Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Exploring perceptions of quality TVET teachers in Laos through the lens of the capability approach
    Saephan, Sanva ( 2023-10)
    Improving the quality of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) teachers in Laos has been a national priority for more than a decade. Policy documents from the Ministry of Education and Sports in Laos have identified the poor quality of TVET teachers as a major challenge to the development of a quality TVET education sector (GoL, 2007, 2016e, 2021b). This, in turn, affects national socio-economic development. However, the way quality TVET teachers are conceptualised in policy documents from the Ministry of Education and Sports is narrow, focusing solely on the capacity of individual TVET teachers. The external conditions that shape teaching practice are disregarded. To broaden the understanding of quality TVET teachers in Laos, this study adopts the capability approach as a conceptual framework to both examine the intersection between individual and contextual factors and capture the voice of TVET teachers and policymakers. It uses a mixed-method approach to analyse the elements of quality TVET teachers valued by TVET teachers and policymakers. It also examines the opportunities and constraints that impact the teachers’ capacity to implement and develop what they value in teaching. The findings reveal that both TVET teachers and policymakers value the following five elements of quality TVET teachers in Laos: (1) Assessment Competencies; (2) Pedagogical Competencies; (3) Occupational Competencies; (4) Professionalism; and (5) Personality Traits. The study uncovers multiple systemic challenges that impact the quality of TVET teachers in Laos. These challenges include nepotism, ambiguous rules and regulations, limited capacities of TVET teachers and insufficient resources, particularly in terms of funding. These obstacles impede the ability of TVET teachers to excel in their roles. Due to the challenges and limited opportunities they face, TVET teachers turn to informal peer-to-peer learning as a means of creating opportunities for themselves. Moreover, they exploit ambiguities in the rules and regulations to manipulate them for personal gain, often to the detriment of their colleagues. The findings of the study shed light on the intricate relationship between social structures and individuals. This study makes three significant contributions. Firstly, it contributes to our knowledge of what constitutes quality TVET teachers by considering not only individual and social factors, but also local norms and practices, and the agency of teachers and policymakers. This comprehensive perspective deepens knowledge of the subjective nature of teacher quality. Secondly, it offers insights that could inform education policies designed to improve the teacher quality by aligning the values of TVET teachers and policymakers. This insight facilitates targeted policies and efficient allocation of resources, while also informing the development of curriculum for pre-service and in-service TVET teachers. Thirdly, the study holds methodological significance because it operationalises the capability approach and develops a scale to measure the elements that characterise quality TVET teachers, an area with limited existing literature. The creation of this instrument provides a valuable frame of reference for future research, enabling more rigorous investigations into the factors that contribute to teacher quality in the TVET education sector.
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    Repertoires of Resistance: The Lived Experiences of Women of Colour Early Childhood Educators
    Lam, Claudine Jane Kyen Yin ( 2023-08)
    Deploying four core tenets of Critical Race Theory to problematise inequitable power relationships, my research investigated how women of colour early childhood educators in Australia experience race and how this informed their teaching practices. In doing this, it interrogated how the circulation of power inherent within constructs of race, racialisation and discourses of racism authorise and legitimise whose lived experiences of racial inequity are privileged or silenced. Drawing on data collected via Walking Interviews, Photovoice and Critical Group Discussions, three significant findings emerged. Firstly, the circulation of majoritarian narratives and discourses of denial of racism operate to (re)centre and preserve white privilege and power. Secondly, the conflation of diversity and difference with discourses of multiculturalism obscures and reinforces the fabrication of a colonised, racialised ‘other’. Finally, counter-narratives can be deployed to resist and decolonise the impacts of race, racialisation and discourses of racism. Collectively, these findings make visible the need to centre, honour and celebrate the voices and lived experiences of women of colour early childhood educators, speak back to the early childhood profession and further explore diverse theories of social change.
