Faculty of Education - Theses

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    The Right to Education Act (2009) and school enactments of inclusion in India
    Mattoo, Ajita ( 2020)
    This thesis is concerned with the landmark right to education legislation, which was included as a fundamental right in the Indian constitution, in 2002, and enacted as law as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act, 2009). This Act makes free and compulsory elementary education of children between 6 and 14 years of age a fundamental constitutional right. It also details conditions for provision of education, specifying minimum standards of school infrastructure, teacher qualifications, teaching norms, assessment, and curriculum. Importantly, it includes a provision for the reservation of entry-level seats for children from underprivileged backgrounds in private schools, to create more inclusive school communities. At a time when policy focus is on learning outcomes and the issue of quality of education, this research instead draws attention to the objectives of inclusion and social justice implied by the constitutional mandate for the right to education and is concerned with the ways in which schools have responded to and enacted this provision for inclusion in classrooms. Using theoretical resources drawn from recent literature on policy enactment approaches, this thesis focuses on the materializing practices that enact the right to education in two school settings in India. School leaders’ and teachers’ readings of policy discourses, and teachers’ negotiations of multiple ideas and policy objects encountered in the post-RTE classroom settings, are explored. Concepts from new materialism are used to analyse interview and ethnographic observation data by mapping the meanings, discourses and affects assembled in practices of schooling. The role of affect in learning, and the ways in which it produces new capacities to teach, and learn, in school settings are explored. Pedagogies that include and exclude become visible at the confluence of policy discourses, practices of educational reform and institutional histories. The potential of ethical pedagogies of affect to enact inclusion in the context of the right to education in India is shown.
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    Global tides, Pacific shores: an exploration of the emerging possibilities of political autonomy in the formation of education policy in the Pacific
    Sobhani, Nima ( 2018)
    Since gaining independence, the education landscape throughout Pacific Island nations has changed as a result of both local pressures and global forces, which have included: the evolving legacies of colonialism; changing perspectives on modernisation; the introduction of neoliberal principles in governance; the rise of Asia and the growing economic, cultural and political role that new donors such as China are now playing in the region; shifts in the modus operandi of long-standing donors such as Australia; and, more broadly, rapid globalisation across all aspects of life. More recently, the idea of ‘development partnerships’ has been used to recognise and build on the promises of political autonomy that emerged at the time of independence. This thesis examines how policy actors in three Pacific Island nations (Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu) seek to negotiate the global designs for education reform amidst these complex geopolitical shifts, while remaining determined to exercise political autonomy in line with their local cultural and educational priorities. Methodologically, the thesis adopts a qualitative, interpretive approach, informed by a commitment to prioritising indigenous voices within the context of calls to decolonise educational research. It draws on data from semi-structured interviews with local policy actors concerned with issues relating to educational development, in order to understand the complexities, opportunities and challenges they face in seeking to exercise political autonomy in light of various external pressures. The thesis suggests that while the voices of local policy actors continue to be inhibited by external forces, there is also emerging throughout the region a rejuvenated postcolonial confidence, which offers new possibilities for the exercise of political autonomy in the formation of education policy in the Pacific.
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    Participation on the margins: young people’s citizenship experiences in schools
    Dadvand, Babak ( 2017)
    This research project is an interdisciplinary study that draws upon on-going discussions and emerging scholarship in the fields of Citizenships Studies, Education and Sociology of Youth to offer a renewed perspective on how young people experience citizenship through their everyday social encounters in schools and classrooms. More specifically, this study looks into young people’s everyday school practices to: a) offer a situated account of how those who face various sources of marginalization experience participatory citizenship, and b) examine the factors, both in the students’ backgrounds and within the social geography of the school, that contribute to such experiences. The research is an ethnographic study with 12 students who attended an alternative education program in a metropolitan school located in a low socio-economic status suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. Findings from the data gathered over eight months from participant observation, focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews with the students, some of their teachers and the school principal highlighted a set of factors behind young people’s political experiences on the margins of the mainstream school. These factors include: school belonging, inclusion, relationality, recognition of difference, student voice and school discipline. Drawing on the students’ narratives and experiences, I argue that rather than offering a level playing field in which all young people have the opportunity to participate, the social geographies of schools emerging under neoliberal policy reforms tend to differentiate among students on the basis of how well they can satisfy the needs and requirements of the institution in terms of performance and benchmarking. What follows from this process of differentiation, which revolves around the normative definition of ‘good student’ as a self-reliant and high performing individual learner, is the construction of ‘the other’ who lacks the dispositions of the socially sanctioned ‘norm’, and is, therefore, positioned and treated differently in the social field of schools and classrooms. I conclude my thesis by calling for a conceptually comprehensive understanding of youth citizenship that takes into account the complex interactions and overlapping relationships among the elements that constitute youth politics. Within such a conception, all the factors that impact on the political geographies of young people such as belonging, inclusion, relationality, recognition of difference, voice and discipline stand in continuous and dynamic interaction with each other. As I further argue, to create a truly democratic education that is inclusive of all students regardless of their needs and social backgrounds, we should bring issues of social justice centre-stage in our debates about civics and citizenship education.
