Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Young people’s perspectives on intimate relationships: more than sex, schooling, and risk
    Mannix, Samantha ( 2021)
    This thesis examined the ways young people come to understand and negotiate intimate relationships, beginning from the vantage point of everyday youth experience, not adult constructions of that experience. In doing so, I sought to interrogate widespread understandings of young people and intimacy that remain predominantly framed in terms of risk, danger, immaturity, and vulnerability. While not diminishing the very real difficulties and dangers experienced by some young people, the aim of this thesis was to open up other ways of understanding young people’s perspectives and experiences, looking particularly at how views on intimate relationships connected to their imaginings of the future and their sense of a ‘good life’ (Berlant, 2011). Engaging with feminist, participatory and arts-based methodologies, I conducted interviews and repeat group sessions with students from a secondary school located on the outskirts of Melbourne, Victoria. Informed by feminist and queer theories, and working with concepts of affect to analyse intimacy, I drew on participant narratives and visual artefacts to examine the ways young people learn about, experience, anticipate, and regulate intimate relationships. This included an examination of the role of digital social media, the place of ‘ordinary affects’ and ‘public feelings’, and in-depth exploration of the processes of meaning making in which young people actively engaged, arguing that these constituted powerful if sometimes uncertain and ambivalent forms of learning and becoming. I further argued that some of the most powerful learning was not in classrooms or via formal curriculum but took place in other spaces and interactions, which become evident when taking a youth-centred approach. The fieldwork showed, first, the ways in which young people navigate and make meaning out of their intimate relationships and how this is fundamentally connected to their future thinking and notions of the good life. Second, it revealed that while young people may be setting new definitions and norms around intimacy, they are also doing this in ways that in some respects are rearticulating old gender binaries and heterosexual privileges. Third, it showed how young people also imported some of the public anxieties surrounding their relationships – particularly to do with risk, sex, ephemerality, immaturity and ‘realness’ – into their narratives and meaning making. I analysed the impact of the persistence of this type of framing for young people, in particular the effects of its potential regulatory functions. Overall, throughout this thesis, I build a case for the agentic and creative ways young people are learning about intimate relationships, genders, and sexualities and argue that these capacities warrant greater recognition in research, in curriculum discourses, and in program reforms.
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    Educating the next generation of communication designers: Addressing environmentally sustainable design principles and practices in Australian undergraduate communication design curriculum.
    Miceli, Maria Luisa ( 2021)
    Mitigating the impacts of anthropocentric environmental degradation is both an individual and collective responsibility. This research considered the role of higher education in advancing environmental sustainability (ES). The purpose of this study was to specifically investigate the way environmentally sustainable design principles and practices (EDSPP) were being addressed in undergraduate communication design (CD) courses in Australia. This multi-case study comprised of five Australian universities, each representing a single case. Each case was divided into two communities. Community One – represented the executive and senior leaders who set the strategic direction of the university, this strategic direction was identified through publicly available documentation. The second community, Community Two – represented teachers within the communication design faculty. These teachers were interviewed to understand: their philosophy in relation to ESDPP; what influenced their pedagogical decisions and how these values were implemented in their teaching practice. The findings demonstrated that ES was recognised by Community One through the university’s values and goals, yet ES activities were often limited to facilities management. The majority of teachers in Community Two recognised the importance of EDSPP in CD; however, they reported that attempts at embedding these practices into their units were often challenging. The study identified three main factors – eco-anxiety, holistic understanding of the course, and effective leadership concerning ES, most prevented progressing ESDPP in undergraduate CD courses. These challenges meant that EDSPP rarely progressed beyond arbitrary material choice inclusions within projects, rather than consideration for the critical relationship between communication design and consumerism and the changing nature of the CD profession. These one-dimensional material aspects, while important, remain superficial and shallow and may hinder the trajectory toward deeper behavioural changes that would promote a paradigm shift. This transformation may require a meaningful endorsement of environmental sustainability as a university value and a concrete plan to drive structural and course content change that would support teachers in undertaking this paradigm shift.
