Faculty 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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    “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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    Developing and validating an operationalisable model of critical thinking for assessment in different cultures
    SUN, Zhihong ( 2022)
    Critical thinking has become an educational priority worldwide, as it is considered to play a fundamental role in problem-solving, decision-making and creativity. Yet the evidence is mixed about whether and how our education system produces good critical thinkers, and this is particularly evident in studies of the relative performance of Chinese and Western students. This study began with the assumption that the mixed evidence might in part be understood as resulting from a mismatch between the expectations of critical thinkers and the model of critical thinking adopted for its assessment. A review of literature suggested that the mismatch might stem from difficulties in operationalising the current theories of critical thinking in assessments. Drawing on a range of multidisciplinary studies of critical thinking, an operationalisable model of critical thinking was developed that includes a cognitive skill dimension and an epistemological belief dimension. Three assessment instruments were designed to validate the multidimensional model. The two dimensions of critical thinking were assessed separately as per existing assessments practices, and in an integrated manner. Performances on the three assessments were examined based on the data collected from a convenience sample of 480 higher education students in Australia (N=233) and China (N=247). Rasch analysis was conducted to examine the psychometric properties of the three instruments. Latent regression analysis with Rasch modelling and latent profile analysis were conducted to compare the performance patterns of critical thinking competency between the sampled groups. The results showed that the instruments were reliable for the measurement of the intended construct model and performed in an unbiased manner across the sampled groups. The results produced by the two approaches (separate and integrated assessment) were consistent. The two approaches can provide useful information for different purposes. It was found that the students in the Chinese sample performed at a lower level than the students in the Australian sample on all of the assessment instruments, and the two samples showed different performance patterns between the groups in the two components of the model. The study concluded that the operationalisable model provides a way of understanding conflicting evidence about patterns of critical thinking found in different cultures, and may inform tailored strategies for teaching critical thinking.
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    Digital translanguaging practices: A study of multilingual learners in an online higher education environment
    Kalehe Pandi Koralage, Tharanga Sujani ( 2022)
    In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the growth in online learning has been exponential. This research investigated the learning experiences of multilingual students with varying English language proficiencies pursuing online higher education courses in English. It focused on an academic writing experience in English during which students deployed digital tools of their choice (e.g., online dictionaries, digital translators, and search engines) and other resources such as their mother tongue to mitigate their linguistic issues. The study draws on literature on digital translanguaging (Vogel, Ascenzi-Moreno, & Garcia, 2018), which is centrally about the use of multilingual and digital resources for text comprehension and production. Research highlights that these resources provide affordances to students to self-resolve lexical and grammatical challenges. However, these affordances have been examined mainly in school and out-of-school contexts (social networking sites such as Facebook) (Schreiber, 2015; Kim, 2017; Vogel et al., 2018). Not much is yet known about how they impact writers in higher education contexts. This study contributes by developing new understandings about the extent to which digital translanguaging practices influence writers in an online higher education context by exploring the affordances that facilitate and constraints that might inhibit their academic text production in English. Drawing on multiple-case study design features and a critical methodological perspective, data were collected from a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) environment. Since the participants were from different parts of the world, data were gathered using online research methodologies such as synchronous videoconferencing technology and screen sharing techniques to trace moment-to-moment online search practices and navigation paths during the writing process to identify linguistic and digital resources students used and how they deployed them to support their writing in English. Data were analysed using a digital translanguaging lens to examine the affordances and constraints their online literacy practices provided for multilingual writers. The findings revealed that digital translanguaging both extended and accelerated students’ capacity to produce texts in English beyond their existing repertoire of knowledge. The findings also uncovered that despite the affordances of digital technology and multilingual resources, challenges arose when students did not have grammatical, pragmatic, and strategic aspects of communicative competence, which continued to constrain their ability to communicate intended ideas competently to the level they perceived was expected and acceptable for the target academic audience. The study argues for creating more inclusive higher education spaces through strategy-based approaches that better mobilise students’ multilingual resources to provide greater opportunities for improved academic outcomes and equity in online higher education environments. Implications include strategies to better tap into multilingual strengths and mobilise digital resources to promote online learning.
