Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Shame and Stigma: Investigating Teacher Awareness, Understanding and Response
    Maguire, Alanna Kate ( 2023-07)
    This research has taken an interdisciplinary approach to exploring teachers’ awareness, understanding and response to shame and stigma occurring in the classroom. Shame is an affective experience of failure by comparison, where the research suggests stigma causes shame (Lewis, 1998). A review of the research literature showed that teacher perspectives of students’ shame and stigma was an under researched phenomenon. Situated within Social Constructivism, and making use of qualitative methods, specifically semi-structured interviews, this research has made four contributions to knowledge on shame and stigma in schools. First, that teacher understanding of shame can be narrow, and that sometimes teachers unknowingly use language that can minimise their students' experience of shame and stigma. Second, while possessing limitations, the Compass of Shame could be used as a tool to ameliorate this issue by helping teachers to identify and name their students’ affective experience through their behaviour. Third, the data showed that teachers were blocked from acting in support of their students due to performativity pressures related to neoliberal education. Finally, drawing on the Positioning Theory framework, this study revealed that students’ experience can be analysed to understand how shame and stigma were circulated and reproduced to the detriment of equity of access to the classroom environment.
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    Re-engineering education in the shadow of the future: Examining national policy frameworks in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore
    Crome, Jennifer Susan ( 2022)
    Abstract As a comparative policy study, the thesis explores how practices in education policy making in Australia, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China ((HKSAR) – referred to throughout the thesis as Hong Kong) and Singapore, three advanced regional economies, work to re-engineer education in the shadow of the future. A policy sociology approach is taken to examine how education policy is used discursively and influenced by power, regimes of truth, acts of governmentality and biopolitics to administer and shape individuals and societies. Additionally, the thesis investigates the ways in which policy making for education is influenced by a country’s culture and history, globalisation, economic needs, and neoliberal agendas in order to construct the contributing subject-citizen. The sites chosen for analysis, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore, were part of a broader study of education landscapes in the Asia Pacific region in a global childhood’s project (see Lee et al., 2023; Yelland et al., 2020). All three sites, subject to regional and global flows, have undertaken schooling reform in order to address wider societal and political needs. Moreover, the improvement and restructuring of schooling in the three sites has been in response to notions of crises or radically shifting times, and these presses have been used as an opportunity for policy reform. The thesis begins with an interrogation of the key policy documents, political speeches and authoritative statements that provided explicit direction to the education sector and launched education policy reform in the three locations. The analysis of policy texts also includes insights from social semiotics as education policy makers around the world increasingly employ a range of modalities and make use of options for dynamic and visually appealing presentation of information and ideas to represent education and its attendant goals. Additionally, the thesis examines the responses of the Singaporean and Australian media to the 2018 PISA results, along with the commentary by policy makers that made its way into newspaper articles and discourse. Finally, the thesis investigates the ways in which policy makers and politicians used the COVID 19 pandemic crisis as an opportunity to reinforce political agendas and to justify new technologies of governance. In particular, the thesis provides new insights into the ways in which policy making functions in the service of broader goals that idealise learner-citizens in ways that align with policy agendas, cultural values and the best interest of national futures to ensure the current and future economy is perpetuated and protected. The three key findings of the thesis are: a) the policies in all three locations reflect the national imaginaries of what the youngest citizens should look like including their capacities, attitudes, beliefs, and capabilities, b) education policy in the high performing education systems of Hong Kong and Singapore have shifted towards constructing more multidimensional learner-citizens than previous policy iterations have allowed for, and c) differently configured education systems in the Asia Pacific region discursively employed policy rhetoric to rationalise and justify national reform agendas with varying levels of success. The findings of this work underscore that reform tacitly reiterates ideological narratives concerned with education’s purposes and potential to primarily produce workers with the skills needed for global economic success and the pursuit of nationalist agendas. However, it is recommended that these ideological narratives must be challenged, and that policy makers should instead look to the intrinsic purposes of education and the opportunity education offers for genuine transformation. Indeed, returning to Foucault’s (1980) theorisations of power and its capillary nature, the prospect for citizens to collectively reject their subject positions and push back on the neoliberal discourses that dominate is entirely possible.
