Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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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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    Rater consistency and judgment in the direct assessment of second language writing ability within the certificates in spoken and written English
    Smith, David R ( 1998)
    The introduction of competency-based models of language and literacy education in Australia has, to a large degree, coincided with an increased emphasis on direct assessment as the most common means of evaluating second language writing ability within the Adult Migrant English Program. The key problem in directly assessing writing ability is having two or more raters arrive at a similar judgment or rating for the same piece of writing. While there is a long tradition of research on rater consistency and judgment in the holistic assessment of writing ability, similar research on the direct assessment of second language writing ability within the context of competency-based language and literacy education is almost non-existent. This study aims to determine the degree to which the performance criteria designed to assess second language writing ability within the Certificates in Spoken and Written English can ensure acceptable levels of rater consistency, and to describe the decision-making behaviours and strategies used by raters when reading for the purposes of assessment. The think-aloud verbal reports of six experienced ESL raters assessing three texts written by intermediate level adult ESL learners were transcribed and subjected to a rigorous interpretive analysis. In terms of rater consistency, analysis of raters verbal reports indicated that while there was generally a high degree of rater consistency at the overall performance or text level there was considerably tess agreement at the level of individual performance criteria. Analysis of the data revealed that raters adopted distinctive styles or approaches to reading for the purposes of assessment and that raters interpreted and applied the performance criteria statements in a range of different ways. These findings have significant implications not only for the development of competency-based assessment procedures but also for the training of raters. v11
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    The academic achievements of language centre students at a secondary college
    Warrick, Geoff ( 2001)
    What are the academic achievements of adolescent new-arrival English as a Second Language (ESL) students at secondary schools in Victoria, Australia? Research on Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) students in Australia has tended to neglect new arrival ESL students. To examine the academic achievements of this important subgroup of NESB students, the current study will highlight the academic achievements of a cohort of Victorian Language Centre students at a Secondary College over six years with interruption to schooling in their first language (L1) as the key variable linked to academic achievement in their second language (L2). Victorian Language Centres provide new-arrival ESL students with the English skills they need to start their secondary educations in L2. The current study examined the academic achievement of two groups of Language Centre students, those who completed their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) and those who left the Secondary College prior to completing VCE. Their academic results were summarised into spreadsheets for quantitative analysis. Subsequent to the quantitative analysis interviews were conducted with four ESL students from the Language Centre currently completing their VCE studies to provide further insight into the factors that enabled them to do their VCE. Results indicate that the academic achievements of this cohort of ESL Language Centre students are poor and that interruption to education in Ll had a major impact on the students' ability to achieve academically at the Secondary College. The study suggests that L1 education is the key variable influencing the student's ability to acquire the academic language skills necessary to meet the academic demands of secondary education, particularly the VCE. Other factors such as support for learning and strong motivation were found to help students overcome difficulties encountered in their secondary education. However, students who were unable to overcome these difficulties left the College prior to completing VCE. It was concluded that the majority of Language Centre students faced uncertain economic futures once they left the Secondary College. The results of the study suggest that Language Centre students need more support and assistance to enable them to complete VCE or to access educational alternatives to the VCE. This study also suggests that more research into the effect of L1 education on L2 education be conducted as this was found to be the key variable in the students' ability to acquire the academic language skills necessary to meet the academic demands of VCE.
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    Seeing you seeing me : constructing the learners and their target language speakers in Korean and Australian textbooks
    Song, Heui-jeong ( 2006)
    To be successful in real-life communication with their target language (TL) speakers, language learners need to develop a sound knowledge of modern-day target language society, and an understanding of the beliefs and values most commonly shared by TL speakers. Such knowledge forms the basis of what Clark (1996) calls 'common ground', and is essential for interlocutors to exchange meanings. Removed from natural settings, textbooks are one of the principal resources for foreign language learners to construct a conception of their TL speakers in relation to themselves. This project examines the constructs of the learners' TL speakers provided in, respectively, a Korean language textbook for Australian beginner learners and an English language textbook for Korean beginner learners. By analysing how each presents the other set of people in terms of the attributes the other group assigns to itself in its own books, this study assesses how well each book assists their local learners to begin constructing sound common ground with their TL speakers. Analysis is made of the verbal and visual texts in each whole book with respect to topic and attributes; as well, using Gee's discourse analysis framework, close analysis and comparison is made of the information about the TL speakers and the learners themselves in the first three chapters of each book in relation to the three major beginner learner topics: Self-introduction, family and school. While there are a number of similarities in representation of the TL speakers by both sides, even this small examination shows glaring omissions and contradictions in the construct of the TL speakers proposed for the learners of each language compared to how their actual TL speakers project themselves. Furthermore, these differences would easily lead to confusion over meanings if used in real life. If such mismatches persisted over years of language learning, it can be predicted that learners would fail to create some elements of 'common ground' essential for them to understand what their TL speakers mean in interaction and be understood themselves.
