Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    What role can universal design play in facilitating inclusive learning and teaching within online business degree programs at Australian universities?
    Edwards, Miriam Ruth ( 2023-11)
    In an attempt to be inclusive, Australian universities have traditionally provided reasonable adjustments to students living with disability. This process has been criticised for requiring students to self-report based upon narrow classifications of impairment (Pitman et al., 2021). Another concern has been students under-reporting disability (Brett, 2016a) for a variety of reasons, including stigma (Berman et al., 2020). Trends have suggested that the number of students living with disability will continue to increase (ADCET, 2021), and as such, reasonable adjustments may not offer a sustainable approach in future. This view aligns with those who have advocated for a universally designed curriculum (Burgstahler, 2020; Novak & Bracken, 2019). Universal Design (UD) refers to products and environments designed to be useable by as many people as possible, without adaptation (CUD, 1997). This is consistent with the social model of disability since it assigns the responsibility of inclusion to society rather than the individual (Oliver, 1986). With that in mind, this study sought to identify practices within Australian universities based upon UD principles. In doing so, business faculties were targeted due to the reach they have and their diverse student cohort. This study also argued that online delivery has become ubiquitous with university coursework, and as with others (Kent et al., 2018), it challenged assumptions about inclusivity in such cases. As a result, this study asked, “What role can universal design play in facilitating inclusive learning and teaching within online business degree programs at Australian universities?” The literature review found reports of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) (CAST, 2018) within individual subjects and the suggestion that Universal Design for Instruction (UDI) (Scott et al., 2003) could potentially support broader organisational change (Black et al., 2014; Rao et al., 2021). Based on that review, the investigation included surveying and interviewing disability support staff and educational designers to learn about professional practice as it related to UDI (Scott et al., 2003). This produced 14 survey responses and seven interviews involving educational designers along with five survey responses and one interview involving disability support staff. Collectively participants identified 10 Australian universities. This was complemented with a desktop environmental scan of all disability action plans (DAPs) published by Australian universities. It was found that although reference to UD was appearing more often within DAPs, most actions taken to address disability were reactive in nature. Participants reported challenges due to lack of influence, ignorance towards disability, and competing demands placed upon academics. Despite this, it was found that at one university a widescale initiative had allowed for the application of UDL (CAST, 2018). The aim of that institution was to not only address the needs of students with disability, but to anticipate diversity more broadly. These findings suggested that universities looking to employ UD should develop a widescale approach extending beyond the teaching academic (Lawrie et al., 2017) while also offering reasonable adjustments when needed. Because of this, the discussion focussed on the importance of stakeholder relationships, the need for common understandings about inclusive practice, and policy which contextualises UD within each university (Fovet, 2020). Recommendations have been offered, along with the limitations of this study. In way of conclusion the main research question was revisited and ideas for future research shared.
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    An exploration of the organisational sustainability of commercial for-profit VET providers (CVPs) in Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) market
    Guarnaccia, Rocco ( 2023-07)
    The vocational, education, and training (VET) industry in Australia is made up of approximately 4,000 registered training organisations (RTO) (Australian Skills Quality Authority, 2022). These providers are accredited to deliver Nationally Recognised Training (NRT) qualifications ranging from Certificate I to Advanced Diploma, within the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). The VET sector consists of a number of different entities that are responsible for the delivery of VET with the most prolific being the commercial for-profit VET provider (CVP) (NCVER, 2022). Recently, a significant number of CVPs have ceased operations either voluntarily or involuntarily through cancellation by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) or insolvency. The impact of these closures has resulted in dramatic consequences including thousands of students being unable to finish their training and substantial losses of private and public funds. To understand the underlying causes of these events, semi-structured interviews were conducted with eighteen individuals. Nine were from a Commercial for-profit VET Providers Not Trading (CVPNT), that were forced to close between 2016 and 2018, and nine from a Commercial for-profit VET Providers Trading (CVPT), that were accredited between 1996 to 2015 and are still operating. This research was conducted using an interpretivist epistemology by analysing the interviews through three lenses: business sustainability, corporate governance sustainability, and pedagogy sustainability. The study focused on what had shaped and influenced these providers and why certain CVPs failed while others succeeded. The outcomes from this study show that successful CVPs do not rely on only one element of business, corporate governance, or pedagogy for success but a combination of all three in fairly equal parts. The organisational sustainability of commercial for-profit VET providers requires leaders to embrace business knowledge, strong and transparent corporate governance, and relevant pedagogical strategies in their day-to-day operations to ensure success and viability, into the future
