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Dr. Muireann O'Sullivan


University College Dublin




Gifted Education, Twice Exceptional, 2e, Multisensory learning, Virtual Learning, Literacy, Literary Engagement, Escape Rooms, Virtual Puzzle Rooms, Minecraft, Kinaesthetic Tools, Popular Fiction, Dyslexia, Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Dual Channel, Asynchronous Development, Educational Enrichment, Accelerated Learning, CTML

Thesis Title

The Perspicacious in Virtual Spaces: Exploring the propensity of Virtual Escape Rooms, Kinaesthetic Learning Tools, and Popular Fiction in a novel toolkit to assist in the development of literary engagement skills and self-perception for 2e Primary Students in Ireland


This thesis explores the use of a virtual world together with a kinaesthetic learning tool to improve literary skill acquisition and self-perception in twice exceptional (2e) students. 2e students are defined as students who are recognised as being gifted while also having a learning difficulty. The study argues that a customisable, multi-sensory approach is necessary for the effective education of 2e students.
The study consisted of the creation of a facilitative framework, which was achieved through the design, creation, and implementation of a multi-sensory learning environment based around puzzle-rooms in Minecraft, with the support of a specially adapted kinaesthetic learning tool. This tool is modelled from the Bazeries Cylinder design and is here termed the ‘Bacylisk’. The researcher-designed world consists of twenty puzzle rooms of interactive content designed to facilitate the acquisition of literary engagement among 2e students. Students utilised the ‘Bacylisk’, with prompts in the virtual world to ameliorate sequencing, syntax, and organisational challenges identified as those commonly experienced by 2e students in traditional, mainstream learning environments.

To test their effectiveness, a case study was conducted with students who had been identified as gifted by the Centre for Talented Youth, Ireland (CTYI) while also exhibiting a learning difficulty. These students took part in a six-week English Literature course and their experiences and performances were recorded through pre-experimental case studies with a phenomenographic research approach. The virtual world and physical tools together create a learning environment that is immersive and challenging, but not overwhelming from a sensory perspective. The students created customised learning experiences and engaged with learning at their own pace; participating in a higher level of challenge in some areas, while also working on issues presented by their learning difficulties.

The hypothesis posited is that a multimodal interactive virtual interface with kinaesthetic supports and problem-based learning, in the form of escape rooms, can enable 2e students to better demonstrate their understanding of content and communicate subject mastery to an external observer. This is supported by an extensive examination of giftedness and twice-exceptionalism within the academic literature of many disciplines, and its portrayal in popular culture.

The completed thesis reimagines the use of a virtual world platform in order to improve access to traditionally text-based content for 2e students. Analysis of survey data and case study findings informed the research by identifying key teaching methodologies and learning environments for literary analysis and creative writing design with 2e students. The synthesis of these findings and original contribution of this research is a toolkit for teaching in a multi-sensory virtual world with interactive elements.
I offer this thesis as an original and substantial contribution to the primary field of Twice Exceptional Educational Practice, and to the cognate fields of Pedagogy, English Literature Instruction, Virtual Learning, and Educational Psychology. The extensive findings and code used in the virtual world design have been summarised in the thesis appendices along with surveys; all documentation is available in full online. It is the hope of the author that this work will be helpful to future scholars in the fields of Gifted Education, Design, and Virtual Learning.



Muireann O’Sullivan is a researcher with a PhD in Inclusive Design and Creative Innovation from University College Dublin (UCD) entitled: The‌ ‌Perspicacious‌ ‌in‌ ‌Virtual‌ ‌Spaces: Exploring‌ ‌the‌ ‌propensity‌ ‌of‌ ‌Virtual‌ ‌Escape‌ ‌Rooms,‌ ‌Kinaesthetic‌ Learning‌ ‌Tools,‌ ‌and‌ ‌Popular‌ ‌Fiction‌ ‌in‌ ‌a‌ ‌novel‌ ‌toolkit‌ ‌to‌ ‌assist‌ ‌in‌ the‌ ‌development‌ ‌of‌ ‌literary‌ ‌engagement‌ ‌skills‌ ‌and‌ ‌self-perception‌ ‌for‌ ‌2e‌ ‌Primary‌ ‌Students‌ in‌ ‌Ireland‌. She is an award-winning educator with experience in the design and implementation of courses for gifted and twice-exceptional students at primary, secondary, and third level. She holds a B.Ed from The Institute of Education, St. Patrick’s Campus DCU, formerly St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra, where many of her family also gained their teaching qualifications; a member of Muireann’s family has graduated from the college every 35 years exactly for four generations. She holds an M. Phil in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin, where she also gained a CAPSL qualification in Supporting Teaching and Learning at Third Level. She won the Postgraduate Teaching Award in her first year of Academic Practice at TCD for her work on virtual learning environments and Victorianism, and is the only PhD student from the school of English to ever have won this award. She was also nominated for the Provost’s Teaching Award. Initially undertaking her PhD studies at TCD under the supervision of Sir Terry Pratchett, Muireann developed her thesis with SMARTLab following his passing, and merged her love of literature with her love of education in the creation of a kinaesthetic artefact and virtual world toolkit designed to assist 2e students in their literary-skill acquisition.

Muireann has worked with the Centre for Talented Youth for over a decade, designing and implementing both online and face-to-face courses for 6-17 year olds in areas as diverse as Archaeology, Strategy Games, Popular Fiction, Dinosaurs, Book to Film, Myths and Legends, and Zombie Viruses. She currently works as a primary school teacher, and founded the CATALYST programme (Courses for Academically Talented Young Students) as a means of providing specialised differentiated enrichment content for young students from low-income backgrounds. Muireann has published extensively in the areas of literature criticism and education in a range of magazines and journals, acted in the role of editor and conference chair, and has presented her work at conferences for practitioners and academics.

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