Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Unveiling the Third Teacher in the Early Years: Investigating early childhood teachers’ conceptual understandings of learning environments in International Baccalaureate World Schools
    Zinn, Fiona Clarke ( 2023-04)
    Since the 1960’s, educators in the municipal pre-schools and infant-toddler centres of Reggio Emilia have described the environment as the “third teacher”. This declaration has prompted early childhood educators around the globe to re-consider the role of learning spaces in a quest to understand its pedagogic, cognitive and affective impacts on young children’s learning. Contemporary learning environments research highlights the relationship between teachers’ spatial analysis competencies, the iterative design/construction of learning environments and the resulting impact on learning/experience. Much good work has already been done in this field; however, little empirical research exists to guide early childhood teachers’ conceptual spatial analysis processes, particularly those in International Baccalaureate (IB) World Schools. This study examines data from IB early childhood teachers undertaking a conceptual approach, to interrogate their learning environments, unveiling them as the third teacher. The conceptual framework for this investigation is derived from the IB Primary Years Program (PYP) framework and is based on the seven PYP key concepts: form, function, change, causation, connection, perspective and responsibility. Through collaborative and conceptual analysis of learning environments, this study addresses the following research questions: a) How do IB Early Years Teachers’ understandings of the term environment as the third teacher change through a process of collaborative concept-based analysis? b) How do the seven key concepts of the PYP support educators to unpack and expand their understandings of the structure, function, purpose and impact of their learning environments? c) What are the benefits, limitations and possible applications of using concept-based analysis processes to explore teachers’ co-constructed professional learning about the learning environment? This research draws on an interpretivist approach through a multi-site case study and rhizomatic analysis; it produces contextual descriptions of the educational potential of early childhood learning environments. It examines a sample of four early childhood teams across three IB Schools, that draw upon the educational approach of Reggio Emilia to extend implementation of the PYP. Adopting the PYP concepts as tools for constructivist investigation, participants engaged collaboratively over a five-month period to extend their understandings of the design, assemblage, influence and aesthetic vibrations of their learning environments. Discussions with participants, across three phases of participatory action research (PAR), identified four lenses for data analysis: purpose, structure, function and impact. Findings assert two arguments: advocacy for the creation of professional learning experiences that target the development of spatial competency skills, and validation of the concept as method approach as a suitable and relevant scaffold for learning within the IB education community. This study contributes to the field of early childhood education and learning environment design in three specific ways: to increase understanding of the pedagogical role and educational potential of learning environments in the early years; to heighten educator awareness of the applicability of the PYP curricular concepts in professional learning; and to propose a strategy for constructing and applying informed understandings to iterative learning environment re/design.
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    An exclusive school and an inclusive rule: an Indian elite school's mediations of an equity mandate
    Langmead, Diana ( 2023-06)
    This study investigated the ways in which social justice is understood and enacted at an elite school in India subsequent to the implementation of national legislation intended to increase equity and social reform through education. It focuses on Ripon College, a historically elite, independent school, and Section 12(1)(c) of India’s Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE). This provision requires private schools to allocate 25% of their entry-level enrolment places to disadvantaged children and educate them, fee-free, until they are 14 years old. As an elite school is likely to be profoundly affected by such an equity agenda, a rich research opportunity presented. The research literature revealed considerable debate over the efficacy of the provision and its impact on the education system. But it also showed a scarcity of scholarly work on the reception of this legislation at elite schools. Hence, I embarked on a study of the ways in which Ripon College received and rearticulated this equity provision. The research design incorporated two waves of immersive fieldwork, two years apart, analysis of select historical documents relating to education in India and an archived data set drawn from an earlier study of Ripon during the RTE’s initial years (but which focused on other matters) on which I worked. Insights from the fieldwork, and the provision itself, pointed me toward Jacques Derrida’s conceptualisation of hospitality and Iris Marion Young’s theories of responsibility for social in/justice. Young’s and Derrida’s concepts assisted me in understanding the meaning and minutiae of enactments of in/hospitality at this elite school and in seeing how they manifested in various ways and for various purposes. Overall, I argue there is a stubborn asynchrony between the provision’s social reform agenda and this elite school’s enduring commitment to maintaining injustice. In support of this argument, the study showed: how constructions of equity and social justice strategies in education in India have changed with changing historical times; that Section 12(1)(c) can be understood as a mechanism aimed towards social justice at both individual and structural levels; that Ripon’s patterns of exclusivity are so ingrained in the school’s culture that they effectively obstruct the provision’s social justice aims; that the responsibility to address social in/justice was, repeatedly, overtly and covertly rejected at Ripon College; and that the concepts of hospitality and responsibility, together, offer powerful conceptual resources for investigating elite schooling and equity agendas. This study contributes new insights and perspectives to the fields of both elite schooling, and equity policy studies. In particular,it extends scholarship on elite schools and equity, and on elite schools in the Global South. It offers a close examination of how policy processes are enacted, managed and mediated in a specific schooling context, in interaction with the weight of their historical and contemporary circumstances. Finally, the study provides new analytic resources which can facilitate social justice analyses in these and other fields, and it outlines some implications of its contributions for future research in the sociology of education.
