Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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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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    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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    Teacher questioning practices across a sequence of consecutive mathematics lessons: a multiple-case study of junior secondary teachers in Australia and mainland China
    Dong, Lianchun ( 2017)
    Question asking is one of the most common strategies used by teachers in their everyday classroom instructional practice. Over recent decades, many attempts have been made to categorise teacher questions asked during classroom instruction and to report on teachers’ skilful questioning strategies. These categorisations consider the context where the questions are asked, the appropriate use of different types of questions, the learning opportunities created in the sequences of teacher-student interactions and so on. This study was designed to extend our understanding of teachers' questioning practices in classrooms through a fine-grained analysis of mathematics lessons taught by four competent junior secondary teachers from mainland China and Australia. The study demonstrates the importance of examining teaching strategies over a sequence of lessons, the power of the IRF (Initiation-Response-Follow-up) framework as a basic structure for investigating classroom interactions, and the complexity of teaching practices, made evident through the focused investigation of the ubiquitous practice of teacher questioning. Based on the IRF framework, a comprehensive coding system was developed to analyse what kinds of verbal questions were initiated by the teachers to elicit mathematical information and in what ways the teachers made use of students’ verbal contributions in order to facilitate student construction and acquisition of mathematical knowledge. In particular, a distinction was made between Q&A question pairs, IRF (single) sequences, and IRF (multiple) sequences. Classification systems were developed for question types within each interactive category. Within IRF (multiple) sequences, the categories: initiating and follow-up represented a fundamental distinction, each category having its own suite of sub-categories. For each participating teacher, a whole unit of consecutive lessons was examined (from 6 to 10 lessons per unit). Analysis of the data suggested that: (1) Across the professional practice of the four teachers, two each in mainland China and in Australia, similarities and differences in the ways in which teachers employ questioning strategies were observed. The differences regarding questioning strategies across the consecutive lessons include: (i) number/frequency of questions asked in each lesson; (ii) the proportions of questions in IRF (multiple) sequences and the proportions of the questions in Q&A question pairs and IRF (single) sequences; and, (iii) the use of subcategories for initiation questions in each lesson. And the similarities are as follows: (i) the proportion of initiation questions in IRF (multiple) sequences out of all questions in each lesson; and, (ii) the use of subcategories for follow-up questions in each lesson. The essential point suggested by the comparison of similarities and differences regarding teacher questioning practices in this study is that the Chinese teachers and Australian teachers employed questioning strategies with similar forms but with distinctly different functions. (2) Regardless of the geographical location of the classroom, teachers’ questioning strategy choice is made rationally based on such contexts as the nature of instructional tasks and the constraints facing the teachers at the time. Those constraints might involve time limit and overemphasis on procedural fluency caused by the need to prepare students for high-stakes examinations, the demands of catering to students’ individual differences, the need for coherent delivery and explanation of sophisticated mathematics and the need to elicit information about student existing understanding. Unlike the two Chinese teachers who valued the achievement of lesson goals above any other factors, both Australian teachers placed greatest emphasis equally on students’ demands and lesson content. (3) In the case of the use of the three kinds of IRF (multiple) sequences (leading, facilitating/probing, orchestrating), the nature of teacher lesson planning – collaborative and institutionalised in the case of mainland China, and individually done in the case of Australia – affects how teachers make use of questions in class. These local educational contexts pose culturally-situated challenges, even though the teacher questioning strategies that are chosen and performed may reflect rational professional decisions by all four teachers, predicated on similar pedagogical goals. Teachers’ adjustment of their questioning routines in response to competing tensions in their classroom practices provided some of the most interesting features of the research. In addition, this study also suggests that teacher professional development program designers should ensure that novice teachers are given an opportunity to observe the teaching of a sequence of lessons and to observe closely how one expert teacher’s questioning strategies are strategically employed according to the demands of the particular lesson and its place in the topic sequence. Such strategic variation of questioning practice cannot be fully or correctly understood without the examination of the teaching of consecutive lessons.