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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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    Reconceptualising disability and inclusion: Enacting relational ways of knowing, being and doing with Bush Kinder
    Christiansen, Amy Lyndall ( 2022)
    In the past decade over 170 ‘nature kindergarten’ programs have emerged in Victoria, Australia in which children and their early childhood teachers and educators routinely engage with local places – beaches, creeks, bush, parklands - for extended periods each week. While legally and ethically mandated to include all learners and pedagogically and philosophically premised on inclusive theories, quality standards and curriculum frameworks, little is known about how these new practice approaches conceptualise and support inclusivity for children with a range of diverse abilities. Dominant positivist and developmental discourses in research concerned with ‘disability’ in early childhood education tend to emphasize what children cannot do, pathologising difference, locating the problem within and trying to fix individual children while ignoring the relational, political, ethical and performative nature of dis/ability and inclusivity. This study seeks to resist and disrupt these dominant traditions. Situated within a post qualitative methodological orientation, this research puts post foundational, common worlds and feminist new materialist theoretical perspectives to work, employing pedagogical narration (Pacini-Ketchabaw et al., 2015) and writing as method (Richardson, 2000) to think with theory (Jackson & Mazzei, 2017) in everyday encounters with one ‘Bush Kinder’ on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri-Woiwurrung people of the Kulin Nation the traditional custodians of Narrm (the Australian city also known as Melbourne). Re-presenting encounters with Place, children, teachers, parents and more-than-human others, I make visible and trouble essentialised and romanticised conceptions of children, ability and nature, which are antithetical to the ethical and political entanglements of real and imagined global childhoods in contemporary Australia (Malone, Tesar & Arndt, 2020a). As others have argued before me, disability and ability are co-constituted and need to be complexified as dis/ability (Goodley, 2018). Inclusivity therefore involves broader entanglements of relatedness and mutual belonging (Taylor & Giugni, 2012). Activating these conceptions in theory and practice requires that we write with disability otherwise in early childhood education - against the dominant traditions of developmentalism and interventionist approaches. Here I enact this reconceptualisation through pedagogical narration - attuning to what children can do instead of what they can’t and emphasizing the broader relational, political and ethical entanglements of humans, more-than-humans, materials and place which are always already present in early childhood education and mutually implicated in processes of dis/ablement. I employ writing as a method of inquiry (Richardson, 2000; Richardson & St. Pierre, 2017; St. Pierre, 2021b) to generate small, situated knowledges which open new possibilities for thinking and doing in education. Holding developmental, scientific and neurological knowledges about children, ‘disability’ and ‘nature’ alongside to enact relational ways of knowing, being and doing-with in early childhood education, making visible possibilities for reconceptualising dominant, deficit focused conceptions of ‘disability’ and ‘inclusion’. Drawing on Haraway (2016) and Lenz Taguchi (2009) I offer possibilities for more response-able, inclusive and intra-active early childhood pedagogies and activist-practitioner-researcher subjectivities which attune to and amplify the lived experiences of dis/abled children themselves as well as the human and more-than-human others they are always already entangled with in the common worlds of Bush Kinder. This post qualitative work materializes new potentialities for knowing, being and doing with, disrupting traditional knowledges and practices which seek to know children through instrumental, developmental and ableist frames of reference which render difference as deficit.
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    Increasing Underachievement of Australian Highly Able Secondary Students
    Ireland, Christine Helen ( 2022)
    This research explored the problem of Australia’s decreasing achievement levels of its high ability students (HAS). International and national assessments demonstrate that this problem is a reality for Australian schools. For example, the Program for International Student Assessment and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study indicate decreasing scores for Australian HAS over the past two decades. Similar results have also been evident in the Australia’s National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy. These decreases in achievement may ultimately lead to a potential loss of talented individuals needed to solve significant national problems. The study utilised a mixed methods approach. Teachers’ and students’ surveys provided perceptions of HAS extension activities. In addition, teachers and students were asked for their perceptions of how HAS regarded curriculum differentiation (CD) strategies during extension activities. Participants also provided information relating to obstacles to extension for HAS. Teachers shared information regarding their level of training in gifted education, and their reactions to gifted education issues. Australian mixed-ability, junior secondary Science classes provided the context for this research. Small groups of HAS were selected by the Science teacher in each class group. Results showed significant differences between teachers’ and students’ perceptions of learning obstacles and the nature of strategies for HAS. Further, the results demonstrated the significance and need of HAS voice to be considered when designing extension problems for HAS.