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    Investigating the student experience of internationalization at an Australian university
    Marangell, Samantha ( 2020)
    This thesis explores the student experience of an internationalized Australian university through the lens of Internationalization at Home (IaH) practices. Over the last quarter of a century, Australian universities have adapted to an increasingly globalized world by implementing comprehensive internationalization strategies that make the universities more desirable to and more applicable within a global society. A substantial portion of these strategies depend on student-centered actions and activities, such as students interacting with and learning from peers from diverse backgrounds. However, the implementation and effectiveness of these IaH strategies have faced consistent challenges, including negative responses among the student body: resentment towards peers, a lack of intercultural interaction, and consistent frustration with multicultural groupwork. As students’ responses pose some of the key challenges to IaH, understanding students’ experiences of IaH practices would offer helpful insight into how to move forward with IaH. However, research into how students experience an internationalized university is limited, despite the significant role students play in the implementation and success of IaH practices. There is a particular lack of understanding around domestic students’ conceptualizations and experiences of internationalized universities, even though they comprise the majority of the Australian university student population. This thesis aims to provide better understanding of the challenges facing IaH aims by investigating students’ experience of an internationalized university, incorporating both international and domestic students’ experiences. The research study presented in this thesis is guided by the main research question, “What influences students’ experience of an internationalized university?” The study adopts a single-institution case study methodology, and three different faculties within the institution are included to consider different teaching contexts and student populations. A mixed-methods approach is taken, and data are collected through an electronic student survey, one-on-one student interviews, interviews with the heads of each of the three bachelor’s programs, and analysis of university website messaging about the student experience. Findings suggest that students’ experience is influenced primarily by a misalignment between their conceptualizations and expectations of an internationalized university on one hand and their experiences of that internationalized university on the other. Students expect that an internationalized university will offer frequent, natural interaction, often in the form of intercultural interaction with peers or in-class discussion; yet, they do not often find this to be true. This thesis argues for a reframing of the role of interpersonal interaction in shaping students’ internationalized university experience, primarily because it predominates students’ conceptualizations and expectations of an internationalized university. The thesis further argues that such misalignment may partially explain students’ resistance to certain IaH practices. It is thereby proposed that incorporating more interpersonal and intercultural interaction into the formal curriculum and reducing structural barriers to interaction would improve students’ experience of internationalized universities and better support the aims of IaH.
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    ‘Seidauk sai hanesan ami nia mehi’: a study of lecturers’ responses to multilingualism in higher education in Timor-Leste
    Newman, Trent Phillip ( 2019)
    This research is aimed at understanding multilingualism in locally situated institutional contexts in higher education in Timor-Leste. Particular attention is paid to the language planning and workforce development roles played by tertiary educators in the context of postcolonial, social and economic development. This is done through a close study of the beliefs and practices of lecturers teaching in professional fields relevant to the national development of Timor-Leste: agriculture, petroleum, tourism and community development. Guiding research questions focus on these lecturers’ conceptualisations of the communication skills and resources needed by their students for study and work in their respective industries, as well as on their multilingual teaching practices and communication strategies with students. Findings are drawn from empirical data gathered ethnographically from focus groups, interviews and class observations conducted with lecturers from three institutions, one public and two private. A combination of fine-grained sociolinguistic and discourse analysis reveals spectacular diversity in the locally valued and enacted forms and arrangements of multilingualism in these higher education spaces in Timor-Leste. The results of this research detail the specificities of this variation at multiple sociolinguistic scales of analysis: the different industry areas case-studied, the different faculties, departments and institutions where data was collected, and the classrooms of different individual lecturers. Different ‘visions of industry’ are productive of different beliefs about the communicative worlds into which graduates will be entering. Different beliefs about the relative affordances and constraints of the four official and working languages of Timor-Leste (Tetun, Portuguese, English and Indonesian) are productive of different perspectives on the preparedness of students for tertiary study. Lecturers’ own unique plurilingual repertoires, borne of individual educational and biographical trajectories, combined with the material constraints of available teaching and learning resources, limit the multilingual communication possibilities in classrooms. There are, however, powerful examples of lecturers’ significant creative and agentive abilities towards the transfer of expert knowledge in and through a mixture of semiotic forms. This study thus highlights both the hugely challenging position in which lecturers in higher education in Timor-Leste are placed – at the meeting point of diverse and often conflicting pressures – and their role as change agents in the discursive construction of multilingual communication for different fields. Lecturers’ beliefs and practices with regard to multilingual communication are demonstrated to be influenced by a range of competing pragmatic considerations and discursive forces, as well as being themselves productive of particular norms of professional and vocational communication and particular constructions of expert knowledge. Implications of the findings of this study are considered for policy-makers working in language and higher education in Timor-Leste, for those working in workforce development, and for teachers in academic literacies and language support programs in tertiary settings in developing, multilingual contexts.
