Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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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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    Practices of professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care: Long day care educators at work
    Jackson, Phyllis Joy ( 2021)
    There is an emerging corpus of Australian research, both qualitative and quantitative, inquiring into how early childhood education and care (ECEC) educators experience and understand their work. This qualitative case study traces the lived experience of a group of centre-based long day care educators working in communities experiencing high levels of social and economic disadvantage. Set within the context of the Australian ECEC reform program, the study investigates what constitutes ECEC professionalism and how educators experience and practise it every day. Analysing data drawn from two quality centre-based long day care settings, it was found that educators predominantly frame professionalism in terms of pedagogic practice—what they do, how they use their knowledge and skills and how they enact professional identities they value. Thus, for many of the study’s participants, a commitment to social justice, of wanting to make a difference in the lives of young children and their families and, a belief in quality ECEC services as having the potential to ameliorate the socio-economic inequities many families in their community experience, was the basis on which their practice and professionalism was constructed. Altogether, the argument is made that educators’ understandings of their work practice, value commitments and the qualities and dispositions they privilege offer a nuanced and multifaceted view of professionalism, one that potentially widens the policy-based discourse of ECEC professionalism and requires that acknowledgement be made of the range and complexity of educators’ work in contemporary ECEC. The identity(ies) of relational and ethical professionalism that is both child-centred and family and community-centred most particularly requires recognition and support.
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    The impact of testing on students: Australian students' perspectives on NAPLAN and internal assessments
    Dowley, Mark William ( 2019)
    National and state testing policies have become an increasingly common feature of the policy landscape in education, both in developed and developing countries. Testing policies can generate a range of emotional responses among students, including high levels of stress. Alternatively, students’ emotional responses may not be discretely associated with large-scale standardised tests, but instead generalise to any testing situation. This study aimed to compare student responses and perceptions of assessment in both NAPLAN and internal tests. This study used an anonymous survey to gather data from 206 Year 7 and Year 9 Australian students on their perceptions of the importance their parents and teachers placed on doing well in tests, and their own self-reported responses to both NAPLAN and their internal tests. We found that the students in this study placed more value on internal tests than NAPLAN and students were also more likely to be confident in internal tests and bored for NAPLAN. A small percentage of students reported negative physical responses, such as crying or feeling sick to both types of tests, however, there were no significant differences between NAPLAN and internal tests in the number of students reporting negative physical responses. Furthermore, individuals who placed a high value on a given assessment and have greater emotional stability were more likely to experience positive responses to assessment. The findings suggest that NAPLAN does not cause significant negative responses in the majority of students. Implications for schools and policymakers are discussed.
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    An Examination of the Significance of the Concept of Internalised Racism in the Contemporary Australian Zeitgeist
    Seet, Adam Zhi Qiang ( 2020)
    This study investigates the usefulness of the concept of internalised racism (IR) in understanding issues of racism in contemporary Australian society. It does so via the lived experiences of 1.5 and 2nd generation Australians of East and Southeast Asian descent. The research consisted of multiple semi-structured interviews discussing experiences of racialisation and racism with each of the 17 participants. The study aimed to both utilise the concept of IR to understand the lived-experiences of the participants, and to determine how it could be revised for salience in the contemporary zeitgeist. Through the analysis of participants’ lived experiences, the study demonstrates that the concept of IR, whilst contested within the extant race scholarship, is nevertheless integral to understanding the structural impact of racism within the narratives. As such, in order to retain the concept of IR for contemporary salience, it needed to be revised to account for both psychological and sociological dimensions. Subsequently, the study demonstrated how revising the concept of IR impacts current dominant forms of anti-racist praxis. By acknowledging these limitations, the revised and rearticulated concept of IR was then applied to the narratives again to demonstrate its utility in better understanding contemporary experiences of racism.