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    An investigation of principals’ views on the factors that influence the place and provision of music in primary schools
    Perry, David John ( 2023-03)
    Though music remains an historically strong part of Australian school life, it is vulnerable to low resourcing and lack of status. Much of the literature specifically references the barriers to achieving a level of music provision that meets the needs of students in each individual school community. Research indicates that the principal is a significant influence on music provision in schools compared to other factors, although this is often overlooked in the literature. While the principal as change agent is well documented in certain music education literature, it is unusual to see their views explored in great depth. To investigate this gap, three primary principals from state schools in Melbourne’s northern suburbs in Victoria, Australia, were recruited for an interview-based study that sought to explore the question: What are the perspectives and ideas that shape principals’ views of music education? The study design used semi-structured interviews following a pre-interview survey and used an interpretivist paradigm due to the study’s emphasis on observation and interpretation. Interview data was categorised by theme, and language use was analysed using Conversational Analysis and Discourse Analysis methods. Critical theory, with its emphasis on social and power structures, was chosen as a theoretical framework. Findings suggested that the constraints on principals in Victorian schools, that had been identified in other, non-music education literature, could impact their capacity for provision of music. Principals are identified as possibly the strongest factor in the level and quality of provision, and as provision has been shown to be inconsistent, it is reasonable to assume that the capacity of individual principals is also inconsistent. While many principals value music and will endeavour to resource it in spite of barriers, it is suggested that the benefits of having music in schools be more broadly communicated to all stakeholders to elevate its status. All participants demonstrated a commitment to prioritising music provision at their school, and a willingness to learn more about its benefits. Furthermore, they also articulated the broader concept of needing to extend the knowledge about music’s benefits at a system and / or principal network level, in order to better support principals’ capacity to ensure music provision.
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    “We need to provide structure, but with open arms": An Exploration of Intent and Practice of Social Learning Design by University Teachers and Learning Designers
    Whitford, Thomas Saffin ( 2023-03)
    The student benefits of social learning in online environments are widely recognised, yet explicit design for social learning is often overlooked during development. This study explored the intent and practice of designing for social learning in online subjects by university teachers and their associated learning designers. The aim was to investigate the relationship between intention and practice to design for social learning. The study also sought to identify factors that influence design participants’ social design practice. For this qualitative study, multiple data collection methods were used to examine four online subjects at a single university in Australia. Semi-structured interviews provided insight into design participants’ perceptions of designing for social learning. Analysis of planning documents and expert review of online subjects allowed comparison between intention and practice. Goodyear’s (2005) framework describing the problem space for educational design was used to guide data analysis. This multi-case analysis suggests three main findings. Firstly, teachers and their associated learning designers have an intentionality to design for social learning, however this is not always implemented in practice in online subjects. Secondly, the influence of the organisational context shaped the design process with institutional pressures identified, which impact efforts to implement social learning designs. Thirdly, the study highlighted the importance of collaboration between teacher and learning designer when designing for social learning. This relationship was influenced by the teacher’s own expectations, experience, and expertise of designing and developing online subjects. Contribution from this study is an enhanced conceptual framework describing the problem space for educational design. This includes greater regard and awareness of the people and technology which impact designing for learning. This study also contributes to the development of a broader typology for social design indicators which were found to be consistently observable. It provides insights on the importance of the learning designer and teacher relationship - to ensure planned and intended activities eventuate through a more positive, collaborative and efficient dynamic. Study findings have significant implications for institutional processes and operational practices that aim to partner teachers with learning designers, and to develop online subjects that meet the intentions of educators in a more collaborative fashion. The resulting outcome of the design process are subjects with potentially greater social outcomes for teachers and students, enriching the learning experience for all.
