Faculty of Education - Theses

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    Teacher's management of learning in small groups in science classes
    Sadler, J.m ( 1993)
    Established curriculum documents in Victoria recommend group work as an effective teaching strategy but the implementation and management of such groups is poorly understood by many teachers. This study investigated two management strategies which differed in the degree of role attribution amongst group members and the effect of the strategies on communication, behaviour patterns and achievement on a problem solving investigation. Students in three parallel year eight science classes from one school were observed over an eight week period. A low level and a high level management strategy were randomly allocated to each of two classes and used to manage group work. After four weeks the management strategies were exchanged. The third class, which was used as the control, was managed in a way which was more typical of a traditional science class. Randomly selected groups of students from each class carried out a practical problem solving investigation as a pretest, then again at the completion of the first four weeks (phase 1) and again after the completion of the second four weeks (phase 2). Student conversations within groups were recorded and coded to identify levels of communication types. Students' written reports for each test were assessed and scores analysed. Teachers completed an observation schedule to identify styles of leadership and types of group behaviour within each class. It was found that the use of the low level management strategy, in particular, did increase the relative frequency of communication at higher cognitive levels, those of conceptualisations, as compared with the control treatment. Problem solving skills as measured by achievement on the written practical investigation improved over time and there was a significant effect in the area of "making measurements" when the management strategies were used as compared to the control treatment.
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    Can children in the early years of primary schooling say from whom or what or where they acquired their scientific understandings ?
    Roscholler, Carolyn June ( 2006)
    Young children bring with them to school a certain amount of science knowledge gained from their everyday lives. What they "know", whether right or wrong, may be the result of interactions with family, television, computer programs, books, peers or visits to environmental locations, museums or science centres. In this study, children who have been at primary school for between two and three years are asked to describe their knowledge and their sources of information. The extent to which school factors are influencing their science knowledge is investigated. A survey was developed and protocols trialled before fifty-seven children aged eight and nine years at a provincial Victorian government primary school were surveyed to establish their home background and family interest in science, their own attitudes and feelings toward science and the efficacy of their science experiences at school. Interviews were carried out with nine students, selected to represent a broad range of attitudes to science, in order to gain more detailed information about their specific understandings of a number of topics within the primary school science curriculum and the sources of their information. The students' responses revealed that where they were knowledgeable about a subject they could indeed say from where they obtained their knowledge. Books were the most commonly cited source of information, followed by school, personal home experiences and family. Computers and the internet had little influence. Students who appeared to have "better" understandings quoted multiple sources of information. Positive correlations were found between enjoyment of school lessons and remembering science information, liking to watch science television or videos and remembering science information, and liking to read science books and remembering science information. Mothers were also linked to the use of science books at home, and the watching of nature TV shows at home. There are several implications for the teaching of science at early years level. Teachers need to be aware of powerful influences, from both within and outside of the classroom, which may impact on children, and which may be enlisted to help make learning more meaningful. The research indicates the importance of home background, parental interest and access to books, and notes the under utilisation of computers and lack of visits to museums and interactive science centres.
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    Does hands-on experience promote autonomous use of computer pods in science teaching ?
    Weller, Jacolyn ( 2009)
    We have ingrained into our teaching ideology that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is an essential component of modern education. The computer pod was suggested in the early 2000's by the Department of Education, Employment and Training (DEET) as the means of providing students with access to ICT, but neither the method to harness nor how to direct innovation for best practice were indicated. A literature review by Hennessy and Osborne (2003) provided information on the available ICT tools for Science teaching and suggestions exist for the merits of using computer pods in Culbertson's (1999) reflections on nine studies and Owen's (2003) discussions of English teaching, but rarely was there a merger between the fields of computer pods and Science teaching. Professional development within a department where teachers create their own tasks provides a method of computer pod integration when slotting the tasks into the curriculum. This provides a future teaching document incorporating computer pod usage. The process of creating activities provides a training opportunity for developing accessible resources. The hands-on experience of Science teachers developing their own tasks for sharing aligns with self-help and effective resource management. Impediments exist for teachers in the form of time, equipment, availability, booking requirements, a philosophy that a 1:1 student: computer ratio is essential, comfort zone, student management and supervision. Incentives such as: students being keen, comfortable, suited to this learning style and capable users in this environment, who knowledge share with their teachers provide balance to the impediments. This artefact (the computer pod) is acknowledged as a rich component of learning, particularly in promoting group work, where students build their knowledge together. The results of interviewing five Year 8 Science teachers before and after the research year, where pro-noun analysis was used, generated the findings that Science teachers automatically expand their comfort zone in this environment and acquire the desire to experiment via a transition into the classroom with the activities they have specifically created. Individual teachers ventured further and used tasks developed by others for shared use, while others limited their involvement. This research provided a spectrum of responses, which exhibits variability of success and enhances the reliability of the results when presenting individuals as a range within a small sample. A broad picture even though it had a small focus group. The generated direction was an ownership component was generated in what an individual has created for themselves, which gives the incentive to test it out and simultaneously motivates autonomous integration into teaching strategies. This process has potential applications to others; whether it is other Science teachers, faculties within schools, individual teachers or more broadly, where ownership of the artefact enables the individual to confidently step forward with what becomes part of their skill acquisition and comfort zone.
