Majella Finnegan

Majella Finnegan


"Underpinning my teaching philosophy are the principles of inclusion, equality, participation and empowering students to be responsible for their own independent learning while all the time trying to recognise and be mindful of the diversity of students’ learning needs and ability. "

Teaching interests


At undergraduate level I am mainly interested and involved in the professional education of youth and community workers and I teach on the Applied Social Studies programme. I teach a range of subjects on both courses including for the Youth and Community Work course programme: supervised professional practice for year 1, 2, and 3; principles and practice of youth work year 1; group work year 1; working with individuals, groups and volunteers in youth and community work year 2; critical thinking for youth and community workers year 2; and, global justice perspectives for youth and community work year 3. For the Applied Social Care Programme, I teach health, wellbeing and nutrition in year 1 and ethics, social justice and human rights in year 4. I supervise undergraduate research. I also lecture on the taught Masters in Child, Youth and Family on the addiction studies module. As the courses I lecturer on a lot are applied courses and involve Supervised Professional Practice, I am mindful to ensure that the students know how to apply the theory from the modules in practice. It is important that the students can link theory to practice and engage with evidence-based practice. A large part of my teaching involves group work and critical engagement - it is discussion-based scenarios and problem solving learning. I have a mixture of large numbers in Applied Social Studies and small numbers in Youth and Community work which means I really have to tailor my teaching approach to suit two total different groups. The large numbers can hinder group work and discussion at times. The large numbers can be very challenging to ensure participation by all and inclusiveness from all students. This can be for a number of reasons including different learning preferences, different group dynamics and different groups of students. This is one of the main reasons why I am interested in improving my knowledge and use of technology in my teaching practice. I really want to try to engage students more and increase participation in the larger classes. Currently I use VLE (Blackboard including announcements, sharing learning resources and the Attendance tool), Turnitin (including starting to give online feedback to students), email, PowerPoint and YouTube in my teaching practice.

Describe your teaching philosophy


Underpinning my teaching philosophy are the principles of inclusion, equality, participation and empowering students to be responsible for their own independent learning while all the time trying to recognise and be mindful of the diversity of students’ learning needs and ability. As my philosophy reflect the student’s professional principles, I try to create a learning environment that also promotes inclusion that is equal and encourages voluntary participation from students. I feel it is important for me to reflect to students the professional principles that they will require in their future applied practice and to demonstrate to them the respect and values that they will be expected to demonstrate to individuals that they work with in the future. This includes a requirement for me to take responsibility to ensure that the learning environments that I create are inclusive, equal and respectful of diversity. It is with this in mind that I try to incorporate technology in my teaching.

What technology do you use?


Currently I use VLE (Blackboard including announcements, sharing learning resources and the Attendance tool), Turnitin (including starting to give online feedback to students), email, PowerPoint and YouTube in my teaching practice.

How do you use this technology?


Currently I use a little bit of technology with students but I would really like to incorporate technology a lot more into my teaching practice. Attendance: I use the new Attendance tool in Blackboard which allows me to take attendance for students as they are registered on my Blackboard course. I let each student see his/her overall attendance plus the detailed breakdown for each class meeting. For each class meeting, I can mark whether a student is present, late, absent, or excused. The attendance percentage is calculated for the student based solely upon the class meetings for which the student is marked present, late or absent. The attendance records for each student appear in a single column in the Grade Centre. There is currently no way to filter for a subgroup – all students in the Blackboard course will be listed in the attendance. Also with the big classes I send around a sign in sheet in class and then retrospectively fill in the attendance tool. This can be very time consuming. VLE: I use VLE to encourage students to develop and participate in their own learning outside of class time. This would include me putting up all my class notes before my classes and leaving them up so students can access them for the full year. This allows students their own time to read notes and also time to read notes in advance of class so that they can participate in class discussions etc. It also gives students the opportunity to go back over class notes after the class, to reinforce learning and particular points. I also use VLE to provide links to additional readings, videos and websites to provide a greater chance of understanding and knowledge of the main concepts and points of topics covered in class. I mainly use PowerPoint as my teaching tool for classes. Email and announcements within VLE: I use announcements in Blackboard a lot. I find I use it to stay in touch with students when they are out on placement where I put up an announcement in Blackboard (and importantly also send a copy as an email to students and me). I find this a good way to say in touch with students when they are not on campus. I also use this tool for any training that may be coming up and to post articles of interest to the class. I find it a very good way of communicating with the whole class in one go and providing clarity for a multiple of issues which arise.

What are the advantages to using this technology?


I find using technology has allowed students to engage in their own learning more at a pace that suits themselves. I find that as many of my classes involve class discussions, students do tend to get involved more if they have read what has been put up on Blackboard for them and feel more confident to discuss the issues in class. I find this is a big advantage, having notes and readings available to students to participate with as best suits them individually. As some of the matters I cover are very sensitive and can affect people personally, it is an advantage for students to be able to watch documentaries in their own time, in their own environment and provide them with time to process and reflect on their emotions and feelings on the topic area before we discuss in class.

What are the disadvantages to using this technology?


It is only effective if students engage with it so it can be more effective for some students than others. Not all students will participate in the process or use it as a tool to develop. There is a lot of reliance on students knowing how to use Blackboard effectively themselves. It is hard to monitor who is participating in the use of technology compared to class attendance and class discussions. Also sometimes when I go to use technology in the classroom setting, sound might not work or there will be technical issues with YouTube for example.

Which training resources helped you in this work?


I have found in house training on VLE, and how I can use it more, very helpful. I found the SPEEDS information session that discussed online quizzes very interesting. The one to one support from the SPEEDS coordinator around giving feedback to students online really helpful and useful. It is something I am beginning to roll out this year for the first time. I am hopeful it will help me manage my correction time more efficiently as well as providing students with detailed feedback they can read back over and better process, especially with the big class numbers but also with the students who are out on Supervised Professional Practice and not on campus.

Funded by


Speeds HEA
Speeds HEA
Speeds HEA