Transformative Education in Contemporary Ireland

Leadership, Justice, Service

by Thomas Grenham (Volume editor)
Edited Collection XIV, 350 Pages


Contemporary Ireland is undergoing a radical shift in its sense of national identity, as the traditional narratives that shaped its past have come under intense scrutiny. The essays gathered here investigate the impact of different forms of education on Irish culture, society, politics, religion and economic success. While education for the knowledge economy has been prioritized across funding agendas, this book focuses on exploring education as a transformative enterprise that supports the personal and intellectual development of the learner.
The volume brings together diverse perspectives on the role of education in the areas of leadership, social justice and service in the community. Challenging the current prioritization of a vision of education that primarily serves the interests of the economy, the contributors explore the social, political and personal value of transformative education.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword (Anne Looney)
  • Introduction Education as Transformative and the Future of Irish Society (Thomas G. Grenham)
  • Vision
  • Education That Is Transformative
  • Organization of Content
  • Part I: Transformation and Leadership
  • Chapter 1: Transformative Learning and Jack Mezirow (Eileen Houlahan)
  • Introduction
  • The Vision of Jack Mezirow
  • Mezirow’s Ten Phases of Personal Perspective Transformation
  • 1. A Disorientating Dilemma
  • 2. Self-Examination with Feelings of Fear, Anger, Guilt or Shame
  • 3. A Critical Assessment of Assumptions
  • 4. Recognition that One’s Discontent and the Process of Transformation Are Shared
  • 5. Exploration of Options for New Roles, Relationships, and Actions
  • 6. Planning a Course of Action
  • 7. Acquiring the Knowledge and Skills for Implementing One’s Plans
  • 8. Provisional Trying of New Roles
  • 9. Building Competence and Self-Confidence in New Roles and Relationships
  • 10. A Reintegration into One’s Life on the Basis of Conditions Dictated by One’s New Perspective
  • Some Key Themes in Mezirow
  • Meaning Perspectives/Frames of Reference/Habits of Mind or Habits of Expectation/Points of View
  • Meaning Schemes
  • Assumptions
  • Critical Reflection
  • Rational Discourse
  • Critiques of Mezirow
  • An Overly Cognitive Theory?
  • An Overly Individualistic Theory?
  • Ethical Issues Regarding the Role of the Educator
  • Critical Reflection Does Not Guarantee Transformation
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 2: Leadership and the Inner Life (Denis Robinson)
  • Introduction
  • Can Anyone Be a Leader?
  • The Inner Life of a Leader
  • Leading from Within
  • Inner Work Is Personal but Never Private
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 3: The Purpose of Higher Education in Counselling Psychology and Supervision: What Are We Teaching? What Are We Learning? (Dee McKiernan)
  • Introduction
  • Holistic Personal Development
  • Education as Transformative
  • Vocational Education
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 4: Transformative Leadership in Irish Voluntary Organizations: Lessons from the Field (Andrew O’Regan)
  • Introduction
  • Experience of Leading Third-Sector Organizations
  • Interpretation: The Lived Experience
  • Interpretation: Emerging Themes
  • Perspectives from Philosophy, Sociology and Leadership Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology
  • The Study of Leadership
  • Education for Non-Profit Leadership
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 5: Irish Third-Level Education: The Challenge of Transformational Learning, a Case Study (Catherine Breathnach)
  • Introduction
  • Transformational Learning and Adult Learners
  • A Case Study: ALBA, the Adult Learning BA Degree at All Hallows College
  • Background to the Model of Learning
  • ALBA
  • The Policy Context
  • ALBA Student Profiles
  • Programme Structure
  • Programme Awards
  • Academic Programme Governance and Quality Assurance
  • Student Retention and Award Achievement
  • The Business Model
  • The Core Characteristics of the ALBA Programme Delivery in Terms of Transformative Learning
  • Some Challenges Experienced
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Part II: Transformation and Justice
  • Chapter 6: Small Group Learning: Reflections on a Pedagogic ‘Gold Standard’ (Sheena Hyland)
  • Introduction
  • ‘Discussion Learning’ Approach
  • Assessment
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 7: Adult Learners Returning to Higher Education: Implications for Education Providers (Ciarán Ó Mathúna)
