Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Space to act: Conceptual framework analysis of student agency within innovative learning environments
    Donaldson, Nicholas James ( 2021)
    The substantial societal shifts of the 21st century have supported the development and implementation of innovative learning environments (ILEs) and the endorsement of student agency within the field of education. There exists, however, a resonant gap in knowledge regarding the presence and properties of this learner quality within these teaching and learning spaces. This thesis addresses this gap by encapsulating the nature of student agency within ILEs through the qualitative methodological approach of conceptual framework analysis (Jabareen, 2009). Though limited by its theoretical focus and exploration of secondary data, the resultant framework offers a complex conceptualisation of the phenomenon of student agency within ILEs; its psychological antecedents, the environmental features that may support it, its characteristic actions, and its potential constructive contributions. Beyond establishing a foundational platform for future research, these findings also provide educators with the valuable knowledge and tools that allow them to more effectively understand, identify, and nurture this lauded learner quality within modern educational spaces.
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    Select Entry Accelerated Learning programs: Three case studies in regional Victorian secondary schools of low socio-economic status
    McLellan, Megan Elizabeth ( 2021)
    This study investigates Select Entry Accelerated Learning (SEAL) programs in Victorian Government secondary schools. This study’s warrant lies in the relative absence of sociological analysis of SEAL programs in the academic literature. Through a case study methodology, three regional secondary schools of socioeconomic disadvantage are examined. The perspectives of the schools’ principals are foregrounded. It also provides an overview of the grey literature on the history of SEAL programs. The work of Nancy Fraser is employed to analyse SEAL programs, and principals’ views, from a social justice perspective. My analysis makes the following arguments. First, that SEAL programs function differently in each school. Second, SEAL programs in regional schools tend to have a student-centric view of justice. Third, SEAL programs certainly attend to disadvantages, but, in some ways, can also reproduce them. Fourth, the principals’ perceptions of SEAL were context specific. Finally, principals adopt those elements of social entrepreneurialism that are specific to their educational context. They employ strategies to resource their disadvantaged schools in regional settings. I call this this socio-educational entrepreneurialism. The duality of Frasers three-tiered theory –redistribution/maldistribution, recognition/misrecognition, and representation/misrepresentation — helps to reveal the tensions the SEAL programs create within their respective schools and broader community. Overall, this investigation elucidates the complexities that SEAL programs present in schools and community settings and the ways they can pluralistically offset and contribute to injustice.
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    An investigation of the implementation of a problem-solving intervention in two primary classrooms
    Stewart, Elizabeth Jane ( 2020)
    Problem-solving in mathematics is an important component of curricula around the world and it has been identified as essential that students develop this capacity in order to achieve success in mathematics. Studies have found that more teachers need to teach their students strategies to problem-solve in mathematics. The aim of this case study was to investigate the implementation of a problem-solving intervention by two primary school teachers over two lessons each. It focussed on their perceptions of the effectiveness of the intervention and how it might improve their teaching of problem-solving in mathematics in the future. It also focussed on how they implemented the intervention and how their students responded to the intervention. The problem-solving intervention was designed based on features identified in problem-solving literature and in discussion with the two teachers. Particular features that were incorporated into the intervention included: enabling and extending prompts; the provision of periods of time in which students were left to ‘struggle’ with trying to solve the problems themselves; and the provision of periods in which students shared problem-solving strategies with peers. The teachers were interviewed separately before and after teaching the lessons. The researcher observed all four lessons and collected student work samples from each lesson. Data was analysed using a content analysis strategy. The results suggest that the two teachers perceived that the intervention had both positive and negative impacts on their students’ problem-solving abilities. They found that the enabling prompts supported and extended their students’ thinking in the lessons and commented that their students enjoyed being challenged in the lessons. The two teachers perceived that it was often not beneficial for some of their students to struggle with problems in the lessons due to perceived resilience and confidence issues. Both teachers deviated from the intervention in the lessons in order to reduce the amount of struggle their students experienced. However, where students were given time to struggle in the lessons, they were able to formulate and record a greater range of problem-solving strategies. There appeared to be a tension for the teachers between providing time for their students to struggle with problems and preserving some of their students’ confidence. One of the teachers facilitated student share time in the middle of one of her lessons which allowed students to experience both struggle and success. This approach could serve as a compromise between these two tensions. The two teachers perceived that the intervention had a positive impact on their teaching practice. One teacher commented that she intended to implement problem-solving lessons based on the intervention in the future and the other suggested that she would incorporate more manipulatives in her problem-solving lessons.