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    Contextualising Teaching Grammar Through Talk About Text in the Middle Primary Years: A Collaborative Action Research Project to Build Teacher Literacy Content and Pedagogical Knowledge
    Hurn, Breannon Lee ( 2022)
    This qualitative, collaborative action research study reports on the contextualised teaching of language (grammar) in the middle primary years. Underpinned by a pragmatic paradigm, the study examined how a two-phase collaborative professional learning program might influence teachers’ knowledge, self-efficacy, and pedagogical decisions for the explicit teaching of grammar in Years 3 or 4 classrooms. Twenty-six middle primary teachers from across Victoria, Australia, participated in a four-part series of online literacy professional learning (PL) sessions across a 4-month period. The PL was designed to build teacher content and pedagogical content knowledge for teaching functionally oriented grammar (Myhill, 2021) through talk about authorial language choices in picture story books. Following the PL, four of the 26 teachers elected to continue with an additional stage of the study, applying their learning from the PL through the delivery of a pedagogic intervention, over approximately 5 weeks, in their own Years 3 or 4 classrooms. Data included observations collected from each online CPL session and semistructured interviews undertaken by the four teacher participants at three different stages. The study’s findings indicate that while a teacher’s individual knowledge about language affects their self-efficacy and pedagogical decisions in literacy teaching, collaborative PL with job-embedded action and reflection can lead to enhanced teacher practice in literacy.
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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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    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.
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    Exploring Music Teachers’ Experiences and Perceptions of Professional Learning
    Arney, Susan Elizabeth ( 2022)
    Professional learning plays an essential role in promoting student engagement and learning outcomes by actively engaging teachers in extending, strengthening, and updating their professional knowledge and practice during the course of their career. Whilst a significant body of research has examined the effectiveness and impact of professional learning on teaching practices, very little research has considered the specific needs of music teachers. This phenomenological study used a mixed methods approach to explore the experiences of music teachers in classroom, instrumental, and ensemble positions in Victorian primary and secondary schools. Research was carried out using an online Scoping Survey (297 respondents) and a deeper investigation of emerging themes through a second online Main Survey with 50 volunteer participants. Data were analysed around the themes of (1) engagement with professional learning, (2) motivation for choices of professional learning, and (3) perceptions of the elements of effective professional learning for music teachers. The findings highlight the challenges for school-based music teachers in accessing professional learning that enhances their practice and in interpreting whole-school professional learning to their contexts. The findings were evaluated against existing literature and research into the characteristics of effective professional learning, and new knowledge emerged suggesting opportunities to strengthen professional learning tailored to the needs of music teachers. The study proposes a set of seven principles for professional learning in music education to inform school leaders, professional associations, and professional learning providers.
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    Educating the next generation of communication designers: Addressing environmentally sustainable design principles and practices in Australian undergraduate communication design curriculum.
    Miceli, Maria Luisa ( 2021)
    Mitigating the impacts of anthropocentric environmental degradation is both an individual and collective responsibility. This research considered the role of higher education in advancing environmental sustainability (ES). The purpose of this study was to specifically investigate the way environmentally sustainable design principles and practices (EDSPP) were being addressed in undergraduate communication design (CD) courses in Australia. This multi-case study comprised of five Australian universities, each representing a single case. Each case was divided into two communities. Community One – represented the executive and senior leaders who set the strategic direction of the university, this strategic direction was identified through publicly available documentation. The second community, Community Two – represented teachers within the communication design faculty. These teachers were interviewed to understand: their philosophy in relation to ESDPP; what influenced their pedagogical decisions and how these values were implemented in their teaching practice. The findings demonstrated that ES was recognised by Community One through the university’s values and goals, yet ES activities were often limited to facilities management. The majority of teachers in Community Two recognised the importance of EDSPP in CD; however, they reported that attempts at embedding these practices into their units were often challenging. The study identified three main factors – eco-anxiety, holistic understanding of the course, and effective leadership concerning ES, most prevented progressing ESDPP in undergraduate CD courses. These challenges meant that EDSPP rarely progressed beyond arbitrary material choice inclusions within projects, rather than consideration for the critical relationship between communication design and consumerism and the changing nature of the CD profession. These one-dimensional material aspects, while important, remain superficial and shallow and may hinder the trajectory toward deeper behavioural changes that would promote a paradigm shift. This transformation may require a meaningful endorsement of environmental sustainability as a university value and a concrete plan to drive structural and course content change that would support teachers in undertaking this paradigm shift.