Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Case studies in learning area leadership in Catholic secondary schools in Melbourne, Australia
    Keane, William Francis ( 2010)
    Learning Area Leaders (LALs) are leaders who have responsibility for the operation of learning areas (subject departments) in their schools. The leadership role of LALs was investigated in three Victorian Catholic Secondary Schools using case study methodology. Interviews were conducted in each school between the Principal, the curriculum coordinator, LALs and teachers. The leadership role of the LALs, particularly as their involvement in improving educational outcomes in their learning area, was explored through interviews and examination of range of documents to produce a rich description of each case. It was clear that the leadership of the LALs was, in each of the three schools, considered essential to the achievement of good student learning outcomes. In one of the three schools where the leadership role of the LALs was enhanced there was significant improvement in VCE results. The findings from each of the cases were then analysed according to a framework describing the leadership roles of LALs which was developed by White (Merriam, 19982002). The findings were consistent with White's framework. Consistent with other literature were issues to do with inadequate preparation for the role (Adey, 2000;. Deece, 2003; Dinham, Brennan, Collier, Deece, & Mulford, 2000; Earley & Fletcher- Campbell, 1989), lack of time to effectively carry out the role (Brown & Rutherford, 1999; Deece, 2003; Dinham, 2007; Earley & Fletcher-Campbell, 1989)and difficulties with staff management and role ambiguity (Adey, 2000; Dinham, 2007; Glover & Miller, 1999b; White, 2002). In considering the work of LALs in relation to context what emerged was the necessity for the Senior Management Team to facilitate LAL leadership by enlisting them as partners in developing strategic approaches to teaching and learning, creating structures which enable the LALs to interact with the staff in the learning areas and removing barriers in the school which might inhibit the LALs from the effective exercise of their leadership.
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    Developing Thai students' writing skills through genre-based teaching
    LERDPREEDAKORN, NAPASUP ( 2010)
    This study reports on an investigation using the genre-based approach to teaching writing, and how it affected students' control over key features of the Discussion Genre. The research explored students' attitudes towards learning to write with this approach and conveyed the application of new pedagogy to teaching writing. The study was conducted in a classroom of thirty nine students during eight two-hour weekly sessions. The participants were third-year English major students in a four-year Bachelor of Arts program in a university in Thailand. The research method was an in-depth case study of the effectiveness of the genre-based approach in improving English as a Foreign Language [EFL] students' writing proficiency. Two cycles designed for teaching and learning the Discussion Genre were fashioned closely after the Disadvantaged Schools Project (DSP) model (e.g. Callaghan & Rothery, 1989), as implemented in various Australian schools. Three key research participants' written texts were analyzed by the researcher/ teacher using specific elements of the systemic functional grammar (SFG) framework (e.g. Butt et al., 2003). Self-assessment questionnaires sought students' views about their own learning experiences and writing proficiency. Semi-structured interviews and students' diaries were used to explore the students' experience of learning to write in English, and to explore students' attitudes to writing in English. A teacher's journal provided information about the ways in which students were involved in and responsive to the new teaching approach. The text analysis revealed that, as a result of the intervention, students gained control over key features of the Discussion Genre, and showed positive attitudes towards this approach, although the students' grammatical knowledge had not significantly improved, probably in part because the research was undertaken over a short period of time. Finally, the application of the genre-based approach is a significantly promising approach for teaching English in EFL contexts.
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    Constructing nurses' professional identity
    Willetts, Georgina Anne Parkes ( 2013)
    There is limited evidence, and research on nurses’ development of their professional identity within the social context of their daily work environments. The overall aim of this project was to investigate elements that constitute the performance of nurses’ professional identity within a specific work environment. The particular focus was on the interplay of nurses with other nurses, and with other health professionals in the context of their work environment. This ethnographic case study investigated the interactions of nurses within two specific clinical wards/units. The application of the theoretical perspective Social Identity Theory was used to study two specific professional daily activities. These activities of shift handover, and multidisciplinary team meetings were videotaped as part of the data collection. Further qualitative methods of data collection included; participants viewing the videotapes, and then being interviewed (individual or focus group). The findings generated evidence that the social context of the ward environment plays a significant role in the development of nurses’ professional identity. Professional activities such as handover contribute significantly to the formation of nurse professional identity. Handover is a structured formal social process developed, and performed entirely by nurses. This activity is a central mechanism by which nurses enculturate, new nurses, and construct, and sustain their professional identity through interaction with each other. In contrast the activity of the multidisciplinary meeting is a platform for the expression of professional identity through the interaction with other health professionals. The findings have implications for understanding how nurses when they are together create, and self- categorise their identity, and how this is changed expressed, and lived differently in a multidisciplinary group. These findings generate important possibilities for further research, and need testing in other nursing work environments. Implicitly the findings are directly relevant to professional leadership, education, and service development in the nursing profession. Additionally the structure of the research design should enable similar investigation in different contexts.