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    The Internet of Toys: Exploring multimodal learning in the lifeworlds of young children
    Ling, Li ( 2023-09)
    Young children are growing up with an array of playthings including those in the category of the Internet of Toys (IoToys). They are not only playing with certain Internet-connected items that are manufactured to be children’s toys, but also turning many Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smartphones and tablets, into their playthings. To provide a clear and comprehensive interpretation of what the IoToys might be, and to enable future research on the IoToys to be conducted in a systematic and holistic way, a new conceptualisation of the Internet of Toys is proposed in this work. Based on this novel conceptualisation, an online survey and five case studies were conducted following a convergent mixed methods design, in order to explore young children’s play practices with their IoToys in the home settings and to determine any associated influences on children’s play and learning. Additionally, some elements influencing young children’s play choices with the IoToys were investigated. A total of 730 Chinese parents/caregivers from four different schools participated in the survey. Descriptive analyses and correlational analyses were conducted to analyse the survey data. Five families with six children participated in the case studies. Each participant family was visited on five to eight occasions, with interviews and observations being conducted over a period of four months. Thematic analysis was then employed to analyse the data generated from the case studies. The findings from this research reveal that the IoToys items, with their range of activities, were very popular among young children. Because of the ubiquitous nature of the IoT devices, a majority of the children started to play with the IoToys at a young age. The qualitative data suggested several similarities among the children’s play practices with the IoToys, and demonstrated that the children could acquire varied knowledge from their free play with their IoToys. What the children may learn from their IoToys play was largely determined by the specific content of the play activities conducted (e.g., games and cartoons) rather than the devices themselves. The survey explored whether there existed a relationship between the IoToys play at home and academic performance at school. The data from the case studies and those from the survey together showed some elements that may influence children’s play practices with their IoToys, such as their parents’ mediation strategies and attitudes, and the parents’ own IoToys play habits. Several challenges associated with the children’s IoToys play were revealed, such as a consideration of what is now regarded as being age-inappropriate content in social media. The findings have important implications for future research and make a significant contribution to the current debates in the research literature about digital play. Finally, valuable suggestions for families about IoToys possibilities and for the toy industry about design can also be obtained.
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    Holistic Learning in Outdoor Settings: Educators' Practices, Experiences, and Integration of Outdoor Community Learning in Kindergarten Curriculum
    Ng, Siew Chin ( 2023-09)
    International early learning guidelines and frameworks conceptualise holistic learning in terms of the integration of various learning and developmental domains. An alternative perspective of holistic learning in the early childhood years would be to consider postfoundational theories to disrupt the norms of a linear developmental perspective. This would enable rethinking the taken for granted developmental views currently normalised and elevating the strengths of children’s deep learning. Such rethinking would include consideration of the discourses of meaning-making elements which can be found in the Common Worlds framework based on emerging theoretical perspectives about the relations between human and more-than-human worlds. Focusing on teaching and learning outdoors, in the first phase this study investigated early educators’ current practices when teaching outdoors. In the second phase, the early childhood educators were introduced to post-humanist perspectives as well as the Out and About Manifesto. This work then extended the Common Worlds framework in practice starting with a focus on educators’ own thinking about outdoor experiences. Highlighting the assemblage of relations in everyday environments, the Ten Key Encounters in an Urbanised Outdoor Landscape consisting of first, continuing, and sustaining encounters were conceptualised. Ultimately, this study explored how early educators can transform their beliefs, pedagogies, and practices by connecting to the outdoors in order to promote holistic learning in community places. The project contributes significantly to our knowledge of how educators and researchers could rethink outdoor practices with a post-humanist or post-qualitative perspective. Contributing to this would be the professional learning of early educators and the possibilities to transform their outdoor pedagogies and practices in new and dynamic ways to encourage deep learning, sustainability and embrace holistic learning.
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    An investigation of how Vietnamese primary school teachers develop competence in formative assessment
    Nguyen, Giang H. T. ( 2023-07)
    Since Black and Wiliam (1998a) published their paper on formative assessment (FA) as a way to improve teaching quality and learning achievement, FA has attracted widespread attention from educators and policy-makers in Western countries. A rich body of research on FA has developed, much of which has focused on exploring its purposes, its benefits to teaching and learning, and the key operational elements of its practice. However, how these benefits have been realised in Eastern contexts has remained under-researched. How teachers develop competence in FA is also not well understood. Therefore, drawing on the Dreyfus and Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition (1986), this study aims to empirically determine how Vietnamese primary school teachers typically develop competence in FA. In consultation with subject matter experts, a 19-item Formative Assessment Competency (FAC) scale was developed to enable primary school teachers in Vietnam to self-assess their levels of FA competence. Using survey methodology, the study asked 461 primary school teachers in Vietnam to complete the FAC scale and supply background information about their assessment and teaching experience. Both Classical Test Theory and Item Response Theory analyses indicated that the scale had satisfactory psychometric properties, and partial credit analyses confirmed a developmental competency progression of five consecutive stages articulating how the teachers typically progress in their FA competence. Through multilevel modelling, four factors were found to impact the development of FA competence among Vietnamese primary school teachers: pre-service training in assessment, in-service training in FA, school location, and levels of interaction with colleagues on FA topics. Pre-service training was found to have the highest predictive power, and levels of interaction with colleagues the least. Finally, interviews were conducted with 13 primary school teachers to seek further insights into the associations found, drawing on skill acquisition models, social learning theories and the concept of teacher agency. The findings have direct implications for FA policy development and pre-service training in Vietnam, as well as curriculum development for pre- and in-service teacher education programs in developing, Eastern countries.