  • Introduction
  • Research Methodology
  • Profile
  • Adult Learner Experience
  • Barriers Encountered
  • Personal Growth Experiences
  • Academic Transformations
  • What Helped?
  • Implications for Providers
  • Assisting Transition
  • Supports
  • Course Structure
  • An Andragogical Approach
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 8: Leading Ethical Education: Teaching How to Think, Not What to Think (Gary Keogh)
  • Introduction
  • Why Ethics?
  • Old Wisdom for a New World
  • Socially Regressive Education
  • Teaching How to Think, Not What to Think
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 9: Education: Building Confidence, Changing Identities and Creating Possibilities for Flourishing (Mary Ivers)
  • Introduction
  • Education and Inequality
  • What Is Being Transformed?
  • Flourishing
  • Creating the Right Atmosphere
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 10: A Method in Search of a Model: Examining the Relationship between the Thought of Maria Montessori and Bernard Lonergan, Applied to Adult Education (Eugene Curran)
  • Introduction
  • Lonergan’s Method: Insight
  • The Process of Coming to Understanding
  • The Transcendental Method
  • The Human Good
  • Models and Methods
  • Initial Deductions
  • Every Method Needs a Model
  • Montessori’s Model of Education
  • Montessori and Lonergan: Initial Points of Contact
  • Insight
  • Coming to Knowledge and Understanding
  • The Montessori Model and the Lonergan Method
  • The Canons of the Method
  • The Transcendental Method
  • Be Attentive
  • Be Intelligent
  • Be Reasonable
  • Be Responsible
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 11: Catholic Social Thought: A Pedagogical Model for Justice-Based Education (Gráinne Doherty)
  • Introduction
  • Catholic Social Teaching
  • Dignity of Each Person
  • The Role of Education
  • The Pastoral Cycle (or Circle)
  • Ecology
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Books and Journal Articles
  • Websites
  • Part III: Transformation and Service
  • Chapter 12: Community-Based Service Learning at All Hallows College: A Case Study (Cora Lambert)
  • Introduction
  • Community-Based Service Learning and Higher Education Policy in Ireland
  • Concepts and Practice
  • Experience of Community-Based Service Learning
  • Preparing Students for Service in the Community
  • Supervision, Mentoring and Evaluation
  • Assessment
  • Reflection and Analysis
  • Theological Reflection
  • Benefits and Challenges of Community-Based Service Learning for Students
  • Benefits and Challenges for Community-Based Organizations
  • Benefits and Challenges of Co-ordinating and Administrating CBSL for the University Context
  • Assessment of Student by Community Organization Supervisors
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 13: Mentoring as a Transforming Tool in ‘Holistic’ Education at Third Level (Marjorie Fitzpatrick)
  • Introduction
  • Holistic Education as Transformative
  • Adult Transformative Learning
  • Andragogy
  • Mentoring and Adult Learning
  • Mentoring as Relationship
  • The Importance of the Nature of Mentoring
  • Mentoring as a Transforming Tool in Third-Level Holistic Education
  • Benefits of mentoring
  • Ethics of mentoring
  • Skills for mentoring as a transforming tool
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 14: Educating for Tolerance: Learning about, from and within Diverse Religions and Beliefs in the Irish Primary School, a Strategy for Transformation (Thomas G. Grenham)
  • Introduction
  • Special Forum Commissioned
  • Culture and Catholic Schools
  • Connected to Traditions
  • Faith Formation Only in Schools?
  • The Turn to Religion
  • Learning about and from Diverse Cultures and Religions
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 15: The Centrality of Adult Faith Development for the Future of the Catholic Church in Ireland (Siobhán Larkin)
  • Introduction
  • Philosophy and Theology in Adult Faith Development
  • Terminology and Adult Faith Development
  • The Role of Content in Adult Faith Development
  • The Place of Process in the Education of Adults
  • Evangelization and the Renewal of Humanity
  • Groome’s Shared Praxis Methodology
  • Faith Development in the Latin American Church
  • Psychology and Adult Faith Development
  • James Fowler: Stages of Faith
  • Synthetic-Conventional Faith: Stage Three
  • Individuative-Reflective Faith: Stage Four
  • Conjunctive Faith: Stage Five (The Inter-Individual Self)
  • Fowler’s Stages of Faith in Review
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index