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    Is induction and mentoring up to standards?: A phenomenological study of Victorian graduate entry beginning teachers
    ANDERSON, MELODY ( 2013)
    This qualitative study examines a select aspect of teacher professional knowledge. The focus is on the construction of the unique novice-expert relationship commonly referred to as ‘induction and mentoring’. The research aims to contribute to an existing knowledge base about the needs of beginning teachers and their early career experiences. It examines issues of early professionalisation and socialisation, pedagogical knowledge, power and agency, professional identity and the combined impact of these elements on teacher retention. This is a two-phase phenomenological study of the beginning teacher-mentor teacher relationship, conducted over 2007-2009. Phase 1 participants had completed the Graduate Diploma of Education at the University of Melbourne. Phase 2 participants were concurrently enrolled in the final year of their Master of Teaching degree at the University of Melbourne in subjects designed to support beginning teachers in their graduate year. Rich data were yielded from individual interviews with beginning teacher participants (n=18) who were undertaking or had recently completed the statutory process for full registration (16 secondary teachers and 2 early childhood teachers). Fieldwork was carried out in the final school term of 2007 (Phase 1) and 2009 (Phase 2). Transcribed data were horizontalised and searched for the invariant horizons of the phenomenon for analysis. Main themes were identified for discussion. This research is complementary to, and will further support, recent international and Australian research by prominent researchers in the field (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005; Darling-Hammond, 2012; Devos, 2010; Feiman-Nemser, 2012; Hudson, 2012, Ingersoll, Merrill & May, 2012; Ingersoll & Smith, 2004; Ingersoll & Strong, 2011; Johnson, 2012; Johnson, Berg & Donaldson, 2005; Martinez, 2004; Richardson & Watt, 2006; Wang, Odell & Schwille, 2008). Within an existing international evidence base, the findings contribute to an Australian research focus on models of mentoring for beginning teachers, highlighting that teacher identity, 'turnaround pedagogies' (Kamler & Comber, 2004) and the interrelationship with teacher retention remain central and affirm the enduring issues in respect to the practices of induction and mentoring in the field of education.
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    The positioning of the coach and the transformative agency of teachers: The problem of constituting joint meaning in an “underperforming” secondary mathematics department
    DIMAGGIO, SOL ( 2013)
    The Victorian State Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) instituted a coaching program (2007-2010) to improve teaching in primary and secondary schools. The DEECD policy platform of school improvement through teacher-trained coaches saw the employment of Teaching and Learning Coaches (henceforth “coach”) employed from 2007 to support mathematics and science instruction. Eleven numeracy coaches were deployed across the western metropolitan region of Melbourne in 2008 and placed in schools that were identified as “underperforming” based on student performance data. This research focuses on two school sites in which a coach worked at each on a weekly rotational basis in an onsite professional development program to improve teaching practice using a sanctioned generic mathematics lesson structure. The coaching program in this study involved the teachers of mathematics, the appointment of school-based coaches from among them, and administrators in the targeted “underperforming” secondary schools, with the intention of changing the prima facie unproductive, culturally specific, mathematics teaching practices in those schools. This thesis examines how mathematics teachers in targeted “underperforming” schools reported how they were influenced, by working with a coach. The research is founded on the theoretical belief that there is nothing else to social life but symbolic exchanges and the joint construction and management of meaning, including the meaning of bits of stuff including things we control and things that we don’t, but are expected to use to “remake” ourselves. To become relevant in the teachers’ life spaces the coaching stuff, including the coach herself, had to be interpreted to play a part in a human narrative. Interpretations require grammars that are historically and culturally local. The thesis presents fine-grained descriptive analyses of the semiotic interactions and the psychological positioning of mathematics teachers in the accounts of their experiences of the coaching program. The recommended practices put by the coach were resisted where they were seen not to serve the teachers’ personal identity formation in