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    Vedic education (Gurukula) in a contemporary context : considerations for a Krishna conscious thinking curriculum
    O'Sullivan, Paul G ( 1997)
    This thesis presents the Vedic system of education (Gurukula) in a contemporary context. By means of a detailed description and analysis of the essential characteristics underlying the rationale of Vedic education, the Gurukula system is defined from within the tradition it has evolved. I examine the social dimension of Vedic education and consider the importance of a supportive culture. The organisation of society according to varna-asramadharma is described within this thesis and the original intent of its conception defined. Education is described in terms of its purposive nature, the goal being to develop consciousness. Krishna consciousness is described as a state of reality which enables the soul to identify as spiritual, and in that capacity discriminate between spirit and matter. Individuality in this analysis is defined as the constitutional position of the soul. The sanctity of the individual is maintained throughout human life by recourse to the proper use of intelligence. The Gurukula endeavours to provide a framework within which its members can develop the capacity to cultivate a level of consciousness suitable for participation in the culture represented by the Vedic world-view. I have argued a case for developing appropriate curriculum, which enhances both the culture and the process. The educational implications of teaching children to discriminate within a religious framework, while at the same time maintain their independence and power of critical thinking is a challenge. An appropriate program for providing children with the power of discrimination is considered an essential element of education in this thesis. The Philosophy for Children program established by Lipman and colleagues provides educators with a process for encouraging better thinking in the classroom. An essential element in this program is the development of "the community of inquiry". Religious education delivered according to the philosophical inquiry model is recommended in this thesis. This research specifically aims to assist the development of primary curriculum.
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    Influences on engineering education in Australia
    Zorbas, Nicholas ( 1976)
    This thesis is concerned with the identification and examination of the various types of influences on professional engineering education in Australia. It commences with a study of what a professional person in general, and a professional engineer in particular, should be, and describes the functions and characteristics of such a person. This is followed by an examination of curriculum design, and how the curricula of professional courses are controlled by professional societies. The various influences on engineering curricula are then considered in detail in four broad categories, namely historical influences, formal influences, informal influences, and societal influences within each of these categories, various tapes of influences are identified, and their method of application, and relative effectiveness, discussed. Apart from the chapters on terminology and historical influences, which have been researched from existing publications, the content of the thesis is original, and, as far as can be ascertained, is the first attempt to examine the subject of Australian engineering education in a sociological context.
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    An investigation of Australian OECD Pisa trend results
    Urbach, Daniel ( 2009)
    This thesis investigates a range of equating-related issues for the Australian data collected under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The implications for Australia's reported trend results are considered in detail. Following the exploration of differential item functioning (DIE) and dimensionality of the Australian PISA scales, a single scale, over all three PISA cycles (namely 2000, 2003 and 2006) for each major PISA domain (namely Reading, Mathematics and Science) was constructed. Previous published PISA results have employed a common reporting scale across all cycles for Reading, however scales common to all cycles have not been utilised for Mathematics or Science. Two further classes of equating issues are considered in this paper. First four different approaches to equating were used - two different treatments of missing data as well as two different item sets (all items and link items only) were estimated for each scale - and for each approach the implications for trends were discussed. Second, the equating approaches studied here used item parameters which are set at the country level rather than at the international level, thus allowing an examination of the impact of country DIF on the Australian trend results. Australian PISA trends were first explored in terms of means and standard deviations, and then in terms of the overall shape of the estimated performance distribution. This was achieved through the use of Q-Q (Quantile-Quantile) plots. Where applicable, comparisons were made with published trends. While results showed many similarities between models and published results, some differences were found. Australian PISA Reading means were statistically significantly lower when treating all omitted (or missing) responses as not administered at the item calibration stage compared to treating embedded omitted responses as incorrect and trailing omitted responses as not administered in PISA cycles 2003 and 2006. Between 2003 and 2006, published Australian Mathematics means were significantly lower than those found in this study. The published results showed a decline in means between 2003 and 2006, whereas the results reported here showed no change in the Australian means between these two cycles. Published Australian Reading distributions reported a decline from 2000 to 2003 and 2003 to 2006 in the number of Australian students located at the top end of the performance distribution. Between cycles 2000 and 2003 there was a decline from around the 70th percentile onwards and between cycles 2003 and 2006, the decline was even more severe; the higher the ability group the higher the decline from around the 20th percentile onwards. These estimated changes in the distribution shape were not replicated here, where the Australian data is analysed independently of the international data. The reanalysis undertaken here found a decline between the first two PISA cycles, but remarkably in the bottom 15 per cent of the distribution only. Between cycles 2003 and 2006 an almost constant decline across the whole proficiency distribution was found and not a decline that was limited to the top end of the distribution. The reported results highlight some of the potentially important differences that can occur when different analysis methods are used.