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    Refiguring sustainability education: Reckoning with relationships to place and Country on unceded urban Lands
    Belcher, Fiona Margaret ( 2021)
    Sustainability education is a dominant site for the production of ideas about place and Country. At the international level, Education for Sustainability broadly references social justice; however, place-based pedagogical frameworks neither stem from nor centralise Indigenous concerns and futures. Similarly, in the Australian National Curriculum, the Sustainability cross-curriculum priority is represented as commensurable with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures, without the associated foregrounding of sovereign claims. At the same time, First Peoples of the place known as Melbourne have long storied possible futures in which invader/settlers take seriously the protocol of not harming Country. As a white invader/settler researcher, I respond to this tension between sustainability curriculum and sovereignty. This thesis investigates the possibility held in curriculum and its enactment; that of producing in a generation of young people specific ideas about their relationships and responsibilities to place and Country. This thesis is therefore grounded in the question, what relationships to place and Country are produced through the Sustainability cross-curriculum priority in secondary schools on the Country of the Kulin Nations? This thesis is an original contribution to knowledge about the ways white invader/settler logics are produced via sustainability praxis. In doing so, it contributes to a deepened understanding of the relationship between Education for Sustainability and Land education. While the field of Land education identifies place-based education as a site of possibility, this thesis contributes to an understanding of the specific ways these possibilities are delimited by the influence of the priorities and assumptions of Education for Sustainability frameworks on sustainability education practice in Victoria. By employing white possessive logics as a key conceptual framework, this thesis contributes to increasing the theoretical possibilities of Land education. This theoretical contribution enables further analysis of how patriarchal white sovereignty operates through sustainability education to produce incommensurable imaginings of not only the future, but of the past. Curriculum texts alongside secondary school and sustainability hub educators across Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung Country form the sites on which this thesis is located. My research findings emerge from analysis of the material and representational elements of sustainability education on these school grounds, revealed through walking interviews, go-along methods, photovoice, and policy analysis within a critical place inquiry approach. In this context, I find that sustainability education as represented in policy and curriculum reduces the concepts of place and Country to resources, framed by the problematisation of scarce environmental resources between nation states. This policy emphasis on resources is mirrored in classroom settings, whereby students’ relationships to displaced objects, such as single use waste, is framed through a moral lens. The final finding of this thesis is that educators’ impetus for sustainability praxis is for establishing an affective re-connection between students and place. This educational assumption of students’ disconnection amplifies an investment in cultivating an imagined return to love of place. The primary argument of this thesis is that white invader/settler benevolence is produced through sustainability education in secondary schools, while contested relationships to Country are disavowed. Sustainability education at the sites on the Country of the Kulin Nations produces two related affects that stem from the central concept of the environment. First, an investment in displaced objects is cultivated as a way for students to inhabit a moral subject position in relation to unceded Country. This thesis argues that the reduction of place and Country to resource relations enables moral positions to be assigned to consumer choices. As a result, students who choose keep cups and Boomerang Bags are able to inhabit not just an innocent but a moral subject position. Further, invader/settler relationships to place are rendered innocent, framed in terms of a depoliticised love. The depoliticisation of relationships to Country and emphasis on individual relationships to displaced moral objects work in tandem in an attempt to secure patriarchal white sovereignty. This thesis contributes to an understanding of the ways these two affects work in concert to produce benevolent settler subject positions, reinscribing postcolonising processes through sustainability praxis. The implications of this are significant and also Country-specific. In contrast to the language of resources, the affective enactment of Education for Sustainability on Kulin Country reveals the ways that students’ futures and histories are produced to actively deracialise relationships to Country. Such enactments work in an attempt to legitimise white invader/settler replacement of First Peoples across the past, present and future. Despite these attempts, the materiality of Country – such as the extractive histories revealed through landfill – continues to work against this attempted reinscription of relations.
