Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Master of Arts (MA) in Education to the Technologicl University Dublin in 2014.


This action research study is an interpretive inquiry into the impact of curriculum design on female prisoner learners at the Dóchas Education Centre, Mountjoy Prison, Dublin. The objective was to understand prisoner learner experiences of vocational training courses in the discipline of beauty therapy. In particular, it aimed to understand the motivation for participation in the beauty therapy course and the effect of the course structure and assessment approach on learner perceptions of the training experience. The research design is qualitative and interpretivist in nature. The data was gathered via a series of semi-structured interviews, with prisoner-learners and teaching staff. In addition, three full days of lesson observations took place periodically during two cycles of action research. Thematic analysis was employed to interpret how both teachers and learners experience a change in curriculum and assessment. The aim of this action research study is to trial a different assessment methodology and curriculum plan on the beauty therapy vocational course. The objective was to establish whether or not a more unitised and learner-centred approach to curriculum design, involving diagnostic assessment and registration of individual learners on level-appropriate qualification units, which lead to certification of competence in individual beauty therapy services; would lead to an increased sense of achievement and overall satisfaction levels amongst prisoners. The findings of the study highlighted a gap in the knowledge and understanding of the special requirements of these types of courses in terms of physical resources, realistic working/salon environment and curriculum content, based specifically on the identified needs and goals of learners. Upon examination and reflection of the literature it became apparent that there were a number of issues relating to education provision in the Dóchas Centre, including many factors and challenges which are outside the control of the teaching staff. Findings may suggest that the Irish Prison Education Service has placed disproportionate importance on the Leaving Certificate and other general education courses in the Dochas Centre. This study highlights that a new multi-agency direction is required in order to research the vocational training and employability skills that female prisoner-learners require, so that they can leave prison with employable and marketable skills and knowledge.