Dr Deirdre McGillicuddy 

Assistant Professor in Education in UCD School of Education

Through my Innovation Fellowship, I set out to explore different ways, formal and informal, to foreground creativity and innovation in education in UCD and Ireland. For me, teaching is a dynamic undertaking in creativity and innovation embedded within the complex reality of the relational. Creativity within the school context is realised through safe spaces where risk-taking, vulnerability and wellbeing are nurtured in a supportive and meaningful way. The power of teaching as creative endeavour lies in the transformative possibilities for children, teachers, schools, communities and our broader society. 

I looked at opportunities for giving better prominence to creativity and innovation within our Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes in the UCD School of Education. The recently published Céim standards for Initial Teacher Education by Teaching Council in Ireland specifically refers to Creativity and Reflective Practice as a core element in Initial Teacher Education. In UCD we provide a two year Professional Masters in Education programme and are collaborating with other schools in the delivery and preparation of programmes at undergraduate level, including in Maths, Science, Modern Languages and Gaeilge. I wanted to explore the potential to embed creativity and wellbeing across these programmes now and for the future.  

I set up the Flourish Initiative in 2019, a community of practice for wellbeing and creativity in education. Flourish – Take 5 for U currently offers a range of resources to support student teacher wellbeing and creativity during the Covid-19 pandemic. In my Fellowship, I used Flourish as a framework to develop a Creativity and Wellbeing module to be embedded within our Initial Teacher Education programmes. I wanted the emphasis to be on creativity (including creative pedagogies) and wellbeing in order to build a Community of Practice. This community would be a place for students to explore their creativity in a safe and supportive environment, and where their leadership skills are nurtured and developed. I wanted the module to cultivate skills that can be used by our students in the post-primary classroom by embedding these approaches into their practises with pupils. The module “Creative Pedagogies and Wellbeing in Education” has been approved and will be delivered to ITE students in the UCD School of Education from September 2022 and as new programmes are developed within the school.

“The pandemic demonstrated the power and agency of teachers to create, innovate and transform our education system.”

As part of my Fellowship, I also sought to initiate and contribute to a national conversation on the role and importance of creativity and innovation in creating and transforming a more dynamic and agile education system in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

I engaged in advocacy and writing, areas often neglected during the day to day of teaching. I was delighted to deliver a keynote address to the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) at their November Educational Conference (2021) broadcast and circulated to all members of their organisation, over 50k primary teachers on the island of Ireland. I wrote an article for the Irish Teachers’ Journal (publication date Dec ‘21), a publication which is circulated to all members of the INTO and sent to all primary schools across the country. 

The pandemic was an historic pivot for education in Ireland; it demonstrated the power and agency of teachers to create, innovate and transform our education system. We are facing a continued era of uncertainty; climate change means the pandemic will not be the last mass disruption educators and society overall faces. It is critical to empower teachers and children to engage in this creative endeavour if we are to build a responsive education system. Through my advocacy and writing, I’ve sought to make this argument and build support for seizing this historic opportunity for positive change.

As focal scoir, I am truly appreciative of the time, space and opportunity to develop my understanding and skills in leading for creativity across the education system. The ripple impact of engaging in this fellowship has the potential to be profound, not only shaping how I teach, but also how student teachers on my module will teach young people in post-primary classrooms across the country. This holds the most exciting potential for me. In the words of Albert Einstein “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”. 

Dr Deirdre McGillicuddy was one of 11 Convene Innovation Fellows to participate in the inaugural Convene Fellowship in 2021 at UCD Innovation Academy. Convene is a collaboration between UCD Innovation Academy and TU Dublin funded under Human Capital Initiative Pillar III. HCI seeks, among other aims, to promote innovative methods of teaching and delivery.