Faculty of Education - Theses

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    Education for social justice? Reflecting critically on the epistemic commitments that drive education in liberal democratic societies
    Mulherin, Andrew Christopher ( 2023-11)
    In the Enlightenment tradition, the equality of all and the right to liberty are assumed to be universal, natural principles. Affirming these principles may lead to a pragmatic toleration of different, competing values. This toleration, in turn, can be understood to lead to the claim that there are no universal, morally binding values. The second position contradicts the claim that liberty and equality encapsulate universal truths. An unexamined commitment to liberty, equality, and toleration features in discussions in the public sphere in liberal democratic societies, contributing to political disagreements, and perhaps explaining why injustices prevail: Our failure to interrogate and defend the truth claims we subscribe to prevents us from participating in productive discussions about how we can live together. Education is inherently political, inculcating values and influencing the way ideas are discussed in the public sphere. Addressing the tension, and perhaps incoherence, between the universal values of freedom and equality, and the value pluralism implied by the toleration principle, is therefore a matter of urgency for educational theorists. The original contribution of this thesis is to recommend that a critical-hermeneutical interrogation of the epistemic commitments that inform public debate ought to precede decision-making, and that this interrogation will lead to robust, provisional truth claims that offer a coherent framework for education to attend to disagreements that hinder progress towards social cohesion and justice.
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    Exploring the Relationship Between Tabletop Role-playing Games and Complete Mental Health: A Mixed Methods Study of Adult Players
    Mclaren, Patrick James ( 2023-12)
    In recent years, there has been growing interest in the therapeutic potential of tabletop role-playing games (TTRPG) with several professional and organisation claims TTRPGs can promote social connectedness and social growth. However, there is limited evidence to support these relationships, particularly between TTRPG play and mental health. Without evidence, how can we be certain a TTRPG-based intervention can achieve therapeutic results? What impacts, if any, do these games have on the complete mental health, well-being and symptomology), of players? This field needs evidence that can justify and support therapeutic applications, particularly for mental health, at the very least, to minimise the potential for harm, particularly considering past criticisms and stigma towards this game genre. Two key gaps were identified, the lack of theories linking TTRPG to mental health, and the general lack of empirical evidence in this area. This work was guided by randomised trail-to-translation continuum, a model outlining necessary steps in rigorous intervention development and used advanced multiphasic mixed methods to address these gaps. Study One used in-depth semi-structured interviews (N = 12) and reflexive thematic analysis to explore the lived experienced of TTRPG of player to identify preliminary relationships and theories between TTRPG play and mental health. Four relevant themes were developed: Positive Emotions and Experiences, Social Connectedness, Freedom and Autonomy, and Social-Emotional Learning. Based on these themes, several theories were discussed that may describe how these phenomena relate to mental health; namely, Self-Determination, Broaden and Build, Social Learning, and Experiential Learning Theories. Study One proposed that TTRPG play may support adult complete mental health by promoting well-being and facilitating knowledge and skill development, which may reduce symptomology. Study Two used hierarchical regressions (N = 1719) to empirically test Self-Determination Theory (SDT) in TTRPG play, by investigating the relationship between in-game psychological needs satisfaction (relatedness, autonomy, and competence) and multiple dimensions of real-world well-being (emotional, psychological, and social). Results showed needs satisfaction in TTRPG play was positively related to all dimensions of well-being, with relatedness needs emerging as consistently strong across all well-being dimensions. Expanding further, Study Two used reflexive thematic analysis (n = 1120) to identify how players basic psychological needs are met during TTRPG play. Results identified four themes associated with the game master: compelling versus uncompelling game world, character engagement versus disengagement, supporting versus restricting player agency, fair versus unfair adjudication; and one theme associated with all players: social cohesion versus conflict. Findings highlight the vital role the game master plays in the satisfaction (or frustration) of the basic psychological needs of players, and by extension their well-being. Study Three integrated the findings of previous studies using structural equation modelling (N = 766) to develop and test an explanatory model of mental health in TTRPG play. This model tested several associations simultaneously, as well as explored the possible mediating role of social connectedness and social emotional development in the association between needs satisfaction, and mental health (well-being and symptomology). Results showed social connectedness and social-emotional development fully mediate the relationship between needs satisfaction in TTRPG play and well-being. However, relationships with symptomology were mixed and require further investigation. The results indicate TTRPG play may support the complete mental health of players in two ways: 1) by supporting and encouraging well-being, motivation, engagement, and personal growth, and 2) by creating a space that can facilitate social connectedness, and social-emotional development, which may serve as protective factors and contribute to resilience and a reduction in symptomology. Further, it identified the vital role of the Game Master in this association. Overall, findings support the therapeutic potential of this game genre, with implications for the ongoing development, testing and validation of TTRPG-based interventions for complete mental health, helping to address a substantial research-practice gap and paving the way for future research.