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    Tertiary music education and musicians' careers
    Hillman, Jenni Anne ( 2018)
    Australian tertiary institutions offer many courses for musicians intent on working in the music industry. There has been, however, limited research into how these courses from different providers contribute to musicians’ careers. The rationale for conducting this research was to provide insights to educators on how they might design courses to meet better the needs of musicians preparing to work in the music industry. A review of the literature highlighted the concerns of educators and academics about the balance in curriculum emphasis between musical expertise and industry practice. This study examined the merits of different pedagogical paradigms through the experiences of graduates from different tertiary music offerings. Using a mixed methods approach and a descriptive, interpretive research design, this study explored the experience of tertiary music graduates and how their learning contributed to establishing their music careers. Data were analysed around three themes, (1) the characteristics of music portfolio careers, (2) tertiary music education experiences and graduate outcomes, and (3) the ongoing professional development needs of musicians for sustaining a music career. The findings demonstrate the formidable challenges of working in a music portfolio career including the self- management of a career in a precarious employment market. Such careers required a mix of work realms such as music practice, teaching and entrepreneurial activities to generate new work. Consequently, career trajectories were found to be necessarily circuitous and “messy” but there is evidence that tertiary music education is a significant intervention in the continuum of learning for a musician’s career. It is argued that there are five broad categories of proficiencies that are required first to establish and then sustain a music career. The pedagogies and course emphases from different tertiary music providers in the Australian state of Victoria contributed in different ways towards musicians’ careers. Furthermore, there were some shortcomings in requisite proficiencies which suggest the potential for further curricular development. This potential lay in both undergraduate courses to better prepare musicians for starting out in their careers, and post-graduate courses to provide further development for the sustainability of musicians’ careers.
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    Governing universities for the knowledge society
    Barry, Damian ( 2018)
    Australia’s higher education system, and its public universities, have been subject to significant external and internal challenges and changes over the past half century or more. Changes in the external environment for higher education are seen in the rapid expansion in access (“massification”), the growth and infiltration off information and communications technologies (primarily the creation of the internet) and globalisation, to name a few. At the same time, the concept of national higher education systems has emerged across the western world creating a new aspect to the consideration of higher education. The combination of changes and trends have irreversibly changed the role and operations of universities. A key governance change has been the introduction of the New Public Management (NPM) paradigm that implemented a new approach by governments to the governance, development and delivery of public services (including higher education) and pushing the provision of those services towards a more market-based and networked approach. The external environmental changes have moved higher education from the societal and economic periphery to now being the centre of a workforce, social and economic development engine and a more market-oriented education service provider. During this period, higher education in Australia has completed a regulation and funding transition from being mainly state based, to now being substantially a national government funded, driven and regulated activity. Despite these significant changes the governance arrangements of Australia’s public universities have remained substantially unchanged. It is contended that higher education in Australia has reached a point where the current approaches to governance are no longer fit for purpose. Much of the research on higher education governance has focussed on issues relating to the loss of power and engagement of academe; the impact of the market-oriented approach on academic work; power within universities; values and culture. It has been summarised as the rise of managerialism. However, very little research has addressed the fundamentals of the governance arrangements. The research has assumed the structures remain relatively unchanged and has not questioned their current utility or efficacy. In this Thesis I seek to address that gap in the research. Using a mixed methods approach combining a detailed literature review, conceptual analysis and interviews with Australia’s higher education leaders, I identify the key challenges facing the governance of Australia’s higher education system and public universities, and then develop a set of proposals to transition the current approaches to a more fit for purpose approach.
