Irish educator Mary Skillington assists with NC’s ECE program review

As part of Niagara College’s quality assurance program review of the College’s Early Childhood Education program, Galway Mayo Institute of Technology’s assistant lecturer, Mary Skillington, hosted a one-hour guest lecture to the College’s ECE cohort.


This article is the second in a four-part series on the collaborative bilateral curriculum review from March 4 to April 4.  Read the first article here.

From March 4 to 6, NC welcomed Mary Skillington, Galway Mayo Institute of Technology’s (GMIT) Early Childhood Education and Care assistant lecturer, to review NC’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program.

NC is among only a few colleges in Ontario that use external assessors for its quality assurance program review and has been recognized by the Ontario College Quality Assurance Service (OCQAS) for implementing this as a best practice. For the first time, programs in three different NC schools of study are undergoing a comprehensive review that will inject an international perspective into their curriculum.

The School of Community Services’ ECE program is the first to be audited by one of NC’s academic partners from Ireland.

“Having an international external assessor supports the School’s strategy to embed intercultural competencies into the curriculum and to grow travel and study abroad,” said School of Community Studies associate dean, Carol Phillips. “During the assessors visit to campus, we introduced her to some of our community partners, including field placement host agencies, and shared information about student experiences. Many elements of curricula were shared during time spent with faculty.”

The program review allows NC to incorporate global best practices from post-secondary educators to help foster world-ready graduates. “The whole experience I had in Canada was incredible and many people had a part to play in that,” shared Skillington. “It was a real pleasure to be a part of the External Review process for Niagara College’s ECE program, particularly coming from an Irish context. The ECE team are highly commendable in their expertise and enthusiasm, and they are perceived as community leaders in the ECE community with strong links to external partners.”

The opportunity to dialogue with key stakeholders in the program was of particular interest to Skillington. In addition to site visits at both of NC’s campuses, Skillington conducted industry partner site visits at a ACW Daycare in Fonthill retirement village Lookout Ridge, Welland’s Holy Name Catholic Elementary School, and Welland Regional Child Care Centre. This afforded Skillington the opportunity to learn more about ECE in Canada.

“As an assessor, the program review process was incredibly thorough, rigorous and well organised and there was great learning for me personally through engagement,” said Skillington. “The largest challenge was to ensure the voices of all key stakeholders were represented in the report, which I hope we have achieved. I was not familiar with the Canadian context and the ECE team kindly spent a morning taking me to three different early year’s settings which provided me with a sense of children’s experience in Canada.”

As part of Niagara College’s quality assurance program review, NC’s academic partner from Ireland hosted a one-hour guest lecture to the College’s ECE cohort. The discussion was focused on the current state and growth of ECE in Ireland, speaking to its educational requirements, age groups, and major literature and legislation.

“It was a wonderful experience to hear Mary Skillington discuss the Early Childhood Centres in Ireland and how child-focused they are,” said first-year Early Childhood Education student Alyssa Lalonde. “I found her comparison between Canada and Ireland to be very interesting as I learned Ireland focuses more on play-based learning. One of my favorite parts of Mary’s presentation was when she showed us the handbook that one daycare had created with the strengths of each child. It was so inspiring to see children honoured and not criticized.”

The lecture was recorded for use in future ECE classes. “It was advantageous to see the high level of similarity in relation to ECE program content which made it straightforward in providing a pathway for Niagara College students should they wish to travel to Ireland for years three and/or four,” said Skillington. Following her guest lecture, students were presented with pathway options for studying abroad at GMIT.

The review allows NC’s academic school to strengthen the college’s partnership with the Irish institutions. “It is my hope that this partnership will be fostered through a variety of ways including NC faculty going abroad to act as external assessors, cross-program teaching opportunities, virtual classroom visits, and Be World Ready initiatives, to name a few,” said Phillips.

NC looks forward to welcoming Gerry Ryder, Technological University Dublin Mechanical Engineering lecturer, to review the School of Technology’s Renewable Energies program, March 25 to 27.