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    Evolution and resilience of academics in Higher Education ecosystems in Australia
    Ross, Pauline ( 2023-05)
    For several decades, higher education has been facing rapid change and successive challenges. This is in part due to global and Australian economic trends which are also experiencing accelerating change and challenges from social-cultural, technological, geopolitical tensions and aggression, climate and environmental factors and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic. Higher education is seen as key in finding solutions to this diverse array of challenges. First, through creating employable, adaptable, and entrepreneurial graduates who become a key part of the future workforce with the promise to create a more equitable society. Second, through research which produces knowledge to provide the basis for improvements and even solutions to global and Australian challenges. Questions, however, have been raised this century about the extent to which higher education can continue to deliver on the promise of quality outcomes from education and research in the current strained environment and inflexible academic workforce. Many posit for higher education to succeed alternative academic workforce models and changes to the academic role will need to be made. Such alternative workforce models include increased diversity of professional staff to better match activities and differentiation of academic roles which are better fit for purpose in either education or research, the former with an emphasis on teaching and the latter including greater emphasis on academics with entrepreneurial and commercialisation skills. In many higher education institutions, it is now common to have academic roles differentiating into three distinct categories; teaching or education-focused, teaching and research integration (also known as the 40:40:20 traditional academic role) and research focused with education-focused roles growing most rapidly. This growth has not necessarily happened in a systematic and coherent manner. Instead change to academic roles can be seen as largely unplanned local decisions caused by institutional pressures and system wide drivers. Expectations are that these roles will deliver on the promise of educational quality and the student experience and enable higher education to serve communities more ably, but this is not necessarily a given. There are many unknowns about the long-term impact of differentiated academic roles, especially those teaching and education-focused academic roles where disciplinary research has been removed. The theoretical framework of resilience, adaptive capacity and cycles and psychological development and self-determination were powerful heuristics to investigate the responses of academics to these roles. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data collected through analysis and interviews with academics mostly in science, three main findings emerged. First, teaching and education-focused roles have been increasing most rapidly. Second, academics in these roles experienced a range of consequences as a result of moving from disciplinary research to teaching. Third, while all academics undergo adaptive cycles in response to stress, education-focused academics and women were perhaps most vulnerable to stress and loss from the ecosystem, even after their heroic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While theory predicts greater academic role diversity will increase resilience and adaptive capacity, this is not necessarily a given without changes to the higher education ecosystem in Australia in which academics operate.