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    Stories of Hope: Towards a systems reconceptualisation of hope theory
    Colla, Rachel Helen ( 2023-11)
    Hope is a crucial concept to explore to prepare our youth for a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. It is a strong protective and enabling factor for emerging adults, specifically in the context of university studies. However, there remain several unanswered questions about the mechanisms that facilitate these adaptive relationships. Additionally, there are limitations evident in the translation of the dominant psychological theory of hope to facilitate hope in young adults. This thesis aims to address these gaps, storying the journey towards a reconceptualised systems theory of hope. To progress this endeavour, the thesis aimed to: 1) examine the development of Snyder’s (1989) Hope Theory and ensuing methods of study to ascertain potential gaps in the theoretical construction and 2) compare lay to scientific theories of hope to explore both support and opportunities for refinement of the central tenets of these theories. Four investigations were conducted to address these aims. Firstly, a critically appraised topic (CAT) review of Snyder’s (1989) Hope Theory revealed meta-theoretical, theoretical and methodological limitations that have constrained our ability to assess the dynamic interactions between factors that enable hope. The second investigation introduced a storying methodology, Participatory Narrative Inquiry (PNI), to address these limitations, demonstrating how this approach can facilitate the co-production of new knowledge with participants to help refine contextually relevant theories. This investigation was the first critical analysis of the PNI methodology in the academic literature. The PNI approach was tested in a multi-phased qualitative study that engaged university students as co-researchers to explore their experiences and lay theories of how hope emerges. Findings contributed empirical support for some of the central tenets of different theories of hope but also identified missing elements central to students’ experiences of hope. These findings provided support for an expanded theoretical framework that encompasses factors across the self as a system and within systems that are crucial to enabling the experience of hope in these students. The final investigation proposed an initial model integrating these findings in an expanded dynamic systems theory of hope. This program of research contributes a new meta-theoretical systems conceptualisation of hope, providing both theoretical and empirical evidence for the addition of new mechanisms that enable hope to emerge in university students. It further contributes new knowledge on a methodological approach that enables participatory exploration of complex wellbeing experiences, facilitating a more democratised pathway to theoretical construction. These contributions have practical implications that can enable the design of more effective tailored strategies to facilitate hope in emerging adults and fuel the next wave of discovery in hope research.
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    The Wellbeing Museum: cultural encounters of the third age
    Gan, Lena ( 2023-11)
    In an era of global ageing populations, oversubscribed public health systems and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, wellbeing has become a societal matter of concern and policy priority. Contemporaneously, self-help and health and fitness cultures, along with an array of spiritual and holistic interests have played a role in furthering wellbeing activities. A body of epidemiological research points to the strong association of cultural attendance such as museum visitation with health and wellbeing. Yet little is known about how benefits are produced, the effects of different types of engagement and the circumstances and conditions under which they are most likely to occur. In response to these gaps, this study explores the museum encounters of people aged over 45 years, the mechanisms at work, the role of affect and the conditions of possibility for wellbeing that museums afford. Set up as a multi-site ethnographic case study, the focus is the more-than-human, situated, sociomaterial practices that occur in four museums: Melbourne Museum, Australia; Nantes History Museum, France; Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand; and Manchester Museum, UK. Wellbeing is an ill-defined and elusive construct, with diverse, co-existing discourses and approaches that tend to focus on the identification of its determinates and/or components. However, taking a Spinozo-Deleuzian materialist view as this study does, it can be regarded as increased capacity. This approach affords the conceptual conditions to explore the lively interactions amongst spaces, bodies, perceptions, sensations, constructs and objects and their capacitating effects. Wellbeing emerges, it is argued, through an ecology of sociomaterial practices in more-than-human functional collectives. These practices enrich people’s understanding of themselves in relationship with the world. And museums, as fully staffed storehouses of cultural heritage, artefacts, memories, history, identities and stories, have affective appeal, are highly accessible and provide particularly generative conditions of possibility for the wellbeing of older people.