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    Exploring the role of critical literacy in the early years of primary school
    Cozmescu, Helen ( 2021)
    Despite literacy being viewed as ideological and grounded in a particular view of the world (Street, 2017), early years literacy practice has recently been impacted upon by the conceptualisation of literacy as a set of discrete skills (Clark, 2017; Ewing, 2006; 2018; Exley, 2018; Snyder, 2008). This study inquires into early years literacy education, to investigate what constitutes early years literacy teaching and learning and the place that critical literacy might hold. It addresses the gap in current research, regarding how critical literacy might be planned for and taught in the first two years of primary schooling. The qualitative study, underpinned by a postmodern epistemology influenced by the theories of Paulo Freire, Lorenzo Milani, and Hilary Janks, examined the planning, teaching and learning of critical literacy in three early years classrooms. Constructivist grounded theory methodology (Charmaz, 2014) was used to investigate the processes, problems and possibilities which arose when early years teachers approached the planning and teaching of critical literacy to teach Indigenous perspectives. Students’ understandings that resulted after a sustained focus on critical literacy were examined. Methods of data collection included audio recordings of planning and teaching sessions, observations, in-situ interviews, and document analysis of planning documents and student work samples. Discourse analysis (Gee, 2011) was used as an analytical tool, complementing constructivist grounded theory methodology and providing insights about language usage. The findings from this research revealed that teachers develop ways of being critical literacy teachers, which are reflected in their collegial discursive practices, impacting upon students’ abilities to critically engage with curriculum content involving Indigenous perspectives. The substantive topic of Indigenous perspectives and the classroom practices gave rise to student voice and agency, which at times, shifted traditional teacher-student power relationships. Contributions from this study are made to the field of research, demonstrating how a conceptual framework that brings into dialogue key theorists can support data analysis, within a constructivist grounded theory study. Additionally, the study has contributed to understandings about the ways teachers plan for critical literacy, to support young students to critically engage with complex social issues. The intersection of critical literacy, the early years of schooling and Indigenous perspectives has demonstrated new possibilities for the planning and teaching of early literacy. Further contributions from this study are made to the current discourse that exists in Australian education around curriculum reform and the importance of decolonising the curriculum. Issues of truth telling about settlement and Indigenous dispossession were raised, highlighting the need for teachers to be informed, to address Indigenous perspectives for authentic student engagement with historical and social issues.
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    Stories of language, culture and race from African Australian children, their caregivers, and educators
    Iser, Rose Mary ( 2021)
    This study responds to ongoing and highly racialised public and political debate surrounding young people from refugee backgrounds, in particular African backgrounds, in Australia. The study investigates how the languages and cultural backgrounds of second-generation African Australian students are understood by educators, students and their families at one primary school in inner-Melbourne. It builds on scholarship that, over many decades, has sought ways of conceptualising the languages and cultures of students who have been marginalised in monolingual classrooms. The application of theories of cultural capital and funds of knowledge in previous research has supported asset pedagogies that value the skills and knowledge brought to classrooms by students from marginalised communities. However, it is argued here that the application of these theories, and specifically their transformative potential, has been limited by the normalised devaluation of marginalised students’ ‘resources’. This study investigates existing arrangements and new possibilities for conceptualising the languages and cultural backgrounds of the African Australian participants. A tri-part theoretical lens employed critical race theory (Matsuda, Lawrence, Delgado, & Crenshaw, 1993), theories of plurilingualism and translanguaging (Garcia, Lin, & May, 2017), as well as the emerging concept of LangCrit (Crump, 2014) to explore racialised understandings of languages and cultures by the educators, caregivers and the children themselves. The theoretical framework was applied to expose racial inequality (Gillborn, 2005; Rowe, 2020), focus on languaging, or language practices that challenge the social and political construction of linguistic codes (Makoni & Pennycook, 2007), and identify how socially constructed categories connect race and language (Crump, 2014). Employing an interpretivist qualitative research design layered with a lens of critical inquiry, data were collected at one primary school in Melbourne that caters for a significant population of second-generation African Australian students. Three cohorts of participants contributed to the study providing multiple perspectives to address the research problem: the educators at the school, the second-generation African Australian children, and their caregivers, with community members providing additional insights and context. Data collection methods involved language portraits, recordings using Garage Band, and in-depth interviews of varying lengths with participants from each cohort. The results of this investigation support the usefulness of the theoretical framework, revealing how narratives reflecting raciolinguistic ideologies in a school are constructed and reinforced as stock stories by the educators. These stories perpetuate deficit beliefs about inferior language acquisition, and sideline home languages as irrelevant to in-school academic pursuits. The students, caregivers and community members’ alternative counter-stories both accept and reject these constructions and signal a profound gulf between school and home. The findings also contribute conceptualisations of language and culture that depart from transactional notions of resources, and the racialisation of languages in schools, and instead honour subjective experiences of languages, cultures and identity. The study reveals the persistence of monolingual approaches to language learning, noting the constrictive implications for students and caregivers, and urges the adoption of approaches to learning aligned with culturally sustaining pedagogy to support the multilingualism of second-generation African Australian students in Australia.
