Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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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.
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    Conceptualising and Measuring Wellbeing Literacy
    Hou, Hanchao ( 2022)
    Abstract This thesis aims to conceptualise and measure wellbeing literacy, an emergent concept regarding the capability of mindful language use about and for wellbeing. Wellbeing literacy has potential value to theory, measurement and practice in fields including wellbeing science, positive education, and public health. However, prior to this thesis, the concept of wellbeing literacy had not been operationalised or measured. A consensus on what wellbeing literacy is and how it is measured is essential for future research and practice using this concept. This thesis is comprised of three studies conceptualising and measuring wellbeing literacy for the first time. Specifically, Study 1 developed a parsimonious measure of wellbeing literacy, and used it to examine the nomological networks and incremental value of wellbeing literacy. Study 2 systematically reviewed the definitions of literacy, which were used to refine the concept of wellbeing literacy in the final study. Study 3 used a Delphi approach to gather experts’ opinions and adjusted the conceptualisation of wellbeing literacy accordingly. The findings from the overall thesis provided some of the first evidence that wellbeing literacy is a distinct construct from wellbeing and illbeing, and it also predicted significant unique variance in these constructs over and above established predictors, such as resilience and emotion regulation. Then an operational framework of wellbeing literacy was proposed based on the systematic review of literacy and refined according to 26 international experts’ feedback. This framework may be useful in developing other measurement tools of wellbeing literacy, including objective measures that do not rely on self-report. This PhD research makes an original contribution to the field of wellbeing science, positive education, and public health by clarifying what wellbeing literacy is and by conducting preliminary examinations of its use as a measurement tool. Future research could use the measure to explore the relationship between wellbeing and other key variables in wellbeing science, positive education, and public health. The operational framework could be applied in developing other measures of wellbeing literacy or education programs for wellbeing literacy.
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    The Beauty of a Complex Future: Redefining Teacher Success and Sustainability in Innovative Learning Environments
    Knock, Anne ( 2022)
    After an extensive career in education, this researcher has witnessed a re-imagining of the school experience for students and teachers, observing a shift from the traditional classroom to the innovative learning environment (ILE). Such socio-spatial contexts herald aspirations for sustained pedagogical innovation. This study explores professional change strategies, focussed on ILEs as teachers’ workplaces where teachers are co-located and work as a team. The theoretical foundation of this thesis is situated in complexity (Heylighen, Cilliers, & Gershenson, 2006). It recognises that navigating change in schools is not predictably causal-linear but likely to be iterative, negotiated, and abductive in nature. The research adopted a qualitative multi-methods approach. Firstly, an exploratory single case pilot project explored teacher practice change in ILEs. Next, a multiple case study focused on three schools with ILEs where teacher teams were perceived to have adapted successfully to a shared learning environment. Finally, a retrospective auto-ethnographic account narrated the researcher’s prior experiences of working with teachers in an innovative school. This study identified factors influencing the success and sustainability of workplace change, as experienced by teachers when they transition to working in ILEs. The findings have implications for teacher-teams and principals.
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    Marketing in Private Vocational Schools in Indonesia
    Setiawan, Ruben Sebastian ( 2022)
    There is a general lack of research into marketing and market orientation in schools, especially regarding Indonesian schools. Private vocational schools in Indonesia provide an important employment focussed pathway for students in the upper secondary years. It is a very competitive environment for student enrolment, yet little is known about how these schools market themselves. This study aimed to examine how and to what extent private vocational schools in Indonesia had implemented the principles and practices of marketing (marketing management) and adopted a market orientation (market philosophy). Three private vocational schools were chosen from one geographical area in Indonesia. Forming separate case studies, between six to ten participants representing the school management and teachers were individually interviewed in each school. Using a semi-structured interview schedule, questions were asked about attitudes, understanding, and the role of marketing in the organisation. In addition, school documents were analysed, and observation of the school was conducted to help inform the case studies. Document collection included policy manuals, promotional material, marketing plans, reports, market research, and perceived school offerings. Observation focussed on the tangible evidence of marketing associated with such aspects as style, image and brand. The findings of this study revealed the extent to which three schools responded to the changing environment by utilising marketing principles and practices and the degree to which they adopted market orientation. The study showed that marketing and market orientation were underdeveloped in the three schools and that the schools had been slow to accept marketing as a management strategy in response to changes in the environment. The attitude of the school principal was shown to be critical in determining the adoption of marketing. Importantly, there was evidence of a positive association between market orientation and school performance. Although the study is limited in scope, the findings have applicability beyond Indonesian private vocational schools and provide insights that all schools may benefit from. The study supports previous research that is suggestive of a link between market orientation and school success, with several suggestions for future research indicated.