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    Mindfulness in Education: Critical Debates, Perspectives, and Pragmatic Recommendations
    Lee, Winky Wing Kay ( 2023-11)
    Interest in mindfulness for education has burgeoned. However, this growth in interest is followed by emerging debates and criticisms regarding the intentions and the social and political implications of integrating mindfulness into schools and universities. While scholars have increasingly attended to these critiques and criticisms, it is unclear how these issues and concerns may translate into practical considerations for educational leaders, policy makers, and stakeholders. This dissertation sought to explicate foundational discussions on three critical considerations for mindfulness in education: 1) a persistent tension between the need to adapt mindfulness for contemporary and secular applications, while preserving the integrity of the practice; 2) the social and political implications arising from implementing mindfulness amidst a context of neoliberalism, commercialism and consumerism; and 3) the nascent status of existing empirical evidence on mindfulness, and a limited research understanding of the potential adverse effects of mindfulness-based programs/practice, when done with children and adolescents, especially those with a predisposed vulnerability. This dissertation offers pragmatic recommendations to address each of these critical considerations. To provide empirically grounded insights into the three critical considerations for mindfulness in education, this dissertation presents three research studies which examined educators’ and university-attending emerging adults’ perspectives on mindfulness in education, and their experiences with mindfulness practice and mindfulness initiatives provided by their educational institutions. The findings provide support to the acceptability of mindfulness, as a universally applicable, suitable and beneficial approach to mental health and well-being, among educators and university students. In general, educators’ and university students’ perceived purpose and motivations for practicing mindfulness tended to reflect ‘thin’ and ‘instrumental’ goals, which align with the commonly proposed aims of the practice, both in the literature and in popular culture. Concerns relating to potential religious conflicts and adverse effects from mindfulness practice were raised by few educators. In addition, educators valued independent research evaluation of mindfulness in education, though they lacked confidence in the current state of research. Overall, educators believed that mindfulness was valuable to education, and was beneficial to practice by students and educators regardless of their age or religious backgrounds. However, educators emphasised on the importance of committing to ‘proper’ implementation of mindfulness in education, in order for such a movement to have positive impact on education. These results are discussed in light of the proposed critical considerations. Further contribution of the dissertation to the topic is discussed and future directions for research are proposed.
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    Crafting wellbeing at work: Analysing the effects of job crafting to guide the development of a new coaching-assisted job crafting program
    Silapurem, Likitha ( 2023-12)
    Job crafting involves employees proactively redesigning their work boundaries to better align with their work needs, skills, interests, and passions. Research on job crafting has increased exponentially in recent years, yet the growing literature on job crafting has become relatively saturated with cross-sectional research. This means that much of the evidence on job crafting is limited in its ability to allow causal inferences. Furthermore, the available work that generally does allow for stronger causal inferences, such as experimental research, has shown somewhat mixed findings, suggesting that a deeper analysis is needed to determine whether causal inferences are currently plausible and also what makes interventions more effective in yielding desired work outcomes. Thus, the aim of this research is to explore and analyse the causal effect that job crafting has with key outcome variables, and to develop and pilot an approach that may help overcome some of the limitations of job crafting interventions. These aims were addressed using three studies and a conceptual review. Study 1 is a systematic review and meta-analysis using longitudinal job crafting literature (k = 66, N = 27,195) that revealed that job crafting at Time 1 had strong, positive associations with a range of desired work outcomes at a later time point. Findings from this study provide evidence of temporal separation, thereby providing stronger evidence for a potential directional relationship than previous reviews which primarily consist of cross-sectional research. However, as longitudinal research does not allow for absolute conclusions about causality to be drawn, Study 2 extended these findings with an analysis for causality to assess whether a causal relationship exists between job crafting, and two key work outcomes: work engagement and job performance. Using Hill’s (1965) framework, the extant literature was appraised against six criteria and showed that there was evidence to suggest that a positive, causal relationship may exist between expansion-oriented job crafting and work engagement. Findings from this study also revealed that job crafting interventions are generally limited by such factors as including isolated job crafting workshops, with participants afforded little ongoing support, structure, and guidance, that have reduced the effectiveness of the interventions. I argue that these limitations could be overcome by integrating workplace coaching into job crafting interventions. Thus, Study 3 conceptually reviewed the feasibility and highlighted the benefits of integrating coaching with job crafting interventions as a way to increase their effectiveness. Study 4 piloted this new integrated intervention empirically in a mixed method pilot study (n = 8 intervention group, n = 6 control group). Qualitative feedback about the intervention delivery and coaching was also obtained. Findings from this study provided promising preliminary evidence regarding the positive effect that the addition of coaching had on job crafting interventions.