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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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    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.
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    Classroom management of cooperative learning : a research study of two teaching strategies
    Smeh, Kathy ( 1996)
    This study sought to contribute to an understanding of the social context of instruction in science classes particularly to group organisation and dialogical processes. This study investigated how two role management strategies (Strategy 1 and Strategy 2) affected communication particularly Conceptualisation in all female, all-male and mixed gender groups in three parallel Year 8 science classes from one school. It also investigated the attitudes of the female and male students towards group work, the two role management strategies and gender. There were two treatment classes and one control class. Each treatment class was observed over an eight week period under each role management treatment. For the eight week period, the control class was managed in a way considered more typical of a traditional science class (No Role Strategy). A randomly selected all-female, all-male and mixed gender group from each class was tested after each treatment phase. The test problem was a practical problem requiring each group to devise and carry out a solution for the test problem. During the testing sessions each group was audio and video taped. The level of Conceptualisation was measured by coded transcriptions of group utterances during the problem solving task. At a time after the final testing session, students in the two treatment classes were administered a Student Group Work Questionnaire to determine their attitudes towards group work, the role management strategies and gender, and, to determine their behaviour in relation to each role management strategy. A statistically significant difference was found between Strategies (No Role Strategy, Strategy 1 and Strategy 2) for the frequency of Conceptualisation utterances. Further analysis revealed a statistically significant difference between No Role Strategy and Strategy 1, and, a significant difference between No Role Strategy and Strategy 2. No statistically significant difference was found between Strategy 1 and Strategy 2. No statistically significant difference was found between Gender groups (All-female, all-male and mixed gender groups) and Phases (Phase 1 and Phase 2) for the frequency of Conceptualisation utterances. Students who received instruction with the role management strategies tended to work better as a team than students who received instruction with only No Role Strategy.
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    A cartoon chemistry text : the construction and testing of a novel chemistry text incorporating human values
    Werry, R. John ( 1990)
    This study examines current science texts and the concerns and objectives of Science-Technology-Society based courses. It indicates that they present the public image of the practising scientist (with inherent Mertonian values of Universalism, Communism, Disinterestedness, and organized skepticism) which is used to organize scientific concepts into a meaningful whole. Utilizing the notion that a value is anything important to a student, a hypothesis was proposed that meaning and interest generated from a text is dependent on the extent of overlap between text and student values. The implications of the interaction of different value systems with a Mertonian based text were considered. An attempt was made to develop a chemistry text that was meaningful to all students, by organizing concepts into a story form with non-Mertonian organization. This approach evolved into a cartoon format with specific features. Two cartoon text items were tested at two schools. The trial involved a survey item on 103 students and audio taped interviews with 20 students. The trial attempted to evaluate the cartoon as a student text, attitudes to issues content, and styles of resolving issues based conflicts. The results were interpreted by classifying the respondents into four categories of science likingness ( A, B, C, D) on the basis of Year 11 subject choice, and favorite subject. It was assumed that the accommodation of Mertonian values by a group reflected the science likingness of the group. The cartoon text was well received with most students wishing to see more cartoons, and being able to answer questions from the text. The B, C, and D groups expressed a preference for the cartoon text over their current science text. The proposed differential accommodation of values appeared to account for the greater enthusiasm of the B and C groups for the cartoons than the A and D groups. Perceptions of the amount of current social problems/ issues content in science teaching increased markedly with group science likingness. The amount of issues content desired decreased with increasing group science likingness. A belief that scientific solutions could resolve social problems/ issues, showed a marked decrease with decreasing science likingness. A value model of cognitive style was developed from the basic hypothesis and assumptions regarding the extent of accommodation of Mertonian and Humanist norms as personal values. This model seemed to account for variations in meaning generated for the various groups in response to both the standard and cartoon science text format.