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This collection aims to commemorate and celebrate the educational values and ethos of All Hallows College, which was originally founded in 1842 as a missionary college by Fr John Hand. By the 1990s, the college had opened its doors to lay members of the public and it was established as an institution of higher education in 1998, later becoming a linked college of Dublin City University in 2008. At undergraduate level, students completed degree programmes in theology, philosophy, psychology and English literature and undertook postgraduate programmes in non-profit management, leadership and pastoral care, social justice, spirituality and ecology and religion, as well as research degree options. The college also established an innovative Adult Learning BA for Personal and Professional Development aimed at encouraging adults to return to education. By the time of its closure in 2016, over 3,400 students had graduated from its BA, MA and PhD programmes.

The editor is grateful for the support, encouragement and expertise of the faculty in All Hallows College, Dublin City University and all the adjunct faculty and staff associated with All Hallows College. In particular, the editor is grateful to the senior management team, the president of All Hallows Rev. Dr Patrick McDevitt, the vice-president for operations, Mary McPhillips, the bursar John Keaveney, and the Dean of Faculty Dr Andrew O’Regan. Special thanks and appreciation to Dr Sheena Hyland, who offered wise comments and helpful advice on the manuscript. The editor is grateful for the financial support for this project from the All Hallows Trust, which was set up after the closure of All Hallows College in 2016. This trust continues the legacy of the All Hallows College. This publication is part of that long legacy of transformative education and research since the founding of All Hallows in 1842. Special acknowledgement to my colleagues in the School of Human Development, Institute of Education at DCU for their continued encouragement and support. ← xi | xii →

Finally, the editor would like to thank Peter Lang and Christabel Scaife, commissioning editor, for her invaluable professional support and detailed editorial work throughout this project. All manuscripts need the care and attention of a copy-editor for the finer detail and helpful suggestions, great gratitude goes to Michael Garvey for his wonderful work with this volume.

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Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, is much given to referencing the exhortation of Raymond Williams that, in times of change, we should endeavour to be the arrow rather than the target. From addresses to groups of young people, to letters to children to gatherings of international media, he has drawn again and again on this powerful call to act rather than be acted upon.

This collection of essays and reflections is for and by those who have chosen to be arrows rather than targets. All Hallows College in Dublin was founded by Fr John Hand in 1842, in the spirit of the archer, to send Irish men to the world as Catholic priests, to go, to do and to teach across the world. In its more recent work, the college espoused the three core values of leadership, justice and service and these essays reflect those values as they found expression in the educational work of All Hallows during its final years as a higher education institution before its closure on 30 November 2016.

The essays document a range of educational transformations, from the interpersonal to the structural, from a wide range of perspectives. As is the case with most contemporary analyses of how Ireland is attempting to come to terms with a new way of being itself, to draw on the words of the introduction by the editor, there is no neat conclusion. The comfort of coherence is not offered; the challenge of contradiction and contestation is. Thus the collection also shows that leadership, justice, and service are not easy platitudes; rather, they are demanding concepts that require interrogation and reconceptualization for a new and more complex Ireland.

A number of the authors draw comparisons between the values of leadership, justice and service and what they see as the economic imperatives driving contemporary education reform, particularly in the higher education sector. For many of those working and studying in All Hallows, ← xiii | xiv → the college represented an alternative to this imperative, providing quality higher education programmes with explicit reference to leadership, justice and service and a strong tradition of work placement in the informal and voluntary sector for students and graduates. Dublin City University (DCU), which awarded the All Hallows degrees, including the innovative ALBA programme discussed in one of the chapters, now occupies the site of the All Hallows campus. Is that occupation simply a matter of real estate? Can the spirit of All Hallows ‘occupy’ a globally ranked higher education institution (HEI)? As a relatively new appointee to DCU, I’d like to think that, of all the HEIs in Ireland, DCU is the best hope to continue what was begun in All Hallows. DCU aspires to a vision of higher education that is transformative not just of economies but of people and communities. These goals are not mutually exclusive. Reconciling them is the challenge, and the struggle for all who believe that higher education is a critical site for the interrogation and reconceptualization of leadership, justice and service for our changing country and a changing world. These essays are part of that project.

All education systems are future-focused; those who work in education prepare current and subsequent generations for what is to come. Transformations are underway. We live in a maelstrom of arrows and targets. As educators, we choose to be arrows, committing not just to agency, but to the ‘wisdom, openness and creative innovation’ proposed by President Higgins in his address to the Pontifical Irish College on 22 May 2017 in Rome:

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Education as Transformative and the Future of Irish Society


Ireland’s education system is changing rapidly. We are moving towards a genuinely pluralistic society, one that embraces human diversity and which offers both an opportunity and a challenge for transformative education. Ireland is undergoing a radical transformation in terms of its sense of itself as a nation as traditional narratives that shaped its past identity come under intense scrutiny. Identification with Irish nationalism and the Catholic Church no longer possess the same influence over what it means to be Irish. Today, in the post-Celtic Tiger era (from 2008 onwards), Ireland is attempting to come to terms with a new way of being itself.

This book explores transformative education in the context of a different Ireland, and the role of these forms of education on Irish culture, society, politics, religion and the economy. While education for the knowledge or ‘smart’ economy has been prioritized across funding agendas, the authors in this volume are interested in exploring education as a transformative enterprise, one which supports the personal and intellectual development of people.

This edited collection brings together diverse perspectives on the significance and role of transformative education in the areas of leadership, social justice and service. Challenging the current prioritization of education that primarily serves the interests of the economy, the contributors explore the social, political and personal value and nature of transformative education. This is an invaluable collection for teachers and learners, as well ← 1 | 2 → as the general public, interested in effective transformative education in Ireland and beyond. It brings together theoretical, reflective process and academic research with insights on the everyday professional experiences of those working in transformative educational contexts. The publication of such a volume contributes greatly therefore to research-led and practice-led teaching and learning across the spectrum of education generally. Though most of the chapters deal with third-level education, there are some chapters that deal with other, specific areas of education, such as primary-school education and adult education in a Christian faith community setting.

