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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    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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    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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    Understanding the nature of teachers’ collective efficacy and its relationship with school structures in the context of international schools in Shanghai
    Blatti, Tania ( 2021)
    Contemporary research suggests that Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE) is related to positive student outcomes. The goal of this research was to understand the nature of teachers’ collective efficacy in the context of international schools in Shanghai and specifically its relationship to school structures. An explanatory sequential mixed method design across two linked studies was adopted to explore the key research questions. Study One used a survey and in-depth interviews with 9 expatriate teachers from one school to determine the appropriateness of instruments and the relationship between CTE and school structures. Study Two involved 323 teachers from four international schools. Participants answered an enhanced survey, then interviews were conducted with 13 expatriate teachers. The results indicate that collective efficacy within the international school context is a multidimensional construct involving group operative capabilities. These findings align with Bandura's original intention for the CTE construct and take into account environmental, personal and behavioural factors. Further, the study concludes that utilising this expanded understanding of CTE in international school settings may contribute to increased organisational effectiveness and ultimately benefit the learning lives of students.
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    A sociocultural perspective of risk: An activity theoretical investigation into the influence of risk on teachers’ pedagogical knowledge and practice in a Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) context
    Ohki, Shuichiro ( 2021)
    As a concept, ‘risk’ is widely viewed and understood as something negative for students, which should be overcome, managed, or sometimes avoided to ensure their meaningful participation and success in their schooling. However, this study draws on Vygotskian sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978, 1987) to conceptualise ‘risk’ as something positive and integral for the growth of both teachers and students. Using activity theory and the process of expansive learning (Engestrom & Sannino, 2010) as an analytical framework, this qualitative inquiry investigates risk as a sociocultural construct when applied in the context of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL). In particular, with the focus of teachers’ professional learning and knowledge, this study examines the role of risk on facilitating teachers’ professional growth. In doing so, this study contributes to furthering our understanding of Vygotskian sociocultural theory and CLIL pedagogy. Through the interpretive analysis of two secondary CLIL teachers in Victoria, key findings reveal the two key types of student reactions to learning that indicate their negative affective responses, such as uncertainty, enabling teachers to notice the presence of risk in their CLIL classrooms. The findings also highlight how productive responses to risk is often tied with teachers’ use of appropriate mediation in class and how the resolution of risk is a catalyst for teachers to further their own professional knowledge and practices. The study also found how teachers’ choice of ineffective mediation or limited awareness of the presence of risk in class results in the non-resolution of risk, hindering them from understanding better ways of supporting their students in their specific contexts. This finding points to the importance of developing teachers’ capacity to notice and manage risk productively in their classrooms to ultimately facilitate their own growth as teachers. A key contribution arising from this study is the articulation of the significance of risk for facilitating the growth of CLIL teachers’ professional knowledge and practices. Given the productive nature of risk from a sociocultural perspective, implications from this study suggest ways to embed generative risk into the key conceptual foundation of CLIL pedagogy and CLIL teacher education. This research concludes by providing possibilities for further research, including examining the long-term influences of resolved risk on CLIL teachers’ professional practices, exploring the students’ reactions to risk and its implications, and examining the influence of the sociocultural notion of risk in non-CLIL contexts.
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    An investigation into the relationship between the engagement, creative ability, and classroom culture within secondary schooling.
    Camilleri, David John ( 2021)
    This study examines how creative ability is influenced by students' beliefs about the classroom culture and its relevance to their learning endeavours. Current education provision favours students who perform patterns of actions traditionally associated with academic achievement. This approach disadvantages students who are creative in non-academic domains. Research has neglected the teaching of high ability students who are disengaged with regular classroom cultures that restrict their opportunities to display their creativity. The study used a mixed methods approach to investigate the learning characteristics of disengaged high ability students that predict creative outcomes in various domains. It identified differences between learning characteristics of high ability engaged and disengaged students. The disengaged students felt marginalised and showed learning profiles that were suited to non-academic learning contexts. The findings suggest that classroom engagement and culturally acceptable creative expression requires appropriate perception and exploitation of symbolic and material affordances in the form of culturally acceptable patterns of actions, during socially and materially situated activities, when creating artefacts in their classroom. This implies engagement is a relational concept that represents the transactions and interactions between a student and their teacher, the symbolic and material affordances, and artefacts within a specific classroom or school culture. The study recommends classroom-based assessments teachers can use to identify the patterns of perception and action that lead to engagement and provide opportunities for all students to develop their creativity.