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Don’t let the research journey end


Monday 22 February 2021

‘Research is a tool, and when you learn what it does, how it is used and why we use it, it becomes invaluable to our professional practice’ (MacNaughton, et al 2010). This description of research has stayed with me throughout my years studying early childhood education. It is a constant reminder of how important it is to use research to develop and improve our own practice as well as the question, challenge and investigate certain areas of early year’s theory and practice.

When the opportunity arose to submit an abstract of my work for Early Childhood Ireland’s Research Symposium back in April 2020, I took it. I thought of how long I had spent researching, reading, collecting data and composing the dissertation for my master’s degree and how this would be a fantastic platform to share my passion and research findings. My research over the past seven years has surrounded the importance of storytelling for early literacy development. It has always been a passion of mine and an area of teaching I have always felt needed further exploration. I researched this topic to understand the extent of which a practitioner’s values, attitude and beliefs can impact the successful implementation of high-quality storytelling experiences for children. This is important now more than ever with the constant push down of formal education into early childhood; we need to advocate for developmentally appropriate literacy activities in early year’s classrooms and settings (French, 2012, O’Connor & Angus, 2014, Katz, 2015).

Feeling slightly apprehensive I went with the option of presenting my work through a poster presentation. It seemed a little less daunting. However, the pandemic of 2020 had other plans and it was decided that the research day would move online. Each participant was asked to record a ten-minute video presentation of their work for the online research symposium. This threw me completely out of my comfort zone. Even though I am a Higher Education lecturer, I still have moments where public speaking makes me slightly nervous and this was a completely new situation.  However, I quickly reminded myself again about how research is a tool to be used. It is a way of sharing, improving, encouraging and implementing best practice. Not only for yourself but for others who share similar interests and for the children for who we are trying to provide high-quality learning experiences.

It was such a straightforward experience and those working behind the scenes to create the first online research symposium did a fantastic job. My presentation was pre-recorded through zoom, well in advance (to account for any hiccups!) and I was invited to attend in the evening to answer any questions regarding my research. It was such a wonderful opportunity to engage in professional dialogue with other early childhood educators and researchers. Although it can be a daunting experience to speak about your research, we have to remember that we are part of a learning community. The early year’s sector is ever-changing, and it is our responsibility as early year’s practitioners to keep up to date with current research, legislation, policy, government initiatives and theory (past and present). Early Childhood Ireland’s online research symposium is the perfect opportunity to do this. You can see the presentations from the 2020 Symposium here

I am sure that we are all on the same page in wanting to professionalise the early year’s sector and provide children with the highest quality experiences for their learning and development. Researching for any dissertation or thesis is a lengthy and time-consuming process carried out on a topic that you must have enthusiasm and passion for. I would highly recommend and encourage anyone who has a specific interest in early childhood education to put forward their thoughts, ideas and research for the next online symposium. Do not let the completion of your dissertation by the end of your research journey; you will not be disappointed! Submit an abstract for 2021 here

You also have the opportunity to submit your research paper for consideration in Early Childhood Ireland’s Conference Proceedings Publication!  Read the 2019 Proceedings here.



French, G. (2012) Early Numeracy and Literacy Matters. Enriching Literacy and Numeracy Experiences in Early Childhood. Dublin: Barnardos.

Katz, L. (2015) Lively Minds: Distinctions between Academic versus Intellectual
Goals for Young Children.
minds-4-8-15.pdf Last Accessed: 14th February 2021.

MacNaughton, G., Rolfe, S. and Siraj-Blatchford, I. (2010) Doing Early Childhood Research: International Perspectives on Theory and Practice. Buckingham: Open University Press.

O’Connor, D and Angus, J. (2014) Give Them Time: An Analysis of School Readiness in Irelands Early Education System, A Steiner Waldorf Perspective. Education. 42 (3). 488-497.


Laura Ruth Maher works as a Higher Education Early Years Lecturer in Warwickshire, England. Originally from Dublin, Ireland. She completed her honours degree in early childhood teaching and learning with Maynooth University before obtaining her Masters’ degree in early childhood education with the University of Sheffield. Her research has always surrounded the importance of storytelling and rhyme for early literacy development and in 2019 her first rhyming picture book was published by the O’Brien Press.

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