Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Teachers’ valuing of power distance and their perceptions of interdisciplinary collaboration in a STEM setting
    Yang, Yunying ( 2022)
    Teacher interdisciplinary collaboration (IC) is becoming increasingly important in school-based STEM projects. Understanding the significance of teachers’ power distance value (PDV) when they communicate and collaborate to develop new STEM lesson plans is a major focus of this study. During IC, teachers must build relationships not only with peers in diverse disciplines, but also with those in different positions of power. The ways in which teachers interpret the power disparity that exists within partnerships have received scant attention despite its importance to research on collaboration and teamwork, however. This study was carried out using a concurrent mixed-methods approach (Bell, 2016), which included a questionnaire survey study with a large sample of primary and secondary school teachers (N = 523), as well as a multiple case study with a team of different subject teachers (N = 7) at one upper secondary school, in China. The quantitative study found that teachers with relative low PDV (n = 281) had a perception that the outcomes of their IC were significantly more integrated than their counterparts, that is, teachers with relatively high PDV (n = 242). The finding suggests that teachers with low and high PDV (relatively) have divergent perceptions on whether or not the knowledge exchange amongst teachers improves the outcomes of integrating STEM subjects. The qualitative study delved deeper into how teachers understand power and power disparity in the context of China’s high power distance culture. The results show that teachers with relative high PDV had a preference for a hierarchical, distant working network, while teachers with relative low PDV had a preference for an interactive, joint working network. Future research and practice are needed to improve teachers’ understanding of IC that is sensitive to variations in PDV held by individuals so they can have a more productive experience when working together to achieve STEM integration.
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    Young children's transmediated semiosis with artworks in residence
    Wren, Julie ( 2022)
    This study investigated how six four-year-old children made meaning when engaged with adult- created paintings and sculptures (static, moving and sound-producing) created by nine professional artists. These prime-source artworks were chosen for their potential to resonate with the children’s predilections, as determined by their teachers and parents. The artworks were installed in five ‘residencies’ in the children’s classroom for a duration of one week each, across two preschool terms. The artists, located in the Perth regions of Western Australia, shared a context reflected in the artwork’s themes and artistic qualities, and which resonated with the children’s social-cultural experiences. Studies in art galleries/museums have shown the effectiveness of hands-on approaches to learning in which children were actively involved in thinking for themselves and constructing their own ideas (Piscitelli & Penfold, 2015). Hence, children were immersed in unique aesthetic experiences through ongoing, repeated viewings, and interpretations of the artworks. Qualitative case study methodology (Stake, 2010; Yin, 2018) was used to document children’s semiosis – how multimodal meaning was made across sign systems. Children generated and expanded meaning cyclically through multimodal representations and communications (Kress, 2010). Meaning-making was socially mediated and transmediated between children’s oral, visual and embodied modes while engaged with the artworks (Suhor, 1984). This study provided an opportunity for a unique collaboration between the teachers, parents (at home) and the researcher, where observations of the children’s activities provided different perspectives that were regularly discussed, probed, verified and documented. Children’s play- based activities in response to the artworks was captured through digital video recordings and researcher field notes, and children’s drawings, paintings and 3-D creations were photographed. Video and photography were transcribed, and data were reduced through indexing, summarising, and coded using QSR NVivo 12, from which themes emerged. The findings revealed the children’s repertoire of sign-making proclivities and encounters were multisensory activities of noticing and forming individual connections with the artworks. Opportunities to view the artworks repeatedly involved perezhivaniya–experiencing of an imagined, but nevertheless emotive struggle for meaning (Vygotsky, 1925/1971). Perezhivaniya were resolved through socially mediated activities such as the zone of proximal development - where the more expert children/adults supplemented and scaffolded other children, and where all individuals were involved in transmediation activities, often through play. The study highlighted the significance of focusing on children’s semiosis, transmediation and social mediation activities in learning and development.
