Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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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.
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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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    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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    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.