Conference 2023 Conference Archive News & Events

ESAI Annual Conference 2023 – a review

ESAI Conference 2023  took place in Belfast from March 30th to April 1st 2023 at Stranmillis University College . This was the first face-to-face conference since 2019 with over two hundred delegates in attendance. The theme of the conference was Education, Change and Democratic Societies: New imperatives and creative responses. This is the link to the  Discussion of Theme.

Photo of Stranmillis UCStranmillis University College

Day 1 ESAI Conference 2023: Conference Opening

President Professor Jonathan Heggarty MBE welcomed ESAI to Stranmillis University College on the college’s centenary anniversary year. Then, ESAI President, Dr. Céline Healy officially opened the conference. She warmly welcomed delegates who attended from all over the globe.

Day 1: Keynote Address 1

The opening Keynote Address was given by Professor Joanne Hughes, Director of the Centre for Shared Education at Queen’s University, Belfast. Professor Hughes’s address was titled Delivering social cohesion through education in Northern Ireland: concepts and contradictions. The abstract may be downloaded here.

Prof. Joanne Hughes

Prof. Joanne Hughes – Keynote Speaker

Following an afternoon of presentations and discussions in eight parallel sessions, delegates retired to the Refectory Building for a welcome reception. Thursday evening drew to a close with an opportunity for people to meet up with colleagues and friends over delicious refreshments and melodious music.Buffet and Drinks Reception in Stranmillis University College

ESAI Buffet and Drinks Reception in Stranmillis University College

Day 2 ESAI Conference 2023

Day 2 of the conference continued with eight strands of concurrent presentations by delegates.

In a Special Interest Group (SIGS) plenary, the latest round of  newly-convened SIGs presented their plans and aspirations for the future. This generated much interest and  invited new membership to the SIGs. The SIGs who presented were:

Biology Education   (Convenor: Natalie O’Neill);
Critical and Feminist Research Policy Analysis   (Convenor: Geraldine Mooney Simmie);
Educational Action Research (NEARI)   (Convenor: Caitriona McDonagh).
Curriculum Studies  (Convenor: Majella Dempsey);
Gender and Sexuality Research in Education  (Convenor: Leanne Coll) and


Special Interest Group Presentations (SIGs) at ESAI Conference 2023

Day 2: Keynote Address 2

Friday morning’s Keynote Address was presented by Professor Karl Kitching, Professor of Public Education and Director of Research in the University of Birmingham’s School of Education.  The keynote was titled The Reactionary Use of Concepts of Secularism, Pluralism and Free Expression: Implications for Education Studies. The abstract may be downloaded here.

Prof. Karl Kitching

Prof. Karl Kitching – Keynote Speaker


Concurrent presentations

Concurrent presentations at ESAI 2023

Day 2: Keynote Address 3

The next Keynote Address was presented by Professor Gry Paulgaard from the Arctic University of Norway, Department of Teacher Education and Pedagogy. The title of Prof. Paulgaard’s keynote was Education, Democracy, Diversity & Geography. The abstract may be downloaded here.

Prof. Gry Paulgaard

Prof. Gry Paulgaard – Keynote Speaker

Presentations and Symposia


Conversations and conviviality at ESAI 2023


After the ESAI AGM, the day drew a close with the sparkling Conference Dinner in the Europa Hotel.

Day 2: Conference Dinner

Some past presidents of ESAI

ESAI President Dr Céline Healy with some of ESAI’s former Presidents: Professor Teresa O’Doherty, Dr Conor Galvin and Dr Enda Donlon


Enjoying the Conference Dinner

ESAI Lifetime Award 2023

The ESAI Lifetime Award 2023 for services to ESAI and educational research, was presented to Professor Tom O’Donoghue, Emeritus Professor of Education in the Graduate School of Education, the University of Western Australia, and elected fellow of both the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and of the Royal Historical Society (UK).

Tom was one of the founding members of ESAI and despite spending most of his academic life abroad, has continued his interest in, and his rich contribution to Irish educational research. He continues to be an Associate Editor with the Irish Educational Studies journal – the prestigious journal of ESAI.

Prof. Tom O’Donoghue receives the ESAI 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award

Prof. Tom O’Donoghue receives the ESAI 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award

Day 3: Conference Panel Discussion

The final colloquium, on day three of the conference, brought together a panel of representatives from the British Educational Research Association (BERA), the Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA), the Scottish Educational Research Association (SERA), the Educational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) and the Standing Committee of Teacher Education North and South (SCoTENS). This was the first time that colleagues from these associations had been formally brought together in a panel discussion at an ESAI conference. BERA President Prof. Vivienne Baumfield,  BERA Representative Dr. Leanne Henderson, NERA Representative Prof.  Gry Paulgaard, SERA President Dr. Angela Jaap, SERA Representative Dr. Stephen Day, and SCoTENs Representative Prof. Noel Purdy participated in an invigorating  Panel Discussion, chaired by ESAI President Dr. Céline Healy.

Discussion Panel at ESAI Conference 2023: Dr. Celine Healy (ESAI), Prof. Vivienne Baumfield (BERA), Dr. Stephen Day (SERA), Dr. Angela Jaap (SERA),  Prof.  Gry Paulgaard (NERA), Dr. Leanne Henderson (BERA) and Prof. Noel Purdy (SCoTENs).

ESAI Early Career Researcher (ECR) Award 2023

The final event of the conference was the ESAI Early Career Researcher (ECR) Award 2023. Despite many inspirational submissions for the award, Dr. Aideen Hunter, co-ordinator of the Early Career Researcher (ECR) Award,  announced that Maria Stewart (UU) was the 2023 winner of this prestigious award. Maria’s paper was titled  “We are also part of this community”: an examination of culturally responsive pedagogy for migrant pupils in Northern Irish primary schools, and it explored culturally responsive pedagogy in schools in Northern Ireland.

Jane O’Toole (TCD) received high commendation for her paper: Teaching and learning Irish at English-medium primary school level: Identifying creative and democratic approaches to respond to existing challenges and evolving imperatives.

ECR Awards


Close of ESAI Conference 2023

Dr. Céline Healy drew an outstanding  conference to a close and announced that the ESAI Conference 2024 would be held in Maynooth University, School of Education Building, on the 4th to 6th April 2024.




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