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    The effects of demographic and dispositional traits on the homework practices of Australian secondary school students and teachers
    Bowd, Justin John ( 2023-01)
    A wide body of research has identified a range of benefits of homework for secondary school students, including improved achievement outcomes, development of metacognitive processes, and enhanced involvement of parents and carers with their children’s learning. However, research has also identified demographic differences in homework practices and has found that demographic variables moderate relationships between homework and achievement. This thesis examines demographic patterns in Australian students’ homework behaviour and affective dispositions towards homework and learning. Interactions between demography, student attitudes and teachers’ homework allocation practices are also examined with the aim of informing equitable and effective homework policies and practices. Study 1 published in the proceedings of the 2016 Australian Association for Research in Education’s (AARE) Annual Conference, explores demographic patterns in the homework practices of Australian secondary school students. It was found that student gender, location, school type, prior grade repetition, language background, and measures of socioeconomic status varied with reported time spent on homework by Australian 15-year-olds surveyed by PISA in 2012. Study 2, published in the Australian Journal of Education in 2021, examines relationships between Australian secondary school teachers’ homework allocation practices and student demography, dispositions, and teacher expectations. The results for Study 2 showed that the demographic profiles of classrooms affected teachers’ homework allocation practices although they were mediated by teachers’ assessments (or expectations) of their students’ capacities and by their students’ assessments of their own levels of competency and motivation. By drawing connections between the work of Bourdieu, and Eccles and Wigfield, homework is situated within a theoretical framework that attempts to account for the relationships between the dispositions and practices of individual and collective educational actors (students, teachers, schools and systems), and the economic, social and cultural environments in which they operate. Given that it was found that measures of individual and aggregated dispositions of students mediated the relationship between demographic factors and the homework practices of students and teachers, interventions and strategies suggested by the expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation have the potential to minimise relationships between demography and homework practices. However, lower levels of homework support, on average, from low socioeconomic status families will require a range of other supports from schools to ensure that the benefits of homework are more equitably distributed.
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    (Dis)engagement in the middle: A genealogy of engagement, school, and Australian young people in contemporary times
    Flenley, Rachel Jane ( 2023-03)
    This thesis is a genealogical study of the influential concept of student engagement. The study aims to understand how engagement has come to hold status as a solution to a range of educational and social problems associated with young people and the middle years (Years 4–10) of schooling in contemporary times (1990–2020). In much of the existing scholarly literature, engagement is used to read, measure, and ameliorate problems associated with young people and schools. In contrast, this thesis makes the role of engagement the object of study. Putting the Foucauldian tool of the dispositif to work and focussing on educational initiatives in Victoria, Australia, the thesis builds a theoretical and empirical analysis of engagement’s form and functions in policy, public, and practitioner spaces. This is achieved through three genealogical investigations into engagement: first, as an organiser of school populations via school (dis)engagement policy; next, as a solution for problematic young people in public discussion; and then, as a driver of pedagogical reform in professional development material aimed at a practitioner audience. The socio-historical contributions pertain to the character of the relationship between engagement, young people, and school. The thesis argues that this relationship has been shaped by a longstanding view of schools and young people as preparatory grounds for instrumentally conceived futures. The study shows how this relationship is inflected by the particularities of the present and the recent past, and registers the ways in which young people and schools are tasked with solving current and anticipated problems, by way of engagement. Conceptually, the thesis contributes a creative and historically precise analysis of engagement as in/commensurable; that is, a concept with recognisably familiar but varying forms, impulses, functions, and uneven effects. Methodologically, the study shows how a genealogical approach—often notoriously elusive as a method—can be operationalised in practical and detailed ways to illuminate what engagement ‘is’, how it ‘works’, and what it ‘does’. Overall, the thesis contributes new insights into the aspirations associated with engagement and new knowledge of how the concept functions to shape and organise young people in current times.
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    Supporting English as an Additional Language student wellbeing in secondary schools: Teacher perspectives and a group psychoeducational program
    Lyu, Mengyu Andy ( 2022)
    Objectives: There is increasing recognition that English as an Additional Language (EAL) students need additional support to thrive in an English-speaking country, particularly when adapting to a new country and developing English language skills. Yet, the understanding of their acculturative needs is limited. Further, no targeted interventions for their psychological adaptation or wellbeing are available in secondary school contexts. The present study aimed to address this gap in knowledge and practice. Methods: Mixed methods were used. In Phase 1, semi-structured interviews were conducted with three EAL teachers. In Phase 2, the adapted Coping with Study Abroad (CSA) program was piloted with 25 EAL students in an Australian secondary school. The effectiveness of the program was evaluated using a repeated-measures design (n = 20) and a qualitative feedback survey (n = 6). Results: EAL students experienced pervasive stresses in various aspects of school life, including learning (e.g., language barriers to participating in class activities) and wellbeing (e.g., negative emotions due to difficulty communicating in English). While the adapted CSA program provided an opportunity for EAL students to connect with each other, no significant changes were found between the pre- and post-intervention scores in proactive coping behaviours, psychological wellbeing, and negative stereotype about help-seeker. Conclusions: There are strengths and limitations in the current school practice and the adapted program for EAL students. To effectively support EAL students in secondary school, wellbeing support and English language skills development should work in synergy, with each enhancing the other.
