Faculty of Education - Theses

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    Education for social justice? Reflecting critically on the epistemic commitments that drive education in liberal democratic societies
    Mulherin, Andrew Christopher ( 2023-11)
    In the Enlightenment tradition, the equality of all and the right to liberty are assumed to be universal, natural principles. Affirming these principles may lead to a pragmatic toleration of different, competing values. This toleration, in turn, can be understood to lead to the claim that there are no universal, morally binding values. The second position contradicts the claim that liberty and equality encapsulate universal truths. An unexamined commitment to liberty, equality, and toleration features in discussions in the public sphere in liberal democratic societies, contributing to political disagreements, and perhaps explaining why injustices prevail: Our failure to interrogate and defend the truth claims we subscribe to prevents us from participating in productive discussions about how we can live together. Education is inherently political, inculcating values and influencing the way ideas are discussed in the public sphere. Addressing the tension, and perhaps incoherence, between the universal values of freedom and equality, and the value pluralism implied by the toleration principle, is therefore a matter of urgency for educational theorists. The original contribution of this thesis is to recommend that a critical-hermeneutical interrogation of the epistemic commitments that inform public debate ought to precede decision-making, and that this interrogation will lead to robust, provisional truth claims that offer a coherent framework for education to attend to disagreements that hinder progress towards social cohesion and justice.
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    Australian secondary music teachers’ enactments of Kodály-inspired professional learning
    van Veldhuisen, Anna Louise ( 2023-11)
    Previous research has investigated how music teachers’ practices are often significantly informed by their personal backgrounds, beliefs, and identities, and researchers have called for further inquiry into how professional learning programs can influence and interact with these factors and school contexts to inform practice. The Kodaly approach is a significant phenomenon in music education internationally, though it took root in Hungary almost a century ago. In Australia, Kodaly-inspired professional learning programs such as the Australian Kodaly Certificate continue to be offered regularly around the country. However, little contemporary research documents the characteristics and adaptations of the approach today in the English-speaking world. This research investigates how five Australian secondary music teachers enact Kodaly-inspired professional learning in their diverse settings, employing multiple case study methodology informed by narrative inquiry. Drawing on semi-structured interviews, lesson observations, and document analysis, the study explores how these teachers experience, interpret, and translate the Kodaly approach into their teaching context. The thesis documents, in depth, the characteristic pedagogical and curricular features of the Kodaly approach in Australia and how the approach is espoused by the Australian Kodaly Certificate program of professional learning. The five case study teachers demonstrated subtle variations in their interpretation of the underlying philosophical principles of the approach, dependent on their personal backgrounds and contexts. Their classroom practices reflected consistent use of some of the teaching tools, curriculum, and pedagogical strategies associated with the Kodaly approach following participation in the AKC, but also several extensions, variations, and alterations to the approach in response to personal interests, backgrounds, and context. This thesis builds an understanding of the Kodaly approach today by examining Kodaly-inspired pedagogy in a small sample of contemporary Australian classrooms. It also provides case study examples of music teachers enacting professional learning, highlighting how individuals’ backgrounds, beliefs, identities, and school contexts can inform how they interpret professional learning, subsequently shaping their practice. A refractive model of professional learning that links the work of Bourdieu and Ball is proposed for understanding this process. This research adds to the discourse about classroom music education in Australia by focusing on the reality of teachers’ lives, learning, and practices.
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    Leading a successful rural school in Australia
    Hudson, Christopher ( 2024-02)
    This thesis reports on the leadership characteristics and practices of a principal of one successful government primary school in rural Victoria, Australia. This study formed part of the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP) and added to the ISSPP’s existing knowledge base of understanding what it is that successful principals do in different international contexts. A multiple-perspective, mixed-methods case study methodology was employed. Data were primarily collected through interviews with the principal, other school leaders (n = 3), the school council president, a system leader, teachers (n = 4), students (n = 12), and parents (n = 9). These data were supported by school observations, document analysis, and a teacher survey (n = 11). Analyses of data revealed that the school’s success was attributed to six broad factors: a safe and happy school environment, positive attitudes to learning, a cohesive school community, development of the whole child, a focus on student voice and leadership, and school reputation. From the analyses, themes generated that related to the principal’s leadership practices included strong communication of the school’s values and purpose, maintaining high visibility in the school and in the community, building relationships with parents and the wider community, empowering teachers to focus on teaching, and enacting a considered approach to change. These leadership practice themes were supported by themes related to the principal’s personal characteristics such as being trustful, respectful, approachable, supportive, strategic, calm, committed to students, and dedicated to the school. To secure school success, the principal adjusted his leadership practices in ways that were contextually sensitive and strongly related to the school’s improvement journey. Moreover, analysis revealed that a large contributor to the school’s success was the harmonious person–organisation fit between the principal and the school. When the evidence from this study is considered in conjunction with other ISSPP studies from other jurisdictions, this study contributes to the broader body of literature addressing the relationship between successful school leadership and school context, demonstrating that the person–organisation fit between the principal and a rural school is an important contributor to rural school success.
