Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Conceptualising and Measuring Wellbeing Literacy
    Hou, Hanchao ( 2022)
    Abstract This thesis aims to conceptualise and measure wellbeing literacy, an emergent concept regarding the capability of mindful language use about and for wellbeing. Wellbeing literacy has potential value to theory, measurement and practice in fields including wellbeing science, positive education, and public health. However, prior to this thesis, the concept of wellbeing literacy had not been operationalised or measured. A consensus on what wellbeing literacy is and how it is measured is essential for future research and practice using this concept. This thesis is comprised of three studies conceptualising and measuring wellbeing literacy for the first time. Specifically, Study 1 developed a parsimonious measure of wellbeing literacy, and used it to examine the nomological networks and incremental value of wellbeing literacy. Study 2 systematically reviewed the definitions of literacy, which were used to refine the concept of wellbeing literacy in the final study. Study 3 used a Delphi approach to gather experts’ opinions and adjusted the conceptualisation of wellbeing literacy accordingly. The findings from the overall thesis provided some of the first evidence that wellbeing literacy is a distinct construct from wellbeing and illbeing, and it also predicted significant unique variance in these constructs over and above established predictors, such as resilience and emotion regulation. Then an operational framework of wellbeing literacy was proposed based on the systematic review of literacy and refined according to 26 international experts’ feedback. This framework may be useful in developing other measurement tools of wellbeing literacy, including objective measures that do not rely on self-report. This PhD research makes an original contribution to the field of wellbeing science, positive education, and public health by clarifying what wellbeing literacy is and by conducting preliminary examinations of its use as a measurement tool. Future research could use the measure to explore the relationship between wellbeing and other key variables in wellbeing science, positive education, and public health. The operational framework could be applied in developing other measures of wellbeing literacy or education programs for wellbeing literacy.
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    The Beauty of a Complex Future: Redefining Teacher Success and Sustainability in Innovative Learning Environments
    Knock, Anne ( 2022)
    After an extensive career in education, this researcher has witnessed a re-imagining of the school experience for students and teachers, observing a shift from the traditional classroom to the innovative learning environment (ILE). Such socio-spatial contexts herald aspirations for sustained pedagogical innovation. This study explores professional change strategies, focussed on ILEs as teachers’ workplaces where teachers are co-located and work as a team. The theoretical foundation of this thesis is situated in complexity (Heylighen, Cilliers, & Gershenson, 2006). It recognises that navigating change in schools is not predictably causal-linear but likely to be iterative, negotiated, and abductive in nature. The research adopted a qualitative multi-methods approach. Firstly, an exploratory single case pilot project explored teacher practice change in ILEs. Next, a multiple case study focused on three schools with ILEs where teacher teams were perceived to have adapted successfully to a shared learning environment. Finally, a retrospective auto-ethnographic account narrated the researcher’s prior experiences of working with teachers in an innovative school. This study identified factors influencing the success and sustainability of workplace change, as experienced by teachers when they transition to working in ILEs. The findings have implications for teacher-teams and principals.
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    Identifying the nature and sources of L2 Chinese teachers' beliefs about how to motivate secondary school students in Australia: A Q methodology study
    Yuan, Chengwen ( 2022)
    In most Anglophone countries, the lack of motivation of students in the second language (L2) classroom has been recognised as one of the greatest challenges for L2 teachers; however, there have not been many studies addressing L2 teachers’ beliefs about the issue (Lamb, 2019). This study targets teachers who teach Chinese as an L2 for secondary school students in Victoria, Australia. Since Q methodology is a unique method to sort out people’s subjectivity and reveal the underlying complexity that gives rise to subjectivity, Q methodology is employed in this study to investigate the nature and source of L2 Chinese teachers’ beliefs about how to motivate their students. In this study, 25 teachers with diverse backgrounds were recruited as participants, and they were required to complete a Q sort containing 48 statements related to motivational strategies. After Q sorting, each participant also took part in an immediate post-sort interview. The qualitative data obtained from the post-sort interview enriched the descriptions of beliefs drawn from the Q sorts analysis and generated more insights into the sources of beliefs. From the analysis of the Q sorts, four recurring clusters of beliefs are identified, namely, subject-centred, student-centred, effort-promoting and competition-encouraging. All four factors of teachers realise that simply following the structure of any given textbook closely or teaching to the test are not suitable approaches in Australia. However, these teachers demonstrate different opinions on how to highlight students’ efforts, create a fun learning environment and empower students as partners in their learning. Teachers in all four factors are at various developmental stages adapting to contemporary Western pedagogy. No simple cause-and-effect relationship is found between L2 teachers’ beliefs and their native language background. With the data obtained from Q-sorting followed up by post-sort interviews, four clusters