout the project they were as generous in sharing their knowledge, expertise, experiences and concerns as they had been in sharing their homes with me many decades ago.

TEN had many outputs. The most surprising is that it didn’t really end. Sure the funded aspects ended but many of the activities carried on and there are plans for the partner universities to work together on another venture where small-holders will again play a lead role.

Anne Ryan is Emeritus Professor at Maynooth University.  She was chair of the Department of Adult and Community Education from 2005 to 2018. Anne has worked in developing countries that experience extreme poverty (such as Bangladesh and Central Africa) and those that are war-torn (such as Afghanistan) and she has worked with disadvantaged communities in Australia and Ireland.  These experiences convince her of the potential of adult and community education to empower communities to respond to the critical challenges facing twenty-first century societies in ways that ensure their voice is heard by decision-makers. 


Muscat, Maigh Mucreimhe, Mezirow and Maynooth

Mondays mean Maynooth and mine starts at 5.15 a.m.

I force myself out of bed and if my legs aren’t that inclined to work, I pull into my wheelchair and push myself down to the kitchen. I tell Sowdee to ‘get her thing’ namely the leash. She does her happy dance and we find ourselves outside. I love this. The cold, soft mist. It is Galway after all.


I can’t walk that well, so we’ve successfully adapted a system from our days in Muscat involving a long lead out the car window. Sometimes, she misses the hot sand and trots along our boithrín until she is ready to run. It is her favourite thing, so we go faster and faster as the sky, anticipating dawn, turns a lighter shade of dark. Close by, the early birds sing their sweet-sounding threats, and a lonesome fox lets out a shrill imploration to a hidden suitor.

Nonetheless, it remains a time for reflective contemplation.

I park up and Sowdee sniffs the air catching strains of the amorous fox. I call her name and she looks to me with her big chocolate eyes as I say ‘epistemological’ three times and ‘ontology’ twice, practicing the language of Maynooth. She blinks back quizzically. From this height we look across fields to the half ringfort and the almost imperceptible fall and rise of Ériu in slumber, a slight swaying of the tall grass. Other worlds meet as the dark cobalt turns a grey silver, the best we can hope for mid-February under Galway skies. We take all this in.

I think of where we are and where we were. I think of my own journey that includes Muscat, Maigh Mucreimhe, Mezirow and Maynooth. ‘What am I doing Sowdee.’ I ask, ‘nearly fifty, and pursuing a masters?’  Madness.  What brought me here? I am reminded on coming home to Ireland of the advice of wiser, better people, educators that I admire and aspire to emulate, of the erudite Bern from GRETB who suggested that I obtain literacy teaching qualifications from WIT. And once there coming under the tutelage of Sarah Bates Evoy, the single most encouraging and motivating lecturer of my long, learning ‘career.’ It was Sarah who pushed me to reach for more, towards Maslow’s zenith. Later, telling her that I had three offers including Maynooth and was unable to decide, she replied, ‘choose Maynooth. You will see why.’

So, I did, and I do.

I think of this new ‘language’ that has given form to old thoughts creating a window of opportunity, not necessarily in the material but in terms of self-acceptance. From this, I equate Maynooth with my wheelchair. Both are agents of liberation. Both allow me to go further. Both have the capacity to free perspective from distress. The brisk air affords clarification and I think of my journey from callipers, to crutches and a more recent embrace of the wheelchair. Those few years of almost independent walking have drifted away from me now. Water under the bridge.  I am reminded then of the dilemmata of disability, my faulty frames of reference and the need for transformation. Uh-oh, the inevitable prompt, my Mezirow assignment is due!

Windows come to mind, the windows of our classroom and the architecture of Maynooth, beyond them, the heavenly inspired, spire, reaching skywards and the juxtaposition of the wings of a colossal, fallen angel within its shadow. The dichotomous struggle within us all. This speaks to a growing self-awareness, of being and I say to myself ‘all human beings desire knowledge.’

Sowdee isn’t impressed with my Aristotelian quotes.

Despite my shortcomings, I remind her, ‘I am fully human, and I desire knowledge.’

And breakfast.

I reflect on my ‘truths.’ Challenged and transformed as they are through discourse within the Department of Adult and Community Education and I say out loud, “no one is born fully-formed; it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are.”

‘Freire said that,’ I brag but my companion ignores me busily scratching her ear. 

Despite this slight, I remain enraptured with the scholarship, with Freire, Foucault, Butler, and Goffman and am thankful to the Department of Adult and Community Education for the exposure to them. I reflect on new ways of thinking and not just of thinking but of understanding that thinking. I think therefore I am.

I think I am still hungry.

As is the suddenly affectionate dog.

She reminds me of our journey, her wild, precarious hold to life on the streets and beaches of Muscat, our coming together and eventual journey home. We are all wanderers to some extent. Looking to find our way. Looking to leave our mark. I think then of the diversity within the Department of Adult and Community Education and how it informs and enriches us. I think of the journeys of my fellow ‘Maynoovians,’ those diurnal and life journeys, Kilkenny, Kenya, Botswana, Newbridge and from Banja Luka to the banks of the Liffey.

These important people, my classmates, my friends.

The Department of Adult and Community Education, Maynooth and the MEd are part of us now. We are in a privileged place, refuelling epistemologically, gathering thoughts, appreciating understanding, and pondering the next step.

I breathe in deeply, filling my lungs with morning air. 

‘Come on Sowdee,’ I say looking eastwards at the semblance of a rising sun, ‘we have to go…’ I pause to add, ‘because immobility represents a fatal threat.’

I sense her rolling her eyes, ‘Freire again!?’

As I look forward to the road and the journey to Maynooth.

Niall Dempsey is an educator from Athenry currently studying the MEd in Adult and Community Education at Maynooth. His interests are in Adult Literacy, Autoethnography, and Disability Identity. He taught for a decade in the Sultanate of Oman where he met his two Omani hounds, Jojo and Sowdee. While travel remains a passion, they live together now ‘at home’ near a haunted castle, surrounded by forest and family. “Life is good!”