Course Overview

The Masters of Arts (Early Childhood Studies) has been developed to meet the needs of professionals working in or supporting the early years care and education sector, and may also be attractive to individuals with a particular interest in the area. The course is designed to complement and support continued employment, however, it is not restricted to those employed in early years practice settings. This part-time blended learning course was designed to interact with the developing policy, practice and research environment in early years care and education. It is inspired by the continued evolution of the early years sector in Ireland, with contextual influence from Europe and from International trends.

Applications and Selections

Who Teaches this Course

Requirements and Assessment

Assessment
Innovative and authentic assessments methods are used throughout the course which will enable learners to demonstrate capabilities and competencies as well as academic knowledge. Methods may include written assignments, reflective journals, e-learning and multi-media exercises, group projects, practical assignments, presentations and reports, though this list is not exhaustive.

Students will be expected to attend a number of full day workshops throughout each academic year. Workshops will be held on Saturdays, with higher weighted modules requiring an additional two or three Friday workshops each year.

Key Facts

Entry Requirements

Academic: Minimum 2.2, NFQ Level 8, primary degree award in Early Childhood Studies and Practice or in a related discipline.

Experiential: Minimum 3 years relevant working experience, or equivalent required.

Entry requirements for part-time students can be found in our FAQs section (i.e. age, english language requirements etc.). 


Additional Requirements

Duration

2 years, part-time

Next start date

September

A Level Grades ()

Average intake

20 students

Closing Date

Next start date

September

NFQ level

9

Mode of study

Blended learning

ECTS weighting

90 ECTS

Award

Master of Arts

CAO

PAC code

Course Outline

The course content has been developed to reflect contemporary approaches and understandings of family life, childhood, play and pedagogical philosophies as they inform the early years sector. Students will engage with advanced and critical theories, exploring evolving policy, social research, child protection, integrated working as well as professional leadership and practice. Cutting across all modules and underpinning the ethos of the course will be a children’s rights perspective, facilitated through a strong reflective element, supporting students to analyse, critique and challenge dominant discourses, perceived values as well as the on-going developments within the practice and policy environment.

The course places a strong emphasis on experiential knowledge and skills, along with a capacity to study independently, and as such places significant weighting on reflective engagement with assigned content, readings and self-directed participation in learning activities.

Course modules:

  • Historical perspectives of childhood and family life
  • Contemporary Perspectives on play, learning and pedagogy
  • Integrated community-based work practice
  • Children’s rights and well-being: current issues
  • Research in the Social Sciences
  • Engaging children in the research process
  • Supporting Families through Early Years Provision
  • Leadership, Mentorship and Emerging Professions
  • Dissertation

Curriculum Information

Curriculum information relates to the current academic year (in most cases).
Course and module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Glossary of Terms

Credits
You must earn a defined number of credits (aka ECTS) to complete each year of your course. You do this by taking all of its required modules as well as the correct number of optional modules to obtain that year's total number of credits.
Module
An examinable portion of a subject or course, for which you attend lectures and/or tutorials and carry out assignments. E.g. Algebra and Calculus could be modules within the subject Mathematics. Each module has a unique module code eg. MA140.
Optional
A module you may choose to study.
Required
A module that you must study if you choose this course (or subject).
Semester
Most courses have 2 semesters (aka terms) per year.

Year 1 (45 Credits)