of beliefs are shown to have their unique routes of sources. These beliefs emerge from intricate relationships between their L2 learning experience, teacher education experience, teaching experience and their interpretation of the current teaching contexts. The person-in-context view of L2 learning motivation (Ushioda, 2009) and the history-in-person view of L2 investment (Darvin & Norton, 2021) are proved to be equally relevant to the research of L2 teachers’ beliefs. Following the person-in-context view, L2 teachers’ beliefs are closely related to the socio-cultural and socio-educational contexts. Following the history-in-person view, L2 teachers’ prior beliefs, especially those formed in their teacher education programs, are shown to have a greater impact on how they interpret their current teaching contexts. A better understanding of L2 Chinese teachers’ beliefs about how to motivate students can help teachers to better sustain students’ learning motivation. In addition, this research-based understanding of teachers’ beliefs can serve as the basis for L2 teacher educators to develop tailor-made teaching training programs, and professional development programs for teachers in the future.
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    Can you Hear Their Voices? Young Australians Speak of Their Social Aspirations
    Humphries, Anneleis Shahed ( 2022)
    Young people are both the promise and the guarantee of the future. How adults, communities, and institutions engage—or fail to engage—with young people shapes their attitudes and behaviours, and subsequently the character of future society. Yet we rarely ask young people about the kind of future society they want, and their felt capacity to reify that future. To understand young people's aspirations and how capable they feel to help their community, I undertook a series of workshops with young Australians aged 12 to 15. Participants demonstrated deep thinking about matters of social justice and well-being in relation to both close and distant others. The unique contribution to knowledge of this thesis is twofold. First, the findings highlight a correlation between the way students conceptualised equality, and social relations, the length of their participation in the research, and how capable they felt in reifying the social transformation they envisaged. Participants who saw the possibility of mutualism and cooperation, and engaged across multiple days, also expressed greater confidence in their capacity to be a positive influence in their communities; those who saw their world as characterised by selfishness, competition and individualism, and who participated in culture circles for only one day felt capable of influencing only themselves. Second, these findings would not have been possible without the unique conceptual frame drawn upon. Three theories provided insight into the relationship between participants' conception of the world and their conceptions of themselves. This theoretical framework, along with the findings, offers further evidence of the intimate connection between individuals and the world. Ideologies, hope, agency, and purpose contribute to young people's beliefs about the future and themselves. Futures literature considers how people imagine their future selves, with most reflecting positive personal futures and disintegrating social futures. Literature on community engagement, on the other hand, explores the various ways young people are contributing to their communities, and the potential outcomes of this engagement. Ongoing, systematic community engagement by young people, particularly in early adolescence, seems to be effective in building their individual capabilities at the same time they contribute to the wider community. The theoretical framework draws from three traditions. The first is equality as a quintessential aspect of social justice that supports our understanding of differences between individuals and groups, including systems of oppression which perpetuate existing inequalities. The second theory posits that a person's understanding of the world, informed by their interpretive frames, shapes their attitudes and behaviours. Finally, theories of critical pedagogy show how education can nurture more desirable ways of engaging with the world. Using Freirean culture circles as my research praxis, 81 students from three New South Wales (NSW) high schools were engaged in a series of workshops and surveys. The semi-structured workshops explored their ideals for their personal, local, national, and global futures, examining how students saw themselves contributing to its reification. Two key themes emerged: equality and social relations. In their discussions of equality, gender, race, sexuality, and income were matters of concern. Despite equality being a major theme, some students unknowingly exhibited attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate inequalities. In their discussions of social relations, they spoke about the relationship between individuals and groups. Their assumptions about people and society as either innately conflictual or mutualistic appeared to limit, shape, or create opportunities for themselves and their society. Following discussion about their ideal futures, students revealed their felt capabilities to reify these futures. Students shared the lines of action they felt able to follow, including engaging in social discourse, engaging with and building networks, educating themselves and others, creating a supportive environment, and practising virtues. Those who attended across multiple days expressed much stronger felt capabilities than those who attended for only one day. The findings highlight the importance of adolescents critically engaging in dialogue and meaningful social action. Considering adolescence only from age 15 onwards, as some do, may limit possibilities for social action initiatives, as well as the potential development of opportunities in young people. Younger adolescents also think about the world beyond themselves in meaningful and moral ways. Opportunities should be made available to these younger adolescents to nurture their burgeoning capabilities.
