Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Fit for purpose: the extent to which perceptions of effective curriculum leadership align with the AITSL Lead Standards
    Lamont, Caitlin Victoria ( 2022)
    The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership is responsible for professional standards for teachers in Australia. This study examined the Lead level Standards to ascertain possible alignment with practices of middle curriculum leaders in secondary schools in Melbourne, Australia. Ten middle curriculum leaders with various curriculum responsibilities were interviewed from across six Catholic and independent school settings in Melbourne, Australia. Curriculum leadership practices were found to align closely to Standard 2; ‘Know the content and how to teach it’, Standard 3; ‘Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning’, and Standard 6; ‘Engage in professional learning’, as these Standards broadly detail curriculum development activities. Practices discussed by participants which did not align closely with the Standards were collaboration and management of staff, suggesting that there are gaps within Standards. Gaps between practice and the Standards are apparent as leadership actions are not addressed specifically, but rather the Standards aim to describe actions that promote quality teaching. As middle leaders can simultaneously be understood as teachers and as leaders, this gap demonstrates that the Lead Standards are not completely fit for purpose. The middle leadership work was shown to be context sensitive and context responsive, with significant possibility to impact on student learning.
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    Reading their stories: Year Four students describe and reflect on learning to read
    Sear, Rachael Louise ( 2022)
    Reading engagement is a growing area of research as the connection to reading achievement is explored and documented (Cullinan, 2000; Guthrie, 2008). This qualitative research explores reading engagement in a primary school setting by using case study and narrative inquiry methodology to connect theoretical research with the lived experience of six Year Four students. Using data collected through individual interviews and a reading attitude survey, six individual narratives trace the students' memories of learning to read from preschool to their current classroom. These narratives offer some insights into the diversity of student experiences of learning to read and how experiences can shape reading engagement.
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    Abraham Isaac (Alf) Salkin (1923-2005): An Investigation of his Contributions and Legacy in the Fields of Botany, Conservation and Environmental Education
    Price, Garry George ( 2022)
    This historical narrative explores Alf Salkin's salient contributions to the fields of botany, conservation and environmental education from the 1960s until his death in 2005. The thesis is not intended to be a chronology of events nor a biography of Alf Salkin, but rather an historical narrative focusing on Salkin's endeavours and the global, local and personal circumstances that might have influenced his activities. Alf Salkin contributed to botany through his academic articles and through his writings for a wider non-specialist audience, particularly with his focus on Banksias. He participated extensively in the Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP) and he established the Special Collections Area at Cranbourne Gardens. He was extremely generous with his sharing of botanical knowledge and materials and he inspired many people to further grow and research Australian plants. Salkin's contributions to conservation included initiating a program of student planting of Australian plants at Mount Waverley High School, establishing the 'Friends of Valley Reserve' in Mount Waverley and playing a leading role in the development of the concept of the importance of plant provenance in regeneration projects. Salkin based his teaching on the theories of learning that emphasised the need to align learning with real-life social and physical settings and he subscribed passionately to the viewpoint that art is an important element of environmental education. Consequently, he acquainted his students with the works and lifestyles of some relevant Australian artists in his attempts to create greater environmental awareness among the student cohort. Furthermore, he attempted to increase environmental awareness in his art students by discussing the distribution and variation of Banksias and by having students make leaf prints of various Banksia species. He contributed to environmental education outside formal education settings by increasing popular knowledge of Banksias through SGAP publications and through articles on the history of their European discovery and naming. This thesis contributes to knowledge through an analysis of Alf Salkin's accomplishments. It has the potential to be influential with regard to botany, conservation and environmental education by demonstrating what can be achieved by a modest individual imbued with passion, commitment and generosity.
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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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    Investigating First and Second Language English Teachers’ Attitudes to ‘Grammar’ and ‘Grammar Teaching’ in Secondary Schools Using Q-methodology
    Victor, James Lewis ( 2022)
    Abstract: This thesis investigates first and second language English teachers’ attitudes to ‘grammar’ and ‘grammar teaching’ in secondary schools using Q-methodology. It aims to investigate these key questions: a) What attitudes to ‘grammar’ and ‘grammar teaching’ do subject English and EAL/D teachers hold? b) What factors shape these attitudes? They raise other interesting and important lines of enquiry, beginning with what teachers understand by the terms ‘grammar’ and ‘grammar teaching’, terms that have been defined in different ways and which evoke a range of attitudes. This study is significant in that it provides a unique and contemporary snapshot of teachers’ attitudes to grammar and grammar teaching. Other significant questions include the effect various discourses about ‘grammar’ have on teacher attitudes, the extent to which teachers value grammatical content in the curriculum, their views about their own level of grammar knowledge and their attitudes to various pedagogical approaches to its teaching. In addition, there is the question of beliefs teachers hold about claims of the utility (or otherwise) of grammatical knowledge as a set of tools to improve students writing and text analysis skills. This study involved 25 English and EAL teacher participants. Online data collection was conducted remotely with Q software and questionnaires. From the q-sorts, factors were extracted and rotated, and attitudes represented by six emerging factors were identified, representing distinctive teacher viewpoints towards grammar teaching. These factors were named, characterised and analysed in relation to the research questions. Despite the contested nature of the field of grammar, the findings were significant in that most participants conveyed positive attitudes to grammar and to its teaching. The data also supported the theme of teachers viewing grammar as an important resource and a useful tool for teaching students how to be better writers and text analysers, and viewed grammar as worthy of its place in the curriculum. Other implications of this systematic examination of teacher attitudes to grammar and grammar teaching are considered and will be of interest and of value to stakeholders such as pre-service and in-service teachers, curriculum writers and professional development providers.
