Fiachra Ó Súilleabháin and Máire Leane

Fiachra Ó Súilleabháin and Máire Leane

Dr Máire Leane and Dr Fiachra Ó Súilleabháin were awarded a gold digital badge for their innovations in digitally-enhanced teaching on module SS3021 Sexualities and Societies. 

"We drew on a range of multi-media artefacts (art, newspaper articles, media studies, health promotion materials, YouTube clips, film and screen media, etc.) which provided multiple entry points to learning. "

Describe your digital collaboration activities

The 'Sexualities and Societies' module is delivered in the first semester, to an interdisciplinary cohort of students including third-year Social Science students, third-year Youth and Community Work students, international students and Higher Diploma in Social Policy students. We have worked collaboratively on this programme for six years. The objectives of the module are to examine the interactions between sexualities, genders and society, to explore how conceptualisations of sexualities and genders influence socio-legal policy, and to discuss how social policy practices and debates contribute to the determination of ‘appropriate’ and ‘acceptable’ sexualities. A key generative topic is to highlight the power relations implicated in the construction of sexual and gender ‘truths’, the inequalities and discriminations enacted in these processes and the constant potential for resistance and change. This contestation of sexual ‘truths’ and interrogation of the politics of sexualities and genders, provides a through-line for the module, where we as teachers and learners repeatedly ask ourselves about the nature of sexual and gender regulation. To facilitate this we aim to create discursive learning spaces where students are facilitated to question the politics of sexualities and genders. We reviewed each class, re-affirmed or altered our lesson plans and created discursive spaces, interactive exercises and performative, active-learning opportunities for every class. We drew on a range of multi-media artefacts (art, newspaper articles, media studies, health promotion materials, Youtube clips, film and screen media, etc.) which provided multiple entry points to learning. We used multi-digital platforms (PowerPoint, Polleverywhere, Padlet, Blackboard) to engage students and to provide opportunities to promote their active participation in the classroom. Informed by the principle of multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1999) and the ideas underpinning teaching for understanding (Wiske, 1998), we strove to provide multiple entry points to learning and to embrace the principles of universal design.

How has this contributed to your professional development in teaching and learning?

Our focus on promoting nurturing equality, inclusion and civic engagement, translated into a teaching approach, which prioritised including students as partners in the learning process (Healey, Flint & Harrington, 2014). Recognising Foucault’s (1975) contention that classroom design imposes passivity on students, we challenged ourselves to create spaces that encouraged active and disruptive learning! We aimed to create a collaborative classroom, which recognised students’ prior knowledge (Gardner, 1985), their capacity to learn from each other and their potential as curriculum co-creators. Classes were structured around three interactive learning activities, primarily group-based and scheduled at the start, middle and end of the session. Here we describe some of the learning activities supported by Padlet (an online bulletin board) and PollEverywhere (a live polling app) to enable students to anonymously suggest curriculum content, share sources, ask questions and provide feedback. Items they posted between lectures were acknowledged in each session and the class were invited to respond to them. As such Padlet provided a platform for students to demonstrate learning, by making connections between the module and societal issues encountered outside the classroom. We also employed Padlet to archive materials generated from in-class activities, allowing students to go back and review the work generated by others in the learning cohort. This extended the student learning-opportunities created by in-class activities, and provided us as teachers, with another evidence base for assessing student learning.

Which training resources helped you in this work? SPEEDS Co-ordinators - Becci Jeffers and Eileen Hogan CIRTL UCC National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning

How did you use technology to achieve the desired outcome?

A variety of methods for assessment of/for/as learning (e.g. one-minute papers and muddy-point exercises) were employed throughout the module. The use of PollEverywhere supported a CAT (Angelo and Cross, 1993), which examined students’ knowledge about LGBT+ experiences in Ireland. It consisted of six statements that students rated as true or false. The CAT generated interactive discussion based on the results displayed live on the screen and facilitated guided inquiry and deep discussion about the discrimination LGBT+ people face. By ‘going beyond their private thinking and involving them in publicly demonstrating their understanding’ (McCarthy and Supple, 2017, p. 68), PollEverywhere provided a safe way to make the students’ thinking visible and challenge misconceptions and stereotypes. Furthermore, it highlighted students’ limited awareness of the realities of LGBT+ lives something we addressed in subsequent classes. The other technologies supported and promotoed poly-vocal, multi-dimensional learning spaces that stretched beyond the classroom and the two-hour slot each week. The use of YouTube Clips and media studies served to translate conceptual and theoretical matters into real-life, contemporary and relatable vignettes for students.