Required EYS1113: Historical Perspectives of Childhood and Family Life


Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 5

Ireland has experienced significant change in family structure, family formation, and family-related attitudes and practices over the past 40 years. Our understanding of childhood has changed to a contemporary, rights based perspective, reflected in the recent amendments to the Irish Constitution. This module will explore trends in family life and parenting, focusing on challenges and transitions faced by families from a range theoretical perspectives.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Describe the evolution of family life and childhood in Ireland from a historical perspective
  2. Explore the increasing diversity of family forms and changing demographics within Irish society.
  3. Outline the legal, policy and contextual frameworks in which family life and childhood is understood, both in Ireland and from an international perspective
  4. Describe challenges, trends and transitions affecting contemporary family life
  5. Explore a range of theoretical approaches to understanding family life and childhood
  6. Discuss parenthood and care practices from both theoretical and policy perspectives
  7. Underpin theorising of childhood from a child’s rights perspective, with particular reference to the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child.
  8. Situate the analysis of childhood and family life within a changing societal context
Assessments
  • Department-based Assessment (100%)
Teachers
Reading List
  1. "Exploring Childhood in a comparative context: An Introductory Guide" by Brown, M.A. and White, J.
    Publisher: Routledge
  2. "Family Support as Reflective Practice," by Dolan, P. Canavan, J. and Pinkerton, J.
    Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
The above information outlines module EYS1113: "Historical Perspectives of Childhood and Family Life" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required EYS1115: Contemporary Perspectives on Play, Learning and Pedagogy


Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 10

This module will explore contemporary issues and perspectives on play, learning and pedagogy concerning ECEC. Drawing from a range of theoretical perspectives, learners will explore and analyse existing debates, emerging issues and current approaches, with an aim of developing critical and reflective thinking skills, enabling transformative practice within the early years sector.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Critically discuss contemporary approaches to play, learning and pedagogy.
  2. Analyse constructed and contested understandings of quality in early years provision.
  3. Locate analysis within the dominant discourses of globalisation and neo-liberalism.
  4. Discuss the policy context in which early education and care is constructed, supported and promoted, considering national, European and international policy.
  5. Consider new developments in the ECEC arena and the impact of same on practice, including, for example new research from the neuroscience field.
  6. Critically analyse the debates and discussions arising through this module from a variety of theoretical perspectives, including a children’s rights perspective and post-structural standpoint.
  7. Explore alternative perspectives such as post-structural approaches that have the potential to underpin ethical and democratic practices with early childhood settings.
Assessments
  • Department-based Assessment (100%)
Teachers
Reading List
  1. "Engaging play," by Brooker, L. and Edwards, S. (eds.)
    Publisher: Open University Press
  2. "Beyond Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care," by Dahlberg, G., Moss, P. and Pence, A.
    Publisher: Routledge
  3. "Getting it right from the start" by Hayes, N.
    Publisher: Gill MacMillian
  4. "Ethics and Politics in Early Childhood Care and Education" by Dahlberg, G& Moss, P.
    Publisher: RoutledgeFalmer
  5. "Engaging young children: A nurturing pedagogy" by Hayes, N. and Kernan, M.
    Publisher: Gill MacMillian
  6. "Equality and inclusion in early childhood: Linking theory and practice" by Lindon, J.
    Publisher: Hodder Education
The above information outlines module EYS1115: "Contemporary Perspectives on Play, Learning and Pedagogy" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required EYS1114: Integrated Community Based Work Practices


Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 5

Recent changes in the policy arena and the reform of services in Ireland designed to support children and families have created renewed attention to interagency and collaborative practice. This module will explore the theoretical underpinning to integrated community based work, examine past approaches and critically examine the ‘new’ direction in service provision. A children’s rights lens will be applied to the examination of interventions designed to improve early childhood experiences.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Explore the nature, purpose and range of community, voluntary and statutory services and the programmes they offer which are designed to support children and families;
  2. Critque the practical issues involved in professional interagency working;
  3. Outline the policy context surrounding integrated working with children and families;
  4. Consider a range of theoretical perspectives to the debate regarding community based responses to support children and families;
  5. Explore the continuum of approaches from multi to interdisciplinary working and the barriers and challenges to integrated work practices;
  6. Analyse intervention services from a children’s rights perspective;
Assessments
  • Department-based Assessment (100%)
Teachers
Reading List
  1. "Integrated Children’s Services" by Davis, J.
    Publisher: Sage
  2. "Fiesta: A framework for European collaborative working, inclusive education and transition: Analysing concepts, structures and relationships" by Davis, J., Ravenscroft, J., McNair, L. and Noble, A
    Publisher: European Commission
The above information outlines module EYS1114: "Integrated Community Based Work Practices" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required EYS1112: Children’s Rights and Well Being: Current Issues


Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 10

The starting point of this module is the recognition that human rights are the entitlement of all people and acknowledging children as individual rights holders. From this perspective, the module explores current policy and practice issues, critiquing their impact on rights and wellbeing in early childhood. Key areas of analysis include the issues of risk and vulnerability, safeguarding and child protection, exploring conceptual understandings and the relation of these to quality of practice
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Critically analyse the concept of well-being applying its meaning to practice in the early years
  2. Examine the relationship between rights and well-being in childhood
  3. Explore theories of childhood and children’s rights as these apply to a range of practice and policy issues within the ECEC sector
  4. Extend these theories to consider such matters as inclusion, diversity and equality issues in ECEC
  5. Explore dominant discourses concerning safeguarding and child protection, risk and vulnerability
  6. Identify methods of promoting children’s rights in practice, including the right to be heard, to participate, to inclusion, amongst others
  7. Examine practice ‘culture’, reflecting on influences and underlying values, that impact on personal and group approaches to practice
Assessments
  • Department-based Assessment (100%)
Teachers
Reading List
  1. "Beyond Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care" by Dahlberg, G., Moss, P. and Pence, A.
    Publisher: Routledge
  2. "Getting it right from the start" by Hayes, N.
    Publisher: Gill MacMillian
  3. "Children’s rights in Ireland: Law, policy and practice" by Kilkelly, U
    Publisher: Tottel Publishing
  4. "Barriers to the realization of children’s rights in Ireland" by Kilkelly U.
    Publisher: Ombusman for Children
  5. "Equality and inclusion in early childhood: Linking theory and practice" by Lindon, J.
    Publisher: Hodder Education
The above information outlines module EYS1112: "Children’s Rights and Well Being: Current Issues" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required EYS1116: Research in the Social Sciences


Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 10

his module explores principles, skills and knowledge relating to planning and designing research in the social sciences. It examines qualitative and quantitative methods as well as underpinning theoretical assumptions. The use of secondary data in social research will be examined as both an alternative and as a supplement to data collection methods and research design.The growing emphasis on ‘research informed’ practice, supporting the development of ‘research literarcy' will also be a focus.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Explain research strategies, their philosophies and the ethical principles that underpin social science research;
  2. Apply research strategies to the formulation of a research question and to the design of a research project;
  3. Critically analyse the impact of research on practice in early years sector;
  4. Discuss the nature of quantitative and qualitative research, its theoretical underpinnings and its analytical approaches;
  5. Discuss the nature of a mixed methods approach to research, its philosophical underpinnings and its analytical approaches;
  6. Critically review literature to develop a coherent, comprehensive and rigorous justification for research;
Assessments
  • Department-based Assessment (100%)
Teachers
Reading List
  1. "Doing Your Research Project" by Bell, J
    Publisher: Open University Press
  2. "Quantity and Quality in Social Research : ." by Bryman, A.
    Publisher: Routledge
  3. "Social Research Methods :" by Bryman, A.
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
The above information outlines module EYS1116: "Research in the Social Sciences" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Required EYS1111: Engaging Children as Social Researchers


Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 5

Reflecting Irish policy, involving children in the research process enables comprehensive insights into the lives of children, their views and voice. Building on the module Research in the Social Sciences, this module extends the discussion to consider engaging children as active research participants. The module explores specific principles, theories and skills relating to research strategies involving children, including theoretical assumptions, research design, and research ethics.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Adapt a children’s rights perspective to their developing knowledge of social research processes;
  2. Consider the impact of a children’s rights perspective to the development of research projects, including the philosophical approaches and the research designs;
  3. Examine theoretical underpinnings to facilitating children’s engagement with research;
  4. Explore child appropriate participatory research methods, particularly the emerging area of praxeology and its application to the early years arena;
  5. Critically analyse the ethical issues arising for research involving children or other vulnerable groups;
  6. Analyse recent Irish research related to children from a policy and child-centred approach.
Assessments
  • Department-based Assessment (100%)
Teachers
Reading List
  1. "The Ethics of Research with Children and Young People: A Practical Handbook." by Alderson, P. and Virginia Morrow
    Publisher: Sage
  2. "Reflexive methodology: New vistas for qualitative research." by Alvesson, M. amd Skoldberg, K.
    Publisher: Sage
  3. "Work Based research in the early years" by Callan, S. and Reed, M eds
    Publisher: Sage
  4. "Research with children: perspectives and practices." by Christen, P.M. & James, A.(
    Publisher: Routledge
The above information outlines module EYS1111: "Engaging Children as Social Researchers" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Year 2 (45 Credits)