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    The heredity of Australian higher education
    Brett, Matthew Charles ( 2020)
    This dissertation defines the heredity of Australian higher education. Consistent with higher education and public policy literature, this heredity is embedded in an integrated higher education and public policy cycle, bridged by legislation. Financing legislation between 1850 and 2020 was examined demonstrating that legislatures have accommodated expansion in participation and research through internationally distinctive frequent incremental change. Discontinuous changes in financing legislation are rare. Insights arising from heredity contribute to the description of a more stable approach to financing legislation.
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    Participation and cultural and linguistic diversity: An in-depth qualitative inquiry of an Australian primary classroom
    Cabiles, Bonita Marie ( 2020)
    Educating for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) learners emerged as a policy ‘problem’ that gained attention from the 1970s to the 1990s through Australian multicultural education discourse, but since then has been marked by policy decline and instability (Harris, 1995; Jakubowicz & Ho, 2014). Researching this anew, this study explored how the problem of participation can be understood in the context of CALD learners. Participation remains an eminent yet ambiguous ‘buzzword’ in the field of education (Black, 2011; Thomas, Whybrow, & Scharber, 2012). This study contributes to the discussion of participation by offering a conceptual framework to understand the practice of participation in the context of CALD learners. In deploying this conceptual framework, this research engages with Bourdieusian conceptual tools: field, capital, and habitus—as heuristic devices to critically explore participation as a social phenomenon occurring in a CALD learning context. This study asks: How is participation understood, practiced, and experienced in the context of a CALD primary classroom? To critically explore the practice of participation in the context of CALD learners, this study undertook an in-depth qualitative inquiry of an Australian primary classroom. The class, referred to as Class 5/6k, was a highly diverse student cohort, culturally and linguistically, located in a major metropolitan city. The study found that many of the teachers’ taken-for-granted assumptions and practices about teaching CALD learners were constraining the students’ participation. This study also found that building social relationships was inherently challenging in a CALD classroom context. In foregrounding the subjective experiences of CALD learners, a key finding of this study has been the diverse and complex interests, needs, and capabilities of a highly diverse student cohort. The primary contribution of this study is the articulation of a conceptual framework for understanding participation in the context of CALD learners. This is referred to as ‘the teaching triad of participation’ consisting of ‘positionality,’ ‘resourcing,’ and ‘sociality’. As illuminated through the empirical research, these constructs in the teaching triad function in a relational and dynamic manner. Thus, the study encourages continued exploration of teaching practices that can work towards empowering increasingly diverse learners in the classroom through a holistic approach that considers the three constructs in the teaching triad. Finally, this study also encourages reflecting on possibilities for future research including further exploration of the affective dimension of participation and an examination of how issues of race and gender intersect with cultural and linguistic diversity.
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    Governing universities for the knowledge society
    Barry, Damian ( 2018)
    Australia’s higher education system, and its public universities, have been subject to significant external and internal challenges and changes over the past half century or more. Changes in the external environment for higher education are seen in the rapid expansion in access (“massification”), the growth and infiltration off information and communications technologies (primarily the creation of the internet) and globalisation, to name a few. At the same time, the concept of national higher education systems has emerged across the western world creating a new aspect to the consideration of higher education. The combination of changes and trends have irreversibly changed the role and operations of universities. A key governance change has been the introduction of the New Public Management (NPM) paradigm that implemented a new approach by governments to the governance, development and delivery of public services (including higher education) and pushing the provision of those services towards a more market-based and networked approach. The external environmental changes have moved higher education from the societal and economic periphery to now being the centre of a workforce, social and economic development engine and a more market-oriented education service provider. During this period, higher education in Australia has completed a regulation and funding transition from being mainly state based, to now being substantially a national government funded, driven and regulated activity. Despite these significant changes the governance arrangements of Australia’s public universities have remained substantially unchanged. It is contended that higher education in Australia has reached a point where the current approaches to governance are no longer fit for purpose. Much of the research on higher education governance has focussed on issues relating to the loss of power and engagement of academe; the impact of the market-oriented approach on academic work; power within universities; values and culture. It has been summarised as the rise of managerialism. However, very little research has addressed the fundamentals of the governance arrangements. The research has assumed the structures remain relatively unchanged and has not questioned their current utility or efficacy. In this Thesis I seek to address that gap in the research. Using a mixed methods approach combining a detailed literature review, conceptual analysis and interviews with Australia’s higher education leaders, I identify the key challenges facing the governance of Australia’s higher education system and public universities, and then develop a set of proposals to transition the current approaches to a more fit for purpose approach.