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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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    An analysis of evaluative reasoning in education program evaluations conducted in Australia between 2014 – 2019
    Meldrum, Kathryn Janet ( 2022)
    The Australian government spends millions of dollars every year on grants that support new and innovative programs in the education sector. For example, in the 2020- 2021 Australian budget, financial support for interventions in the primary and secondary school sectors equalled more than $72.9 million dollars. Usually, and in order to account for spending the money, granting bodies ask for an evaluation of the intervention. One of the key activities of evaluation is to determine the value, merit or worth of a program. This is achieved by reaching an evaluative conclusion/judgement about the educational intervention that is credible, valid, and defensible to stakeholders. The defensibility of an evaluative conclusion/judgement relies partly on legitimate and justified arguments. In evaluation, legitimate arguments are made using the logic of evaluation. Justified arguments are made using evaluative reasoning. However, the reasoning process underpinning the logic is doubly important because readers need to be convinced of the credibility, validity, and defensibility of the evaluative conclusion/judgement. This study investigated the presence of a legitimate and justified evaluative conclusion/judgement in publicly available education evaluations conducted in Australia between 2014-2019. Using the systematic quantitative analysis method and new integrated logic of evaluation and evaluative reasoning conceptual framework, this study found that only four of the 26 evaluations analysed provided a legitimate and justified evaluative conclusion/ judgement about program value. The remaining 22 ‘evaluations’ were categorised as research because while they provided descriptive facts about the intervention, they did not ascribe value to it. The findings highlight the need for more credible, valid, and defensible evaluations of educational programs, achieved in part by using evaluative reasoning, as they provide an evidence-base for decision-making and for ensuring that quality education is available to all members of society.
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    Refiguring sustainability education: Reckoning with relationships to place and Country on unceded urban Lands
    Belcher, Fiona Margaret ( 2021)
    Sustainability education is a dominant site for the production of ideas about place and Country. At the international level, Education for Sustainability broadly references social justice; however, place-based pedagogical frameworks neither stem from nor centralise Indigenous concerns and futures. Similarly, in the Australian National Curriculum, the Sustainability cross-curriculum priority is represented as commensurable with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures, without the associated foregrounding of sovereign claims. At the same time, First Peoples of the place known as Melbourne have long storied possible futures in which invader/settlers take seriously the protocol of not harming Country. As a white invader/settler researcher, I respond to this tension between sustainability curriculum and sovereignty. This thesis investigates the possibility held in curriculum and its enactment; that of producing in a generation of young people specific ideas about their relationships and responsibilities to place and Country. This thesis is therefore grounded in the question, what relationships to place and Country are produced through the Sustainability cross-curriculum priority in secondary schools on the Country of the Kulin Nations? This thesis is an original contribution to knowledge about the ways white invader/settler logics are produced via sustainability praxis. In doing so, it contributes to a deepened understanding of the relationship between Education for Sustainability and Land education. While the field of Land education identifies place-based education as a site of possibility, this thesis contributes to an understanding of the specific ways these possibilities are delimited by the influence of the priorities and assumptions of Education for Sustainability frameworks on sustainability education practice in Victoria. By employing white possessive logics as a key conceptual framework, this thesis contributes to increasing the theoretical possibilities of Land education. This theoretical contribution enables further analysis of how patriarchal white sovereignty operates through sustainability education to produce incommensurable imaginings of not only the future, but of the past. Curriculum texts alongside secondary school and sustainability hub educators across Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung Country form the sites on which this thesis is located. My research findings emerge from analysis of the material and representational elements of sustainability education on these school grounds, revealed through walking interviews, go-along methods, photovoice, and policy analysis within a critical place inquiry approach. In this context, I find that sustainability education as represented in policy and curriculum reduces the concepts of place and Country to resources, framed by the problematisation of scarce environmental resources between nation states. This policy emphasis on resources is mirrored in classroom settings, whereby students’ relationships to displaced objects, such as single use waste, is framed through a moral lens. The final finding of this thesis is that educators’ impetus for sustainability praxis is for establishing an affective re-connection between students and