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    How Can We Teach/Learn Emotion Words and Complex Abstract Meanings? – A Relational A/r/tographic Conversation In-between Images and Words
    SAJADI, NEDASADAT ( 2022)
    This a/r/tographic doctoral research is a pedagogical, cultural, methodological, and theoretical dialogue between a written exegesis and an a/r/t exhibition. Together, this 50/50 dynamic responds to this research, serving as a contiguous outcome. As an Iranian a/r/tographer I invite the viewer/reader to follow and engage with multimodal discussions by moving in-between the two inter-connected spaces of words and visuals. In this rhizomatic research, I explore the dynamics in-between images and words in communicating the complexities of meaning that are affected by our experiences and, in turn, continuously affect our understandings. I ask, How and to what extent can a/r/tography as a living inquiry contribute to the learning of complex abstract concepts such as emotion words and inter-personal/cultural meanings? Through entangled artmaking/writing, this a/r/tographic inquiry calls attention to uncertainty, process, and knowledge in the making. It introduces Persian miniatures as culturally specific artworks to stimulate learning with the unfamiliar. The entanglement within this arts-based educational research, addresses the overlooked or less discussed gaps which often result from commonly practiced, linear, established, or result-focused systems. Therefore, it offers a chance to interrupt the expected and negotiate meanings through affect. The thesis forms two parts: a written exegesis and creative component. The creative component comprises narrative colour-pencil/B&W illustrations on paper, acrylic painted/collaged paper mache sculptures, prints, and images on foam boards and acetate sheets. The creative outcomes of the research were presented and captured through a physical exhibition held at The University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education, prior to completion, on 1 April 2022. This completion exhibition provided a space of reflection which led to the curation of a final virtual a/r/t exhibition. To create a living and accessible collection/exhibition, all creative works have been photographed, scanned (JPG files), or processed as 3D models and assigned an individual digital object identifier (DOI). These artworks are stored in an online open access repository, called Figshare, and within the Pedestal 3D digital data management platform. As a collective, these digitised artworks were housed and then recorded to an immersive virtual space inside Mozilla Hubs which constitutes the a/r/t exhibition contributing to 50 percent of this doctoral research.
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    Victoria's change-model to TAFE: Building a framework for tertiary education
    Riordan, Martin Gerard ( 2021)
    This thesis presents the findings of research into institutional change and how structural re-modelling of TAFEs in Victoria may be assessed as fit-for-purpose for institutions operating in tertiary education. Technical and Further Education (‘TAFE’) in Australia developed a distinctive identity during the twentieth century as a college network established by state and territory governments to deliver technical qualified training in skills that were identified as economically important to productivity. Yet institutional arrangements were not static: vocational education that was identified by the Commonwealth and implemented under states and territories, branded as TAFE colleges, grew to dominate Australia's cities and regions for skills training. Irrespective, subsequent Commonwealth policy directed a fundamentally different market-based micro-economic industry-led reform architecture. This involved the reorientation of vocational education in Australia to be funded and regulated under the auspice of micro-economic reform national policy, influenced with support from business lobby organisations managing the impact of industry restructuring with re-training and its costs, and meeting skill needs in a digitised economy. This institutional change triggered incremental transformation across Australia's complex federalism and shared institutional structures, and ultimately impacted TAFEs as state organisations. In the case of Victoria, which was promoted as the centre for national manufacturing, a challenge was not only the institutional implementation of required industry restructuring which had prospered for industry under formerly pre-competition policy protectionist regulation, but management of TAFE organisations under its control. The thesis is focused on empirical case studies which analyses three Victorian TAFEs that registered for higher education provision during these years; tracing the original legislative purpose for TAFE Institutes to better support wider community participation in higher level skills, how these arrangements transpired and their transparency, and the issue of sustainability. The methodology is examined under the lens of intra-organisational empirical case studies, referenced by conversations with organisational actors. The interviews were conducted with past and current TAFE senior executives whose job was to navigate through what became a dramatic period of change covering the decade 2009 to 2019, which heralded the change-over from years of fixed TAFE funding arrangements to open-market competitive vocational education funding. The thesis applies gradual change theoretical modelling to these TAFE Institutes, adopting an empirical research method that records the insights and reflections of that leadership through this change. This intra-organisational analysis seeks to explore the challenges of organisational leaders through changing institutional dynamics, and the extent (or otherwise) of strategic change modelling, while also reviewing outcomes including suitability of TAFE governance. The research question is to explore if, or to what extent, does the conceptual framework of gradual institutional change assist to explain (and model) the policy changes at the Victorian TAFEs during this change environment. The thesis contends this may be a viable framework that may enable predictive modelling of change for TVET institutions, as public and private sector organisations manage their sustainability in a broader competitive tertiary education sector.