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    Academic staff and international engagement in Australian higher education
    Proctor, Douglas John ( 2016)
    Australian higher education appears to be in the vanguard of internationalisation worldwide. In line with global changes to higher education, Australian universities have adopted comprehensive international strategies across their teaching, research and outreach agendas. By many measures, this strategic approach to internationalisation has been successful. Given the central role of academic staff within the life of the university, and with international strategies now touching on all aspects of a university’s activity, academic staff are important to the further internationalisation of Australian higher education. Yet little is known about the factors which influence the international engagement of Australian academics (that is, their involvement with the international dimensions of all aspects of their work) and the extent to which they consider international activities an important aspect of their academic work. This study has investigated the engagement of academic staff with the international dimensions of their work. It sought to identify the extent to which different aspects of international engagement have been integrated into contemporary understandings of academic work in Australia, as well as to examine the factors which influence academic staff choices in relation to their international engagement. Based on an Adaptive Theory approach (Layder, 1998), the research took case studies of two universities – a younger progressive university and an older research intensive university – which, between them, are broadly representative of one third of the Australian university sector. Qualitative data were collected through document analysis and in-depth interviews with thirty-seven academic staff drawn from Science and Business disciplines. The study found that the international dimensions of academic work are predominantly centred on research, despite the literature on internationalisation pointing to a more comprehensive focus and despite institutional strategies advocating for a more balanced approach to international engagement. In terms of contributions, the study has conceptualised a typology of international engagement to address the gap identified in the literature in relation to a holistic understanding of the international dimensions of academic work. Further findings are presented in relation to the influence of institutional and disciplinary context, as well as personal and individual factors. Particular to the Australian context is a finding in relation to geographic isolation, which is commonly described as both a driver and barrier to the international engagement of Australian academic staff. This study argues that institutions need to recognise the complex and interweaving nature of the factors which influence academic staff in relation to the international dimensions of their work. This recognition is important if institutions seek to foster greater international involvement amongst their academic community. In addition, institutions could review the role of leadership at the local level in fostering greater international engagement beyond research, as well as reconsider the availability of funding and technology to mitigate the barrier to international engagement of Australia’s distance from other countries.
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    What do 'at risk' boys say about their schooling experiences ? : creating agency for boys' views and feelings about school
    Ward, Michael ( 2008)
    The following discussion outlines the theory and operational methods that inform a general ethnographical study, designed to understand the views and perceptions of three 'at risk' boys relegated to a specialised Victorian state school. The methodology hopes to empower the male students taking part in the study by giving emphasis to the didactic importance of their views, opinions and experiences expressed during a series of interviews in which they participate. It is hoped that the boys will be able to identify areas of education that need improvement, and define real life problems within their own learning experiences, so genuine male learning dilemmas and insights are generated and debated in the research. However, Connell (1989, 1995) characterises boys as `inheritors of an all conquering hegemonic masculinity' and this classic feminist perspective seems to be preventing the evolution of a boys' paradigm in education by diverting attention away from boys' educational issues by asking `which girls' and 'which boys' are specifically disadvantaged. This generic ethnographical study attempts a pro-male research project which holds boy's views, opinions and experiences paramount in the research logic processes, and makes use of key foci descriptors conceptualised in recent government research and programmes to discover how young males experience and dialogue about their schooling lives.
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    Link between teacher-student relationship, student emotional wellbeing, coping styles, classroom engagement and peer relationships
    Sabir, Fizza ( 2007)
    This research explored the link between teacher-student relationship, student emotional wellbeing, coping styles, peer relationship and classroom engagement of year 8 students. The participants were Catholic school students and the focus was limited to English class and teacher. The data sources were a Student-Survey (SS) and the Adolescent Coping Scale (ACS) (Frydenberg & Lewis, 1993). The first component of the research was scale development, to validate the hypothetical categorization of items in the scales; the second was the testing of the hypotheses. Teacher-student relationship was highly correlated with classroom engagement and coping style-solving the problem. The correlation between other variables was positive but not significant.
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    Parent professional partnerships in IEP development : a case study of a MAPS process
    Morgan, Philippa Teresa ( 2007)
    The practices, language and behaviours which professionals adopt when they meet with parents prior to Individual Education Program (IEP) planning may have a significant effect on the attitudes and capabilities families bring to the educational setting. During this case study the adult family members of a child with additional needs were observed as they addressed the developmental and programming needs of their child by participating in the McGill Action Planning System (MAPS) and a subsequent Program Support Group (PSG) meeting. Themes indicating attitudes or perceptions that empowered the family towards continued participation in collaborative teams for IEP development emerged in the observational data and were defined through the methods of informant diaries and semi-structured interviews. Less dominant quantitative methods were used to verify that the participant's ongoing attitudes towards parent professional collaboration corroborated with the final themes of flexibility, unification, satisfaction and function.
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    Just reporting : does the school have a justifiable reporting process?
    Morrison, Caroline Mary ( 2006)
    This thesis titled `Just Reporting' aimed to explore the question: Does the school have a justifiable reporting process that meets the needs of key stakeholders (parents, students and teachers)? Through a critical review of the research literature relevant to reporting, various ethical issues were noted that assisted in the construction of the questions guiding this study. These ethical issues provided the lens through which I explored the reporting practices at the research school. The title Just Reporting emphasises the justice issues surrounding reporting as a communicative action where the integrity of each individual is maintained and relationships strengthened. The research took the form of a case study involving the participation of thirty-three parents, eleven teachers and twenty-one students from the one school setting in a questionnaire that had both quantitative and qualitative questions that gathered their affective and cognitive responses to the school's written report. I also held one focus group interview with parents to clarify information from the questionnaire. An interactive inquiry with mixed methods approach was chosen as the best way to answer the research questions. The aim was to develop a theory about reporting rather than prove an existing theory. This study examines what reporting is, the audience and purpose of reporting, and the imperatives of justifiable reporting. It gathered the opinions and beliefs about reporting at the research school from key stakeholder groups and sought to discover whether the written report met their needs and fulfilled the requirements of justifiable reporting. Final analysis of the data provided understandings about the nature of reporting at the research school and revealed a number of issues that prevented the process from being fully justifiable.