Required EYS1117: Supporting Families through Early Years Provision


Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 5

Changing Irish social behaviours have seen an increase in familial use of early years settings to meet care obligations. The presence of ECEC in families' lives suggests services are well placed to support families facing daily challenges, as well as those families experiencing increasing difficulties, who may be deemed vulnerable or at risk. This module examines the potential of Family Support within ECEC settings as both an informal method of working, and as a formal, deliberate, development.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Describe the key elements underpinning Family Support, including a variety of theoretical frameworks;
  2. Examine early years provision from these theoretical perspectives;
  3. Compare Irish provision to international models;
  4. Critically analyse policy, legislation and programme models of ECEC from a strengths based and capacity building standpoint;
  5. Analyse key research in the ECEC field in regards to improved outcomes and long term benefits for children and families;
  6. Critique the current Irish model of ECEC provision, considering implications of findings from recent studies in the prevention and early intervention arena;
Assessments
  • Department-based Assessment (100%)
Teachers
Reading List
  1. "Family Support : Directions From Diversity" by J. Canavan, P. Dolan, and J. Pinkerton (eds)
    Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
    Chapters: Social Support Principles for Strengthening families: Messages from America
The above information outlines module EYS1117: "Supporting Families through Early Years Provision" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Optional EYS1118: Leadership, Mentorship & Emerging Professions


Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 10

The Irish ECEC sector has undergone rapid development and ongoing change in the past two decades. This evolution created space for emerging professional roles, situated under the broad umbrella of early years practice, including, mentoring, leadership, management, parent support, research, advocacy and policy development work, inspection and oversight positions, amongst others. This module will focus on the skills, abilities, responsibilities and theoretical approaches to these new varied roles.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Critically analyse the development of Irish social policy, in particular early years policy and situatewithin a European context;
  2. Outline recent changes to programme and service provision for families in Ireland with special refernce to prevention and early intervention initiatives;
  3. Identify various new and emerging roles for early years practitioners;
  4. Critically analyse the role of mentors, leaders and advocates within the ECEC sector;
  5. Examine the skills, abilities and capacities required to effectively practice in emerging roles and evolving programmes;
  6. Explore the evolving responsibilities and governance requirements within this changing sector;
Assessments
  • Department-based Assessment (100%)
Teachers
Reading List
  1. "Ethics and Politics in Early Childhood Care and Education." by Dahlberg, G& Moss, P
    Publisher: RoutledgeFalmer
  2. "Education & Care in the Early years," by Donoghue, J. and Gaynor, F
    Publisher: Gill & MacMillan.
  3. "The role of early childhood care and education - An anti-poverty perspective" by Hayes, N.
    Publisher: Combat Poverty Agency
The above information outlines module EYS1118: "Leadership, Mentorship & Emerging Professions" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Optional EYS1119: Research Dissertation