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    An analysis of evaluative reasoning in education program evaluations conducted in Australia between 2014 – 2019
    Meldrum, Kathryn Janet ( 2022)
    The Australian government spends millions of dollars every year on grants that support new and innovative programs in the education sector. For example, in the 2020- 2021 Australian budget, financial support for interventions in the primary and secondary school sectors equalled more than $72.9 million dollars. Usually, and in order to account for spending the money, granting bodies ask for an evaluation of the intervention. One of the key activities of evaluation is to determine the value, merit or worth of a program. This is achieved by reaching an evaluative conclusion/judgement about the educational intervention that is credible, valid, and defensible to stakeholders. The defensibility of an evaluative conclusion/judgement relies partly on legitimate and justified arguments. In evaluation, legitimate arguments are made using the logic of evaluation. Justified arguments are made using evaluative reasoning. However, the reasoning process underpinning the logic is doubly important because readers need to be convinced of the credibility, validity, and defensibility of the evaluative conclusion/judgement. This study investigated the presence of a legitimate and justified evaluative conclusion/judgement in publicly available education evaluations conducted in Australia between 2014-2019. Using the systematic quantitative analysis method and new integrated logic of evaluation and evaluative reasoning conceptual framework, this study found that only four of the 26 evaluations analysed provided a legitimate and justified evaluative conclusion/ judgement about program value. The remaining 22 ‘evaluations’ were categorised as research because while they provided descriptive facts about the intervention, they did not ascribe value to it. The findings highlight the need for more credible, valid, and defensible evaluations of educational programs, achieved in part by using evaluative reasoning, as they provide an evidence-base for decision-making and for ensuring that quality education is available to all members of society.
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    Space to act: Conceptual framework analysis of student agency within innovative learning environments
    Donaldson, Nicholas James ( 2021)
    The substantial societal shifts of the 21st century have supported the development and implementation of innovative learning environments (ILEs) and the endorsement of student agency within the field of education. There exists, however, a resonant gap in knowledge regarding the presence and properties of this learner quality within these teaching and learning spaces. This thesis addresses this gap by encapsulating the nature of student agency within ILEs through the qualitative methodological approach of conceptual framework analysis (Jabareen, 2009). Though limited by its theoretical focus and exploration of secondary data, the resultant framework offers a complex conceptualisation of the phenomenon of student agency within ILEs; its psychological antecedents, the environmental features that may support it, its characteristic actions, and its potential constructive contributions. Beyond establishing a foundational platform for future research, these findings also provide educators with the valuable knowledge and tools that allow them to more effectively understand, identify, and nurture this lauded learner quality within modern educational spaces.
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    Select Entry Accelerated Learning programs: Three case studies in regional Victorian secondary schools of low socio-economic status
    McLellan, Megan Elizabeth ( 2021)
    This study investigates Select Entry Accelerated Learning (SEAL) programs in Victorian Government secondary schools. This study’s warrant lies in the relative absence of sociological analysis of SEAL programs in the academic literature. Through a case study methodology, three regional secondary schools of socioeconomic disadvantage are examined. The perspectives of the schools’ principals are foregrounded. It also provides an overview of the grey literature on the history of SEAL programs. The work of Nancy Fraser is employed to analyse SEAL programs, and principals’ views, from a social justice perspective. My analysis makes the following arguments. First, that SEAL programs function differently in each school. Second, SEAL programs in regional schools tend to have a student-centric view of justice. Third, SEAL programs certainly attend to disadvantages, but, in some ways, can also reproduce them. Fourth, the principals’ perceptions of SEAL were context specific. Finally, principals adopt those elements of social entrepreneurialism that are specific to their educational context. They employ strategies to resource their disadvantaged schools in regional settings. I call this this socio-educational entrepreneurialism. The duality of Frasers three-tiered theory –redistribution/maldistribution, recognition/misrecognition, and representation/misrepresentation — helps to reveal the tensions the SEAL programs create within their respective schools and broader community. Overall, this investigation elucidates the complexities that SEAL programs present in schools and community settings and the ways they can pluralistically offset and contribute to injustice.