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    Happily sensitive: A mixed method exploration of wellbeing in highly sensitive individuals
    Black, Becky ( 2021)
    Although manifesting in different ways across and within cultures, the subjective experience of wellbeing and happiness is a cherished goal for many individuals, communities, and societies around the world. Research, philosophies, discussions, and writings across a range of disciplines has provided definitions, measures, and various understandings of wellbeing. Yet there remains much to learn about the varied ways that wellbeing is experienced, cultivated, and hindered for various populations. As a subjective construct, individuals experience wellbeing in different ways, and wellbeing can be influenced by a range of variables, including personality, genetics, and culture. Culture explicitly and implicitly creates and reinforces social norms and expectations, which impact upon how individuals make sense of and experience their place within that culture. In Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) cultures, social norms around wellbeing tend to emphasize social outgoingness and high-arousal positive emotions, with introversion and negative emotion looked down upon or even pathologized. However, the influence of these cultural norms on wellbeing generally remains unacknowledged in much of the theoretical and research literature. Importantly, this extravert-centric conception of wellbeing does not fit many individuals who live within WEIRD societies. There is a need to better understand how wellbeing is created and experienced by the large number of people for whom wellbeing manifests in alternative ways. This thesis specifically focuses on one such population group: individuals who score high on the personality trait of sensory processing sensitivity (SPS). It consists of three factors: ease of excitation (EOE), aesthetic sensitivity (AES), and low sensory threshold (LST). Estimates suggest that about 25% of general populations score high on sensitivity, suggesting that there may be adaptive aspects of the trait. This thesis investigated sensory processing sensitivity using a mixed quantitative and qualitative methodology. The quantitative component examined how SPS relates to a range of wellbeing and illbeing domains, through an online questionnaire completed by 430 individuals. I examined correlations amongst overall SPS and its factors, the Big Five personality factors (extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, openness to experience, and agreeableness), and multiple dimensions of subjective wellbeing (e.g., positive and negative emotions, relationships, meaning); compared wellbeing profiles for low and high SPS groups, explored differential associations for the three SPS factors; and tested intersections amongst the Big Five, SPS, and wellbeing. SPS was negatively correlated with all wellbeing domains, but after controlling for neuroticism and depressive symptoms, associations reversed, resulting in positive correlations between SPS and wellbeing, suggesting that previously observed illbeing correlates may be due to neuroticism and psychological distress, rather than SPS itself. The qualitative component investigated how sensitive individuals experience and cultivate wellbeing within a WEIRD society. Twelve adults participated in semi-structured interviews. Findings suggest that highly sensitive individuals perceive wellbeing arising from harmony across multiple dimensions. Interviewees emphasized the value of low-intensity positive emotion, self-awareness, self-acceptance, positive social relationships balanced by times of solitude, connecting with nature, contemplative practices, emotional self-regulation, practicing self-compassion, having a sense of meaning, and hope/optimism. Barriers of wellbeing included physical health issues and challenges with saying no to others. This thesis presents the first extensive empirical investigation of subjective wellbeing in a high-SPS population group. Overall, findings from this thesis suggest that associations between SPS and wellbeing depend upon how wellbeing is operationalized and the SPS factor under consideration. Furthermore, this thesis provides a nuanced picture of personality and wellbeing relationships, presenting key insights into how sensitive individuals live well, within the context of friction between their natural personality and the social, cultural, and historic context in which they live.
