Marguerita Magennis

Early Years & Montessori

Position: Course Coordinator Masters in Early Childhood Studies & Lead Lecturer BA Hons degree Early Childhood Studies

About Marguerita

My early career started in Law, but after having my own children, I decided to leave this sector and move into early education and special needs. Having worked and managed my own Pre School for some years, I embarked on the road of Educational Psychology, and I work for several years in the Primary Education sector with children who needed that little bit more support. My recollections of this time bring back fond memories of a child from the Travelling community who had never been diagnosed but obviously was on the Autistic spectrum. His first visit to our school result in him arriving into the setting, clinging to his twin brother, terrified, crying and so distraught that he immediately detached himself to seek refuge under the teachers table, curled up in the foetal position. Being much more supple in those days, I crawled under the table and lay down beside this distraught child, speaking in soft tones and comforting until this tiny hand unravelled itself from where it had recoiled, and touched mine. Some hours later we both emerged from under the table and so our journey together began. It emerged some days later that this young child had never been out of the Traveller camp due to the stigma attached to disability among his family and community; and as a result he had no language at all and was fearful of everything as it was all knew. My most memorable moment was his first utterance of a word, and some four years later he was speaking and engaging with the other children in his class. So proud of this little lad, and all that he has achieved since this time. Some further special memories and experiences include – some years back while lecturing on a Degree for a University in NI. I had a student who suffered from anorexia, several times throughout the programme this student was hospitalised and nearly died, however engaging with this student upon each return, watching her struggle with her condition, while striving to succeed and the determination that she would walk across that stage with the others.. Amazing.. I cannot express how that made me feel the day she walked across and collected her certificate with the others. There are other experiences and students who will always stand out, students who continue to contact you after they have completed their degree to ask advice and students who will email you a draft of a Personal Statement to have a read of, as they apply for their Masters qualification, students sending you photos of their baby which they delivered days after submitting an assignment on time; or students who send a video of their wedding day after they graduate. These are the moments which stand out and make it all worth while. Knowing you have helped these young people become the person they strive to be.

Shortly after completing my degree, I was offered a role lecturing in Further and Higher education College in Northern Ireland, who partnered with Queens University and Stranmillis in delivering Degree and Masters level education. Throughout this time and as part of our professional development we continued to work 3 weeks every year in the early years sector, so that we kept abreast of the practical aspect of our profession. And as an International External Standards Verifier for numerous Awarding bodies across Northern Ireland and the UK, it was also possible to keep well informed on all changes in terms of educational requirements etc.
Some years later, my family uprooted and we moved to Galway in the West of Ireland, where I began working on a part time basis with NUIG, while also working for GRETB. After a short time, I took on a more permanent (temporary) role with the University of Limerick, and Mary Immaculate College, which gave me a lot of experience in terms of how the education system in Ireland worked in comparison to that of NI. Subsequently I was offered a role as an External Authenticator for FETAC and SOLAS, where I still practice today, under QQI and the different ETB’s in Ireland. I am a registered member of the BPS and have a small Psychology service, which in recent years I have extended to offer counselling and psychotherapy to younger members of society on a voluntary basis.

I have also worked in Higher education with UL on the PHD in Professional Psychology, and DCU on the Psychology Degree, and in Early Childhood Ireland for a few years. During this period, I was offered a position in Hibernia College in Dublin on their Masters in Education, (where I worked until recently on a part time basis); and a few months later I started working for Portobello, hard to believe this is almost 8 years ago now and like a home from home, the support and comradery that is shared within the college. It was throughout this role that I felt I had found my niche, working with adults who had come back to education bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and experience, but needing the certification to go with that. I think this resonates with me most, having come a similar route myself, and after leaving law; embarking on my academic career with Queens University, subsequently completing BA Hons Degree, Masters and subsequently PhD level education, for which I was awarded the Doctoral Award in Postgrad Research.

Throughout my Career I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with some fantastic and renowned Authors and Researchers in the field of Early education. Dr Barbara McConnell my supervisor at Masters level, and a good friend since that time; Dr Colette Gray, who I met as a lecturer and remains a good friend to date. Professor Jim Deegan, the most intellectual gentleman I have had the pleasure to chat with on numerous occasions, and whose most memorable saying is “go for it!” A sentiment, which has driven my own, research career for some years. David Whitebread, who I met while studying my PhD, and who has since then shared some insightful thinking’s about Vygotsky and play. Dr. Zsuzsa Millei , a friend and mentor and editor of my book, Childhood and Nation. John Siraj Blatchford, Prof Bob Stake, both helped me refine my research throughout the years; and Prof Judith Green, California who I met at a Conference many years ago, the most enlightening person I have ever had the pleasure to encounter, and at the ripe age of 79 was still deeply engrossed in research and teaching. She has become a very good friend, and mentor.