place. This educational assumption of students’ disconnection amplifies an investment in cultivating an imagined return to love of place. The primary argument of this thesis is that white invader/settler benevolence is produced through sustainability education in secondary schools, while contested relationships to Country are disavowed. Sustainability education at the sites on the Country of the Kulin Nations produces two related affects that stem from the central concept of the environment. First, an investment in displaced objects is cultivated as a way for students to inhabit a moral subject position in relation to unceded Country. This thesis argues that the reduction of place and Country to resource relations enables moral positions to be assigned to consumer choices. As a result, students who choose keep cups and Boomerang Bags are able to inhabit not just an innocent but a moral subject position. Further, invader/settler relationships to place are rendered innocent, framed in terms of a depoliticised love. The depoliticisation of relationships to Country and emphasis on individual relationships to displaced moral objects work in tandem in an attempt to secure patriarchal white sovereignty. This thesis contributes to an understanding of the ways these two affects work in concert to produce benevolent settler subject positions, reinscribing postcolonising processes through sustainability praxis. The implications of this are significant and also Country-specific. In contrast to the language of resources, the affective enactment of Education for Sustainability on Kulin Country reveals the ways that students’ futures and histories are produced to actively deracialise relationships to Country. Such enactments work in an attempt to legitimise white invader/settler replacement of First Peoples across the past, present and future. Despite these attempts, the materiality of Country – such as the extractive histories revealed through landfill – continues to work against this attempted reinscription of relations.
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    Practices of professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care: Long day care educators at work
    Jackson, Phyllis Joy ( 2021)
    There is an emerging corpus of Australian research, both qualitative and quantitative, inquiring into how early childhood education and care (ECEC) educators experience and understand their work. This qualitative case study traces the lived experience of a group of centre-based long day care educators working in communities experiencing high levels of social and economic disadvantage. Set within the context of the Australian ECEC reform program, the study investigates what constitutes ECEC professionalism and how educators experience and practise it every day. Analysing data drawn from two quality centre-based long day care settings, it was found that educators predominantly frame professionalism in terms of pedagogic practice—what they do, how they use their knowledge and skills and how they enact professional identities they value. Thus, for many of the study’s participants, a commitment to social justice, of wanting to make a difference in the lives of young children and their families and, a belief in quality ECEC services as having the potential to ameliorate the socio-economic inequities many families in their community experience, was the basis on which their practice and professionalism was constructed. Altogether, the argument is made that educators’ understandings of their work practice, value commitments and the qualities and dispositions they privilege offer a nuanced and multifaceted view of professionalism, one that potentially widens the policy-based discourse of ECEC professionalism and requires that acknowledgement be made of the range and complexity of educators’ work in contemporary ECEC. The identity(ies) of relational and ethical professionalism that is both child-centred and family and community-centred most particularly requires recognition and support.
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    The impact of testing on students: Australian students' perspectives on NAPLAN and internal assessments
    Dowley, Mark William ( 2019)
    National and state testing policies have become an increasingly common feature of the policy landscape in education, both in developed and developing countries. Testing policies can generate a range of emotional responses among students, including high levels of stress. Alternatively, students’ emotional responses may not be discretely associated with large-scale standardised tests, but instead generalise to any testing situation. This study aimed to compare student responses and perceptions of assessment in both NAPLAN and internal tests. This study used an anonymous survey to gather data from 206 Year 7 and Year 9 Australian students on their perceptions of the importance their parents and teachers placed on doing well in tests, and their own self-reported responses to both NAPLAN and their internal tests. We found that the students in this study placed more value on internal tests than NAPLAN and students were also more likely to be confident in internal tests and bored for NAPLAN. A small percentage of students reported negative physical responses, such as crying or feeling sick to both types of tests, however, there were no significant differences between NAPLAN and internal tests in the number of students reporting negative physical responses. Furthermore, individuals who placed a high value on a given assessment and have greater emotional stability were more likely to experience positive responses to assessment. The findings suggest that NAPLAN does not cause significant negative responses in the majority of students. Implications for schools and policymakers are discussed.
