Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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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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    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.