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    The things that remain : reflections on science education at Scots School Albury
    Bottomley, David T ( 2008)
    This science curriculum study is sited on Scots School Albury and its predecessor, Albury Grammar School. This study began as a reprise to a curriculum study written by the author in 1948 and a survey in 2005-6 of Scots Alumni memories of their junior general science over fifty years. The survey analysed their perceptions of its purpose and impact relative to other subjects and to the overall education provided by the School. Because early in its history the school insistently saw itself as heir to the English Public School tradition the origins of the Scots tradition of science teaching were sought in 19'11 century English education when 'the Tradition' developed. This wider quest led to an enquiry about the place of science in 19th century English education which found points in common between the classical, liberal teaching of Thomas Arnold and the science-oriented teaching of headmasters at two notable schools, Queenwood College in the middle of the century and Oundle School at the end of the 19th century. The enquiry found that an early hunger for science knowledge manifested in the almost spontaneous rise of mechanics' institutes was later met by municipal technical institutes, and the adventure of the new subject of science in schools, despite a few brilliant exceptions, settled into the pre-professional training that has come to characterise school science. Early in the 20'h century in England, and later in Australia, a General Science movement emerged in protest at uninspired teaching and irrelevant programs for general education. In Australia, from the early writings of George Browne and Roy Stanhope, researchers and educators have pointed ways to get that early sense of adventure back into science teaching. The early science educators such as George Edmondson and Frederick Sanderson stressed methods of practice and application taking precedence before theory to maintain that sense of personal engagement. The things that remain are what reformers urged: strongly felt images that are of powerful but not remote abstractions. At the same time there is an impression of repeated waves of attempted reforms beating against but failing to breach the barriers of academic gloss.
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    What are the blockers/facilitators for a science coordinator to integrate datalogging into science teaching
    Weller, Jacolyn ( 2002)
    This project investigates a coeducational Secondary College Science Department that decided to introduce datalogging as a teaching tool. Datalogging is the electronic recording of data during an experiment using sensor probes. Decisions concerning the introduction of datalogging involved the science teaching staff, the laboratory technician and the Science Coordinator, all stakeholders in this process. This investigation was developed with the hindsight of a Literature Review, which provided the advice of others' experiences and catalogues the introduction in a case study format. Action research strategies were invoked through a series of focus interview questions, which provide a 'snap-shot' of the perceptions. From here a collaborative Change Management strategy of introducing datalogging into science teaching was produced. The factors that inhibited or prevented the use of datalogging in teaching were considered to be 'blockers'. Through interview questions the teachers and the laboratory technician were asked what they felt blocked their use of datalogging. The time required to become comfortable, familiar, confident and experiment with the equipment arose as the major concern for all teachers prior to using datalogging in science teaching, while the laboratory technician had more physical impediments. The technology capable participants did not encounter major hindrances. There was a constant limitation of equipment due to its expense, which was a factor accepted by all and where innovation in teaching style was required to overcome this impediment. However, all felt that visual 'memory-jogs' of the availability and uses of the equipment would encourage use. The factors that contributed to datalogging use were the 'facilitators'. These included a well rounded, informative and ongoing professional development strategy involving all staff members sharing knowledge combined with a laboratory technician who was conversant with the equipment, constantly promoting and encouraging usage and aiding the process. Throughout the project constant active problem solving emerged as a strategy by teachers whenever a 'blocker' was suggested. The advantage of collegial sharing through professional development was also recognised by staff and thought to integrate well when developing technology as a teaching tool. The process overall was time intensive due to lack of time in the working week when people are at different stages in embracing change and technology. Consequently whatever was learnt by individuals was regarded as worth sharing professionally.
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    TIMSS : a question of validity
    Malatt, Dianne ( 2000)
    The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the largest comparative study of its kind, was administered to approximately 500,000 students worldwide. In Australia, the results of this study are being used to compare our students and schools to other students and schools around the world. The results may also influence decisions about curriculum reform and allocation of educational funding within Australia. This thesis sets out to investigate the TIMSS test items for Population 2, with the objective of determining the degree of validity of these test items to Australian mathematics teachers and their students. By eliciting feedback from a sample of Australian mathematics teachers, their thoughts on the validity of the TIMSS test items were documented. This was achieved through a mail out questionnaire that included a representative sample of 32 TIMSS test items from population 2. Four review questions were developed to target teacher beliefs as to whether enough content had been taught to Australian students by the time TIMSS was administered, the validity of including such items in the TIMSS study, the usefulness of the TIMSS test items for ascertaining student competence, and student familiarity with the item styles used in TIMSS. The results from the questionnaire were used to establish the overall validity of the TIMSS test items to Australian Mathematics teachers and the students they teach. In total, 154 teachers, representing Government, Catholic and Independent schools, from around Australia replied to the questionnaire. The study found widespread variability in the type and amount of content taught by teachers to their Australian students. Consequently, differences in content validity of the TIMSS study were found to exist across Australia. These differences appeared to be more apparent between states and territories than between school sectors. Respondents also expressed concern about the general appearance and layout of the TIMSS test items. In particular, some of the language used in test items relating to Proportionality, appeared not to be used in Australian classrooms. In addition to this, teachers reported that the TIMSS test items were not particularly useful for ascertaining student competence. This casts doubt over the value of any inferences made from the results of TIMSS. Furthermore, this research found significant variability in student familiarity with the item formats used in the TIMSS study. Overall, students were found to be most familiar with the short answer format and least familiar with extended response and performance assessment formats. This is a particularly important result as the TIMSS designers placed great emphasis on the use of extended response and performance assessment formats.