Research Interests

PhD project (2014 – )

My PhD project provides a critique of the recent introduction of restorative practice in schools – a development of restorative justice from the criminal justice system. This emphasises repairing harm to relationships above assigning blame and punishment. Recent proponents of restorative practice argue that shifting thinking in this field from discourses of behaviour, to ones of pedagogy, will result in deeper, relational classroom cultures. I reason that as philosophy tends to problematise existing notions of pedagogy, seen as primarily being about teaching, restorative practice risks being seen as yet another tool for teachers to carry out their prescribed ‘pedagogies’.

In my project I draw on the ordinary language philosophy of Stanley Cavell and his readings of the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau together with the philosophy of Martin Buber and Gabriel Marcel, whose concepts of living together in the ‘life of dialogue’, and of ‘communion’ promote the development of the self and our ‘becoming persons. In doing so I outline how restorative practice may be considered as not merely another iteration of pedagogy but as a richly educative practice in itself, conceived as an interruption of existing structures and the possibility of something new or unforeseen.

Published papers

O’Reilly, N., (2017), ‘From performance to passionate utterance: rethinking the purpose of restorative conference scripts in schools’, Ethics and Education, DOI:10.1080/17449642.2017.1286763

Conference reports

O’Reilly, N., (2016), PESGB Gregynog Conference 2015, Available here

Exploring the Experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic Students in the University (2017 – )

This is a collaborative research project with Dr Helen Hanna. It aims to gather information on the learning experience of BME students at Leeds Trinity university through conducting focus group interviews. The project was catalysed by the need to address the student attainment gap at Leeds Trinity where BME students are consistently out performed by their non BME counterparts. The project is still in the stages of data collection.

MA in Education (2009 – 2014)

My dissertation focussed on teacher-pupil relationships within the classroom. It aimed to provide a philosophical discussion of the problems facing these kinds of relationships in the context of current popular theories of behaviour management and the pressures facing schools as the result of the standards agenda. In adopting a philosophical approach to teaching based on joy, as argued by Morwenna Griffiths, a successful teacher-pupil relationship can flourish.

I also completed Research modules 1 and 2 – designing and carrying out empirical research projects, as well as, modules in Behaviour Mangagement in Schools and Teaching Learning and Assessment.

Primary Assertive Mentoring (2013 – 2014)

I was school lead for the implementation of PAM, a system that allows the school to track individual pupils through half termly scores for subject area, homework, attendance and behaviour. Designed to boost standards of attainment through rigorous checking systems, pupils have 1:1 mentoring meetings each half term with their mentor (usually identified as the class teacher) to discuss their progress and identify targets to work on. These are then sent home to share with parents. Pupils are graded red, yellow or green across the different areas of their learning including their attitude to learning and their behaviour.

Learning Conversations (2008 – 2011)

As a designated Leading Teacher for Education Leeds I helped to launch a mentoring project called Learning Conversations. These were highly focused coaching sessions with a small group of pupils designed to help them expand their capacities for not only  learning and mastering particular topics, behaviors and skills, but on the process of learning itself–on meta-learning, or learning-how-to-learn. Dialogic interaction with adults, such as class teachers or teaching assistants are seen as important opportunities for children to develop their thinking as well as their speech and language skills. The use and development of conversation strategies included building on the child’s interests, extended questioning, allowing thinking time, making connections, introducing new vocabulary and aiming to achieve a balanced dialogue despite teachers’ position of power.