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    An Examination of the Significance of the Concept of Internalised Racism in the Contemporary Australian Zeitgeist
    Seet, Adam Zhi Qiang ( 2020)
    This study investigates the usefulness of the concept of internalised racism (IR) in understanding issues of racism in contemporary Australian society. It does so via the lived experiences of 1.5 and 2nd generation Australians of East and Southeast Asian descent. The research consisted of multiple semi-structured interviews discussing experiences of racialisation and racism with each of the 17 participants. The study aimed to both utilise the concept of IR to understand the lived-experiences of the participants, and to determine how it could be revised for salience in the contemporary zeitgeist. Through the analysis of participants’ lived experiences, the study demonstrates that the concept of IR, whilst contested within the extant race scholarship, is nevertheless integral to understanding the structural impact of racism within the narratives. As such, in order to retain the concept of IR for contemporary salience, it needed to be revised to account for both psychological and sociological dimensions. Subsequently, the study demonstrated how revising the concept of IR impacts current dominant forms of anti-racist praxis. By acknowledging these limitations, the revised and rearticulated concept of IR was then applied to the narratives again to demonstrate its utility in better understanding contemporary experiences of racism.
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    The heredity of Australian higher education
    Brett, Matthew Charles ( 2020)
    This dissertation defines the heredity of Australian higher education. Consistent with higher education and public policy literature, this heredity is embedded in an integrated higher education and public policy cycle, bridged by legislation. Financing legislation between 1850 and 2020 was examined demonstrating that legislatures have accommodated expansion in participation and research through internationally distinctive frequent incremental change. Discontinuous changes in financing legislation are rare. Insights arising from heredity contribute to the description of a more stable approach to financing legislation.
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    Participation and cultural and linguistic diversity: An in-depth qualitative inquiry of an Australian primary classroom
    Cabiles, Bonita Marie ( 2020)
    Educating for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) learners emerged as a policy ‘problem’ that gained attention from the 1970s to the 1990s through Australian multicultural education discourse, but since then has been marked by policy decline and instability (Harris, 1995; Jakubowicz & Ho, 2014). Researching this anew, this study explored how the problem of participation can be understood in the context of CALD learners. Participation remains an eminent yet ambiguous ‘buzzword’ in the field of education (Black, 2011; Thomas, Whybrow, & Scharber, 2012). This study contributes to the discussion of participation by offering a conceptual framework to understand the practice of participation in the context of CALD learners. In deploying this conceptual framework, this research engages with Bourdieusian conceptual tools: field, capital, and habitus—as heuristic devices to critically explore participation as a social phenomenon occurring in a CALD learning context. This study asks: How is participation understood, practiced, and experienced in the context of a CALD primary classroom? To critically explore the practice of participation in the context of CALD learners, this study undertook an in-depth qualitative inquiry of an Australian primary classroom. The class, referred to as Class 5/6k, was a highly diverse student cohort, culturally and linguistically, located in a major metropolitan city. The study found that many of the teachers’ taken-for-granted assumptions and practices about teaching CALD learners were constraining the students’ participation. This study also found that building social relationships was inherently challenging in a CALD classroom context. In foregrounding the subjective experiences of CALD learners, a key finding of this study has been the diverse and complex interests, needs, and capabilities of a highly diverse student cohort. The primary contribution of this study is the articulation of a conceptual framework for understanding participation in the context of CALD learners. This is referred to as ‘the teaching triad of participation’ consisting of ‘positionality,’ ‘resourcing,’ and ‘sociality’. As illuminated through the empirical research, these constructs in the teaching triad function in a relational and dynamic manner. Thus, the study encourages continued exploration of teaching practices that can work towards empowering increasingly diverse learners in the classroom through a holistic approach that considers the three constructs in the teaching triad. Finally, this study also encourages reflecting on possibilities for future research including further exploration of the affective dimension of participation and an examination of how issues of race and gender intersect with cultural and linguistic diversity.