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    Exploring the Relationship Between Tabletop Role-playing Games and Complete Mental Health: A Mixed Methods Study of Adult Players
    Mclaren, Patrick James ( 2023-12)
    In recent years, there has been growing interest in the therapeutic potential of tabletop role-playing games (TTRPG) with several professional and organisation claims TTRPGs can promote social connectedness and social growth. However, there is limited evidence to support these relationships, particularly between TTRPG play and mental health. Without evidence, how can we be certain a TTRPG-based intervention can achieve therapeutic results? What impacts, if any, do these games have on the complete mental health, well-being and symptomology), of players? This field needs evidence that can justify and support therapeutic applications, particularly for mental health, at the very least, to minimise the potential for harm, particularly considering past criticisms and stigma towards this game genre. Two key gaps were identified, the lack of theories linking TTRPG to mental health, and the general lack of empirical evidence in this area. This work was guided by randomised trail-to-translation continuum, a model outlining necessary steps in rigorous intervention development and used advanced multiphasic mixed methods to address these gaps. Study One used in-depth semi-structured interviews (N = 12) and reflexive thematic analysis to explore the lived experienced of TTRPG of player to identify preliminary relationships and theories between TTRPG play and mental health. Four relevant themes were developed: Positive Emotions and Experiences, Social Connectedness, Freedom and Autonomy, and Social-Emotional Learning. Based on these themes, several theories were discussed that may describe how these phenomena relate to mental health; namely, Self-Determination, Broaden and Build, Social Learning, and Experiential Learning Theories. Study One proposed that TTRPG play may support adult complete mental health by promoting well-being and facilitating knowledge and skill development, which may reduce symptomology. Study Two used hierarchical regressions (N = 1719) to empirically test Self-Determination Theory (SDT) in TTRPG play, by investigating the relationship between in-game psychological needs satisfaction (relatedness, autonomy, and competence) and multiple dimensions of real-world well-being (emotional, psychological, and social). Results showed needs satisfaction in TTRPG play was positively related to all dimensions of well-being, with relatedness needs emerging as consistently strong across all well-being dimensions. Expanding further, Study Two used reflexive thematic analysis (n = 1120) to identify how players basic psychological needs are met during TTRPG play. Results identified four themes associated with the game master: compelling versus uncompelling game world, character engagement versus disengagement, supporting versus restricting player agency, fair versus unfair adjudication; and one theme associated with all players: social cohesion versus conflict. Findings highlight the vital role the game master plays in the satisfaction (or frustration) of the basic psychological needs of players, and by extension their well-being. Study Three integrated the findings of previous studies using structural equation modelling (N = 766) to develop and test an explanatory model of mental health in TTRPG play. This model tested several associations simultaneously, as well as explored the possible mediating role of social connectedness and social emotional development in the association between needs satisfaction, and mental health (well-being and symptomology). Results showed social connectedness and social-emotional development fully mediate the relationship between needs satisfaction in TTRPG play and well-being. However, relationships with symptomology were mixed and require further investigation. The results indicate TTRPG play may support the complete mental health of players in two ways: 1) by supporting and encouraging well-being, motivation, engagement, and personal growth, and 2) by creating a space that can facilitate social connectedness, and social-emotional development, which may serve as protective factors and contribute to resilience and a reduction in symptomology. Further, it identified the vital role of the Game Master in this association. Overall, findings support the therapeutic potential of this game genre, with implications for the ongoing development, testing and validation of TTRPG-based interventions for complete mental health, helping to address a substantial research-practice gap and paving the way for future research.