Student feedback

95% of students complimented the variety of technology utilised in the classroom in student feedback forms. 38% of students specifically mentioned the Polleveryehere polling exercise as a particular technological highlight. A sample of student feedback is provided below: STUDENT 1: 'I enjoyed how this lecture went further than the classroom. The use of the Padlet app meant we could share related articles, videos and other material with the class. During the earlier lectures we discussed the use of sex in adverts and Fiachra asked us to look out for adverts using sex to promote a product. I found myself noticing the use of sex in adverts more than I did before taking this module. When you actively look, you realise how often sex is used as a means of promote products.' STUDENT 2: 'I thoroughly enjoyed this module as it discussed current issues that are relevant to peoples’ lives in society. It provoked questions and discussions in class. ... What made this lecture interesting also is that there was always imagery, video clips or 04/02/2019, 12W28 SPEEDS Gold Award Template Page 7 of 9 additional readings to furthermore explain a piece of information. Even though this class was at 9am on a Thursday morning, I always felt fully engaged as to what we were discussing as a lot of these topics were completely new to me.' STUDENT 3: 'Something which I had never done in a class before that I thought was very impressive was when we carried out the online poll survey. Everyone had an input and it got everyone in class discussing the posed question. What I also loved about this class is that anybody who wanted to share their opinion was able to. Everyone was listened to and the class respected what anyone had to say. It was a very pleasant class environment to be in.' STUDENT 4: 'I found that the Fiachra and Maire made the lectures very interactive. We had a lecture with Fiachra where he asked us to download an app on our phones which allowed us to do a survey and the result would be shown on the projector. Doing this survey allowed me to question what I actually thought about statistics in the LGBT community around mental health. This was very beneficial to my learning too because it made me think harder about the topic of mental health and engaged me more in the class.'


Our recommendation would be to use Padlet, Polleverywhere and YouTube clips where possible to creat discursive and collaborative learning spaces. We recommend people taking the time to acquaint themselves with Polleverywhere and Padlet. Students can use them very easily with WiFi so they do not need to use their data package or phone/text package to use them with Eduroam.


References Angelo, T.A. and Cross, K.P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (2nd ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Bass, R. (1999) The scholarship of teaching: What’s the problem? Inventio: Creative Thinking about Learning and Teaching, 1 (1): 1-10. Boyer, E. (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities for the Professoriate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Department of Education and Skills (2011) National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030: Report of the Strategy Group (The Hunt Report). Dublin: Government Publications Office. Foucault, M. (1975) Discipline and Power, trans. A. Sheridan (1977). London: Allen Lane. Galvin, M., O'Mahony, C., Powell, F. and Neville, K. (2017) UCC Civic Engagement Plan 2017-2022. Cork: University College Cork, Cork, Ireland ( Gardner, H. (2006) Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice. New York: Basic Books. Gardner, H. (1985) The Mind’s New Science. New York: Basic Books. Healey, M., Flint, A. and Harrington, K. (2014) Engagement through Partnership: Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. York: The Higher Education Academy (available at Higher Education Authority (HEA) (2018) Higher Education System Performance Framework 2018-2020. Dublin: Higher Education Authority (available at Hutchings, P. (2000) Introduction: Approaching the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. In P. Hutchings (ed.), Opening Lines: Approaches to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. California, USA: Carnergie Publications. Irish Universities Association (IUA) (2015) Irish Universities’ PhD Graduate Skills Statement (2nd ed.) Dublin: Irish Universities Association (available at McCarthy, M. and Supple, B. (2017) Theories of Teaching, Learning and Assessment – Module Handbook. Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Cork: CIRTL, University College Cork. Perrone, V. (2000) Lessons for New Teachers. New York: McGraw-Hill. Shulman, L. (2004) Teaching as Community Property: Essays on Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Shulman, L. S. (1998) Course anatomy: The dissection & analysis of knowledge through teaching. In P. Hutchings (ed.) The course portfolio: How faculty can improve their teaching to advance practice and improve student learning. Washington, DC: American Association of Higher Education. University College Cork (2017) UCC Strategic Plan 2017-2022. Cork: Univsersity College Cork, Cork, Ireland (available at Wiske, M.S. (ed.) (1998). Teaching for Understanding: Linking Research with Practice. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

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