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    The Transition to Innovative Learning Environments: A Systems View of Design and Organisational Factors
    French, Raechel ( 2021)
    Schools throughout the globe are implementing new spatial typologies in response to a variety of global drivers which prioritise academic focus on achieving student deep learning. These designs vastly differ from the ‘traditional’ model, replacing the identical classrooms along a double-loaded corridor with Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs), consisting of a variety of space types intended to support multiple teaching and learning activities. Intended operations within these ILEs also differ from what is expected in traditional learning spaces but are often not holistically addressed. As a result, it is not uncommon to walk the halls of these new school types and see little change in teaching and learning behaviours, despite any shifts in spatial design. It is proposed that implementation of ILEs is outpacing change in teaching and learning models and often fails to integrate shifts in the organisational design of the school. This study explores this hypothesis through the lens of the Burke-Litwin Model of Organisational Performance and Change (Burke-Litwin Model) (Burke & Litwin, 1992), utilising two phases of research to understand the role physical and organisational factors have in the alignment between the design and intended use of ILEs. Phase One completes a content analysis on images and narrative describing 41 ILE schools in Texas, USA that were submitted to the Exhibit of School Architecture (EoSA). This analysis contributes a taxonomy of design and use of Texas ILEs, providing a baseline lexicon which allows for further exploration of ILE implementation. Phase Two includes a case study of three of the schools submitted to the EoSA, exploring educators’ and leaders’ lived experience and perceptions of how physical and organisational supports enabled a successful transition to their new spaces. Both these analyses contribute to a Systems Model of an ILE, which highlights the momentum created by the continuum of practice of the initial ILE design and intended use, the ongoing development of a strong school community, and the resulting student-centred learning experience. Moderating the momentum of this cycle are intentional physical and organisational supports, initially envisioned by school designers and school leaders and primarily enacted and experienced by educators and learners. The most impactful supports include: 1) leadership which balances clear expectations with educator autonomy; 2) a culture of risk-taking, trust, and collaboration; 3) the co-creation of intentional supportive systems; 4) the inclusion of dedicated teacher spaces; and, 5) the incorporation of ample visual transparency to support relationship building and educator skill development. These supports and others identified in this thesis can be viewed as intentional ‘nudges’ toward the desired teaching and learning behaviours. This study supports the need for holistic understanding of how ILEs operate to successfully achieve goals set forth in the design process by school stakeholders. The Burke-Litwin Model proves to be an appropriate lens through which to ensure this comprehensive view. The physical and organisational supports presented are applicable to school designers, leaders, and educators in their design and implementation efforts and are an integral component of the holistic system.
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    Interrogating quality Indicators of students' online learning in Australian higher education
    El-Ayoubi, Mona ( 2021)
    The growth and proliferation of online education is one of the incisive radical transformations that has taken place in the higher education sector recently. Given the increasing centrality of online learning, it is imperative to have appropriate quality measures capable of effectively gauging the learning quality outcomes of students in the online environment. This research addressed the following two overarching questions: To what extent can students’ Student Experience Survey results predict outcome measures such as student pass rate, dropout rate and overall satisfaction? How effective are Student Experience Survey results in measuring online learning quality in Australian higher education? This study focused on the case of online undergraduate education at Australian universities and primarily drew on extensive empirical evidence, and systematic analysis of a significant amount of SES data. This analysis was complemented by a focused set of semi-structured interviews conducted with academic staff working in quality assurance in Australian universities. The research utilised a sequential mixed-methods approach combining analysis of secondary data (Student Experience Survey) and collection and analysis of primary data interviews. This approach offered the opportunity to contextualise the Student Experience Survey data and interrogate it for insights into the practical considerations and dimensions of online learning quality within universities. A framework to assess different aspects of learning quality was developed from the items in the survey and consisted of four groupings: curriculum, learner support, learner engagement, and technology. The analysis of student responses to the items in these groupings applied the principal components of factor analysis. Specifically, the research examined these factors to determine if they could predict student performance outcomes of pass rate, dropout rate, and overall satisfaction as effective quality measures. This analysis presents observations of student responses to individual items across disciplines, institutions, and academic year levels. When SES responses of student perceptions were examined, this study identified a critical disconnect between the positioning of the Student Experience Survey as a central measure of learning quality and the outcomes of those learners as a population. The key finding is that the Student Experience Survey responses were not related to pass rates and dropout rates. The second critical finding is that students’ perceptions of engagement and curriculum had no relation to these same outcomes. This finding is irrespective of students’ academic year level, their discipline, or the institution they attended. The study has implications for institutions and government bodies to evaluate existing metrics said to measure online learning quality. This study questions the ultimate purpose of student surveys and concludes that using student satisfaction to evaluate online learning quality through the Student Experience Survey instrument is ineffective in predicting or measuring outcome achievement. As such, institutions must invest in alternative and/or different approaches for assessing learning quality. This study provides substantial evidence base analysis of a large population in the Australian higher education online context. Further, it contributes to widening understandings about the limitations of student experience surveys in measures of learning quality. The study has implications for institutions, academics, and policymakers and provides opportunities for the reconceptualisation and the redevelopment of learning quality metrics beyond the Student Experience Survey.
