☰       Show/Hide Menu

☰       Department Menu

Teaching Enhancement Unit


The TEU are involved in a wide vareity of projects across the entire university

 Action Research

Action research is a way of generating both improved practice, and publications, from ‘normal’ teaching activities. Dr Pip Ferguson has extensive experience in promoting this in a range of tertiary institutions in New Zealand, and is linking up with action researchers in Ireland to extend connections and knowledge of this way of improving practice.

Initiatives so far include:

  • The establishment, with four Irish teachers in first and third level education, of a Network for Educational Action Research in Ireland (NEARI). This group has so far held three face-to-face meetings and maintained a google group email system and a Padlet to link up Network members and to share ideas and resources. The first event was held in DCU in April 2015; the second at National College, Ireland, in June 2015; the third at St Patrick’s College Thurles in September 2015; and a fourth is planned back at DCU in January 2016. Professor Jack Whitehead will be keynote at this event.
  • Professor Jack Whitehead will be addressing DCU staff at a Teaching Enhancement Unit workshop at St Patrick’s College campus 1 – 2 on January 15, 2016. He will also be running a seminar for NIDL research staff that morning.
  • A workshop, “Researching your practice the action research way” was held for DCU’s partner institution Dundalk Institute of Technology in October 2015.
  • Informal links have been formed with ARGI (Action Research Group Ireland) who run a symposium approximately annually. Prof. David Coghlan of Trinity College Dublin is a key member of this group.
  • DCU’s interest in action research has led to Pip being requested to review two AR-related papers for the AISHE journal so far.
  • Pip’s profile in groups such as EJOLTS (Educational Journal of Living Theories) and ALARA (Action Learning, Action Research Association) and links established so far in Ireland led to an invitation to DCU to join a global AR consortium. Unfortunately, the cost for participation exceeded budget availability. But Ireland (and DCU) are becoming known on the world AR networks because of work being done here.
  • Pip is mentoring researchers whose work can be published as action research accounts, both at DCU Glasnevin campus and at St Patrick’s College.
  • It is hoped that if/when a professional qualification for tertiary teachers is developed, action research will be included.

 Project leader: Pip Ferguson

  Classroom Coaching

This project seeks to encourage staff at any level of teaching and experience to enhance and extend their practice through the gathering of ‘external feedback’ from supportive coaches. These coaches may be focused on the pedagogical (for example from Teaching Enhancement Unit) or more specifically on the content (as when the coach comes from the same teaching area – usually termed peer observation of teaching).

Peer observation is common, and frequently mandatory, in other universities (see Bell, 2001; Carbone, 2011; York St John resource cited below; RCSI in Dublin) as a recognition that “a collaborative non-judgemental process involving two or more peers [can] mutually benefit from the dialogue that takes place” (YSJ, undated, page 3).

We recognise that having an ‘outsider’ in one’s classroom is not the norm in Irish higher education, and that there is a variety of reasons why this might be the case. Nevertheless, those who have availed of the opportunity to have a coaching session have referred to the experience as “very supportive”; “blew my mind – didn’t realise I knew how to do all those things!”; and “would warmly recommend to others”.

We are promoting classroom coaching and peer observation in a variety of ways. We have spoken with Associate Deans of Teaching; Teaching Convenors; via attendance at Teaching and Learning Committee meetings; via the provision of a ‘flyer’ advertising the session and disseminated at workshops and in departments; and during one-to-one consultations. While it is early days for this project, we have so far engaged in coaching sessions in both actual and virtual classrooms.

We will be measuring the success of this project by monitoring the feedback from those who have chosen to engage in it, and by observation of whether, once one person in a department or faculty has engaged, there is uptake from others in the field.


Bell, M. (2001).Supported reflective practice: a programme of peer observation and feedback for academic development. International Journal for Academic Development, 6 (1) 29-39

Carbone, A. (2011) Building peer assistance capacity in faculties to improve student satisfaction with units. Research and Development in Higher Education Volume 34: 83 - 94


York St John University (undated). A Guide to Peer Observation of Teaching and Learning.

DCU & Arizona State University - Online MSc in Biomedical Diagnostics

Dublin City University (DCU) and Arizona State University (ASU) have been collaborating since 2006, developing international cooperation in teaching and research based on shared values of innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology-enhanced learning. In November 2014, both universities celebrated the launch of the world’s first International School of Biomedical Diagnostics. A key feature of the new School is a unique International Master of Science in Biomedical Diagnostics, a blended learning collaboration giving students at both universities the opportunity to work with their transatlantic counterparts.

This project was initiated as a result of a strategic collaboration between DCU and ASU under the umbrella of the wider Transatlantic Higher Education Partnership. It involved the development of two highly innovative modules on the topics of Immunology and Biomedical Informatics, which form the foundation of the new online programme. As part of this initiative, both universities shared their Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and developed online learning resources to be shared by each institution. To date, two modules/courses have been developed and delivered: DCU has developed their first fully online module ‘Principles of Diagnostic Technology: Immunology’ while ASU has developed ‘Introduction to Biomedical Informatics’.  