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    Uncovering Student Values and Wellbeing Across Mathematics and Science Education
    hill, julia lindgren ( 2023-09)
    Over the past few decades, interest in student wellbeing has increased worldwide. However, the literature focuses on general wellbeing rather than subject-specific experiences. Given the pervasive negative attitudes, emotions, under-participation, and disengagement of students in mathematics and science education, I argue for a wellbeing approach that supports students to thrive, which is contextualised to these subjects. This thesis aimed to elucidate value-based student wellbeing experiences specific to mathematics and science education. An exploratory sequential mixed methods approach was employed to uncover diverse students’ values to develop and empirically confirm mathematical (MWB) and science (ScWB) wellbeing frameworks. In total, 13,708 primary and secondary students across three countries (Australia, mainland China, and New Zealand) responded to a survey. Thematic and statistical analyses were undertaken for the qualitative and quantitative components of this survey, respectively. Across diverse age groups, cultures, and countries, findings suggested that the fulfilment of seven core or ‘ultimate’ values fostered students’ MWB: Accomplishments, cognitions, engagement, meaning, perseverance, positive emotions, and relationships. The same seven plus an autonomy ultimate value were associated with students’ ScWB. Despite the similarity of these ultimate values for diverse students, the instrumental values underpinning these ultimate values appeared to be culturally unique. Australian students rated their wellbeing higher in science than in mathematics education. Gender differences in wellbeing were wider in science than mathematics education, with males reporting significantly higher ScWB than females. My research makes subject-specific wellbeing visible. Findings can potentially inform curriculum development, teacher education, and educational policies to support more engaging and meaningful mathematics and science pedagogies.
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    Complex syntax use in children with hearing loss
    Klieve, Sharon Anne ( 2023-07)
    Children with hearing loss (CHL) present with a wide variety of language and literacy profiles unique to this population. Even with advancements in early identification, technology, and early intervention, many CHL continue to show language difficulties when compared to their typically hearing peers. These difficulties are across multiple aspects of language including phonology, vocabulary, and morphosyntax. One area that has been explored minimally is complex syntax. Complex syntax competence is important for language, reading comprehension, writing proficiency, and social relationships. Complex syntax is often mistakenly assumed to be a later developing skill that follows mastery of grammatical morphology and simple sentence structure. However, complex syntax is simultaneously acquired, with grammatical morphology and basic clausal structure (Barako Arndt & Schuele, 2013) emerging at a relatively young age. Complex syntax is shown to be a continuing area of challenge for CHL. The purpose of this study was to describe and profile CHL’s complex syntax use to better understand the vulnerabilities and resiliency in language for these children. This PhD study examined complex syntax use by 8- to 10-year-old CHL as compared to their typically hearing peers. The two groups undertook a range of language and cognitive measures, including elicited language samples. Frequency, variety, and accuracy of complex syntactic productions were compared across the groups. Results indicate that while CHL produce a similar range of complex syntax types, they exhibit less frequent use, less variety, and reduced accuracy across and within complex syntax types as compared to their typically hearing peers. CHL demonstrate a range of error types that suggest challenges across multiple language domains. Greater processing demands are suggested to cause breakdowns across multiple levels of sentence production, with CHL demonstrating differences in a range of cognitive processes, particularly phonological memory. The differences, although somewhat reduced as compared to previous research, and possibly masked by the small sample size, warrant further investigation. This research contributes valuable information for clinicians, educational professionals, and researchers around strengths and challenges in CHL’s complex syntax use. The novel assessment protocol has promise as a comprehensive battery that can provide a deeper analysis of complex syntax in individual CHL. This research also focused attention on the importance of considering the interactions between language domains and the interrelationships between language and cognitive capacities. Further research should continue to investigate this important area of language.
