Context: The Change Lab

The Change Lab, was designed as a model of practice to integrate Development Education into the Professional Master of Education (PME) programme in the National College of Art and Design.

The Change Lab instils in our student teacher a strong commitment and motivation to teach for social justice and sustainability through the lens of their practice as artist -researchers. Each year the Change Lab consists of the student teachers working in groups of three and four in the NCAD gallery space, for a 3-weeks period, to create a body of art work that critically reflects social injustices and unsustainable practices that define our time. The Change Lab fosters a space where they can explore how their art practice has a social, ethical and cultural dimension as they create work that investigates complex, real world problems. How the student on the PME programme respond, research and create work through the lens of their practice as an artist, researcher and teacher is integral to the methodology of learning and teaching of Visual Art in post primary education.

The Change Lab is designed and led by School of Education staff members in NCAD. Fiona King, Programme Leader of the Professional Master of Education programme & Tony Murphy Lecturer in Education in collaboration with Anne Kelly, Programme Curator, NCAD Gallery.

Gallery as a pedagogical space

The importance of the gallery as a space for learning is central to the concept of the Change Lab.

The Change Lab curatorial model activates the gallery as a ‘lab’ space: emerging as a lecture space, research studio, a maker space, a site of production and exhibition. This provides the Professional Master of Education artist- teacher with a pedagogical ‘space’ and ‘place’ to use as a testing ground to critically map their work on to the current pedagogical shifts taking place in Visual Art post primary curriculum reform. The meaning of the artworks is negotiated, open to the audience, the public, the staff and students of NCAD throughout the entire experience of the Change Lab.

The journey that the student artist, researcher, teacher experience encompasses questioning, reflection, doubt, fear, enlightenment, unity, voice and accomplishment.  As they move beyond the gallery space to translate this process into the classroom and teach global issues when on school placement, they have become strong, socially conscious advocates of social justice within their schools and community.

“A gallery is an experience, a memory, a display, a narrative. We, the Makers.”

Timothy Mullin, PME 2020


“A gallery space is about exchange, accessibility and an opportunity to be critical, not about feeling guilty if you walk in.”

Elayne Harrington, PME 2020


Ubuntu Network

At the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), we began our exploration of Development Education (DE) in 2008 when approached by the Ubuntu Network, . Since then, in partnership with Deirdre Hogan, coordinator of The Ubuntu Network, we have incorporated and expanded the integration of DE into our post primary Initial Teacher Education programme through the Change Lab, situated within the Professional Master of Education (PME). Ubuntu Networks partnership with the School has been a considered and valued collaboration over the last decade and exemplifies the Sub-Saharan philosophy of Ubuntu that emphasises co-operation, compassion, community and concern for the interests of the collective.

In the spirit of Ubuntu, the Change Lab fosters a community of practice among both the student/artist teacher participant and the School of Education staff who deliver the PME programme. Working closely with academics and experts in the field of Initial Teacher Education, curriculum development and Citizenship education; Dr Gerry Jeffers, Dr Jones Irwin, Dr Gary Granville, Professor Emeritus NCAD and Tony Daly of the NGO 80:20, bring another dimension to our work in the Lab. They contribute to a rich learning environment and frame our work within a theoretical and philosophical context.


Artist Collaboration

In addition, we have had the opportunity to work with many significant artist,

Mark Dion, Seamus Nolan and Dara McGrath.

We recognised parallels in Dion’s methodology and the pedagogy that underpins the Change Lab, whereby the process is fundamentally the exhibition. Dion’s considered, critical practice as an artist, presented us with the importance of remembering and rewarding the curious and careful viewer that enters into the gallery space to view the artefacts and research notebooks we make.

Nolan’s considered and critical practice as an artist presents a way in for us to think about the potential of creating a disobedient Pedagogy. His work isn’t easily understood, it challenges, it does not give us easy answers. It responds to complex and contentious issues surrounding communities and institutional hierarchies and the legacies they perpetuate. His work does not rely on the specificity of imagery alone – the action of what he does as an artist, participatory, collaborative and radical in nature, often is the art.