the local moral order of their school. The teachers’ social activity with the coach shows they live in a double social order. One component consists of the social arrangements for maintaining their teaching lives in their teaching environment, which was difficult by virtue of the educational disadvantage of the community, they served and their own poor training and professional isolation. This is the practical order and the teachers had their local proper place in that order. The other component consisted of the social arrangements for creating honour and status. This is an expressive order. The material world of privileged strategies, tactics, student test performance data and other elements of the program of improvement brought by the coach can be understood in their full human significance only if their roles in both these orders are identified. As to the teachers’ social motivation around these material things, the accounts of the teachers present a strong case for the priority of the expressive over the practical in their social action. The new lesson structure the coach introduced can become a social object only within the dynamic frame of the teachers’ storylines. It is this most ephemeral and “invisible” product of the teachers’ action that is really real, the narratives that are realized in the social orders in their school. The elaboration of a more comprehensive theory of mentoring / coaching practices based on this approach to constructing a new constitutive order involves a study of the social objects as created in and through constitutive practices. This draws on a distinction between constitutive orders of the rules of maths teaching, which are prospective doings, and sayings constructed around social objects, and institutional orders of maths teaching, which are retrospective and depend on “accounts” and justifications. It is essential that constitutive orders of practice are collaborations. Taking all this into account requires thinking of meaning making as one of communication or interaction, or as Harré argues, taking conversation as real or causal. To make sense of, or claim meaning in, the teachers’ constitutively ordered conversational sequences about their interactions with the coach, in the use of social objects, their self organising practices or language games, is to explore their orientation to a constitutive rule and their exhibition of it to others.
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    Medical teachers in Australian hospitals: knowledge, pedagogy and identity
    Barrett, Jeanette Kaye ( 2013)
    This research aimed to generate a better understanding of the teacher identities and pedagogical perspectives of medical teachers in hospitals. The study focuses on understanding the personal theories of teaching that the teachers bring to their teaching and the ways they think about themselves as teachers. These two factors, known to affect the environments that teachers create for learners, have received little attention in medical education research. A qualitative methodology was employed featuring data collected from audio-recording twenty-five medical teachers in a range of clinical and classroom settings with medical students, as well as data from semi-structured interviews with all participating teachers. The interview and observation data were analysed and interpreted iteratively: through back and forth movements from specifics to general meanings and from the data to theory. The study found that for these teachers, teaching is about knowledge and their pedagogical role in the students gaining a particular form of knowledge. They see this knowledge as deriving from work with individual patients who cumulatively and one-by-one provide the doctor (and student) with particular knowledge that is never forgotten. The teachers also perceive that this knowledge resides in the places where practice and teaching happens. It is intricate, messy, uncertain and dynamic. Thus conceptualized, this knowledge is regarded as superior to formal (‘textbook’) knowledge which is orderly, static and appears in the form of lists and stable sets of instructions. The teachers describe their engagement in contextualising and transforming students’ formal knowledge through making links and bridges between knowledge types and knowledge sources. A second finding concerns pedagogy. The teachers in the study placed primary value on their knowledge, but emphasized and valued too the personal and interpersonal factors associated with teaching. The enjoyment in medical teaching is a reward in itself, and for some a pleasant change from the routine of clinical work. Key to that enjoyment is a preference for a connectedness with students and a commitment to pleasant and friendly interactions. In the absence of other professionalizing influences, many of the personal theories of teaching that these teachers developed when they were students persist into the present. There is a