Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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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 Indigenous Australians who are Flourishing
    O'Leary, Charles Brian ( 2020)
    In response to the high levels of disadvantage that is experienced by Indigenous Australians, consecutive Australian governments continue to pursue an approach that primarily focuses on Indigenous Australian disadvantage - which is commonly pursued in isolation of their strengths and the solutions they may hold to improve their own lives. Given the limited research into the strengths of Indigenous Australians, this thesis sought to contribute to research about Indigenous Australian strengths. Two primary research questions were explored to understand how Indigenous Australians employed in a tertiary education institution were flourishing in their lives. The first question was: What characteristics, beliefs and behaviours are used by a group of Indigenous Australians that enable them to function effectively and live with purpose? The second question was: To what extent does the practice of the participants’ Indigenous Australian culture enhance their wellbeing? The sample group comprised of 11 participants. To be selected for this study, the participants had to identify as an Indigenous Australian, be employed by an Australian tertiary institution and have experienced high levels of wellbeing in periods throughout their lives. This thesis drew on an interpretive phenomenological methodological framework that is informed by contemporary research in positive psychology and Indigenous Standpoint Theory. Three major findings arose from this study. First, participants have a shared understanding of how Indigenous Australian wellbeing is conceptualised. Second, participants access an inventory of known Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian personal characteristics, subsequent beliefs and behaviours that enable them to function and be effective in their lives. Lastly, the practice of Indigenous Australian culture is central to the health and wellbeing of many of the participants.
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    Simple rules for place-based approaches addressing disadvantage
    Fry, Rebecca Elizabeth ( 2019)
    The nature of many social, economic and environmental problems facing Australia and the world are increasingly described as ‘wicked’ or complex in that they are difficult to grasp, unclear how to tackle and often seem insurmountable. Disadvantage is one such problem; there is disagreement about how to define it, it has innumerable and tangled causes, and it refuses to go away. Despite many and varied efforts to address disadvantage in Australia’s most vulnerable communities, the size and significance of the issue has barely shifted during the past 15 years or so (Vinson & Rawsthorne, 2015). Disadvantage can profoundly affect individuals, families, communities and society, and is unacceptable in a country with such sustained economic prosperity as Australia. There is a need to find more effective ways to overcome disadvantage and address this injustice. Place-based approaches are broadly understood to be collaborative, flexible and multi-faceted responses employed within a particular ‘place’ or geographic location to tackle wide-ranging complex issues. They exist in many different forms and show promise as a response to disadvantage and other complex problems. However, the abundance of place-based frameworks, theories and terminology has created a lack of clarity about the core pieces of evidence and central characteristics of place-based approaches for practice, policy and research. This thesis sought to leverage from the diversity of place-based approaches and explore evidence associated with the different forms. The study aimed to distil the key characteristics of promising place-based approaches and generate actionable and evidence-informed guidelines or ‘simple rules’ that can guide the design, development and evaluation of place- based approaches addressing disadvantage in Australia. The study’s literature review found wide-ranging definitions, conceptual frameworks and terminology associated with place-based approaches. The study also identified several points of convergence, including characteristics commonly associated with promising place-based approaches. The results indicate four central and interconnected practices underpin a promising place-based design: collaboration—relate, connect and collaborate across sectors; community engagement—engage and empower community; holistic thinking—think and act holistically; and adaptation—take an adaptive and responsive approach. The study generated a set of evidence-informed simple rules to support the implementation of each of these practices. While the study’s results should be interpreted with caution, this research reiterates the overwhelming need for a consensus framework for place-based approaches that helps to accelerate and advance actionable knowledge.