Semester 1 and Semester 2 | Credits: 30

The Dissertation Module will support students to plan, manage and develop the research necessary to produce a dissertation of sectoral relevance and having appropriate academic rigour. In developing a practical understanding of the research process students will be supported in project management, the analysis of data, the use of statistics, referencing and citing.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Adopt a critical, ethically sensitive stance towards the conduct of research.
  2. Critically evaluate contemporary relevant literature utilising an appropriate theoretical framework and prior empirical studies.
  3. Select and justify an appropriate research design, sample population and data collection instruments.
  4. Organise documentation to convey clearly and accurately the processes undertaken and what has been achieved.
  5. Summarise, analyse and interpret data using suitable statistical tools where appropriate
  6. Evaluate findings in relation to theoretical perspectives, prior empirical studies and professional practice issues.
Assessments
  • Department-based Assessment (100%)
Teachers
Reading List
  1. "Doing Your Research Project" by Bell, J.
    Publisher: Open University Press
  2. "Quantity and Quality in Social Research" by Bryman, A.
    Publisher: Routledge
  3. "Social Research Methods" by Bryman, A.
    Publisher: Oxford University Press
The above information outlines module EYS1119: "Research Dissertation" and is valid from 2016 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Further Education

Upon completing this MA, students with a 2.1 or higher grade average may be interested in pursuing further education through doctoral studies at NUI Galway or another suitable institution.

Why Choose This Course?

Career Opportunities

Graduates of this course will be well-placed to take on leadership and developmental roles, impacting progressively on the ever-evolving Irish ECEC sector. Potential roles include teaching and research, policy development, mentoring or inspecting, advocacy and support as well as management of ECEC settings.

Who’s Suited to This Course

This course is aimed at people who may already possess a recognised early years third level qualification and who wish to upgrade their qualification in a part-time, flexible manner. This will increase their opportunities to progress into broader professional roles (e.g. management, training, policy development, advocacy or research) and new emerging roles (e.g. mentoring and leadership) within the early years sector. Potential students with an undergraduate qualification in an area not related to early years, but who are currently working in, and have extensive experience of the sector or are in professional roles which complement and interact with the early years sector, are also encouraged to apply.

The course will be particularly suitable for:

  • Early year practitioners in crèches, pre-schools, school age childcare services, special education services and childminding settings
  • Managers of crèches, pre-schools, school age services, special education services
  • Early childhood practitioners in the Health Services Executive and Tusla: the new Child & Family Support Agency
  • City/County Childcare Committee members and staff and staff of National Voluntary Childcare Organisations
  • Practitioners in the child and family support sector
  • Early years specialists working in advisory or mentoring roles, or those aspiring to such positions

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this course, graduates will possess:

  • An in-depth knowledge of the evolution of family life and childhood from a historical perspective to present-day understandings. 

  • An in-depth knowledge and understanding of contemporary theories in relation to the early years period.

  • An ability to analyse and critique iterations of play, learning and pedagogical approaches in early childhood settings from a theoretical perspective.

  • The ability to effectively engage with other professionals and awareness of the value of integrated working across a variety of services and agencies.

  • The ability to take a children’s rights perspective across all content, in particular, on the issues of child protection, risk and vulnerability, safeguarding children and promoting wellbeing through early years practice, policy and research. 

  • The theoretical and research informed knowledge and skills to adapt a strengths-based approach to working with families and children.

  • Specialist knowledge accrued through the development of a social research project.

  • An ability to facilitate children as active researchers and to ensure the voice of the child is privileged through the research process.

  • The knowledge and skills to hold leadership positions within the emerging and varied professions in the practice, policy, teaching and research areas of the early years care and education sector.

  • The ability to critically reflect and evaluate professional practice, early years policy, and dominant discourses in academic literature and research.

 

Work Placement

Study Abroad

Related Student Organisations

Course Fees

Fees: EU

€4,200 (Year 1), €3,700 (Year 2)

Fees: Tuition

Fees: Student levy

Fees: Non EU

€4,700 (Year 1), €4,200 (Year 2)


A fees scholarship of up to 30% may be available for students who wish to upskill for the purposes of re-employment.  Students must be registered as unemployed and in receipt of one of the following: 

  • Job-seekers Benefit
  • Job-seekers Allowance
  • One-parent family allowance
  • Disability allowance
  • Community Employment Scheme
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Signing for social insurance contribution credits

Please download the 2018_19 Fees Scholarship Form for more information.

Find out More

 Suzanne Golden

Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development
Nuns' Island
NUI Galway

Tel: 091 492659
Email: suzanne.golden@nuigalway.ie