Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Supporting Teacher Practice in Early Childhood Science Education
    Guarrella, Cristina Maria Rosa ( 2022)
    References to the inclusion of science education in early childhood education are emerging in federal, state, and territory policy agendas. Although policy documents emphasise the importance of young children learning process skills typically associated with science, existing mandated frameworks do not explicitly refer to science. This has led to teachers seeking professional learning to better equip them to embed science within an informal curriculum. In response, the Northern Territory (NT) Government commissioned the development of the NT Preschool Science Games. The rollout of the resource in preschools across the NT provided the opportunity to conduct this intervention study. This research aimed to understand how to support teacher practice in early childhood science, with a specific focus on classroom quality, assessment, and playful learning during the implementation of the NT Preschool Science Games. Drawing on bioecological theory, a policy review of early childhood and science teaching learning policy documents is used to establish the broader context in which early childhood science is taught in Australia. A process skills approach to science teaching and learning is articulated, aligned with the emphasis on process skills identified in policy documents. Thereafter, a pilot study and intervention study are presented. The pilot study trialled two new instruments, the SciDoc and Early Childhood Science Padlet, along with a teacher questionnaire. These instruments were then refined and applied in the intervention study. Classroom observations were conducted to measure the quality of classroom interactions that contribute to child learning. Semistructured interviews identified teachers’ assessment practices, and the influences on these practices, during the implementation of the NT Preschool Science Games. Based on the findings, this research recommends the following supports for teacher practice in early childhood science education: 1. inclusion of science content alongside science process skills in the Early Years Learning Framework and all guiding documents; 2. professional learning to equip teachers to facilitate playful science learning; 3. learning progressions of science process skills; 4. implementation of the Assessment for Playful Learning model. Ultimately, when teachers are clear about what science learning is possible within playful experiences, they are better equipped to observe and assess children demonstrating what they know. This can inform authentic scaffolding and contingent planning for playful science teaching and learning.
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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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    Marketing in Private Vocational Schools in Indonesia
    Setiawan, Ruben Sebastian ( 2022)
    There is a general lack of research into marketing and market orientation in schools, especially regarding Indonesian schools. Private vocational schools in Indonesia provide an important employment focussed pathway for students in the upper secondary years. It is a very competitive environment for student enrolment, yet little is known about how these schools market themselves. This study aimed to examine how and to what extent private vocational schools in Indonesia had implemented the principles and practices of marketing (marketing management) and adopted a market orientation (market philosophy). Three private vocational schools were chosen from one geographical area in Indonesia. Forming separate case studies, between six to ten participants representing the school management and teachers were individually interviewed in each school. Using a semi-structured interview schedule, questions were asked about attitudes, understanding, and the role of marketing in the organisation. In addition, school documents were analysed, and observation of the school was conducted to help inform the case studies. Document collection included policy manuals, promotional material, marketing plans, reports, market research, and perceived school offerings. Observation focussed on the tangible evidence of marketing associated with such aspects as style, image and brand. The findings of this study revealed the extent to which three schools responded to the changing environment by utilising marketing principles and practices and the degree to which they adopted market orientation. The study showed that marketing and market orientation were underdeveloped in the three schools and that the schools had been slow to accept marketing as a management strategy in response to changes in the environment. The attitude of the school principal was shown to be critical in determining the adoption of marketing. Importantly, there was evidence of a positive association between market orientation and school performance. Although the study is limited in scope, the findings have applicability beyond Indonesian private vocational schools and provide insights that all schools may benefit from. The study supports previous research that is suggestive of a link between market orientation and school success, with several suggestions for future research indicated.
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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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    Culturally responsive practice in Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports: a critical analysis of the Cultural Responsiveness Field Guide
    Delany, Timothy Vianney ( 2022)
    Cultural responsiveness is a consideration when implementing a whole school change framework such as Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports (PBIS). This thesis examines guidance for improving culturally responsive practice in Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports (PBIS) settings. The study mobilises critical policy analysis and Decolonising Race Theory (DRT) to analyse the PBIS Cultural Responsiveness Field Guide: Resources for Trainers and Coaches (CRFG) and discusses the possibilities and consequences of the CRFG for educators working with Indigenous students in Australian schools. The research questions guiding this study examine how culturally responsive the CFRG is for Indigenous students in Australian schools and how the tenets of DRT, which present theoretical and practical opportunities for decolonising practice in education, interact with the CRFG. PBIS is a whole school learning and engagement approach that originated in the US and is now implemented in schools and systems around the world, including in other settler colonial states such as Australia. The CRFG is part of a broader PBIS practice advice ensemble and the authors are based in the US, where much of the understanding of cultural responsiveness grows from work seeking justice for African American people and the legacies of slavery. This study analyses the relevance of the advice in the CRFG for educators who are working with Indigenous students in settings that inherit and uphold structural racisms endemic to colonisation. Overall, this study has commenced a conversation about the possible intended and unintended effects of the PBIS CRFG in settler colonial contexts, particularly Australia. Despite clear and well-intentioned attempts to address the problem of cultural inequities in schools through the CRFG, critical analysis using DRT highlighted some silences and erasures within the PBIS cultural responsiveness advice and noted the tendency towards othering, binary thinking, and maintenance of the cultural status quo. However, this study also showed how DRT offers rich opportunities for unsettling settler colonial hegemonies in PBIS and in education more broadly. Further engagement with the tenets of DRT in education would be a strong step towards addressing racial justice and working towards decolonising schools.
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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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    Exploring Music Teachers’ Experiences and Perceptions of Professional Learning
    Arney, Susan Elizabeth ( 2022)
    Professional learning plays an essential role in promoting student engagement and learning outcomes by actively engaging teachers in extending, strengthening, and updating their professional knowledge and practice during the course of their career. Whilst a significant body of research has examined the effectiveness and impact of professional learning on teaching practices, very little research has considered the specific needs of music teachers. This phenomenological study used a mixed methods approach to explore the experiences of music teachers in classroom, instrumental, and ensemble positions in Victorian primary and secondary schools. Research was carried out using an online Scoping Survey (297 respondents) and a deeper investigation of emerging themes through a second online Main Survey with 50 volunteer participants. Data were analysed around the themes of (1) engagement with professional learning, (2) motivation for choices of professional learning, and (3) perceptions of the elements of effective professional learning for music teachers. The findings highlight the challenges for school-based music teachers in accessing professional learning that enhances their practice and in interpreting whole-school professional learning to their contexts. The findings were evaluated against existing literature and research into the characteristics of effective professional learning, and new knowledge emerged suggesting opportunities to strengthen professional learning tailored to the needs of music teachers. The study proposes a set of seven principles for professional learning in music education to inform school leaders, professional associations, and professional learning providers.