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    The Problems of verbal interaction for victims of warfare trauma in the ESL classroom
    Santoro, Ninetta ( 1995)
    This thesis identifies and investigates the difficulties surrounding the participation in verbal interaction by victims of warfare trauma in the ESL classroom. The literature reviewed falls into three main categories; The Problems of Refugee Resettlement, Motivation and Anxiety in Language Learning and The Importance of Verbal Interaction in Second Language Learning. Case Study research methodology was chosen as the most appropriate framework on which to base this thesis and three ESL students were chosen as subjects. The findings of the research suggest that the problems associated with resettlement and prior experiences may have been contributing factors in the lack of motivation and high levels of anxiety experienced by each of the case study subjects. This in turn, may have affected their participation in verbal interaction in the classroom and ultimately, their acquisition of English.
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    Another world like here : futures studies and early childhood education
    Page, Jane M (1963-) ( 1995)
    This thesis examines the discipline of futures studies and its potential for application in early childhood education. The need for an increased futures-orientation in education is established by a survey of the overwhelmingly negative commentaries of youths on the topic of the future. These comments, it is argued, point to a vacuum of understanding about the future which educators should seek to counterbalance. This task should be particularly emphasised by early childhood educators since they share a commitment to the central objective of laying foundations for life-long learning. Futures studies offers a useful methodology for this task. The thesis examines the major tenets of futures studies and its translation into primary and secondary educational settings. The applicability of futures studies to early childhood education is established by demonstrating the many principles which futures studies and early childhood education share in common. A futures-focused curriculum need not involve the educator in any radically new philosophical and educational frameworks. It, rather, provides a means of extending and re-articulating existing developmental objectives from the vantage point of new perspectives. The thesis resolves the issue of whether or not futures concerns are beyond the reach of four and five year olds by examining how pre-school children conceive time and the future. Young children are seen to possess many of the qualities which futures studies seek to re-instill in adults and older children. The educator should seek to capitalize on this by combining the positive aspects of children's innate perceptions of future time with the more abstract 'adult' understanding of time. A research project on pre-school children's attitudes towards the future sheds further light on their understandings of the future while also enabling their own opinions on the topic to be heard. The thesis then defines the principal objectives of a futures-focused curriculum and translates them into practical learning experiences. It concludes by exploring the implications of the findings contained in the thesis for early childhood education and by discussing some of the ways in which the educators themselves might come to terms with the issues articulated in this study.
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    A cross-age comparative investigation of students' attitudes towards computers as a tool to support learning in years 7-12 science classes
    Waddington, Carolyn ( 2000)
    This thesis documents a cross-age comparative investigation of students' attitudes towards computers as a tool to support learning in Years 7 - 12 science classes. The study was set at the secondary school campus of an independent girls' school in Victoria. The secondary school is broken into three relatively autonomous groups, the Junior Secondary School (JSS), the Middle School (MS) and the Senior School (SS). Data was collected by a survey administered to 1215 students in Years 7 -12 science classes. Results of the survey were analysed using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and post hoc Bonferonni analyses. This study aimed to investigate the ways computers are used in science classes. Word processing and the internet were the most common computer uses across the school. A comparison of students in JSS, MS and SS's preferred frequency of use of computers in science classes was undertaken. JSS students preferred to use their computers more frequently in science classes when compared to MS and SS students. An investigation of the uses of computers in science classes that students found beneficial to their learning of science concepts was undertaken and compared across the three school groups. Students' attitudes towards computers as tools to support learning in the science classroom was investigated. The majority of students in all school groups felt the computer was a beneficial support for learning when completing assignment work and was a beneficial tool for presentation. However, it depended on the number of years of computer experience in science classes as to whether students felt the computer was of benefit to their learning of theory or practical work. Aspects of computer use at school in general, that students liked or disliked was determined. The stage of the curriculum that students were currently in, was the major determinant for the students' attitudes towards the use of computers as a support for learning.