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    Challenge, support, and everydayness: Measuring and creating a classroom climate for growth for high capacity students
    Szymakowski, Jolanta Helena ( 2023-07)
    The learning gains of high achieving (capacity) students may be marred by their embedded classroom climate. Using a psychosocial methodology, a latent construct, classroom climate for growth for high capacity students, was proposed and hypothesised to consist of four dimensions: School Support, Teacher Expertise, Classroom Personality – Teacher and Classroom Personality-Students. A 60-item questionnaire was developed to measure the latent construct, the responses being descriptions of behaviours and scaled using IRT. A 9-level taxonomy of support was developed. The questionnaire was completed by 52 Victorian primary and secondary teachers in Stage 1 and by an additional 63 teachers in Stage 2. An evaluation of the psychometric properties of the questionnaire showed the instrument’s properties to be acceptable. Progressions for each dimension were developed. Multilevel modelling of the responses of 36 of the teachers with student growth (n=504 for numeracy, n = 583 for reading comprehension) showed negligible effects of the model on student achievement, possibly due to the small sample size but also suggesting the model may need to be adjusted. Teacher interviews (n = 7) uncovered a 6-step process implemented by teachers to cater for their high achieving students. It was also found that, with typically six levels of student achievement in each classroom, teacher flexibility around differentiated instruction and creating a classroom environment where multiple learning activities occurring simultaneously is seen as normal were key to challenging and supporting high achieving students.
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    Global Childhoods in the Asian Century: Connection scholarly habitus, education experiences, and everyday lifeworlds of children in Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore
    Waghorn, Elise ( 2023-08)
    A majority of countries in East Asia continue to rate highly in their average achievement scores for Year 4 students in the international high-stakes assessments tests; Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). This study explores the notion that while numerous scholars have attempted to isolate systematic variables to determine why East Asian students continue to outperform other nations, no definite conclusions have been determined as to the factors that most impact performance. This research was supported by the Global Childhoods Australian Research Council (ARC) project scholarship as part of the larger research project on children’s lifeworlds in three global cities (Melbourne, Hong Kong, and Singapore). This study was designed to investigate the lifeworlds of 10-year-old children who were in Year 4 of their schooling and to view some aspects of their everyday lives through a scholarly habitus lens (Watkins & Noble, 2013). The research adopted the perspective that children’s academic outcomes in any educational system are influenced by a wide range of factors that occur in children’s lifeworlds; including, but not limited to, schooling experiences, parental influences, extra-curricular activities, interactions with peers, a sense of belonging and community factors. The research was designed so it could be responsive to, and informed by, events and interactions of the children, as they occurred in their lifeworlds. The initial design included opportunities to collect data and to work with children in their schools, homes, and communities, but had to be abandoned due to the pandemic. The new design incorporated alternative data collection methods adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic context. The data included an analysis of TIMSS and PIRLS context questionnaires which provided important insights alongside the students’ achievement scores across the three locations. A range of exhibits were chosen for analysis that linked to children’s lifeworlds experiences including the scholarly habitus. Secondly, learning dialogues, which compromised a series of four questions, two on Monday and another two on Friday, were used to encourage students to reflect on their time at school and were completed by the children in the final month of their Year 4 schooling. The original plan was to do this in the first half of the school year, but the children did not return to school on a regular basis until late 2021, and no researchers were allowed into schools until mid-way in the following year. In analysing the learning dialogues, the research drew on the concept of scholarly habitus (Watkins & Noble, 2013) to explore what children’s attitudes, and dispositions are toward their learning, how they approach school and how they feel they are performing at school. An innovative study of children’s lifeworld reflections was also undertaken with seven children, to delve deeply into their out of school lifeworlds, including extra-curricular activities, and how they spent their leisure time. The lifeworld reflections were an opportunity to talk with students either in person or via Zoom, to discuss their daily routines and what they liked doing. Throughout this study, the data collected enabled an exploration of dimensions of scholarly habitus to consider practices that might help to contribute to students’ academic engagement in school. A consideration of children’s lifeworlds provides further insight into the diversity of lifeworld experiences between and within locations, including making connections with the local contexts, such as early childhood education and care and parent responses to education reform in the locations. In addition to confirming some potential factors in children’s lifeworlds that might influence their academic success, the data further highlights the attitudes, dispositions, success, community, and a sense of belonging that children experience within their educational systems. The results of this study have important implications for gaining deeper insights into and understanding about why students in different locations perform to varying degrees in high-stake assessments, and how these might connect not only with their location, but their extra-curricular activities, school engagement, and scholarly habitus.