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    Drama as a Pedagogic Tool for Developing Academic Language Proficiency in the Middle Primary School
    Cleeve Gerkens, Rafaela Lara ( 2022)
    This thesis explores the use of drama as a powerful pedagogic tool for developing primary students’ academic language proficiency in Years Three and Four. By middle primary school, students require a growing bank of academic language to support their interpretation and creation of increasingly complex, discipline-specific texts. In addition, their teachers need a toolkit of evidence-based strategies to support students’ academic language development. Drama is one such tool. Through creating authentic fictional contexts, drama enables students to try out experiences, personas, and registers beyond those that are characteristic of a classroom. Currently, drama as a targeted language development tool is underused by primary teachers. Classroom-based research is needed to examine how drama-rich literacy interventions can develop student academic language and the conditions under which the use of drama-rich pedagogy in this space is most effective. This study examines how embodied, role-based and social/interactive drama experiences can provide supportive contexts for academic language development and recommends the planning and teaching considerations that make them most effective. A collective interventionist case study was undertaken in three Melbourne primary schools to examine how Year Three and Four teachers can use drama-rich pedagogy to support students’ academic language development. The researcher worked with three participant teachers to design three drama-rich literacy interventions. Key findings from the study show that embodied drama experiences can create a contextualised, concrete bridge between students’ initial encounters with abstract academic language and their eventual take-up and ownership of it. The role-based drama experiences created an authentic context for a shift towards an academic register in conversations between teacher and student on the topics being studied, prompting students to speak as experts and teachers to speak to experts, necessitating academic language use. These embodied and role-based drama experiences interacted effectively to provide substantive, concrete experiences on which students could reflect through an expert lens. Findings show that social/interactive drama experiences created space for dialogue and cognitive apprenticeship and, especially when employed in conjunction with role-based conventions and techniques, facilitated a functional approach to language use as students were motivated to mobilise academic language to communicate clearly and precisely. Other key findings contributing to knowledge in the field provide pedagogic recommendations to maximise the effectiveness of the supportive contexts for academic language development created by these drama experiences. These recommendations cover the use of academic language-rich pretexts as catalysts for the drama, supporting student and teacher confidence and competence with drama conventions and the need for explicit teaching of target academic language in the context of the drama conventions.
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    Factors Related to Teacher Turnover from Schools and the Profession: A Systematic Review, Meta-analysis, and Survey
    Gundlach, Hugh Andrew Dawborn ( 2022)
    High teacher turnover from schools is a problem in many countries, with consequences including adverse impact on student learning and wastage of school resources. Many studies have investigated various antecedents of turnover in isolation; however, few comparative assessments of the antecedents have ever been conducted. This thesis quantifies the relative significance of individual and contextual antecedents of the retention or turnover of teachers from their schools and the profession. First, a systematic review of the teacher turnover literature identifies antecedents of turnover and retention of teachers in schools and the profession. Second, a meta-analysis of the quantitative studies calculates which are the most powerfully associated antecedents with turnover and retention behaviors and intentions. Third, an empirical survey targeting current and former teachers in Australia generates further evidence for the significance of certain antecedents and seeks to explain why teachers’ career behaviors do not always match their intentions. Thematic analyses of the qualitative data help provide a comprehensive understanding of teachers’ experiences when deciding on whether to stay or to leave schools and teaching; the antecedents affecting their decision; and the strategies and support required for enabling them to stay and flourish. These three studies work together towards the broader goals of classifying and clarifying prior teacher turnover studies; comparing and calculating the strength of previously studied antecedents; and exploring the extent to which such antecedents are reflected in a sample of a contemporary Australian sample of teachers and ex-teachers.