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    Pre-service education of the Australian Visual Communication Design teacher: Perceptions and practices of teacher educators
    Rickards, Emmalie Kate ( 2019)
    Each year in the Australian state of Victoria, approximately 12,000 senior secondary school students enrol in the subject of Visual Communication Design, its curriculum unique to Victorian schools and liberating design from its popular pairings with Visual Arts or Technology studies. However, as a learning area offered under the umbrella of The Arts, Visual Communication Design is predominantly delivered by Visual Arts specialists, who may or may not have been exposed to understandings of design in their previous studies or teacher training. In fact, only one Victorian tertiary institution specifically prepares teachers of Visual Communication Design, with all others embedding design pedagogical training alongside Visual Arts in pre-service teacher education programs. Of interest then, is the nature and extent of Victorian design teacher training when merged with art teacher education, and most significantly, the role of the teacher educator in shaping conceptions of best practice design pedagogy. This thesis, therefore, investigates how teacher educators’ perceptions of design, design pedagogy and the subject of Visual Communication Design have shaped Visual Arts and Design teacher education programs, and the extent to which teacher candidates are prepared for the enactment of Visual Communication Design curriculum. As a qualitative, cross-case analysis, it examines the lived experiences and personal ideologies of three teacher educators working in Victorian institutions, their insights gathered during hour-long semi-structured interviews, and illuminating the teacher educator’s significant influence on the nature of pre-service design teacher training. Despite sharing an appreciation for design as a distinct formal language, each of the teacher educators interviewed for this study reject the notion of explicitly cultivating design pedagogical content knowledge amongst teacher candidates, choosing instead to facilitate student-led inquiry into perceived areas of need, and nurture general teaching attributes of benefit across Arts domains. Their stories also reveal multifarious understandings of design and Visual Communication Design curriculum, problematic assumptions of subject content knowledge pre-existing amongst student cohorts, and a tendency to downplay rather than deconstruct art and design’s distinct methodologies. In response, I argue that limited exposure to design pedagogical content knowledge in Visual Arts and Design teacher education compromises teacher candidates’ capacity to evolve ‘classroom ready’ understandings of Visual Communication Design pedagogy and curriculum. I also call for recognition in teacher education of art and design’s discrete methodologies, for debate about both their fusion and division in secondary education, and for teacher educators to model informed notions of design and design pedagogy whilst building a culture of practice for future teachers of Visual Communication Design. This study draws from ideas of effective design instruction in higher education, cognitive apprenticeship theory, Shulman’s concepts of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) and signature pedagogies, Dewey’s laboratory model of teacher training and Schon’s theory of reflective practice. The adoption of complexity theory as its framework acknowledges not only the dynamic conditions that govern how and what teacher educators teach, but also the complexity characterising design’s exchange with art both in and beyond Victorian teacher education.
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    Understanding the conditions to support the on-the-job learning of teachers: A case study of a P-12 school
    Cilia, Beth Louise ( 2020)
    This study investigates the important concept of informal, on-the-job learning of teachers in a P-12 school in the Australian state of Victoria. Literature that examines how teachers learn within their school environments typically focuses on either Primary or Secondary schools. However, in recent times there has been an escalation in the prevalence of a new type of school, the P-12 model, which combines these sectors. Therefore, this thesis confronts how the P-12 school environment facilitates the professional learning of its teachers so that we can better understand the relationship between environment and learner. Whilst informal learning is understood to be a significant aspect of teacher learning, the dedicated research pool on this topic can be described as “limited”. Therefore, the focus of this study will not be on structured external Professional Development courses or formal examples of educational programs. Instead this study highlights how the everyday informal incidental learning of the practitioner is encased within a school environment embedded in its contextual conditions. This is done through an ethnographic case study which uses online survey, face-to-face interviews and observation fieldnotes. All data have been collected and analysed by a researcher-practitioner working within the college environment. This allows for a strong connection between researcher and context and as the environment in question is highly significant the methodology allows for a deeper connection. The data extracted is used to understand the interaction between environment and professional learner as the learning that takes place. Specifically, this study interprets and understands the case through an ethnographic lens using the concept of “Five Rs”: routines, rules, rituals, roles and relationships. From this, it can be determined how routines, rules and rituals support the teacher learners who portray roles and build relationships. This frame encompasses the institution within its own complex social network allowing for a multilayered picture of teacher learners as they build, maintain and regulate their own professional knowledge and skills.