sense of teaching as a commonplace and a commonsense activity – important and pleasant but not complex or difficult. The thesis contends that this understanding is a potential obstacle to developing medical teachers’ understanding of and expertise in teaching. On identity, the study identified four elements in these teachers’ ways of thinking about themselves as teachers. Firstly, central to the ways they think about themselves as teachers is their belief that they possess a particular form of clinical knowledge that is at the heart of being a doctor. Secondly, their teacher identities are connected to the enjoyment that teaching offers and the sense of being a teacher as natural, just a part of being a doctor. Thirdly, the low status of teaching and the inferior status of medical teaching relative to research – influences how they think about themselves as teachers. Finally, the value these teachers place on their relationships with students, contrasts starkly with a sense of disconnectedness from the university. The thesis contends that these medical teachers have understandings of clinical knowledge and medical teaching that are not well appreciated in the literature or in medical education practices and discourses. This situation contributes to their feelings of being isolated – even alienated – from the university, and it also obstructs aspects of curriculum reform and affects teachers’ development as teachers. The thesis suggests a need for revitalised descriptions of the intricacies of clinical knowledge and its construction – a need to re-value the places and the patients as sources of knowledge and to re-value the teachers. A new approach to judgements about medical teaching is also required, particularly an approach based on a broad understanding of the relational and technical aspects of pedagogy. Many of these teachers would respond positively to appropriate support to develop more informed approaches to their teaching and greater technical expertise. To be useful, that support and development requires an appreciation of the culture of heroic individualism in medicine and a fundamental sensitivity to medical teachers’ values, perspectives and teacher identities.
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    The nature of the knowledge for teaching Year 6 geometry in Taiwan
    CHIANG, PI-CHUN ( 2012)
    This study investigates the nature of Taiwanese Year 6 teachers' knowledge for teaching geometry (KTG), and its relationship to their general and professional backgrounds. There is a case study of ten Year 6 teachers with in-depth classroom observations and interviews, which shows the nature of the teachers' KTG. There is also a written questionnaire for 152 teachers from a stratified random sample of 30 schools from across Taiwan, which demonstrates the relationship between teachers' personal backgrounds and their KTG. After analyzing the data by both qualitative and quantitative methods, the result shows that the Taiwanese Year 6 teachers are fully educated on geometric content knowledge (GCK) and geometric pedagogical content knowledge (GPCK) for teaching. However, the teachers generally performed weakly on their geometric curricular knowledge (GCuK). In particular, the use of IT materials, the improvement of reasoning abilities, and the updating of the knowledge of curriculum content will be the main themes that the Year 6 teachers need improve in the future. Additionally, the attributes in teachers’ general background (TGB) mainly affected their GCK for teaching, whereas the attributes of teachers’ professional background (TPB) plays a significant role in influencing both the teachers’ GCK and GPCK performances. These results also support previous research that the teachers’ GCK does relate to their personal backgrounds (e.g., Fackler, 2006; Ross, Bruce & Hogaboam-Gray, 2006; Shacter & Thum, 2004). However, the result conflicts with the finding from the study by Hill (2007) which found that the teachers’ PCK had a positive relationship with their length of teaching experience. The teachers who taught for more than 15 years did not perform better on GPCK than the teachers in this study who had fewer years of teaching experience. The result in this study shows how the different routes of teachers’ training and attendance frequency at professional development (PD) programs in mathematics or geometry in Taiwan do affect the Year 6 teachers different KTG performances. Thus, there is still room to improve the system of teachers education in Taiwan.
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    Strategies of policy steering: the transnational work of the OECD in education policy
    Wood, Bryan Matthew ( 2013)
    In his thesis, Bryan Wood examined the role the OECD now plays in steering education policies of its member states. He explored the strategies the OECD has developed to enhance its effectiveness, helping to reshape our understanding of teachers' work.
