Research Projects

Creative Connections:  A European Action Research Project involving both National and International Partners

This EU-sponsored Comenius project across six countries (Ireland, UK, Czech Republic, Portugal, Finland) focused on direct linkages between primary and post-primary school students’ using art images and digital media. Creative Connections reunites four former partners, England, Ireland, Portugal and the Czech Republic (all of whom participated in phase one of the Comenius-funded Images & Identity (I&I) 2008-10) and includes two new partners in Finland and Spain. Creative Connections, embarks on an innovative way of developing connectedness through the creation and appraisal of artworks between schools and pupils in Europe

Dervil Jordan is the national co-ordinator of Creative Connections, Ireland, with colleagues Tony Murphy (Digital Media) and Fiona King (researcher) are key field workers in the project. The participant teachers and participating Irish schools are Máire O Higgins and Siobhan Mc Kenzie from Larkin Community College, Dublin 1;  Sarah Lambe, Melissa Hogan and resident artist Mirjam Keune from Mater Dei National School, Dublin 8;  Catherine Lehane from Jesus and Mary Secondary School, Gortnor Abbey, Crossmolina, Co Mayo, and Maria Mulligan from Don National School, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon.

Creative Connections aims to develop and promote an active inter-country dialogue, specifically between children, through sharing artwork and discussing contemporary art in order to enhance their understanding of different perspectives on European citizenship.

In promoting communication between countries we seek to develop what Pike (2008) calls “connectedness”, which he deems vital to the promotion of any kind of shared understanding between individuals. There are organisations which facilitate connections between schools in Europe, but none which specifically use art as a focussed learning opportunity to discuss issues relating to culture, identity and citizenship. The aim is to evolve European-level connectedness through children’s “voices”; giving them the opportunity to communicate with one another, to discuss their responses to tasks and to comment upon each other’s visual art works.

The Creative Connections website provides a forum where pupils upload their art works, and a written commentary on the meaning of their work.  The website also housed a ‘Connected Gallery’ which is a database of contemporary artists work from the partner countries. The artworks explore a variety of themes, which include ‘mapping identity and nation’, ‘cultural reporter’ and ‘art as activism’. This ‘Connected Gallery’ provides a platform for teachers and pupils to develop a multi-lingual dialogue and generate conversations about identity and citzenship by children in schools across Europe.

A digital catalogue of the Creative Connections Research will be launched in NCAD in November 2014 and the Creative Connections website will be made accessible to the public.

Dervil Jordan, Fiona King and Tony Murphy
Education Faculty, NCAD;;


Contemporary Self Portraits: Artists in Learning Communities, EU Culture funding, 2012

During 2006/7 the Fine Art Faculty at NCAD collaborated with the Fine Art Academy at Turku University of Applied Science in Finland, and the Art Co Operations project at Wiltz in Luxembourg, on an international, EU supported research project entitled Artists in Learning Communities.

Building on this partnership NCAD was invited by Taina Eravaara from the Turku Academy of Fine Art, Finland  to an  initial meeting of potential partners including the Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn, the International Summer School of Photography, Latvia and Umea University, Sweden .
Chris Maguire represented NCAD at the September 2011 meeting in Turku. It was discussed in advance that the developing relationship between NCAD and the
F2 Neighborhood Centre in Rialto might provide an appropriate context for the development of the Dublin leg of this research project.   All four Fine Art Departments will participate.

Over two days of meetings an outline plan was agreed between the five agencies present and further detailed information was forwarded to Turku for collation and inclusion in the submission for matching funding from the EU.   A positive response was received in early 2012.  The next meeting of the five partners is due to take place in Turku in September 2012, with the program being rolled out thereafter and continuing through 2013, leading towards an exhibition and launch of a publication at Umea in Sweden round about April 2014.

Future Creators, The Digital Hub, 2011

In today’s challenging economic climate, jobs are in short supply. For those without a high level of achievement in the formal education system the competition in the jobs market is intense. As Ireland looks towards a recovery, the focus of policy is on establishing and growing industries that can create and sustain high value jobs. The Internet industry is one of these. The Digital Hub is the centre of the indigenous internet industry in Dublin. The local resident community therefore has the potential to gain significantly from the development of such a critical mass of the internet industry in their neighbourhood.

The ‘elevate’ learning initiative of the Digital Hub has been operating in the Dublin 8 area for almost 10 years. Much has been achieved in local schools and communities. The next step is to develop the links with the formal education sector and to provide a rigorous programme for a select number of high potential local young people. This depth of intervention will provide the best possible opportunity for these young people to go on to further education and high value jobs in the internet space.