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    Bridging the data literacy gap for evidence-informed education policy and practice: the impact of visualization
    Van Cappelle, Frank ( 2017)
    Data literacy comprises an important set of competencies in today’s society. Its rise in prominence can be traced to several developments: the exponential increase in data leading to unprecedented possibilities for transforming society; the global Open Data movement as a driving force in making data more accessible; and the evidence-informed policy movement. In the education sector, the latter is linked to the data-driven decision making movement, which refers to the use of data to inform education policy and practice at all levels. Because of these developments, data literacy is becoming embedded as an integral part of professional competencies for educators and education leaders. The purpose of the study was twofold: first, to investigate whether data literacy can be measured on a single scale of increasing proficiency, and second, to investigate the effect of different data presentation formats on data literacy within the context of evidence-informed education policy and practice. A data literacy test was developed which required participants to answer multiple-choice questions based on a set of research briefs. Participants consisted mainly of graduate students enrolled in an education-related degree and education researchers. An experimental design was used in which the treatment condition was the presentation format of the research briefs. Test participants (N = 127) were randomly assigned to one of three presentation formats – text-only, text plus tabulated data, and text plus visualization – where tabulated data and visualizations were constructed from information in the text. The findings from the test calibration supported the hypothesis of a hierarchical unidimensional data literacy scale. The interpretation of data literacy competencies along a log-linear scale replicated the hypothesized hierarchical development of data literacy levels. It was also hypothesized that text plus visualization would lead to higher levels of data literacy compared to the other presentation formats. While previous research analysed differences in presentation formats through raw scores, this study used many-facet Rasch model analysis. Ordinal-level raw scores were transformed into linear, interval-level measures as an outcome of the interaction between three facets: person, item, and presentation format. In contrast to raw scores, Rasch model parameter estimates are sample independent, so the findings can be more objectively generalized beyond the sample and items used in the study. Rasch parameter estimates for the three presentation formats supported the hypothesis that the use of visualizations is associated with higher levels of data literacy. Item-level analysis of the effect of presentation format, based on the theories of cognitive fit, cognitive load, and the proximity compatibility principle, suggested that data presentations which emphasize relationships between variables matching the problem context increase data literacy levels. Those that do not may lower data literacy levels by acting as extraneous cognitive load that diverts limited cognitive resources, especially if they misdirect attention and subsequent analysis. Implications of these findings were discussed in terms of the conceptualization of a hierarchy of data literacy competencies vis-à-vis the requirements of educators and education leaders, the potential and caveats of using data presentations for communicating policy-relevant evidence, and future research on data presentation and visualization.