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    Learning to be a guest in the home of another: perceptions, purpose and positioning in short term volunteerism
    Smith, Tammy Ruth ( 2012)
    This study analyses the expectations and reflections of participants in the ‘Thailand Mission Awareness Tours’ program as they prepare for, take part in and return from their intercultural experience. Sending organizations do not have the ability to influence how short term missions (STM) or volunteer tourists (VT) are received or viewed by long-term workers or nationals, but they are able to prepare them in how to better position themselves for the experience. Unfortunately volunteer travelers are often more focused on what they can accomplish at a location than on the relationships they could encounter, develop and build while being there. They build houses rather than relationships (Reese, 2009, p. xviii) for the locals rather than with them (Armstrong, 2006; Schwartz, 2003). To work with someone there must be equality, togetherness, a two way relationship. Being Guest and Host, as part of the hospitality suggested by Derrida (2000), is a relationship that is reliant upon one and the Other. It requires a disposition which is significantly different. Literature from within VT and STM, whilst philosophically different, is strikingly similar in content and emphasis. Most of this literature focuses on the positive profiling and experience of the travel participant and largely overlooks the experience of the host and host community. This focus has been criticised in the literature, but little has as yet been done to amend the situation (Gray & Campbell, 2007). In this ethnographic study positionality, as experienced by participants in the Thailand Mission Awareness Tour (TMAT) program, is examined. The emphasis is on how they position themselves in relation to each other, their hosts and the host community. Some findings were surprising and unexpected, particularly in relation to the participants’ responses to, and interaction with, expatriate hosts. Participants tended to compare themselves and their life situations with those of the expatriates, and often judged themselves quite harshly as a result. The author concludes that pre-travel education for those going on a volunteer experience should situate them in a receptive frame in preparation for positioning themselves as Guest, thereby supporting mutuality, relationality and positive experience for all involved. It is suggested that further research be undertaken into the efficacy of the type of education proposed in this thesis and how, or if, that education influences the positionality of participants. It is also suggested that research be undertaken into how this education and the resultant positionality is responded to by hosts and their communities. There is much work that remains to be done in this space relating to improving intercultural communication. This thesis forms a small part of that work.
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    Can school connectedness reduce the continuity of adolescent depressive symptoms?
    DEERY, ALANA ( 2012)
    By 2030, depressive disorders are expected to be the leading cause of disease burden (measured in disability adjusted life years lost to illness) in high income countries. The direct health care costs are now dwarfed by the indirect costs, with days lost from work owing to depressive symptoms exceeding all other disorders and representing a significant loss to the global economy. Depressive symptoms typically have their onset in adolescence and show strong persistence into young adulthood. Outside of the family, school is one of the most salient environments for young people across the period of peak incidence for depressive symptoms. However, the relationship between the school environment and adolescent mental health outcomes remains controversial. The first aim of this study was to conduct a systematic review of the relationship between school connectedness (as an overarching construct and in terms of its sub-dimensions) and depressive symptoms during adolescence, restricted to longitudinal study designs to avoid ambiguity around temporal relationships. Results from this review show considerable research investment in primary (universal) prevention of depressive symptoms in adolescence. Specifically, that school connectedness and high-quality relationships with teachers may play a role in preventing depressive symptoms in adolescence (universal prevention). However, there was a dearth of research on the role of school connectedness as a potential modifier of strong continuities in depressive symptoms across adolescence (indicated prevention). This knowledge prompted the second research question of this study; the extent to which positive school connectedness may act as a potential modifier of strong continuities in depressive symptoms across adolescence. The answer to this question has important implications for informing targeted (indicated) prevention though promotion of school connectedness. Data were drawn from the Australian Temperament Project (ATP), an ongoing, large scale longitudinal study initiated in 1983 as a representative sample of 4–8 month old children in Victoria. The role of school connectedness in moderating persistence of depressive symptoms was examined within two discrete time intervals (1) early to late adolescence (13–14 years and 17–18 years), and; (2) middle to late adolescence (15–16 years and 17–18 years). Structural equation modelling was used to examine developmental relationships. Results suggested that school connectedness (overall and dimensionally) does not significantly moderate (reduce) the risk of continuity of depressive symptoms between early and late adolescence (13–14 years and 17–18 years), or middle and late adolescence (15–16 years and 17–18 years) amongst the sample of 1,258 young people. Furthermore, there was no evidence that school connectedness reduced risk for depressive symptoms in late adolescence. Rather, findings suggested that those who enter secondary school with high depressive symptoms may have greater difficulties connecting with the school environment. The findings of the systematic review and the current study contribute to understanding the nature of the relationship between school connectedness and adolescent depressive symptomatology, and open new directions for future research into a range of issues concerning how school connectedness may serve as a target for indicated and universal prevention of adolescent depression.