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    A qualitative study of developing problem solving competence in students of a food technology diploma course
    Yu, Richard Shue-Tak ( 2000)
    This thesis is a qualitative study of developing students' problem solving competence or ability in a Technical and Further Education (TAFE) Diploma course. The problem solving ability has been identified as highly desirable by the Australian food processing industry. Its development in students has been specified in the Course Aims Statement as a requisite learning outcome of the Food Technology Diploma course. The thesis research aimed to explore the situation if the development of problem solving ability happened as envisaged by the major stakeholders of the course and how it was accomplished in the classroom. To facilitate the thesis research, ethnographic methods, including observation, interviews and document analysis were used. Activities of teaching and learning in classrooms and laboratories were observed and recorded on videotapes. Semi-structured interviews with stakeholders including Industry Representatives, Course Designers, Course Administrators, and Module Teachers were conducted. Document analysis included review of approved Accreditation Submissions for the course (accredited by the Food Industry Training Accreditation Board in the Victorian Department of Education), review of students' written work of practical reports and answers to test questions. From the interviews, two divergent views emerged that might be regarded as 'aspirant' and 'practitioner' stances. The 'aspirant' stance represented the views of industry representatives, course designers, and course administrators, whereas the practitioner stance those of the module teachers. The 'aspirant' view concurs with the industry's desire and expectation of developing Diploma students' problem solving ability in the classroom. It did not however stipulate to what standard or level this development should attain. The practitioner side on the other hand maintained that the development of problem solving ability is not their job but it belongs to other educators including teachers of degree courses in higher education. Also the practitioner side maintained that as bona fide TAFE teachers, they know what and how the course should be taught. The TAFE teachers in this particular case believed what they do is appropriate because there has not been any complaint from the industry regarding the quality of the Diploma graduates that they produced. In terms of improving students' problem solving ability, the official stance in the approved Accreditation Submission is that the Diploma course should be delivered in a manner consistent with the constructivists' problem based and situated learning approaches and presented in a holistic, integrated manner based on predetermined learning objectives. In their classroom practice, the Diploma course teachers in this particular case simply delivered what they considered necessary in a ' teaching as telling ' mode, without attending to the recommendations described in the approved Accreditation Submission or an objective-based plan, which incorporates strategies for developing students' problem solving ability. There was no apparent modeling or benchmarking by the teachers of attitudes and dispositions, attributes acknowledged to be required for superior problem solving ability, including reflection, metacognition, self-directedness in learning and construction of individual meaning from knowledge learned, as well as thinking critically or creatively. On the contrary, their delivery and assessment of learning was tuned down, encouraging students to learn in a 'surface approach'. The teachers' practice thus affected adversely the quality of students' reports of experiments. The review of students' reports of the three applied science modules, Food Chemistry, Food Technology, and Microbiology, established that students (1) did not understand the theoretical bases of the experiments, (2) did not show critical reflection or objectivity on the conduct of the experiments or the validity of the results obtained, (3) tended to exert minimal effort in the reporting, and (4) were generally unable to articulate and communicate their thoughts and knowledge. Another parcel of data supporting the conclusion of students' poor state of professional knowledge and inability to apply it came from their answers of test questions. Review of their answers showed that they did not understand the knowledge. Although the test questions of the three applied science modules did not really test them for the application of knowledge in resolving some industry-related issues that is solving industry related problems, the students' answers demonstrated that it was highly unlikely they could do so because of their lack of understanding of the fundamental concepts and theories underlying many of the current or contemporary industry problems/issues. The triangulation of the data from three sources, that is observation, interviews, and document analysis, converged to illuminate this particular situation showing (a) the teachers did not teach in a manner conducive to the development of students' problem solving ability and (b) students did not learn effectively to improve their problem solving ability. In explaining the occurrence of this situation, it has been rationalised in terms of teachers' low expectation of their students, the teachers' inadequacy to teach problem solving skills, and the failure of those in authority to properly communicate this specific course aim to all those who need to know, the students and teachers in particular. Based on this explanation, this thesis made the suggestion whereby improvement in the development of students' problem solving ability can be effected for the Diploma course in the short term by attending immediately to the teachers' practice in the classroom.
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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.