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    Federalism and schooling reforms in Australia
    HINZ, BRONWYN ( 2016)
    This thesis reveals how federalism has shaped schooling reforms and policy making processes in Australia, a portfolio characterized by extensive and contested overlap of state and Commonwealth government roles. This is done through qualitative case studies of two landmark reforms from the 1990s - Victoria’s Schools of the Future reforms and the Commonwealth’s Choice and Equity reforms – based upon semi-structured interviews with policy actors and documentary analysis of material from personal and institutional archives, parliament, media, government and other sources. The thesis traces each of these reforms from their origins through to their implementation with the decisions, motivations and obstacles faced by policy makers examined at each ‘stage’ of the policy making process. Next, the lens is widened to encompass the broader and dynamic intergovernmental context in which each reform was pursued, to consider the direct and indirect ways each reform and the policy making process were shaped by Australian federalism. This is the first close-range, comparative, multi-level qualitative study of schooling reforms from an intergovernmental perspective in Australia. The thesis contributes new knowledge and a deeper understanding of these landmark reforms, of the operation of Australia’s federal system, and of the dominant models of federalism and policy making. This thesis finds that while each reform was pursued unilaterally, each reform was also significantly and indirectly shaped by features of Australia’s federal system. Contrary to widely held views on the restrictive nature of tied grants and perverse effects of overlapping roles, the study found the Victorian government possessed policy autonomy and the capacity to innovate in their response to what they considered state issues. Tied grants from the Commonwealth helped rather than hindered reform. The Victorian reforms were also enhanced by the spread of policy ideas, movement of policy actors and the availability of comparative data on school spending and outcomes in other states. These findings indicate the existence of a policy ‘laboratory’ and the protective ‘insurance’ effects of overlap, two claimed advantages of federal systems. The Commonwealth likewise pursued its reform package unilaterally in line with its own analysis of the policy problem and its own policy agenda. Yet the Commonwealth’s new school funding model was derived from models already in operation at state level, and constitutional provisions meant that the Commonwealth relied on state cooperation to implement its reforms. Vertical fiscal imbalance in its favour enabled the Commonwealth to provide funding to private schools beyond their estimated need. This constitutional, fiscal and political settlement contributed to what was ultimately a sub-optimal policy decision, poor resource allocation and slow, partial implementation. Simultaneous to the Choice and Equity reforms, the Commonwealth unilaterally reengineered tied grants for schooling to the states to make them more prescriptive and punitive, and attempted to extract other school funding from the states. The Commonwealth had very limited success in both instances of coercion. Conversely, evidence of highly productive collaboration was found in the case of the Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling for the Twenty-first Century. These findings demonstrate that the coordinate and cooperative models of federalism, as well as the collaborative and competitive models of intergovernmental relations, are simplistic and unrealistic reflections of the fluidity and complexity of intergovernmental relations and governance in each of the case studies. The use of these models risks imposing unproductive and artificial boundaries on policy thinking and practices. The thesis supports a reconceptualisation of Australian federalism as concurrent federalism, which recognizes that policy actors act unilaterally and pragmatically in pursuit of their own policy goals within a shared policy sphere, but are still shaped by the contours and institutions of Australia’s federal system. This term also allows for the fact that intergovernmental relations took a variety of forms simultaneously – combative relations on one issue did not prevent constructive work on other issues. This was much more dynamic than previously conceived. This flexibility of Australia’s federal system is likely to be of value in the face of the increasing complexity of public policy problems. Furthermore, the thesis finds that models of policy making, such as the Australian Policy Cycle (Bridgman and Davis 1998) and the ‘streams, entrepreneurs and windows of opportunity’ model (Kingdon 1984), are useful analytical tools in a federal system, even where their descriptive value differed in relation to the two case studies. Findings from this study indicate that state governments are more effective at developing and implementing schooling reforms. Concurrency, tied grants, intergovernmental comparisons and movement of policy actors and ideas can enhance policy making processes and the policy laboratory effect to maximize policy responsiveness and effectiveness. But these benefits are undermined when tied grants become prescriptive and punitive, especially if the conditions are determined unilaterally by the Commonwealth.
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    Higher education privatization in Kuwait: A study in the processes of policy production
    Al-Asfour, Ahoud ( 2015)
    Like most countries around the world, the State of Kuwait has over the past two decades experienced a rapid growth in student demand for higher education. Lacking public resources, most emerging systems of higher education have turned to privatization policies as a way of meeting this demand. Similar financial pressures do not however apply to Kuwait, since it enjoys a surplus of revenue from its oil exports. Financial arguments explaining the adoption of privatization policies are therefore not compelling in the case of Kuwait. This research project aims to analyze some of the key reasons for Kuwait to pursue a privatization policy in higher education. More broadly, the project seeks to examine how various local and global processes have influenced the production of national policies of higher education in Kuwait. Using qualitative methods of policy research, this project examines some of the internal and external pressures that led to the production of a privatization policy in the Kuwaiti system of higher education in 2000. Particular reference is made to the Private Universities Law (PUL) (34/2000) in an attempt to explain how this policy was developed, who were its main architects, and what interests does the policy now serves. The research supports the conclusion that privatization is not a necessary outcome of globalization, but that the production of higher education privatization policies in Kuwait has involved a complex interplay of both local and global factors, with contextual realities playing a crucial role not only in the introduction of these policies but also in defining the form of privatization that is currently being implemented.