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    Democracy, meaning, and general self-efficacy in democratic and mainstream schools
    Singh, Neha ( 2023-11)
    Meaning in life (ML), meaningful work (MW), and general self-efficacy (GSE) are constructs related to numerous positive life outcomes. Meaning allows individuals to navigate personal and social changes, which is vital at a time of declining democracy, pandemics, political polarisation, wars, climate crisis, and other upheavals. The experience of meaning begins during the school age years; thus, it is imperative that well-being education explores the experience and impact of meaning in school (MS). This comparative thesis is conducted in the context of democratic schools, where students have greater control over their personal study plans and school governance, and mainstream schools, where these features are not central. Through two mixed-method studies involving a case-study approach to distinguish the schools and then a large-scale enquiry into MS in these schools and its impacts on adult ML, MW, and GSE, I aimed to understand how schools can foster democracy and meaning. In Study A, using thematic and content analysis, I analysed four Australian democratic and mainstream schools’ policy documents to identify similarities and differences between them pertaining to the schools’ salient features and beliefs underpinning them and the democratic potential of these policies. Notable were the stark differences in the conceptualisation of community, schools’ beliefs about students, and students’ voices and autonomy. The interrelated impacts of these three themes on other aspects of schooling were also significant. The first part of Study B conceptualised MS. I used Study A’s findings and existing literature on meaning to operationalise MS and develop the Meaning in School Scale (MSS). I then tested the MSS for content validity with experts (N = 5), face validity with non-experts (N = 7), and construct validity with former democratic and mainstream students (N = 641), which resulted in a 3-factor measure consisting of Academic Content, Family Role, and Psychosocial Factors. Study B then explored dissimilarities in the levels of these variables by school type; the role of MS on adult life outcomes; model invariance; and the differences between the effects of MS on the adult variables by school type using online questionnaire data from former students of democratic and mainstream schools (N = 641) using structural equation modelling methods. Findings demonstrated that the structural model for the two school types was invariant. Regarding differences between the two school types, the democratic sample reported higher MS, but ML, MW, and GSE were similar. Next, the effects of schooling on adult life indicated that Psychosocial Factors and Academic Content were associated with adults’ ML, while Academic Content predicted GSE, but MS had no impact on MW. Finally, incidental findings revealed that Psychosocial Factors experienced during school appear to be an important driver of only the democratic sample’s GSE, whereas Academic Content affects GSE only for the mainstream sample. However, this possible moderation effect needs to be investigated further. The research highlights the distinctions between the two school systems. Further, it suggests that democratic school structures can contribute to stronger school and future democracies and provide insights into making schooling more meaningful and the ways they impact upon adult ML and GSE.
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    Exploring perceptions of quality TVET teachers in Laos through the lens of the capability approach
    Saephan, Sanva ( 2023-10)
    Improving the quality of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) teachers in Laos has been a national priority for more than a decade. Policy documents from the Ministry of Education and Sports in Laos have identified the poor quality of TVET teachers as a major challenge to the development of a quality TVET education sector (GoL, 2007, 2016e, 2021b). This, in turn, affects national socio-economic development. However, the way quality TVET teachers are conceptualised in policy documents from the Ministry of Education and Sports is narrow, focusing solely on the capacity of individual TVET teachers. The external conditions that shape teaching practice are disregarded. To broaden the understanding of quality TVET teachers in Laos, this study adopts the capability approach as a conceptual framework to both examine the intersection between individual and contextual factors and capture the voice of TVET teachers and policymakers. It uses a mixed-method approach to analyse the elements of quality TVET teachers valued by TVET teachers and policymakers. It also examines the opportunities and constraints that impact the teachers’ capacity to implement and develop what they value in teaching. The findings reveal that both TVET teachers and policymakers value the following five elements of quality TVET teachers in Laos: (1) Assessment Competencies; (2) Pedagogical Competencies; (3) Occupational Competencies; (4) Professionalism; and (5) Personality Traits. The study uncovers multiple systemic challenges that impact the quality of TVET teachers in Laos. These challenges include nepotism, ambiguous rules and regulations, limited capacities of TVET teachers and insufficient resources, particularly in terms of funding. These obstacles impede the ability of TVET teachers to excel in their roles. Due to the challenges and limited opportunities they face, TVET teachers turn to informal peer-to-peer learning as a means of creating opportunities for themselves. Moreover, they exploit ambiguities in the rules and regulations to manipulate them for personal gain, often to the detriment of their colleagues. The findings of the study shed light on the intricate relationship between social structures and individuals. This study makes three significant contributions. Firstly, it contributes to our knowledge of what constitutes quality TVET teachers by considering not only individual and social factors, but also local norms and practices, and the agency of teachers and policymakers. This comprehensive perspective deepens knowledge of the subjective nature of teacher quality. Secondly, it offers insights that could inform education policies designed to improve the teacher quality by aligning the values of TVET teachers and policymakers. This insight facilitates targeted policies and efficient allocation of resources, while also informing the development of curriculum for pre-service and in-service TVET teachers. Thirdly, the study holds methodological significance because it operationalises the capability approach and develops a scale to measure the elements that characterise quality TVET teachers, an area with limited existing literature. The creation of this instrument provides a valuable frame of reference for future research, enabling more rigorous investigations into the factors that contribute to teacher quality in the TVET education sector.