Over the past two years, Innovation Academy UCD has offered its Professional Certificate and Diploma for Entrepreneurial Educators to education professionals of all disciplines and levels from primary right through to higher education. The course has been very popular with participants and in some cases has had a transformative effect. Below some of the past alumni have taken the time to share with us how it helped them in their professional lives.

Three recent graduates from the course, shared their experiences and insights from the course with us. Here are their insights, with thanks to:

Dr Sandra Aungier, MVM, PhD, Lecturer in Veterinary Biosciences, University College Dublin 

Eamon Dalton, Lecturer and Creative Multimedia Programme Coordinator, LIT Limerick School of Art and Design (Clonmel)

Ann O’Reilly, Assistant Principal at St. Raphaela’s Secondary School, Dublin 

All three participants were highly skilled experienced teachers in their own fields, however they all found the course to be valuable and stimulating for them. In their own different ways they felt it challenged them to look at their current working practices and question how they might be able to teach and inspire their students even further.

The course creates a supportive environment within which to learn
The course proved to be really helpful and inspiring, full of many useful insights to bring back to their daily working life. Sandra Aungier felt the course “gave me a confidence, that you’ve experienced similar problems and issues as other people. You also learn from the other participants, and really understand what team work means”.

Better understanding of learning techniques
Eamon Dalton, had a successful experience on the course too. The programme really helped me gain a deeper insight into the learning process and how to maximise learner engagement, how to utilise peer-based learning techniques and the use of alternative approaches to assessment”

Ann O’Reilly found the course helped her to look at her teaching methods, to question them, and then analyse where she could improve the impact for both students and teachers. She enjoyed “the challenges to the mindset and the systems we operate it. The course really helped me develop an entrepreneurial mindset, to keep what works, to get rid of what doesn’t, and to keep taking feedback to make it better”.

The course aims to question and develop your teaching mindset. All three mentioned an awareness of how this aim is designed into the course. Having experienced this at first hand it then enabled them to apply the same insights to their own teaching practices.

Inspired by the experiential insights of collaborative learning
The course intentionally gets participants to question how, and why they do things. All participants interviewed described the collaborative nature of the challenges as being really helpful. It helped to learn what it felt like for their students. This helped participants on this course to better understand how to optimise the experience for their own students when they returned to their own classrooms. Sandra Aungier explains more “They call it flipped classroom. By thinking in this way, it helps you to understand what it is like to be a student as well as a teacher. It was really useful to have been on the other side. It was good to get beyond just a didactic lecture, the Innovation Academy gives you that training.”

One to one mentoring
“The 1 to 1 mentoring was very good with the course tutors. This really helped you to talk through your ideas, and come to a final conclusion. They steered and guided you, rather than telling you what to do”. Sandra Aungier

A supportive environment
Participants felt the course offered them a safe environment within which to learn. They even felt cared for on the course. “I really felt minded on the course, nurtured. This transformed me and really helped. It did something for me that no other course has done. I now engage so much more with people who are trying to make changes or with initiatives in my own subject. I’m not despondent any more, it really helped!” Ann O’Reilly

Bringing the changes back to their own teaching practice
Taking the course resulted in significant changes to the teaching and assessment methods for all of the participants when they returned to teaching. On the LIT course for example, new delivery and assessment methods have been introduced, Eamon Dalton “we now use much more experiential learning and assessment. At a practical level, we introduced significant changes such as workshop based exploration of topics and students creating video based content for their assessment, which are viewable by all other students. This encourages peer learning and discussion and proved much more effective that other assessment methods such as written reports.”

The ongoing benefits of the course
Despite having finished the course many of the participants are still in touch with each other as they continue to support and help encourage each other in their work. Each interviewee mentioned many changes implemented in their own practice since doing the course. Ann O’ Reilly for example commented. “Everyone in my school can see the benefits of my having done the course. Even if you feel you’re coming to the end of your career it’s a great course to do and an opportunity be re-inspired. A course like this coupled with the wisdom that comes from years of teaching means that you can continue to engage with the changing nature of education in an energetic and meaningful way.

Eamon Dalton commented the programme has provided me with the tools to develop educational experiences that really engage learners. From a practical perspective, this has already impacted on how I design and deliver courses and how I assess my learners.”

To learn more about the course and to apply click here