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    Global agendas- local realities: challenges surrounding teacher capacity development in Cambodia
    King, Elizabeth Fiona ( 2014)
    This study seeks to examine the challenges of teacher capacity development in the aftermath of events in Cambodia in the 1970s, which witnessed the decimation of its teaching force and the virtual destruction of its education system. These events continue to impact upon current education policies and practice in Cambodia. Since the 1990s the Ministry of Education, with its Development Partners, has developed a series of policies, drawing upon the global agenda for education reform, to address its most pressing concern of developing a ‘quality’ education system through teacher capacity development. Against this backdrop, this study is prompted by a widespread view that, despite the best of intentions, a succession of policies has failed to develop required levels of teacher capacity. It is designed to understand why teachers often enact policy in ways contrary to those envisaged by policy makers. The data upon which this study explores the challenges of teacher capacity development in Cambodia is based on research conducted in three government primary schools located in three different regions to reflect the geographical differences and the types of places where Cambodian children attend school: urban, rural and remote locations. Data collection sources include: semi-structured interviews, focus groups, a questionnaire, and documentary analysis. In examining teacher capacity development the views of ministry officials at both central and provincial levels, expatriates working in the field of teacher capacity development, and the directors of the teacher training colleges are also taken into account. However, priority is given to the insights of those at the school level: principals, students and, in particular, teachers. The data indicates that in order to understand the complexities surrounding the challenges of teacher capacity development a more nuanced understanding of the policy-practice nexus is needed. In particular the findings suggest that the current perspective on the policy-practice nexus neither allows nor makes provision for teachers to define capacity, and in fact, does not enable capacity to be developed. Indeed, this confirms the thesis that the ways in which policy moves from formulation to enactment is neither static nor linear and must take into account a range of factors that influence and shape how actors enact policy. Findings also suggest that culture, local environment and the realities of teachers’ work need to be recognised and acknowledged as significant issues that impact upon teacher capacity development. Moreover the research indicates that an expanded view of resources is needed that takes into consideration the vital role of human resources that are developed on an on-going basis. This study suggests that however well policies are conceived or written, if the implementation strategy is not effective then the assumptions that this strategy makes about the policy-practice nexus need to be re-thought. For policy to be effective, it needs to allow the ultimate implementers of policy – the teachers – to be accorded a more significant role not only in the processes of policy implementation but also its development. To enable teacher capacity development to occur differently to what happens currently, the study proposes a model of teacher capacity development better suited to the Cambodian situation.
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    System leadership in Victoria, Australia
    Butler, Sean ( 2014)
    System leadership has emerged as a concept in work on educational leadership in recent years but is a concept with little empirical foundation. This research examines system leadership in the context of the jurisdiction of Victoria, Australia. The research finds that system leadership does exist in Victoria, but, significantly, that it does not manifest in ways anticipated in current literature and that school principals do not exhibit system leadership as a result of systemic structures and operations. Three research questions are posed: 1. To what extent is system leadership a feature of the Victorian education system and, if present, how is it manifested? 2. What are the operational relationships between leaders in the system and are these supporting the policy priorities of the DEECD? 3. To what extent is system leadership leading to school improvement? The research draws on interviews with three classes of leader (seven senior managers, thirteen Regional Network Leaders and eighteen principals). Using qualitative methods the research finds that system leadership is a feature of the Victorian education system and that operational relationships between leaders in Victoria support the achievement of DEECD policy priorities. The research finds little evidence of, although great potential for, school improvement resulting from system leadership. The research exposes a new and interconnective leadership role in Victoria operating between the DEECD and schools, the Regional Network Leader, and considers how these roles relate to promoting system leadership, particularly in the context of creating adaptive public policy and environments conducive to successful governance in post-industrial economies. A definition of system leadership is established and tested alongside a review of literature pertinent to the area of study.
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    How prospective students choose universities: a buyer behaviour perspective
    Brennan, Linda ( 2001)
    This thesis examines the decision making and information search process of students choosing university courses in Victoria Australia. The position adopted for this study is that of a buyer or consumer behaviour perspective. This is the first study of its kind undertaken in Australia. Much related research been done in the United States and elsewhere. However, the Australian higher education system has unique characteristics. Consequently, while existing student-choice models drawn from elsewhere provide a useful foundation, they are not sufficient to answer the key question: How do students choose universities in Australia? Implicit in this overarching question are several issues examined by this study: how a student makes a choice is related to what choices there are to be made, and why the student makes a choice about a particular institution. (For complete abstract open document)