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    An investigation of the implementation of a problem-solving intervention in two primary classrooms
    Stewart, Elizabeth Jane ( 2020)
    Problem-solving in mathematics is an important component of curricula around the world and it has been identified as essential that students develop this capacity in order to achieve success in mathematics. Studies have found that more teachers need to teach their students strategies to problem-solve in mathematics. The aim of this case study was to investigate the implementation of a problem-solving intervention by two primary school teachers over two lessons each. It focussed on their perceptions of the effectiveness of the intervention and how it might improve their teaching of problem-solving in mathematics in the future. It also focussed on how they implemented the intervention and how their students responded to the intervention. The problem-solving intervention was designed based on features identified in problem-solving literature and in discussion with the two teachers. Particular features that were incorporated into the intervention included: enabling and extending prompts; the provision of periods of time in which students were left to ‘struggle’ with trying to solve the problems themselves; and the provision of periods in which students shared problem-solving strategies with peers. The teachers were interviewed separately before and after teaching the lessons. The researcher observed all four lessons and collected student work samples from each lesson. Data was analysed using a content analysis strategy. The results suggest that the two teachers perceived that the intervention had both positive and negative impacts on their students’ problem-solving abilities. They found that the enabling prompts supported and extended their students’ thinking in the lessons and commented that their students enjoyed being challenged in the lessons. The two teachers perceived that it was often not beneficial for some of their students to struggle with problems in the lessons due to perceived resilience and confidence issues. Both teachers deviated from the intervention in the lessons in order to reduce the amount of struggle their students experienced. However, where students were given time to struggle in the lessons, they were able to formulate and record a greater range of problem-solving strategies. There appeared to be a tension for the teachers between providing time for their students to struggle with problems and preserving some of their students’ confidence. One of the teachers facilitated student share time in the middle of one of her lessons which allowed students to experience both struggle and success. This approach could serve as a compromise between these two tensions. The two teachers perceived that the intervention had a positive impact on their teaching practice. One teacher commented that she intended to implement problem-solving lessons based on the intervention in the future and the other suggested that she would incorporate more manipulatives in her problem-solving lessons.
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    Pre-service education of the Australian Visual Communication Design teacher: Perceptions and practices of teacher educators
    Rickards, Emmalie Kate ( 2019)
    Each year in the Australian state of Victoria, approximately 12,000 senior secondary school students enrol in the subject of Visual Communication Design, its curriculum unique to Victorian schools and liberating design from its popular pairings with Visual Arts or Technology studies. However, as a learning area offered under the umbrella of The Arts, Visual Communication Design is predominantly delivered by Visual Arts specialists, who may or may not have been exposed to understandings of design in their previous studies or teacher training. In fact, only one Victorian tertiary institution specifically prepares teachers of Visual Communication Design, with all others embedding design pedagogical training alongside Visual Arts in pre-service teacher education programs. Of interest then, is the nature and extent of Victorian design teacher training when merged with art teacher education, and most significantly, the role of the teacher educator in shaping conceptions of best practice design pedagogy. This thesis, therefore, investigates how teacher educators’ perceptions of design, design pedagogy and the subject of Visual Communication Design have shaped Visual Arts and Design teacher education programs, and the extent to which teacher candidates are prepared for the enactment of Visual Communication Design curriculum. As a qualitative, cross-case analysis, it examines the lived experiences and personal ideologies of three teacher educators working in Victorian institutions, their insights gathered during hour-long semi-structured interviews, and illuminating the teacher educator’s significant influence on the nature of pre-service design teacher training. Despite sharing an appreciation for design as a distinct formal language, each of the teacher educators interviewed for this study reject the notion of explicitly cultivating design pedagogical content knowledge amongst teacher candidates, choosing instead to facilitate student-led inquiry into perceived areas of need, and nurture general teaching attributes of benefit across Arts domains. Their stories also reveal multifarious understandings of design and Visual Communication Design curriculum, problematic assumptions of subject content knowledge pre-existing amongst student cohorts, and a tendency to downplay rather than deconstruct art and design’s distinct methodologies. In response, I argue that limited exposure to design pedagogical content knowledge in Visual Arts and Design teacher education compromises teacher candidates’ capacity to evolve ‘classroom ready’ understandings of Visual Communication Design pedagogy and curriculum. I also call for recognition in teacher education of art and design’s discrete methodologies, for debate about both their fusion and division in secondary education, and for teacher educators to model informed notions of design and design pedagogy whilst building a culture of practice for future teachers of Visual Communication Design. This study draws from ideas of effective design instruction in higher education, cognitive apprenticeship theory, Shulman’s concepts of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) and signature pedagogies, Dewey’s laboratory model of teacher training and Schon’s theory of reflective practice. The adoption of complexity theory as its framework acknowledges not only the dynamic conditions that govern how and what teacher educators teach, but also the complexity characterising design’s exchange with art both in and beyond Victorian teacher education.