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    The Australian Lexicon: Insights into the Nature of the Professional Vocabulary Employed by Australian Middle School Mathematics Teachers
    Mesiti, Carmelina ( 2023-04)
    Teachers acquire a professional vocabulary related to the instructional orchestration of activities that enhance student understanding. The English-language professional lexicon available to teaching communities in Australia has been contrasted less favourably with pedagogical naming systems in other countries. This absence of a documented, well-articulated grammar of practice has implications for the preparation of the teaching profession. Notwithstanding, teachers do talk about their practice and this thesis reports the documentation and analysis of the professional language in current use by teachers of mathematics in Australia (the Australian Lexicon) and its comparison with lexicons from other countries. The Australian Lexicon, consisting of sixty-one terms operationalised with descriptions and classroom examples, represents the professional vocabulary employed by Australian middle school mathematics teachers to describe classroom phenomena. A negotiative methodology, informed by ethnographic research, was employed to identify, develop, refine, and validate the lexicon as one reasonable representation of the vocabulary used by mathematics teachers to describe the events, actions, and interactions of the classroom. It was found that the terms of the Australian Lexicon are characterised by their ‘generic nature’. The terms are mostly expressed as gerunds and participles; name general pedagogical practices; identify more classroom activities involving teacher actions than student actions; and, almost all terms, are highly familiar to teachers. In comparison with other national teacher lexicons the Australian Lexicon has generally fewer mathematical terms. However, most of the mathematical terms in lexicons from other countries are familiar to Australian mathematics teachers. Akin to a cultural artefact of the community of Australian middle school mathematics teachers, this Australian Lexicon, now documented, may prove useful as a resource for teachers, teacher educators and policy makers. It could support the provision of learning opportunities for novices and the promotion of reflective practice amongst teachers. Such experiences and discussions should inform efforts to better equip contemporary mathematics teachers with an increasingly sophisticated lexicon to shape their professional practice.
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    Fostering students’ dialogic imagination: the potential of CLIL to promote cosmopolitan learning
    Fompudie, Celine Elizabeth ( 2023-02)
    In the context of global connections, there has been a widespread recognition of the potential of language learning to promote intercultural skills. However, current language teaching practices seem to promote a fixed notion of culture by focussing on teaching cultural achievements and celebrations. In order to recognise the complexity of cultural practices engendered by globalisation, this thesis argues that the teaching of intercultural skills in language education might be best conceived within a cosmopolitan paradigm. This thesis adopts a view of cosmopolitanism as a cultural attitude towards others based on our dialogic imagination. What makes a cosmopolitan attitude possible is our imagination, our capacity to explore and incorporate other ways of living and thinking. The thesis develops a view of cosmopolitan learning as a teaching approach aimed at fostering students’ dialogic imagination by providing them with the necessary conditions to develop a cosmopolitan attitude. The thesis articulates the idea that to be cosmopolitan, learning needs to be dialogic, transformative and ethical. To explore how intercultural competence and understanding might be better developed from a cosmopolitan lens, this study examines the potential of the Content and Language Integrated Leaning (CLIL) approach to foster students’ dialogic imagination. CLIL emerged in transnational Europe in the mid-1990s as an innovative approach to language learning whose key principle is to teach content in an additional language. A case study of a year 9 class studying history in French was conducted and data was generated from classroom discourse and students’ interviews. Findings shows that by creating transnational and translingual spaces, CLIL promotes an interactive learning space where students critically engage and dialogue with a multiplicity of voices, suggesting that the CLIL approach has the potential to promote cosmopolitan ideals. Furthermore, the study demonstrates that adopting a cosmopolitan lens to the teaching of intercultural understanding and competence allows us to articulate a dynamic view of culture that recognises the cultural complexity brought about by globalisation.