From DCU’s perspective, the overarching aim of the project was to create a visually-rich and highly interactive module that would help students learn the core principles of Immunology in a manner suited to online and blended delivery. Thirteen reusable, multimedia learning objects were created using the Articulate Storyline software, including one dedicated to the orientation phase. These learning objects included animated graphics and text, audio commentary, interactive point-of-view videos of laboratory experiments and techniques, video interviews with biomedical diagnostics experts, reflection points, and a variety of self-assessment exercises. Our goal was to create a learning experience that differed from the typical textbook and PowerPoint approach using multimedia technology to explain what can be challenging scientific concepts in a clear, engaging, and effective way. A particularly important objective was to avoid a strictly linear approach in content presentation, and ensure that the content was as interactive and flexible as possible for learners. Some sample screenshots follow:

DCU & Univeristy of Stavanger - Anti bullying Programme 

The Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) was founded in 1996 by Professor Mona O’Moore. In 2014, ABC was relaunched by the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and the Minister for Education and Skills as the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre in the School of Education Studies, DCU. Researchers at the Centre were the first in Ireland to undertake research on school bullying, workplace bullying, homophobic bullying and cyeberbullying. The Centre is a strategic partner with the Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioural Research in Education. Through this partnership with the University of Stavanger the ABC and the Teaching Enhanccement Unit have developed a level 9 module that is delivered primarily online to students from both Ireland and Norway. Following completion of this pilot project additional online modules will be developed in conjunction with universities in the United States. The final goal of this project is to create a suite of stand alone modules that can be underrtaken as stand alone mouldes or integrated into one of DCU's existing programmes.

Project Lead: mark.glynn@dcu.ie

Measuring Blended Learning through VLE usage 

Blended learning is where a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media. By that defintion it we can confidently say that close to 100% of our courses are provided using blended learning. However there are different variations of blended learning. This project involves the design and testing of reports that gathers data from Moodle to measure the extent of the "blend" within courses.

Project Lead: mark.glynn@dcu.ie

MOOC - Irish Language 

The Irish Language 101 MOOC is part of a trio of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) being developed by DCU as part of Ireland’s 1916 centenary commemorative programme.  The Irish (or Gaeilge) 101 MOOC is being developed to give learners the opportunity to engage with Irish language and culture. Designed for complete beginners, it aims to encourage the Irish diaspora to engage with the language at a basic level and potentially visit Ireland. The MOOC is expected to be delivered during Spring 2016.

Pedagogical Basis

The learning outcomes of the MOOC are aligned with a subset of the learning outcomes of an A1 language learner as defined by the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR). After taking this MOOC, learners should able to comprehend the meaning of basic spoken words and phrases, express basic greetings and information, and compose simple messages using set phrases.  Learners will also be asked to consider the socio-linguistic position of Irish in Ireland and abroad, and also describe some aspects of the link between the language and contemporary culture and society.

A significant goal of this MOOC is to encourage discussion between learners and promote language learning through an experiential ‘learning by doing’ approach. According to Musumeci (2009), oral proficiency is best developed through meaningful communication using semi-authentic materials and a task-based approach.  The MOOC also reflects Ortega’s (2009) view that guided instruction has a positive effect on the rate of development and level of ultimate attainment.  In view of the fact that adult language learners typically have more difficulty with grammatical/procedural learning than they do with lexical/declarative knowledge (Ullman, 2001, 2005),grammatical guidance is provided throughout. Furthermore, as Ellis (2009) states, there is no substitute for usage and appropriate usage so multiple opportunities for speaking and writing Irish are provided.

The MOOC will run over three weeks, it’s completely free, and we warmly invite you to sign up, take part, and tell us what you think.


Ellis, R. (2009). Task-based language teaching: sorting out the misunderstandings. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 19(3), 221–246.

Musumeci, D. (2009). History of Language Teaching. In Long, M.H. & Doughty , C.J. (Eds.) The handbook of language teaching, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 42-62.

Ortega, L. (2009). Sequences and processes in language learning. In Long, M.H. & Doughty , C.J. (Eds.) The handbook of language teaching, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 81-105.

Ullman, M. T. (2001). A neurocognitive perspective on language: The declarative/procedural model. Nature reviews neuroscience, 2(10), 717-726.

Ullman, M. T. (2005). A cognitive neuroscience perspective on second language acquisition: The declarative/procedural model.  In Sanz, C. Mind and Context in adult second language acquisition, Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 141-178.

PredictEd - Learning Analytics 

The work described in this project uses data generated from students’ online behaviour, in order to improve their learning experience and specifically, their performance in end-of-semester written examinations. Using log data from the University’s online virtual learning environment, Moodle, combined with past exam performance data we are able to build a software predictor which accurately classifies whether a student in the current cohort of students is likely to pass or fail the module.

This classifier leverages online behaviour and examination outcomes from past students, in order to inform current students as to how they are progressing. We target University students in their first semester when they are most vulnerable and often feel lost or overwhelmed by what is for most, a sudden change to University life. We use past, and present, log data to predict likely outcomes on a weekly basis and naturally the accuracy of our predictions is likely to get more accurate as the module progresses. As a form of alerting, students receive emails each week that advises them to study more, that they really need to study more, or that they seem to be doing OK, whatever is appropriate.

Automated, weekly, personalised emails to students is an excellent adjunct to support from the Lecturer, tutors, lab supervisors or other student supports, but even with these in place, it is inevitable that some students will slip through the cracks because of the sheer numbers of students on some modules. For further information on this project please visit https://predictedanalytics.wordpress.com/

 Project Lead: mark.glynn@dcu.ie

What Works & Why?

Recognising that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the effective use of new digital technologies for teaching and learning, the What Works & Why project aims to build digital literacy and engagement for students and teachers by exploring the question: “What works and why?”

Focusing on supporting innovative pedagogy through learning technologies in discipline specific contexts, the project team seeks to identify what What Works and Why. Funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning, the project partners of will offer a range of workshops, technology exploration sessions, formation of teaching groups and funding for TEL Innovation initiatives. Teachers will be supported in redesigning teaching and learning activities  through technology integration leading to more rewarding learning experiences for students.

For more information on the project contact  visit the project website or  our Twitter feed


 Project Lead: lisa.donaldson@dcu.ie