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    The student experience of online interprofessional education in cancer sciences: a philosophical-empirical inquiry
    Seignior, David James ( 2023-11)
    This philosophical-empirical inquiry interprets the lived experiences of students from different health professions undertaking the wholly online Master of Cancer Sciences Course. Through a novel conceptual framework combining phenomenology, practice theory and moral philosophy as theoretical lenses, this research illuminates recent graduates’ experiences of being online, becoming into their (inter) professional identities and practices, and beholding, or giving attention to, their patients, colleagues, and learning peers, during the Course. This inquiry provides insights into how online interprofessional education (OIPE), as well as offering convenience, flexibility, and scale, can in fact provide deep, authentic, and even ontologically transformative learning experiences. Challenging the conception of technological enframement (Heidegger, 2010) and of presence and trust as being attenuated in an online context (Dreyfus, 2001a), this inquiry shows that synchronous and asynchronous online engagement can offer an effective and therapeutic co-teaching presence (Bluteau, 2020) and authentic peer learning. This inquiry reveals that the Course while claiming only to be multidisciplinary, not interprofessional (Lai-Kwon et al., 2023), demonstrated a student-centred approach, modelling elements of best practice interprofessional collaborative practice (IPCP), and care (sorge) for the other, whether student or patient. Similarly, it reveals that wholly online education, as a practice arrangement bundle, with activities consisting of doings, sayings (Schatzki, 2002) and relatings (Kemmis, 2014), can provide a psychologically safe, yet challenging learning environment, that enables different health professions to learn with, from and about each other. This learning goes beyond the epistemological, ways of knowing and doing (Ryle, 1946) to the ontological, ways of being. Furthermore, it overlaps with the participants’ own clinical practice arrangement bundles (Schatzki, 2002), allowing them to apply learning into practice and practice into learning. In the context of cancer care and supportive and palliative care in particular, this inquiry reveals the unselfing (Murdoch, 1970) that genuine attention to the afflicted (Weil, 2009) requires, (in this context cancer patients, including those who are dying). What is more this beholding parallels the way teachers and learners were revealed and attended to each other, enabling them to ‘become who they are’ (Heidegger, 2010), through Online Dasein Mitsein, (being online with others).
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    Stories of Hope: Towards a systems reconceptualisation of hope theory
    Colla, Rachel Helen ( 2023-11)
    Hope is a crucial concept to explore to prepare our youth for a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. It is a strong protective and enabling factor for emerging adults, specifically in the context of university studies. However, there remain several unanswered questions about the mechanisms that facilitate these adaptive relationships. Additionally, there are limitations evident in the translation of the dominant psychological theory of hope to facilitate hope in young adults. This thesis aims to address these gaps, storying the journey towards a reconceptualised systems theory of hope. To progress this endeavour, the thesis aimed to: 1) examine the development of Snyder’s (1989) Hope Theory and ensuing methods of study to ascertain potential gaps in the theoretical construction and 2) compare lay to scientific theories of hope to explore both support and opportunities for refinement of the central tenets of these theories. Four investigations were conducted to address these aims. Firstly, a critically appraised topic (CAT) review of Snyder’s (1989) Hope Theory revealed meta-theoretical, theoretical and methodological limitations that have constrained our ability to assess the dynamic interactions between factors that enable hope. The second investigation introduced a storying methodology, Participatory Narrative Inquiry (PNI), to address these limitations, demonstrating how this approach can facilitate the co-production of new knowledge with participants to help refine contextually relevant theories. This investigation was the first critical analysis of the PNI methodology in the academic literature. The PNI approach was tested in a multi-phased qualitative study that engaged university students as co-researchers to explore their experiences and lay theories of how hope emerges. Findings contributed empirical support for some of the central tenets of different theories of hope but also identified missing elements central to students’ experiences of hope. These findings provided support for an expanded theoretical framework that encompasses factors across the self as a system and within systems that are crucial to enabling the experience of hope in these students. The final investigation proposed an initial model integrating these findings in an expanded dynamic systems theory of hope. This program of research contributes a new meta-theoretical systems conceptualisation of hope, providing both theoretical and empirical evidence for the addition of new mechanisms that enable hope to emerge in university students. It further contributes new knowledge on a methodological approach that enables participatory exploration of complex wellbeing experiences, facilitating a more democratised pathway to theoretical construction. These contributions have practical implications that can enable the design of more effective tailored strategies to facilitate hope in emerging adults and fuel the next wave of discovery in hope research.