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    Positive behaviour support (PBS) in Australian disability services: Social network perspectives on policy and people
    Hayward, Brent Anthony ( 2022)
    The advent of Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has increased the profile of positive behaviour support (PBS). This increase is not matched with a coherent understanding of what PBS is, nor are methods for its effective promotion to, and adoption by, workforces and systems understood. International scholars interested in PBS have recommended that research turn its attention to systems and focus on the environmental context more than the individual person with disability. These recommendations are taken up in the aim of this research which is to explore who and what is influencing PBS in Australian disability services. This thesis with publication explores how policy and persons influence the understanding and adoption of PBS through the application of methods from network science. Eight studies were undertaken using policy documents from online sources and participants recruited using reputational snowball sampling. Analyses were conducted using network analysis software. The results of the individual studies are presented across four chapters. In Chapter 2, PBS is found to be incoherently defined by state and federal governments. In Chapter 3, political rhetoric is identified in one prominent PBS policy, while non-government policies are underpinned by a set of dominant yet contradictory beliefs. The final study in this chapter finds evidence that PBS policy is influenced by interpersonal relationships. In Chapter 4, a highly clustered network of persons involved in the Australian promotion and use of PBS is identified, revealing two groups of persons important in the effective application of PBS, although these persons do not necessarily have all the required characteristics for these roles. The network shows that communication about PBS is dependent on several factors that are not sufficiently exploited to be effective. The final chapter applies an existing framework for diffusion of innovations to better understand the successful adoption of PBS and presents a new conceptual framework and practice principles for the introduction of PBS into disability services. The results suggest that foundational issues of the definition and scope of PBS in Australian disability services must first be addressed. There is evidence that PBS remains hampered by persons who are poorly networked, risking the communication of inaccurate and non-contemporary information about PBS. This can be addressed with a deliberate approach to the diffusion of PBS using three main strategies: development and implementation of a single, cross-sector national PBS framework, funding for, and establishment of, a lead national agency for PBS, and the provision of technical assistance at the state level. Without such attention, the reputation of PBS is at risk and the NDIS will not deliver meaningful outcomes to people with disability.
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    Development of the Flourishing Classroom System Observation Framework and Rubric
    Allison, Laura Marie ( 2022)
    Mental health issues amongst children and adolescents are harmful and prevalent, with a need for improvements in local, national, and international approaches to mental illness prevention and wellbeing promotion. Schools are optimally placed to not only support the remediation of illbeing in students but also to cultivate their wellbeing. To date however, approaches within many schools to promote wellbeing are primarily content focused, with less focus given to contextual influences. The purpose of this thesis was to explore a context-focused approach to student wellbeing by mapping and characterising observable indicators of a flourishing classroom system. Theoretically, this thesis is grounded in systems informed positive education. As a theoretical starting point, a conceptual model of a flourishing classroom system was developed, with four elements: classroom cohesion, classroom flexibility, classroom communication and classroom wellbeing. This model was developed from the Classroom System Observation Model and the SEARCH Wellbeing Framework. Then, to empirically refine the conceptual model, and inquire about and define the characteristics and observable indicators of a flourishing classroom system, a three round Delphi methodology was employed, with a total of 35 participants included across the rounds. Thematic analysis and categorical analysis were adopted to identify a clear empirical model, along with the characteristics and indicators of a flourishing classroom system through feedback and consensus across participants. Five findings emerged: 1) The importance of contextual flourishing. 2) A conceptual model of a flourishing classroom. 3) Four key elements of a flourishing classroom system (e.g., the teacher). 4) Five dimensions and fifteen sub-dimensions of a flourishing classroom system (e.g., student voice). 5) The development of the Flourishing Classroom System Observation Framework and Rubric. These findings provide key advancements to extant literature on systems informed positive education in classrooms and practically provide a flourishing system roadmap with actionable, observable wellbeing behaviours that can be employed by all in education to remediate student illbeing and promote their wellbeing.
