Workshops in Ireland 

Workshop Overview: Using philosophical enquiry tools to engage in difficult ethical and religious discussions within the classroom environment.

Patricia Kieran (MIC, Limerick) and Aislinn O'Donnell (Maynooth University), in collaboration with the Chester Beatty Library (CBL) have organised a number of training school as part of our ERASMUS+ Project "The Enquiring Classroom". This is a European project, partnering with Lovisa Bergdahl of Sodertorn University, Sweden and Stephanos Cherouvis of EA, Greece. 

Our aim is to build a repository of learning and ideas for engaging children and young people in the discussion and exploration of ideas, religions, beliefs, values and 'big questions'. At the heart of the project is a commitment to dialogue, listening, imagination, and philosophical enquiry. We believe that educational spaces must be preserved as spaces of learning and understanding where students can speak freely, imagine, and explore questions, values and big ideas together, and where each person feels listened to, respected and valued. We are also interested in exploring moments of what we are calling 'stuckness and perplexity' and reflecting together on ways of navigating these.  

In the Irish schooling context, this approach will have particular relevance for primary teachers engaging in exploring values, ethics, religions and beliefs, and will be responsive to the new ERB and Ethics proposed curriculum. In post-primary schools, it will have direct relevance to a range of subjects including the new Junior Cycle course in Philosophy and the new Leaving Certificate Subject, Politics and Society, and CSPE. But it will also be of interest to youth workers, people engaged in interfaith work, and people interested in engaging children and young people in philosophical enquiry. The aim is to explore ways of embedding this particular approach which has dialogue, imagination, philosophical enquiry and lived values at its heart, and to think of connections across the curriculum and in wider society.

It involved attendance in Chester Beatty Library, Dublin on Saturday Feb 3rd or The Hunt Museum in Limerick on 28th April. There is also an online component of three 3 hour module inputs which will involve sharing ideas, practices, engaging in exercises and tasks, and deepening an understanding of the rationale for different approaches, for example, philosophical enquiry. These can be completed over a 6 week period. They will provide lots of resources and offer a solid foundation for the creative methodologies that we will explore in the workshops. We will also include a module specifically for building a community of practice that shares moments of 'stuckness and perplexity', and discusses ways of building and facilitating communities of enquiry. 

We explored some of the ways in which new technologies can support learning through the online component. The approach built on the prior knowledge and expertise of participants, and aimed to create a forum for sharing practice and ideas, whilst also introducing methodological approaches with which some participants may not be familiar.

We are particularly interested in building peer networks in the Irish and European contexts to enable teachers and educators to share and explore ideas and practices together. We hope that the workshops and online learning will support this. 

The workshops helped us to build a programme for our Summer School in Athens in 2018 and the themes and methodologies we explore collaboratively will eventually become part of our Training Manual. 

The workshop took place in both venues from 10.00am-4.30 p.m with a Moodle site available afterwards for self-determined study and the exchange of ideas, practices and questions. Places were capped at 25.

The reason for holding the workshops in these museum spaces is to explore a range of ways of activating thinking and questioning in a site housing material objects that enable us to contextualise the objects and encounter them through imaginative and curious dialogue with our human stories of diverse traditions. We will actively engage with some of the resources and projects generated by these two innovative museums, for example the CBL's Ways of Seeing II Project, undertaken in collaboration with N. Ireland's Inclusion and Diversity Service. 

The workshop format for the day included the following: 

1. A series of tasks and exercises to frame engagement with the museums' collections and to connect this with creative pedagogies; 

2. Development of a community of philosophical enquiry that incorporates an arts-based component responding to the collections; 

3. Exploration of a range of creative methodological approaches to reflecting on religions, beliefs, ethics and values, centred on dialogue and lived experience; 

4. Participants will also be asked to prepare by bringing examples of 'stuckness and perplexity' that they may have encountered or heard about educational settings. 

Upcoming Workshops


Venue: The Hunt Museum

Facilitators: Dr Patricia Kieran/

                  Prof. Aislinn O'Donnell

Date: Sat Apr 28th 2018​


Venue: Chester Beatty Library

Facilitators: Dr Patricia Kieran/

                  Prof. Aislinn O'Donnell

Date: Sat Feb 3rd 2018​

Photos from the Hunt Museum Workshop April 2018

Chester Beatty Library Workshop in Dublin, February 3rd 2018

A workshop to disseminate and share resources took place in the Chester Beatty Library on the 3rd Feb. The five strands were explored under task headings such as “Clothing and Assumptions”, “Icons, Attention and Acceptance”, “The Ordinary and the Everyday” and Moments of Stuckness and Perplexity. The day was a huge success and will have an immediate impact as educations take their learnings directly back to the classroom and incorporate in to curriculum planning.

Hunt Museum Workshop, April 28th 2018

On Saturday April 28th in the Hunt Museum, Dr. Patricia Kieran and Prof. Aislinn O’Donnell from the Enquiring Classroom led a day long Workshop on the theme of Exploring Values, Beliefs, Identity and Belonging.

This day long workshop attracted participants from many disciplines and locations within Ireland and included sessions on Pockets and Poetry: Discovering the Museum.

In the morning there were guided tours of the museum focusing on the Human Figure in the Hunt collection. An interactive workshop on 800 Years of Fashion involved a sensory exploration of fabric and fashion, reflecting on the symbolic nature of clothing and fashion and its capacity to convey cultural values and embody complex belief traditions.

A workshop on everyday rituals explored gestures, movement and moments that convey meaning. Afternoon workshops included a workshop on Saturnalia, a Boal exercise, the exploration of lived values and moments of Stuckness and Perplexity.