Marguerita’s Teaching Philosophy 

As a lecturer it is important to make conscious decisions around the module content and pedagogy with the students experience in mind, as I believe our students possess knowledge skills, values and experiences which help them deal with their different employment opportunities.  I believe part of my role is to help them understand through the engagement with this course, who they are and what they can contribute to the heterogeneity that they will encounter in their vocation to work with and educate young children.  They are the advocates for the sector, ambassadors for early education in Ireland.  And as such I think it is vital that we more than anything else help them develop skills like critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, analytical reasoning, reflexivity and communication skills, becoming leaders in their field, involved in research to further and benefit the sector in it’s entirety.  I don’t believe it is my role to teach my students the practical aspects of early education, as it is they who bring that knowledge and experience with them; but rather it is my role to encourage them to apply the theoretical underpinnings to those practical skills.

As a philosophical stance on adult education, it is important to realise that understanding is not something that is transferrable from one person to another; rather understanding is constructed by each student, based on their prior knowledge and experiences; it is my philosophical stance that the role of the Lecturer is to nurture, challenge and extend that knowledge.   As a lecturer it is vital to listen to the student’s voice, engage with them and support them, scaffolding the pathways to further learning.  In order to achieve this it is important to encourage the students to engage and interact during tutorial sessions, as we all learn from each other, and in adult education the student is as vital to that learning experience as the lecturer.   Discussion and debate are key, therefore I expect my students to respond, contribute and critique so that the understanding becomes deeply rooted.

As a lecturer it is vital to keep abreast of changes in the sector and up to date with up and coming research.  I try to achieve this by engaging in research topics every 12/18 months if possible, and have had some of these contributions published to date.  Attendance at conferences is a very beneficial means of networking, raising awareness of current debates and issues in the sector, which are vital to ensuring the learning experience for the student is relevant and reflective of their own experiences.

As a Reviewer for several journals, SAGE, Contemporary Issues, Global Childhood Studies and Early Childhood studies, I help to ensure that publications are peer reviewed and of the highest standard, and subscribing to these journals ensure that I always have access to suitable reading materials to supplement the course materials for my students.

Research Interests and contributions:

  • Special Educational Needs
  • Autism
  • ICT in Early Education
  • Wellbeing in Early Education
  • Curriculum Design and Leadership
  • Conceptual Development
  • Innovation and Diversities in Early Edcuation
  • Outdoor environments
  • Forest Schools
  • Risky Play in Early Education

Research / Industry Participation

  •  SELB (2008) Autism Awareness Report
  • SELB (2010) Autism Intervention Support
  • Queens University Belfast (2010) Workshop Presentation: Research in the early years (Sole presenter)
  • Mary Immaculate College (2013) Workshop Presentation: Observation in Research: complementary methods (Co-presenter)
  • University of Limerick (2013) Workshop Presentation: Developmental Psychology; theory to practice (Sole Presenter)
  • Magennis, M. (2013) Digital Natives and Cultural Tools, Paper presented at Diversities in Literacy, Maynooth: Ireland (Conference Paper)
  • IRMSS – International Research Methods Conference (2014) MIC – Presented paper – June 2014.
  • Magennis, M. (2014) “Developing Leadership for a sustainable future: Enhancing ICT in the Curriculum” (conference paper)
  • OMEP International Conference (2014) UCC “Cross-border perspectives on digital technologies as a catalyst for creative learning and innovative teaching in early education”
  • Magennis, M. (2015) “National Symbols and Practices in the Everyday of Irish Education”, in Millei, Z. & Imre, R. (2015)
  • Magennis, M. (2015) Enhancing Literacy Concepts: Digital Natives and Cultural Tools.
  • BORDERS V111 Conference on Cultural Studies, Oulu Finland, 3-4 December 2015, Book Launch  – Virtual Presentation and Workshop.
  • Magennis, M. (forthcoming) “outdoor environments and Risky Play – Early educational strategies”



Marguerita Magennis Marguerita Magennis