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    The Wellbeing Museum: cultural encounters of the third age
    Gan, Lena ( 2023-11)
    In an era of global ageing populations, oversubscribed public health systems and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, wellbeing has become a societal matter of concern and policy priority. Contemporaneously, self-help and health and fitness cultures, along with an array of spiritual and holistic interests have played a role in furthering wellbeing activities. A body of epidemiological research points to the strong association of cultural attendance such as museum visitation with health and wellbeing. Yet little is known about how benefits are produced, the effects of different types of engagement and the circumstances and conditions under which they are most likely to occur. In response to these gaps, this study explores the museum encounters of people aged over 45 years, the mechanisms at work, the role of affect and the conditions of possibility for wellbeing that museums afford. Set up as a multi-site ethnographic case study, the focus is the more-than-human, situated, sociomaterial practices that occur in four museums: Melbourne Museum, Australia; Nantes History Museum, France; Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand; and Manchester Museum, UK. Wellbeing is an ill-defined and elusive construct, with diverse, co-existing discourses and approaches that tend to focus on the identification of its determinates and/or components. However, taking a Spinozo-Deleuzian materialist view as this study does, it can be regarded as increased capacity. This approach affords the conceptual conditions to explore the lively interactions amongst spaces, bodies, perceptions, sensations, constructs and objects and their capacitating effects. Wellbeing emerges, it is argued, through an ecology of sociomaterial practices in more-than-human functional collectives. These practices enrich people’s understanding of themselves in relationship with the world. And museums, as fully staffed storehouses of cultural heritage, artefacts, memories, history, identities and stories, have affective appeal, are highly accessible and provide particularly generative conditions of possibility for the wellbeing of older people.
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    Mindfulness in Education: Critical Debates, Perspectives, and Pragmatic Recommendations
    Lee, Winky Wing Kay ( 2023-11)
    Interest in mindfulness for education has burgeoned. However, this growth in interest is followed by emerging debates and criticisms regarding the intentions and the social and political implications of integrating mindfulness into schools and universities. While scholars have increasingly attended to these critiques and criticisms, it is unclear how these issues and concerns may translate into practical considerations for educational leaders, policy makers, and stakeholders. This dissertation sought to explicate foundational discussions on three critical considerations for mindfulness in education: 1) a persistent tension between the need to adapt mindfulness for contemporary and secular applications, while preserving the integrity of the practice; 2) the social and political implications arising from implementing mindfulness amidst a context of neoliberalism, commercialism and consumerism; and 3) the nascent status of existing empirical evidence on mindfulness, and a limited research understanding of the potential adverse effects of mindfulness-based programs/practice, when done with children and adolescents, especially those with a predisposed vulnerability. This dissertation offers pragmatic recommendations to address each of these critical considerations. To provide empirically grounded insights into the three critical considerations for mindfulness in education, this dissertation presents three research studies which examined educators’ and university-attending emerging adults’ perspectives on mindfulness in education, and their experiences with mindfulness practice and mindfulness initiatives provided by their educational institutions. The findings provide support to the acceptability of mindfulness, as a universally applicable, suitable and beneficial approach to mental health and well-being, among educators and university students. In general, educators’ and university students’ perceived purpose and motivations for practicing mindfulness tended to reflect ‘thin’ and ‘instrumental’ goals, which align with the commonly proposed aims of the practice, both in the literature and in popular culture. Concerns relating to potential religious conflicts and adverse effects from mindfulness practice were raised by few educators. In addition, educators valued independent research evaluation of mindfulness in education, though they lacked confidence in the current state of research. Overall, educators believed that mindfulness was valuable to education, and was beneficial to practice by students and educators regardless of their age or religious backgrounds. However, educators emphasised on the importance of committing to ‘proper’ implementation of mindfulness in education, in order for such a movement to have positive impact on education. These results are discussed in light of the proposed critical considerations. Further contribution of the dissertation to the topic is discussed and future directions for research are proposed.