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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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    Exploring Chinese international student conceptualisation and language use about wellbeing
    Huang, Lanxi ( 2022)
    A significant number of students at the higher education level study abroad for part or all their program. International students face various challenges in their studies, from academic structures that are different from their home country and language barriers to psychological and sociocultural issues. These challenges increase the risk for high levels of distress and physical and mental illness. Support for mental health and wellbeing is becoming a significant concern, with existing supports criticised for often being inadequate or inaccessible. As students’ academic performance and overall overseas experience are highly correlated with their mental health and wellbeing, it is important to identify strategies to better support international student mental health and wellbeing. This begins with the need to better understand how international students perceive, experience, and communicate about and for wellbeing. This thesis focuses on one international student population: Chinese students in Australia. Chinese international students constitute about one-third of all international students in Australia and face both language difficulties and cultural-based stigma towards seeking mental health and wellbeing support. The project includes three studies that explored lay conceptualisations of wellbeing and identified students’ language use about and for wellbeing, how students experience wellbeing, and their perspectives and preferences of activities that maintain and improve wellbeing for themselves and others. A modified prototype analysis approach was applied, which involved an online survey and semi-structured interviews. In the online survey, 123 participants created a list of wellbeing components, rated the listed wellbeing components and indicators, and wrote both high and low wellbeing narratives. Participants also freely reported activities that strengthen their wellbeing. To provide additional depth and understanding, a subset of 30 students was interviewed about their perceptions, language use, and experiences of wellbeing. Study 1 demonstrated that Chinese international students’ conceptualisations of wellbeing are prototypically structured, including several central and peripheral components, such as security, positive relationships, and self-strength. In Study 2, fifty-four meaningful words and phrases were identified that students used to communicate about and for wellbeing, including hobbies, passion, and family. Participants viewed physical illness, mental illness, and negative perspective/emotions as indicative of low wellbeing. Notably, perceptions varied when students wrote or spoke in English versus Chinese. In Study 3, participants indicated that a sense of competence, feeling supported and connected, and low levels of pressure contribute to their wellbeing, and that intrapersonal activities, like personal growth and development, were their primary approach to strengthening wellbeing. Through prototype analysis, thematic analysis, phenomenographic analysis, and language analysis, this dissertation comprehensively explores Chinese international student wellbeing conceptualisations, wellbeing language, and wellbeing experiences. In particular, the findings broaden the conceptualisations of wellbeing for the lay population of Chinese international students, offer a snapshot of the words/phrases used around wellbeing, identify the experiences and pathways that strengthen their wellbeing, and provide new data of population wellbeing through a holistic lens.
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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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    The Experience of School Participation for Professional Women
    Henriksen, Joanne Lisa ( 2022)
    A significant body of contemporary education research and policy literature conveys connection between forms of parent participation and educational outcomes for children. Yet, the experience of professional women of participation in their child’s schooling remains relatively under-researched. This study focusses specifically on the nature of these women’s experiences, the factors that influence them to participate and schools’ treatment of professional women with regard to the contributions they might make. Attending to experience, the study used phenomenology to guide the investigation. The principal purpose of the study was to illuminate the lived experience of a group of professional women as participants in their child’s school. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with a group of professional women with school-aged children. Moustakas’ (1994) approach to phenomenological reduction and van Manen’s (1997) existential lifeworlds framework were used to guide the data analysis and determine the nature of the experience. The following themes emerged from the participants' stories: the experience of limited participation; the values of school participation; tensions around advocacy, expertise and power, the gendering of participation, and the perceived incompatibility of roles - the good mother and the good professional. Professional women sit at the nexus of competing demands and ideologies around motherhood alongside ideologies rooted in being a professional. The study found that the gendered nature of participatory practices marginalises the role that professional women can play in schools. These women also have knowledge and skills that could greatly benefit schools, however schools are not currently utilising this knowledge. In understanding what professional women with school-aged children experience, schools, teachers and policy makers may be better equipped to enhance the experience of participation and the value it could add to schools. Furthermore, they may become more fully aware of the ethico-politicial issues that attach to parent participation.
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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.