NUI Galway Study on Adolescents Living and Learning Through Covid-19

May 17 2021 Posted: 13:12 IST

Research aims to co-design wellbeing and educational supports for young people and their parents, to support educational re-engagement following the transition back to school

A new study by NUI Galway’s UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre and the School of Education will explore how young people (aged 12-18 years) are coping in the context of Covid-19, with a particular focus on wellbeing and education.

Led by NUI Galway Professors Pat Dolan and Gerry MacRuairc and supported by colleagues in the Centre and School, the study, entitled ‘Crisis Coping - Living and Learning through Covid-19’, aims to co-design wellbeing and educational supports for young people and their parents, to support educational re-engagement following the transition back to school. 

A range of innovative and participatory methodologies are being used to explore the lived experiences and key concerns of young people in Ireland, with a particular focus on traditionally, and/or newly marginalised young people, since the start of the pandemic. These will include:

  • Focus group webinars with young people, teachers, education support workers and education leaders.
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment, an assessment method which facilitates the exploration of human experience through brief, repeated assessments on a mobile device.
  • Photovoice, a method to visually document their experiences.
  • Interviews with parents.

Dr Cormac Forkan of NUI Galway’s UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, and lead of the Ecological Momentary Assessment team, said: “We are delighted to launch the Ecological and Momentary Assessment and Photovoice phase of our research involving 150 adolescents across Ireland. These methods will provide a unique window into the lives of young people as they encounter, in real-time, the challenges and opportunities associated with living and learning during Covid-19.”

Over a seven-day period, the participants will complete four short daily questionnaires, delivered through the REDCap platform (a secure web application for building and managing online surveys and databases)  focusing on motivation for learning, mood, availability and quality of social support, type and intensity of stressors and uplifts, and coping strategies used. The observed experiences will be unpacked further with a sub-sample of participants using Photovoice, which will give young people an opportunity to submit photographs or other creations to tell their experiences or illustrate their living and learning experiences through Covid-19.

Ecological Momentary Assessment team member, Dr Cliona Murray, School of Education, NUI Galway, said: “The innovative REDCap software facilitates real-time research that offers a unique insight into marginalised young people's day-to-day experiences and is also a practical solution to the challenges of data collection during pandemic restrictions.”

The project will culminate in an intervention phase where “catch-up” supports, informed by the findings of preceding data collection phases, will be delivered in selected schools through a partnership with Professional Master of Education students and teacher educators from the School of Education. The project will conclude with the development of policy recommendations, followed by a synthesis and evaluation of the project and its findings.

Post Doctoral Researcher Dr Carmen Kealy (UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway), who is driving the project forward under the Principal Investigators guidance, said: “The pandemic has had and continues to hugely impact on young people’s education and wellbeing. This collaborative project is a unique opportunity to not simply research the problem but to come up with real-world, practical solutions.”

Dr Elaine Keane from the School of Education at NUI Galway, said: “This is an exciting, dynamic, and much-needed project, focused on the ‘crisis coping’ experiences of young people in Ireland, in relation to life and learning during Covid-19. We are delighted to be working so closely with young people to co-design meaningful and effective supports and we look forward to making important policy and practice recommendations in due course.”

The study, which is currently underway, is an 18-month project funded by the Health Research Board and Irish Research Council and is one of the first Social Science projects to be funded by the Health Research Board. 

For more information on the project contact, or visit


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