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    Crafting wellbeing at work: Analysing the effects of job crafting to guide the development of a new coaching-assisted job crafting program
    Silapurem, Likitha ( 2023-12)
    Job crafting involves employees proactively redesigning their work boundaries to better align with their work needs, skills, interests, and passions. Research on job crafting has increased exponentially in recent years, yet the growing literature on job crafting has become relatively saturated with cross-sectional research. This means that much of the evidence on job crafting is limited in its ability to allow causal inferences. Furthermore, the available work that generally does allow for stronger causal inferences, such as experimental research, has shown somewhat mixed findings, suggesting that a deeper analysis is needed to determine whether causal inferences are currently plausible and also what makes interventions more effective in yielding desired work outcomes. Thus, the aim of this research is to explore and analyse the causal effect that job crafting has with key outcome variables, and to develop and pilot an approach that may help overcome some of the limitations of job crafting interventions. These aims were addressed using three studies and a conceptual review. Study 1 is a systematic review and meta-analysis using longitudinal job crafting literature (k = 66, N = 27,195) that revealed that job crafting at Time 1 had strong, positive associations with a range of desired work outcomes at a later time point. Findings from this study provide evidence of temporal separation, thereby providing stronger evidence for a potential directional relationship than previous reviews which primarily consist of cross-sectional research. However, as longitudinal research does not allow for absolute conclusions about causality to be drawn, Study 2 extended these findings with an analysis for causality to assess whether a causal relationship exists between job crafting, and two key work outcomes: work engagement and job performance. Using Hill’s (1965) framework, the extant literature was appraised against six criteria and showed that there was evidence to suggest that a positive, causal relationship may exist between expansion-oriented job crafting and work engagement. Findings from this study also revealed that job crafting interventions are generally limited by such factors as including isolated job crafting workshops, with participants afforded little ongoing support, structure, and guidance, that have reduced the effectiveness of the interventions. I argue that these limitations could be overcome by integrating workplace coaching into job crafting interventions. Thus, Study 3 conceptually reviewed the feasibility and highlighted the benefits of integrating coaching with job crafting interventions as a way to increase their effectiveness. Study 4 piloted this new integrated intervention empirically in a mixed method pilot study (n = 8 intervention group, n = 6 control group). Qualitative feedback about the intervention delivery and coaching was also obtained. Findings from this study provided promising preliminary evidence regarding the positive effect that the addition of coaching had on job crafting interventions.
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    Uncovering Student Values and Wellbeing Across Mathematics and Science Education
    hill, julia lindgren ( 2023-09)
    Over the past few decades, interest in student wellbeing has increased worldwide. However, the literature focuses on general wellbeing rather than subject-specific experiences. Given the pervasive negative attitudes, emotions, under-participation, and disengagement of students in mathematics and science education, I argue for a wellbeing approach that supports students to thrive, which is contextualised to these subjects. This thesis aimed to elucidate value-based student wellbeing experiences specific to mathematics and science education. An exploratory sequential mixed methods approach was employed to uncover diverse students’ values to develop and empirically confirm mathematical (MWB) and science (ScWB) wellbeing frameworks. In total, 13,708 primary and secondary students across three countries (Australia, mainland China, and New Zealand) responded to a survey. Thematic and statistical analyses were undertaken for the qualitative and quantitative components of this survey, respectively. Across diverse age groups, cultures, and countries, findings suggested that the fulfilment of seven core or ‘ultimate’ values fostered students’ MWB: Accomplishments, cognitions, engagement, meaning, perseverance, positive emotions, and relationships. The same seven plus an autonomy ultimate value were associated with students’ ScWB. Despite the similarity of these ultimate values for diverse students, the instrumental values underpinning these ultimate values appeared to be culturally unique. Australian students rated their wellbeing higher in science than in mathematics education. Gender differences in wellbeing were wider in science than mathematics education, with males reporting significantly higher ScWB than females. My research makes subject-specific wellbeing visible. Findings can potentially inform curriculum development, teacher education, and educational policies to support more engaging and meaningful mathematics and science pedagogies.