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    When catch-up education outperforms the mainstream: An ethnographic exploration of the contribution of a catch-up primary school to learning, agency and wellbeing of children living in a Bangladeshi slum
    Yasmin, Rosie Nilufar ( 2023-07)
    The BRAC NGO in Bangladesh provides catch-up education for the most disadvantaged children who have either never enrolled in or have dropped out of primary school. These schools often outperform mainstream government schools in terms of learning achievement, attendance and completion rates, and cost effectiveness. While a plethora of quantitative research examines school effects on children’s learning and wellbeing, it is less common for children’s perspectives to be included in school effectiveness studies. This is particularly so in the Bangladeshi context. This study employs ethnographic methods to explore how children living in an urban slum in Bangladesh experience the influence of their BRAC primary school on their learning, agency, and wellbeing. It positions the researcher as a ‘sensible hearer’ of children as ‘epistemic agents’ (Fricker, 2007) and employs the Capability Approach of Amartya Sen (2009) as both normative and explanatory theories (Robeyns, 2017) for interpreting the data gathered from children. Guided by the importance placed within the Capability Approach on freedoms of the people themselves, this study used a range of participatory methods to invite children’s contributions, including drawing and storytelling, photovoice, and in-depth interviews. In this research, capability is characterised as children’s ‘freedom’ to gain educational opportunities, and ‘agency’ as their capacity for engaging in actions towards achieving the educational and wellbeing goals of their school. Because the relationship between school and family plays a critical role in children’s learning, actions, and wellbeing, children were invited to give detailed accounts of their daily activities in both home and school spaces. Analysis of the data about children’s use of school opportunities and their actions in both settings can reveal how and to what extent the children perceive that the school influences their capacity for action/agency, their capabilities, and their associated achievements. Analysis of the data identified children’s perceptions that their school did contribute to their capability, agency, and educational wellbeing in four significant ways. First, the agency and capability-facilitating space provided by the school enabled them to exercise their freedom to achieve various cognitive and social skills and to aspire to future goals in ways that enhanced their own wellbeing and that of their families. Second, the agency-unlocking environment of the school empowered children to interrupt negative social (gendered) norms and practices, to imagine alternatives, and to pursue multiple creative and unconventional pathways, with positive effects on their happiness, pride, and self-worth. Third, while damaging gendered norms and practices permeated every aspect of children’s lives at home, in school, and in the slum community, the gender-neutral pathways initiated by the school pedagogy and facilitated by the teacher assisted children to re-assess and re-negotiate gendered norms, and to initiate their own gender justice. Finally, the link between children’s home and school activities and their learning, agency, and wellbeing was not only complex, situated, and dynamic but also very much entangled with sociocultural and gender norms, values, and practices, all embedded in the relationships between family, peers, and community. An understanding of disadvantaged children’s agency, wellbeing, and education therefore requires circumstantial and contextual explanations through which nuances in their lived experiences can be examined, including the reasons behind the many differences in aspects of their lives. This study contributes to fields of knowledge investigating child poverty, alternative education, agency, and wellbeing in three distinct ways. First, in relation to alternative education for children living in poverty, the alternative catch-up school was found to be an active and empowering space which enhanced children’s capabilities, agency, and wellbeing. Second, the use of the explanatory and normative frameworks offered within the Capability Approach helped create a holistic and nuanced evaluative space through which children’s freedoms through capabilities and agency could be explored. Finally, the choice to use multiple participatory methods for positioning children as epistemic agents of knowledge contributed to epistemic justice for them as ‘speakers of knowledge’ while providing access to insights about the multiple ways in which the approaches used in their school contributed to their agency, learning, and wellbeing.
