When I was ever so gently prompted that it was my time to write my personal Blog, I like others wondered – what do I write about? My colleague suggested – why not write about the transition to Ireland and physical education in Ireland. So here goes. I moved to UL and PESS four years ago, leaving a Professor position at the University of Northern Colorado – where I had been for the previous 15 years. Many have asked – why would anyone in their right mind do such a thing? The reason – sport pedagogy, PESS, its staff, and its reputation.
My interest area is sport pedagogy. My career’s work has focused on physical education teacher education and in particular primary physical education – from both pre-service and continuing professional development perspectives. So moving here brought its own set of challenges – I would have to learn a new teacher education system, I would have to learn an entirely different education system, I would have to learn an entirely new university system, and I would not be teaching primary physical education. (I would be teaching in my secondary area of interest – outdoor education and fortunate enough to be involved in teaching and learning modules at both the undergraduate and professional masters levels – one which involves students teaching in primary schools!). I dove in.
With colleague Daniel Tindall, we redeveloped the outdoor and adventure pedagogy module to include school-based “outdoor” activities and with Master’s student, Jack Neylon, studied the use of adventure education to aid in the development of pro-social behaviours in students with autism. I have learned about and been engaged in studying (with colleagues Ann MacPhail, Deborah Tannehill, and AnnMarie Young) varying aspects of the new Junior Cycle Curriculum. With colleagues, Déirdre Ní Chróinín (Mary Immaculate) and Maura Coulter (DCU) in conjunction with colleagues from St Mary’s (Belfast) and Ulster University (Coleraine) we used self-study to engage with our own professional learning as teacher educators and I have served as a critical friend to Brigitte Moody in her self-study of her own teaching.
I have been engaged in continuing professional development (CPD) alongside Deborah Tannehill with one of the most passionate groups of post-primary physical education teachers in Dublin as they seek to solve the problems facing them in their unique teaching situations. My interest in researching CPD has also continued and with colleagues, Deborah Tannehill and Kevin Patton (California State University, Chico) and we have published several articles and book chapters on both CPD for teachers as well as teacher educators. The highlight of my engagement with CPD was a 30 day secondment in 2017 to the National Forum for Teaching and Learning to pilot the Irish Higher Education Professional Development Framework. My “group” were 11 teacher educators from UL and MIC. Our achievements were honoured at a celebration in The Mansion House in Dublin for all those nationwide who had contributed to the project (see picture).
On a broader teacher education perspective, Mary O’Sullivan and I just finished co-editing a Special Issue of the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education on physical education teacher education in a global policy space. The issue represents the most recent collection of research dedicated specifically to physical education teacher (an interesting bit of trivia — Mary and I wrote out first article together 35 years ago!).
The pinnacle of the past year of teacher education for me was receiving the SHAPE America Teacher Education Honor Award for lifetime contributions to physical education teacher education. The meaningful aspect of the award was that these contributions were not only for research about teacher education, but the practice of teacher education; the latter is what gives my work purpose.
And, I have found my way into primary physical education. I serve on the Irish Primary Physical Education Executive Board and am heavily involved with the newly formed European Primary Physical Education Network. With colleagues, Déirdre Ní Chróinín and Maura Coulter, we have studied children’s learning in physical education using photo elicitation methodologies and I give the occasional lecture for Déirdre at MIC. Most recently, I with my long-time co-authors, George Graham and Shirley Holt/Hale, and new co-authors, Tina Hall and Kevin Patton, are revising our textbook of primary physical education, Children Moving, for the 10th edition.
This past October I returned to Colorado for a professional meeting (and to be honoured for my teacher education contributions to the state). At that point I realised Colorado was no longer home and while my friends there are dear and the experiences my time there provided taught me a great deal — Ireland is now home. What was different is now increasing familiar. Thank you for taking me in!
Dr Melissa Parker is a Lecturer and Course Director of The Professional Master of Education (Physical Education). Her scholarly areas of interest include accessing teacher and student voice, the professional learning of teachers and teacher educators, the study of constructivist learning, and the pedagogies that support that learning. In particular she has combined these interests into the creation, design, implementation, and study of before, after and during school physical education and physical activity programmes. Furthermore, her work has focused on the pedagogical conditions necessary to foster independent learning, voice, and student learning in these environments. Contact Melissa by email on firstname.lastname@example.org follow her on Twitter