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DkIT Lecturer Wins Prestigious Inclusive Learning Award

25 October 2022

Dundalk Institute of Technology is thrilled to report that Dr Anita Byrne who is a lecturer in the Institute’s Section of Midwifery was recently awarded one of the prestigious individual John Kelly Awards.

The John Kelly Award for Universal Design in Further and Higher Education recognises the innovative practice of teaching staff in further and higher education who are engaging with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework to deliver a more inclusive learning experience for their students. This initiative is delivered by AHEAD in collaboration with University College Dublin (UCD), AHEAD is an independent non-profit organisation working to create inclusive environments in education and employment.

DkIT prides itself in accessible, high quality, practical and supportive education and the Institute was so honoured that one of its lecturers have been awarded this esteemed John Kelly Award which is a great reflection of the passion for teaching and pride in educating which is held dear by its academic staff.

Dr Anita Byrne won this award for her innovative and inclusive approach to educating which she implements in the Section of Midwifery in DkIT.  The section of Midwifery in the Institute is a semi-autonomous disciplinary division within the Department of Nursing, Midwifery and Early Years. The section facilitates two full-time programmes and four part-time (professional development) programmes. The full-time programmes consist of the BSc. (Hons) in Midwifery and The Higher Diploma in Midwifery (post-graduate). There is a diverse range of learners within these two programmes with approximately 70% of the BSc. (Hons) in Midwifery students entering through the CAO process with a further 30% entering via Further Education and/or Mature Entry. The Higher Diploma in Midwifery is only open to previously qualified nurses, meaning that this group of learners are generally more mature and well established within their chosen career pathway. The part-time programmes attract nursing professionals who wish to pursue further specialist career development, many of whom may not have been in education for a significant number of years. Due to the diverse range of learners in these courses, educating within the UDL framework suits perfectly as it is inclusive, logical and a meaningful approach to learning and teaching.

Dr Anita Byrne added

‘In recent years, the diversity of learner background, educational culture, and ways of knowing among Midwifery programme students has required a re-imagination of how learning could be enhanced for all participants. Initially, for me, this re-imagining took the form of enquiry/problem-based learning (EBL) which I introduced into midwifery education in DkIT in 2009. This approach embraces and embeds UDL principles and has offered learners space with how they engage with, learn from and express their insights and discoveries. Further reflection and inquiry on my part revealed a strong alignment between the principles of EBL and the agility of the UDL framework’

Students on Dr Byrne’s programmes who have experienced this inclusive way of learning have reported:

“It’s a great way of learning I think it would be useful to utilise it from now on!”

“It was very helpful to be given the option of different learning styles. As always, classes where there is more engagement are more enjoyable and we retain more”

 “I really enjoyed this class and the different ways of teaching”

DkIT has a strong track record in student-centred, inclusive approaches to learning and teaching and is building on this to promote UDL principles across the institute. Anita is actively involved in this work which will further enhance the learning experience for all students.

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