As part of this initiative, NCAD and Digital Hub developed and launched 'Future Creators', an initiative with young people in the local area. A key feature of this project is the engagement of 13-16 year-olds in a series of modules in digital media.

The project aims to have at least two significant outcomes: the development of a strong partnership with Digital Hub and local schools and community groups, to encourage young people to look to NCAD and to art and design; and also the development of new forms of learning in the digital world, to serve as a model for learning innovation in the context of current national debates.

A Sense of Being, EU Grundtvig, 2009 (lead partner)

Funded through the EU's Grundtvig Programme, 'A Sense of Being: Building Self-Esteem' was a collaboration between one university, one community group, one NGO dealing with training for unemployed people, one school for prisoners, and four prisons. The project focused upon education in prisons, and enabled exploration of the different methods, rules and systems of educating offenders across Europe.

The countries involved were Ireland, Norway, Romania, Italy, Spain and Portugal. The participants brought a skill base and experience to the project which was multi faceted. The experience included those of teachers,teaching in and outside prisons at second and third level, being a prisoner and also an ex prisoner, being a senior administrator in prison and in university, being a Public Representative and psychologists. The group undertook workshops with themselves and prisoners in music, art and cooking and tracked the effect such activities have on self esteem. The group examined practice in each country. The conditions and education pertaining to each type of incarceration were examined i.e. short term imprisonment, long term imprisonment, open prisons, closed prisons, maximum security prisons, mother and child units. The method of research used workshops and seminars and in specific cases used the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenburg, 1965).

Images and Identity: Improving Citizenship Education through Digital Art, EU Commenius, LLP, 2008.

Images and Identity was a two-year collaborative curriculum development and research project that began in October 2008, and which is funded with support from the European Commission under the Comenius scheme. The participating institutions were:

  • Roehampton University (UK) (lead partner);
  • The National College of Art and Design (Ireland);
  • Instituto Politecnico, Viana do Castelo (Portugal);
  • University of Malta (Malta);
  • Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic);
  • Justus-Liebig-Universitaet Giessen (Germany).

In Ireland the research was co-ordinated by Dervil Jordan from the Faculty of Education at the National College of Art and Design, supported by Professor Gary Granville who lead the Citizenship aspect of the project  and Tony Murphy who delivered the Digital module to support the project with several groups of participants.

The Core Focus Group

The participating art teachers were:

  • Aoife Keogh from The Life Centre Dublin,
  • Siobhan Cassidy from Mercy College, Coolock,
  • Elaine Brazil from Chanel College, Coolock,
  • Iseult Aiken Ashbbourne Community School, Co Meath
  • Susan Lynch, St Marys Secondary School, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

The action research for the Image and Identity Project was conducted in four Irish secondary schools and in a inner city educational unit.  The original number of schools was six. Two teachers withdrew for personal reasons and because of heavy work loads and an additional teacher joined the project a little later. School types varied considerably. The sample included two large coeducational schools set in rural areas, two single sex schools (a boys’ and a girls’ school) serving a disadvantaged urban area and a special education unit in the city centre for students at risk.   All the schools were Catholic, the student population included newcomer/immigrant students with Eastern European, Asian and African cultural backgrounds.

Ubuntu – Development Education in Teacher Education, Irish Aid, 2007-2009

The Ubuntu Network supports the integration of Development Education (DE) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into post primary Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in Ireland. It is funded by Irish Aid which is located in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Ubuntu Network comprises teacher educators and educational researchers from post primary Initial Teacher Education Institutions - College of Art and Design (LIT), Mater Dei Institute of Education, National College of Art and Design (NCAD), National University of Ireland Maynooth (NUIM), National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), St. Angela’s College of Education, Trinity College Dublin (TCD), University College Cork (UCC), University College Dublin (UCD) and University of Limerick (UL).

It is supported by NGOs – Trócaire, Amnesty, Just Forests and Eco-UNESCO who provide a valuable insight into the educational work of NGOs and the development of relevant resources and campaigns. They act to inform the resource development process in their organisation, thus ensuring its relevance to post primary teacher education. In addition they communicate an understanding of the Ubuntu Network research and outputs to other NGOs through the Development Education Group (DEG) in Dóchas and EENGO, thus providing a basis for the creation of links between NGOs and teacher educators.

The Ubuntu Network benefits from the input of Development Education practitioners from the primary education sector, including DICE (Development and Intercultural Education) and Mary Immaculate College. It is funded by Irish Aid.