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    An Examination of Indigenous Australians who are Flourishing
    O'Leary, Charles Brian ( 2020)
    In response to the high levels of disadvantage that is experienced by Indigenous Australians, consecutive Australian governments continue to pursue an approach that primarily focuses on Indigenous Australian disadvantage - which is commonly pursued in isolation of their strengths and the solutions they may hold to improve their own lives. Given the limited research into the strengths of Indigenous Australians, this thesis sought to contribute to research about Indigenous Australian strengths. Two primary research questions were explored to understand how Indigenous Australians employed in a tertiary education institution were flourishing in their lives. The first question was: What characteristics, beliefs and behaviours are used by a group of Indigenous Australians that enable them to function effectively and live with purpose? The second question was: To what extent does the practice of the participants’ Indigenous Australian culture enhance their wellbeing? The sample group comprised of 11 participants. To be selected for this study, the participants had to identify as an Indigenous Australian, be employed by an Australian tertiary institution and have experienced high levels of wellbeing in periods throughout their lives. This thesis drew on an interpretive phenomenological methodological framework that is informed by contemporary research in positive psychology and Indigenous Standpoint Theory. Three major findings arose from this study. First, participants have a shared understanding of how Indigenous Australian wellbeing is conceptualised. Second, participants access an inventory of known Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian personal characteristics, subsequent beliefs and behaviours that enable them to function and be effective in their lives. Lastly, the practice of Indigenous Australian culture is central to the health and wellbeing of many of the participants.
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    Simple rules for place-based approaches addressing disadvantage
    Fry, Rebecca Elizabeth ( 2019)
    The nature of many social, economic and environmental problems facing Australia and the world are increasingly described as ‘wicked’ or complex in that they are difficult to grasp, unclear how to tackle and often seem insurmountable. Disadvantage is one such problem; there is disagreement about how to define it, it has innumerable and tangled causes, and it refuses to go away. Despite many and varied efforts to address disadvantage in Australia’s most vulnerable communities, the size and significance of the issue has barely shifted during the past 15 years or so (Vinson & Rawsthorne, 2015). Disadvantage can profoundly affect individuals, families, communities and society, and is unacceptable in a country with such sustained economic prosperity as Australia. There is a need to find more effective ways to overcome disadvantage and address this injustice. Place-based approaches are broadly understood to be collaborative, flexible and multi-faceted responses employed within a particular ‘place’ or geographic location to tackle wide-ranging complex issues. They exist in many different forms and show promise as a response to disadvantage and other complex problems. However, the abundance of place-based frameworks, theories and terminology has created a lack of clarity about the core pieces of evidence and central characteristics of place-based approaches for practice, policy and research. This thesis sought to leverage from the diversity of place-based approaches and explore evidence associated with the different forms. The study aimed to distil the key characteristics of promising place-based approaches and generate actionable and evidence-informed guidelines or ‘simple rules’ that can guide the design, development and evaluation of place- based approaches addressing disadvantage in Australia. The study’s literature review found wide-ranging definitions, conceptual frameworks and terminology associated with place-based approaches. The study also identified several points of convergence, including characteristics commonly associated with promising place-based approaches. The results indicate four central and interconnected practices underpin a promising place-based design: collaboration—relate, connect and collaborate across sectors; community engagement—engage and empower community; holistic thinking—think and act holistically; and adaptation—take an adaptive and responsive approach. The study generated a set of evidence-informed simple rules to support the implementation of each of these practices. While the study’s results should be interpreted with caution, this research reiterates the overwhelming need for a consensus framework for place-based approaches that helps to accelerate and advance actionable knowledge.