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    Unveiling Country and Improving Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: A Traditional Owner Approach
    Cubillo, Joshua ( 2023-06)
    In Australia, teacher education—and the current teaching profession—is underprepared to adequately teach Indigenous knowledge. Additionally, The National Curriculum and the Australian Professional Teaching Standards offer little guidance and assurance into how this knowledge should be embedded in schools, curriculum and pedagogical practice. This research seeks to increase our understanding of how cultural responsiveness and the embedding of Indigenous knowledges of non-Indigenous educators can be improved through participation in Learning on Country professional development sessions in an urban setting. The professional development sessions were developed with the assistance of Wurundjeri Traditional Owners, who shared their insights into what Country means to them and how teachers can embed these understandings in their classrooms. As teachers progressed through the project, they shared where they believe the opportunities lie to embed Indigenous knowledge in their classrooms and teaching practices despite limited opportunities and mandates from school leadership. Data collection occurred by forming a Traditional Owners focus group, compiling field notes from professional development sites, and asking teachers to participate in three separate interviews. Using a critical lens of land-based and culturally responsive pedagogy shows that professional development guided by Traditional Owners can improve the way non-Indigenous teachers embed Indigenous knowledge into their work. I argue that respectfully embedding Indigenous knowledge and increasing cultural responsiveness in classrooms is reliant on teachers’ willingness to regularly reflect on how they contribute to the maintenance of settler colonialism. The research makes an original contribution to Indigenous education in secondary schools by focusing on professional development being delivered by Traditional Owners on Country, which deepens teachers’ understanding of the relationship between Eurocentric interpretations of land and its contributions to colonialism. The research demonstrates that Learning on Country initiatives are possible in urbanised areas and that they can disrupt settler colonialism’s ‘logic of elimination’; such initiatives facilitate teacher participation in opportunities that increase the visibility of Indigenous histories, languages and cultures.
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    Computer Algebra Systems in a Year 11 Mathematics Class: Students’ Use, Attitudes, and Factors Perceived to Influence Use
    Cameron, Scott William ( 2021-06)
    A computer algebra system (CAS) has the potential to automate many mathematical routines. The use of CAS in mathematics has been shown to support the development of understanding (e.g., Bawatneh, 2012; Heid, 1988). However, students need to be supported to develop a positive attitude towards CAS and learn how and when it can be used before they can benefit from the opportunities presented by CAS (Pierce & Stacey, 2002). While existing research has examined students’ attitudes and CAS use, little research has explored how these aspects change as students gain experience. Given that the students in this study were expected to use CAS for learning mathematics and in assessments, there is a motivation to understand how their CAS use can be supported. This thesis reports the investigation of one class of Year 11 mathematics students’ (n=13) CAS use, attitudes towards CAS, and factors perceived to influence CAS use and how these changed over approximately one school year. The context for this study was a Year 11 Mathematical Methods class in Victoria, Australia. Technology is to be incorporated into the teaching, learning, and assessment of Mathematical Methods, and there are several reasons why CAS was the predominant technology in this subject. The study aims to provide a new understanding that will support teachers who are working to support student CAS use in the mathematics classroom. When learning mathematics with CAS, students need to develop the capacity to make informed choices about when and how to use CAS so that they can benefit from the affordances presented by CAS. Understanding when students choose to use CAS, and the factors influencing students’ use, will provide new understanding to support teachers in developing targeted teaching interventions that may support students to use CAS. This study investigated CAS use in four topics studied over 8 months in one school year. Actual CAS use was determined by analysing student worksheets and CAS screenshots. Further uses of CAS were identified from thematic analysis of interviews that were conducted with nine students four times throughout the study. The findings of this study show that students made different choices about the use of CAS or pen-and-paper (P&P) based on whether problems were within or outside their anticipated P&P facility and the mathematical features of problems. Thematic analysis of interview data found that students used CAS to complete problems quickly, to supplement their P&P skills, and to check their answers. Negative attitudes towards CAS can form a barrier to the development of CAS use. However, few studies have used a cohort study methodology to determine how students’ attitudes change as they gain experience with CAS. This study contributes by comparing students’ attitudes towards CAS approximately one year apart to identify changes resulting from learning mathematics with CAS. This study defined attitudes towards CAS as consisting of beliefs about CAS and emotions when working with CAS. Data were collected via a questionnaire at the start and the end of the year. Students had a range of attitudes towards CAS at the start and the end of the study, but more students had a positive attitude towards CAS at the end than at the start. Students held (and experienced) a range of beliefs (and emotions); some contributed to a positive attitude, while others contributed to a negative one. Understanding why students do or do not use CAS may support teachers in developing targeted interventions to support CAS use. While existing studies have identified factors that influence CAS use, none have explored how these change as students gain experience with CAS. Analysis of questionnaire data showed that students perceived a range of beliefs and emotions to influence their CAS use and that their perceptions were unlikely to change. Additional factors were identified from the analysis of interview data. Overall, students perceived a greater range of factors to influence their CAS use at the end of the study than at the start. This study aimed to provide insights to assist teachers in supporting students learning mathematics with CAS. The findings presented in this study provide a detailed understanding of how and why students use CAS and students’ attitudes towards CAS. These understandings will be beneficial in informing teaching interventions to support CAS use and thus, student learning.