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    A framework for quality in international higher education: policy and practice in Chile as a case study
    Jerez, Emeline ( 2018)
    This study investigates the nature of quality in international higher education and develops a comprehensive framework for analysis, using Chile as a case study. Qualitative data is collected through document analysis, questionnaires to international experts and semi-structured interviews with stakeholders in Chile. Based on an adaptive theory approach, the study constructs a framework for quality in international higher education following an iterative process that brings together the previous management theory of quality as continuous improvement and a novel theory emerging from the empirical data. This process yields an expanded and adapted framework for a bounded higher education system. This study enhances our understanding of quality in international higher education and identifies a series of factors and variables that assist in its management in a structured manner.
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    Organisational capacity, leadership and management of Australian research centres of excellence
    Barros de Barros, Fabiana ( 2018)
    Centres of Excellence (CoE) are increasingly adopted by governments world-wide as a mechanism for the funding of science, technology and innovation activities in the knowledge-based society. Behind the adoption of policies for the creation of CoE there are some key underlying strategic rationales, such as fostering scientific excellence, promoting relevance of research to societal problems and building scientific and technological capacities in areas deemed of national significance. Research on CoE is usually performed at the macro science and innovation policy level, and the associated trends of increased selectivity and concentration on the allocation of public funds (Hellstrom, 2013; Hellström, 2017; Orr, Jaeger, & Wespel, 2011) or assessing individual programs across different countries (Aksnes et al., 2012; Beerkens, 2009; Cremonini, Horlings, & Hessels, 2018; Hellstrom, 2011). There is a considerable gap in the literature of studies focused at the micro, organisational level. More specifically, there is a need to understand the fundamental nature of CoE in terms of the organisational capacity required to establish such centres. This study aims to contribute to addressing that gap. It draws upon the long-standing Australian experience in running CoE programs by investigating centres created in the framework of two major governmental programs – the Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence program, and the Cooperative Research Centres program. To investigate CoE organisational capacity, two well-validated frameworks were used as theoretical and analytical lenses: Toma’s (2010) ‘Building Organisational Capacity’ which supported identifying and understanding the nature of CoE key organisational elements; and Quinn et al. (2007) ‘Competing Values Framework’ which facilitated an in-depth exploration of key leadership and management roles. By means of an Interpretive Inquiry, a qualitative multi-method approach served to investigate the CoE organisational setting as the unity of analysis. A sample consisting of six active and long-standing Australian CoE was identified on the basis of a pre-defined, purposive selection criteria aimed at narrowing down the number and diversity of existing centres in a meaningful way. Data was collected through three methods – document analysis, face-to-face semi-structured interviews and observations carried out during site visits. Results allowed for identifying which elements are at the core of building organisational capacity of CoE, given their role in informing and shaping other elements. Findings suggest that symbolic elements such as ‘purpose’ and ‘culture’ play a crucial role in representing and conveying the organisational nature and profile of a CoE and are strongly perceived to influence all other aspects and capabilities of a CoE. Moreover, ‘culture’ has been found to be consistently harnessed as a mechanism to increase the cohesion and performance of CoE collaborative teams. Similarly, given its strong emphasis on collaboration, ‘Governance’ as an element is perceived to have a distinct function and significance depending on the centre orientation. The role of leadership and management (L&M) appears to be critical in building and maintaining CoE organisational capacity. This study shows that the appropriateness of organisational capacity and L&M approaches depends on the profile of a CoE which, in turn, is determined by the nature of the problem tackled and the purpose and use of knowledge and technology produced at the centre.