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    William Grant Broughton and Anglican Schools in Colonial New South Wales: 1829-1880
    McLennan, Lucas Daniel ( 2019)
    In this thesis it will be demonstrated that the first Anglican bishop in Australia, William Grant Broughton, developed and maintained a distinctive system of Anglican parochial schools. These schools were successful in providing an education that differed to the other schools in operation in colonial New South Wales at that time in that they that were exclusively Anglican in religious outlook. Broughton’s time in Australia (1829-1853) was a period when liberal ideas about education and the relationship between religion and the state came to the fore. Broughton will be shown to be a defender of the old order these areas. The old order consisted of a single established church that was alone responsible for educating the young. It will be argued that he resisted these new liberal ideas while at the same time developing a distinct set of schools that promoted his Anglican and conservative vision. After his death, the schools lived on for three decades but were unable to survive the arrival of free and secular public education. The thesis explores an aspect of Australian educational history that has not been thoroughly researched. Much work has been done on the conflict of religion and secularism in the history of Australian education, but there has been little attention on what was distinctive about denominational schools in colonial Australia. Additionally, the extent to which they succeeded in providing an education that was different to what was proposed by those in favour of secular and non-denominational systems of education has not been thoroughly explored. This thesis fills this gap by seeking to understand Broughton’s ideas on education (through study of his speeches) and by examining the materials and methods in Anglican schools of the period. In order to understand the demise of the schools in question, a range of publications from the decades after Broughton’s death have been drawn upon to ascertain why the schools did not prove to be an enduring feature of the Australian educational landscape.
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    Describing teacher and school engagement with a professional learning intervention: A mixed-methods study
    Shingles, Beth Louise ( 2019)
    The use of school-based randomised controlled trials (RCTs) testing the effectiveness of learning/educational interventions has increased significantly over the last ten years. It is well recognised that implementation and process evaluations (IPE) alongside RCTs play a crucial complementary role by enhancing contextual understanding of trial outcomes and capturing educator experiences otherwise absent from RCT results. This explanatory sequential mixed-methods study describes how teachers and schools in the Classroom Promotion of Oral Language (CPOL) RCT engaged with a two-year professional learning (PL) intervention. Drawing on Berkel and colleagues’ (2011) integrated theoretical model of program implementation, teacher and school engagement was investigated and described using measures of participant responsiveness previously shown to be associated with positive program outcomes. These included attendance at face-to-face PL days, utilisation of opportunities for active participation including follow-up support and the online component, completion of between-unit-activities and program satisfaction. Mixed-methods findings demonstrated great variability in engagement with each intervention component. Leadership co-participation was found to significantly facilitate teacher engagement with all intervention components, and conversely a major barrier when absent. Additionally, teachers from schools that were participating in multiple projects/interventions at once found it difficult to give CPOL the time and effort required for sustained engagement. The use of multiple measures and time points showed that despite satisfaction increasing over time, participants found continued engagement into the second year challenging without strong leadership support.
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    Toward a land-based curriculum: An Australian Indigenous discourse analysis
    Cubillo, Joshua ( 2019)
    Since its conception, Australia’s national education curriculum has heeded little progress toward embedding Indigenous cultures and experiences as an essential foundation of learning for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and educators. Historically, Australia’s education curriculum and its associated policy writers continue to promote biases of low expectations by primarily locating Indigenous students within a deficit framework. This thesis shares the findings of a research project focused on understanding how Indigenous cultures and perspectives are embedded in curriculum. The use of critical discourse analysis to explore historical and current curriculum literature reveals that the use and positionality of language have privileged ‘settler thought’ which marginalises and silences the perceived other (i.e. Indigenous). The research also examines Australian and Alaska approaches, using a critical discourse analysis to highlight the way in which Native Alaskan people are practicing their educational sovereignty. This examination includes understanding the way the Alaskan context has strengthened the quality of Native Alaskan education and the Indigenous content being taught in schools by embedding a Culturally responsive standards framework. In Australia, the accountability and quality of teaching Indigenous knowledges relies on teacher’s discretion of using the cross-curricula priorities. The findings of this research are presented within a sovereignty lens relating to article 14 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP, 2008) which calls for local Indigenous control of education and pedagogy. Additionally, Foucault’s power/knowledge theory has been used to demonstrate how ‘settler colonial mandates’ remain a core tenet of Australia’s education system which promotes biases of low expectations by primarily locating Indigenous students within a deficit framework.