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    Teacher questioning practices across a sequence of consecutive mathematics lessons: a multiple-case study of junior secondary teachers in Australia and mainland China
    Dong, Lianchun ( 2017)
    Question asking is one of the most common strategies used by teachers in their everyday classroom instructional practice. Over recent decades, many attempts have been made to categorise teacher questions asked during classroom instruction and to report on teachers’ skilful questioning strategies. These categorisations consider the context where the questions are asked, the appropriate use of different types of questions, the learning opportunities created in the sequences of teacher-student interactions and so on. This study was designed to extend our understanding of teachers' questioning practices in classrooms through a fine-grained analysis of mathematics lessons taught by four competent junior secondary teachers from mainland China and Australia. The study demonstrates the importance of examining teaching strategies over a sequence of lessons, the power of the IRF (Initiation-Response-Follow-up) framework as a basic structure for investigating classroom interactions, and the complexity of teaching practices, made evident through the focused investigation of the ubiquitous practice of teacher questioning. Based on the IRF framework, a comprehensive coding system was developed to analyse what kinds of verbal questions were initiated by the teachers to elicit mathematical information and in what ways the teachers made use of students’ verbal contributions in order to facilitate student construction and acquisition of mathematical knowledge. In particular, a distinction was made between Q&A question pairs, IRF (single) sequences, and IRF (multiple) sequences. Classification systems were developed for question types within each interactive category. Within IRF (multiple) sequences, the categories: initiating and follow-up represented a fundamental distinction, each category having its own suite of sub-categories. For each participating teacher, a whole unit of consecutive lessons was examined (from 6 to 10 lessons per unit). Analysis of the data suggested that: (1) Across the professional practice of the four teachers, two each in mainland China and in Australia, similarities and differences in the ways in which teachers employ questioning strategies were observed. The differences regarding questioning strategies across the consecutive lessons include: (i) number/frequency of questions asked in each lesson; (ii) the proportions of questions in IRF (multiple) sequences and the proportions of the questions in Q&A question pairs and IRF (single) sequences; and, (iii) the use of subcategories for initiation questions in each lesson. And the similarities are as follows: (i) the proportion of initiation questions in IRF (multiple) sequences out of all questions in each lesson; and, (ii) the use of subcategories for follow-up questions in each lesson. The essential point suggested by the comparison of similarities and differences regarding teacher questioning practices in this study is that the Chinese teachers and Australian teachers employed questioning strategies with similar forms but with distinctly different functions. (2) Regardless of the geographical location of the classroom, teachers’ questioning strategy choice is made rationally based on such contexts as the nature of instructional tasks and the constraints facing the teachers at the time. Those constraints might involve time limit and overemphasis on procedural fluency caused by the need to prepare students for high-stakes examinations, the demands of catering to students’ individual differences, the need for coherent delivery and explanation of sophisticated mathematics and the need to elicit information about student existing understanding. Unlike the two Chinese teachers who valued the achievement of lesson goals above any other factors, both Australian teachers placed greatest emphasis equally on students’ demands and lesson content. (3) In the case of the use of the three kinds of IRF (multiple) sequences (leading, facilitating/probing, orchestrating), the nature of teacher lesson planning – collaborative and institutionalised in the case of mainland China, and individually done in the case of Australia – affects how teachers make use of questions in class. These local educational contexts pose culturally-situated challenges, even though the teacher questioning strategies that are chosen and performed may reflect rational professional decisions by all four teachers, predicated on similar pedagogical goals. Teachers’ adjustment of their questioning routines in response to competing tensions in their classroom practices provided some of the most interesting features of the research. In addition, this study also suggests that teacher professional development program designers should ensure that novice teachers are given an opportunity to observe the teaching of a sequence of lessons and to observe closely how one expert teacher’s questioning strategies are strategically employed according to the demands of the particular lesson and its place in the topic sequence. Such strategic variation of questioning practice cannot be fully or correctly understood without the examination of the teaching of consecutive lessons.