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    Polyphonic voices in the storied rhizome: An opera of 'becoming' music educators
    Robinson, Phillipa ( 2021)
    Music teachers are pivotal to the future of music education and the value of the arts in society. Centrally important is the professional identity of the music teacher, expressed through what they believe and enact in their educational practice. As a non-core subject, music is vulnerable and often seen as less valuable than other subjects in the current fluid and commodified world. Therefore, music teacher identity impacts pedagogical and curricular decisions, and co-curricular music programs. This inquiry investigated the professional identity development of ten early career music teachers through an exploration of their beliefs, knowledges and experiences in and about music and music education. Using an a/r/tographic conceptual approach informed by Deleuzoguattarian rhizomic philosophies, the participants’ individual journeys of ‘becoming music teacher’ were storied and re-storied, curated into seven research plateaus. As researcher, the work evolved to be partially autobiographical and as musician, music teacher and teacher educator, the ‘I’ is fully present within this storied rhizome. The thesis is presented as opera (opus, plural), mapped to guide the reader in wayfinding through the work. Musical and gardening metaphors are pervasive throughout the work. Arts works, both visual and musical, are embedded, not ‘as’ the research but to explain the research. What emerged was multifaceted. Unanimously, the participants felt their identity as a musician was important to their sense of self and that being a practising musician/composer was central to becoming an authentic music educator. Early epistemic beliefs are central to teacher practices and in-school experiences either reinforced or challenged the development of professional identity and impacted longevity in the profession. The contribution of the work is twofold. Practically, it can inform initial music teacher education, support professional development for early career music teachers and guide in the development of formalized mentoring early career music teachers. Conceptually the a/r/tographic nature of the research has the potential to inform research directions for future musician-teachers.
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    Being an effective teacher: what do teachers in different contexts conceptualise? A contextualised study for improving teacher effectiveness
    Wilkie, David Jeffrey ( 2021)
    Effective teachers achieve far more in terms of student outcomes than do less-effective teachers. There are educational, social and economic reasons as to why high learning outcomes for students are needed system-wide, and effective teachers are necessary for the success of endeavours to improve educational systems. System-wide efforts to improve overall teacher effectiveness, however, have had only limited success, and school-level effects emerge as important. The work of teachers in schools is multifaceted and complex, and there are subsequent complexities in considerations of teacher effectiveness and ways to improve it. Research has identified that individual attributes of teachers and school-level, environmental factors impact upon the effectiveness of teachers. Further knowledge and shared understanding of how teachers can become more effective, individually and collectively, continue to prove necessary. There is little research into how teachers and school leaders conceptualise being an effective teacher in their own working context, and what enables their effective work, and what impedes it. This qualitative study investigated the ways practising secondary school teachers and school leaders conceptualised being an effective teacher in the environment in which they worked. Contextualised enablers of teacher effectiveness and impediments to teacher effectiveness were also explored. A multiple case study of three schools was designed. Participant schools were purposively selected to provide substantial contextual variation – one government school, one Catholic school, and one independent school were each a case explored. Five-to-six voluntary participants in each school were selected, each one a practising teacher, or a school leader who also had an active teaching role. Semi-structured individual interviews were utilised to produced rich, contextualised data on the attributes, knowledge, and behaviours necessary to be effective as a teacher at the school. Data evidenced that teachers’ own conceptualisations of being an effective teacher aligned with established research, yet with notable contextual variation in some emphases in the descriptions. Participants described detailed, contextualised knowledge of their working environment and what they understood was enabling effective work by the teachers at their school, and what impeded effective work. Contextualised collective teacher efficacy and the impact of a school ethos were evidenced to enable teacher effectiveness. Unintegrated, time-intensive managerial and policy directives impeded teacher effectiveness.