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    Understanding Teacher and Student Talk for Optimising Teaching, Thinking, and Learning
    Specjal, Sophie Kim ( 2022)
    Dialogic interactions and promoting student talk through collaboration within the classroom are well documented as harnessing the power of language to stimulate and extend students’ understanding, thinking, and learning. Nevertheless, many teachers do not regularly implement such collaborative interactions in their classes, preferring a more monological approach to their teaching practice. A quantitative design was used to explore fundamental research questions. Classroom talk was analysed with systematic observation methods and tools including the Visible Classroom (Clinton et al., 2014) for Study 1 and the SOLO Taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 2014), Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom & Anderson, 2001), Teacher-SEDA (T-SEDA), a sub-scheme of SEDA, Cam-UNAM Scheme for Educational Dialogue Analysis (Hennessy et al., 2016) for Study 2A and 2B. This research explored the way that classroom talk impacts teaching and learning for teachers and students. Firstly, the way teachers provide clarity and depth to the students through their talk. The 12 teachers in Study 1 were identified by students from a questionnaire as having “effective discourse.” It was found that these teachers shared specific characteristics (Study 1). These characteristics were then explored in a second study (Study 2A and 2B), designed to explore and analyse the teachers in greater detail, together with the usually “private” student interactions at classroom table groups. The University of Melbourne’s Interaction Laboratory Classroom was used to analyse the teachers’ talk and students’ talk in Study 2A and 2B. The study aims to better understand the development of cognitive complexity and understanding through talk and collaborative interactions. It was found that the teachers in Study 1 provided opportunities for students to engage in collaborative discussions with their peers, demonstrated deep-level connections with regular prompts and cues to guide student thinking, and provided clarity with learning intentions and success criteria that created deeper learning opportunities for discussion and building on ideas. When students had clarity, appropriate design and implementation of collaborative tasks, and the opportunity to build on ideas with their peers, they gained a deeper understanding to construct new understandings with each other. The transcripts and audio recordings from Study 2A and 2B provided a detailed insight into all spoken words within each lesson. The findings illuminate reoccurring elements of both surface and deep-level learning, regardless of the type of lesson being taught. It was found that the way the teachers used their talk, the type of collaborative tasks, and the clarity of the lesson and its structure supported the development of meaning and student talk in each lesson. Cognitive verbs were used as a guide to support students use to talk to move from surface to deeper level understandings within the success criteria. Overall, the findings provided an insight into small collaborative student groups and the type of talk that students and teachers used in lessons that varied in cognitive complexity. The analysis of student and teacher talk demonstrated the patterns of collaborative interactions. The study shared the impact of explicitly outlining surface and deep-level understandings that connect to appropriate tasks and support the development of moving from surface to deep and the transfer of understandings from one concept to another through talk and communicating with one another in the classroom.
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    The academic profession from the perspectives of aspiring academics
    Le, Pham Ai Tam ( 2022)
    Doctoral candidates in Australia who aspire for an academic career, or aspiring academics, are at the interface of change: a changing academic profession on the one hand and a changing doctoral education on the other. This situation raises questions about the motivation and readiness of aspiring academics, many of whom would constitute the future academic workforce. By examining their perspectives, the thesis aims to provide insights into academic training and the attractiveness of the academic profession in Australia. This qualitative study draws on the literature on the sociology of professions, higher education, and disciplinary cultures to explore the academic profession from the perspectives of aspiring academics in terms of activities, values, and career prospects. It also examines disciplinary similarities and differences regarding these aspects. Data were collected through interviews with doctoral candidates from four disciplinary clusters (biomedical engineering, economics and business, history, and physics) at a research-intensive university in Australia. In terms of activities, the thesis shows that aspiring academics share the motivation for intellectual inquiry. However, they differ in terms of how the outcome of intellectual inquiry should be communicated, whether through academic publishing, teaching, or engagement. In terms of values, the thesis reports different value orientations that aspiring academics associated with academic work. Disciplinary and individual elements appear to influence these differences. In terms of career prospects, the thesis demonstrates that aspiring academics’ prospects are entangled in hopes and worries; their career drives are hampered by the element of chance and uncertainty, and propelled towards by a sense of hope and agency. The thesis contributes to knowledge on two fronts. On the conceptual front, it sheds new light on Boyer’s scholarship typology by conceptualising academic work based on how intellectual inquiry is communicated. The thesis argues that this conceptualisation provides a language to speak of and recognise the diversity of academic work. In addition, the academic work value framework proposed in this thesis has the potential to examine academic values, thus contributing to theoretical work in higher education research. On the practical front, the thesis offers insights into future academic training by highlighting the importance and relevance of engagement in academic work. The academic profession emerging from this study is one whose members are interested in engaging and connecting with society through academic work. To harness this intellectual enthusiasm, it is imperative to support aspiring academics with sufficient training for academic work and, more importantly, to provide them with a sustainable academic career path.