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    Academic staff and international engagement in Australian higher education
    Proctor, Douglas John ( 2016)
    Australian higher education appears to be in the vanguard of internationalisation worldwide. In line with global changes to higher education, Australian universities have adopted comprehensive international strategies across their teaching, research and outreach agendas. By many measures, this strategic approach to internationalisation has been successful. Given the central role of academic staff within the life of the university, and with international strategies now touching on all aspects of a university’s activity, academic staff are important to the further internationalisation of Australian higher education. Yet little is known about the factors which influence the international engagement of Australian academics (that is, their involvement with the international dimensions of all aspects of their work) and the extent to which they consider international activities an important aspect of their academic work. This study has investigated the engagement of academic staff with the international dimensions of their work. It sought to identify the extent to which different aspects of international engagement have been integrated into contemporary understandings of academic work in Australia, as well as to examine the factors which influence academic staff choices in relation to their international engagement. Based on an Adaptive Theory approach (Layder, 1998), the research took case studies of two universities – a younger progressive university and an older research intensive university – which, between them, are broadly representative of one third of the Australian university sector. Qualitative data were collected through document analysis and in-depth interviews with thirty-seven academic staff drawn from Science and Business disciplines. The study found that the international dimensions of academic work are predominantly centred on research, despite the literature on internationalisation pointing to a more comprehensive focus and despite institutional strategies advocating for a more balanced approach to international engagement. In terms of contributions, the study has conceptualised a typology of international engagement to address the gap identified in the literature in relation to a holistic understanding of the international dimensions of academic work. Further findings are presented in relation to the influence of institutional and disciplinary context, as well as personal and individual factors. Particular to the Australian context is a finding in relation to geographic isolation, which is commonly described as both a driver and barrier to the international engagement of Australian academic staff. This study argues that institutions need to recognise the complex and interweaving nature of the factors which influence academic staff in relation to the international dimensions of their work. This recognition is important if institutions seek to foster greater international involvement amongst their academic community. In addition, institutions could review the role of leadership at the local level in fostering greater international engagement beyond research, as well as reconsider the availability of funding and technology to mitigate the barrier to international engagement of Australia’s distance from other countries.
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    What do 'at risk' boys say about their schooling experiences ? : creating agency for boys' views and feelings about school
    Ward, Michael ( 2008)
    The following discussion outlines the theory and operational methods that inform a general ethnographical study, designed to understand the views and perceptions of three 'at risk' boys relegated to a specialised Victorian state school. The methodology hopes to empower the male students taking part in the study by giving emphasis to the didactic importance of their views, opinions and experiences expressed during a series of interviews in which they participate. It is hoped that the boys will be able to identify areas of education that need improvement, and define real life problems within their own learning experiences, so genuine male learning dilemmas and insights are generated and debated in the research. However, Connell (1989, 1995) characterises boys as `inheritors of an all conquering hegemonic masculinity' and this classic feminist perspective seems to be preventing the evolution of a boys' paradigm in education by diverting attention away from boys' educational issues by asking `which girls' and 'which boys' are specifically disadvantaged. This generic ethnographical study attempts a pro-male research project which holds boy's views, opinions and experiences paramount in the research logic processes, and makes use of key foci descriptors conceptualised in recent government research and programmes to discover how young males experience and dialogue about their schooling lives.