Education That Is Transformative

Transformative learning involves exploring critically cultural, religious, political and economic assumptions. Exploring destructive prejudices against ourselves, others and the world around us can be a helpful way of uncovering any irrational perceptions of ourselves, others and the environment, especially irrational perceptions of those who are perceived to be ‘different’. Transformative learning is inclusive of all. Such inclusion means not only learners from diverse cultures and backgrounds, but includes also all learners of various learning styles and learning challenges. The danger is that education could become commodified and fail to pay attention to the development of the human person and the value of a society as socially caring and compassionate in order to flourish with plurality and diversity. Education can be manipulated by large funding agencies and the corporate marketplace in order to acquire particular skills for the labour force, ignoring learning for its own sake. In order to provide a skilled labour force, important as it is, little attention may be given to how the person in the marketplace functions as an integral person. Education can become instrumentalized instead of addressing all aspects of being human and the potential of all learners to grow and be transformed in their lives.

This book deals with teaching and learning that is transformative in a postmodern Ireland. Postmodernism involves the critique and suspicion ← 2 | 3 → of ‘grand’ narratives of any kind that seem to impinge upon individual freedom and choice. Ireland is wrestling to understand its own evolving sense of self as a nation in a world of fragmentation and disenchantment with traditional, ‘grand’ narratives of education. This is of particular significance when we consider that these narratives shaped its previous identity; for example, rote learning, selection of curriculum and learning strategies, standardization of exams and assessment, and so on. Even the ethos of a school has a particular, standard narrative, be that religious or secular. There is a need for interdisciplinary and comprehensive research that facilitates teaching and learning in a changing Irish cultural and social context. This single volume does not try to do everything. It presents current research on contemporary Irish education, focusing mainly on transformative learning and education within the diverse disciplines of philosophy of education, teaching and learning methods and strategies, policy in education, history, psychology, theology, religion, philosophy, ethics and spirituality, among others. The project surveys the educational terrain in order to critique new policy and praxis and identify key challenges and opportunities in providing innovative, imaginative and cutting-edge teaching and learning for contemporary Irish society.

In the context of a holistic education that is transformative for both the individual and the community, the focus of teaching and learning is the growth and potential of every person, cognitively, affectively, aesthetically, spiritually and physically. This research will enable teachers and learners to understand and integrate into their learning and practice key themes emerging from current Irish educational research that straddles educational policy and practice and explores issues of cultural diversity and religious inclusion. The book challenges traditional assumptions of the teaching and learning community by exploring in an interdisciplinary manner how education is perceived and practised in various disciplines.

The book brings something fresh to the Irish educational debate. In its pages, qualified third-level educational specialists are collaboratively engaged in interdisciplinary reflection on their own teaching and learning, thereby making relevant and integrated research accessible to facilitate the learning and understanding of every learner. This research will be of great value to teachers and learners everywhere, especially in the context of ← 3 | 4 → outlining a holistic and effective education for our time. This type of education involves providing transformative leadership. Transformative education is justice-driven in the access and delivery of programmes of learning. Meeting the needs of society in providing services for human flourishing that are responsible, accountable and transparent is very important and is at the core of transformative teaching and learning. These areas (leadership, justice, service) were particular attributes of All Hallows College, Dublin, which served the community in education for many years. The chapters of this collection are a reflection of the great work carried out at the college since 1842.

The book will benefit not only the general public interested in a relevant and transformative education, but also students and teachers who wish to improve their educational vision, as well as exploring some teaching strategies, particularly the process of mentoring, to enhance their learning objectives in a changing educational environment.

Organization of Content

In keeping with the title of the book, the content celebrates and analyses a plurality of voices and opinions on a range of issues relating to education that can transform both individuals and society. It presents interdisciplinary and multivalent perspectives. It includes a multiplicity of narratives, viewpoints and analyses within the discipline of transformative education. Religious and humanistic perspectives are included to give a flavour of different approaches to holistic education and to reflect a vision of educational pluralism that respects different voices and worldviews on the issue of education as transformative of minds and hearts and that is action-orientated for positive change.


XIV, 350
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (March)
Education and Transformation Education and Leadership Education and Social Justice Education and Service to Community
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2018. XIV, 350 pp., 2 fig.

Biographical notes

Thomas Grenham (Volume editor)

Thomas G. Grenham is Assistant Professor of Religious Education and Practical Theology in the School of Human Development, DCU Institute of Education, Dublin City University. He was formerly Head of Theology and Director of the MA programmes in Leadership and Pastoral Care and Social Justice and Public Policy at All Hallows College, Dublin. He is a member of St Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow.


Title: Transformative Education in Contemporary Ireland
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366 pages