Faculty of Education - Theses

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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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    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.
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    An examination of the role of the Bridging into sciences program within the Victorian TAFE sector
    Thompson, David C ( 2002)
    The intention of this study was to examine and describe the role of the Bridging Into Sciences (BIS) program, a course of study conducted within the Victorian TAFE educational sector. BIS was originally developed in 1985, as a means of providing basic grounding in biology and chemistry for mature-age students seeking entry into health science-related university courses. Since that time, it has undergone several curriculum additions and changes, TAFE re-accreditations and was now taught a four different Victorian TAFE institutes. The updated BIS program was designed to form a link between unemployment and academia, providing a suitable entry point for individuals without suitable academic background. Like the old course, the new BIS version was intended to provide learners with vital underpinning theoretical knowledge and practical skills in both mathematics and the sciences, facilitating articulation into courses of science-orientated study, at a higher level of sophistication. However, unlike the old course, the new BIS program proposed to offer learners multiple exit points, and hence, multiple academic destinations. But was the new BIS program version fulfilling its intended aims, philosophies and intentions ? What sort of students undertook BIS studies ? Was the program able to provide multiple exit point for those successfully completing it ? Were students able to successfully undertake the BIS program and fulfil their specific academic goals ? If so, in which courses of study were they able to articulate into ? Were all students successful in completing BIS ? If not, why not ? Were the aims and philosophies of those teaching in the program consistent with those of the course designers ? Could the program be improved ? If so, how ? Overall, was a true and accurate 'picture' of the role of the Bridging Into Sciences program within the TAFE sector ? A desire to address these questions and formulate true and accurate insight of how BIS was operating, provided the impetus for, and aim of, this study. To achieve this aim, data from all four TAFE institutes was sought. To establish a 'rich and thick' understanding of how the program was operating, both qualitative and quantitative data collection methodologies were employed. Data was collected from three different sources - curriculum documents, ex-students and teaching staff members, via three different methods. First, relevant curriculum materials were collected and carefully examined. This established the program content, as well as overall aims and philosophies. Second, a questionnaire was designed, trialled and mailed to a select group of ex-BIS students - those having been enrolled in 1997. The mail out survey was to gather demographic information, as well as solicit opinions about their BIS experiences, from a cohort of individuals comprising of those who had successfully completed the program, and those who had not. In doing so, a 'snap-shot' of BIS, from a student prospective, would be obtained. Raw data generated was subsequently analysed using the SPSS computer software. Third, a number of teachers instructing in the BIS program, were interviewed in 'face-to-face' fashion. Teacher responses were tape recorded during interview and were later transcribed and analysed. The findings of the study revealed that in 1997, the BIS program was undertaken by students who were typically Australian-born, English-speaking females, aged somewhere between mid twenties to thirties and had at least one child. Members of the group were also likely to have completed at upper secondary school and were specifically involved with the BIS program to gain entry into either a TAFE or university course. Although almost 70% of BIS students were successful in completing at least one module, financial difficulties and seeking employment were the two main reasons for individuals having to discontinue their BIS studies. Of those successfully completing the program, almost two-thirds were found to be engaged in some form of post-BIS academic endeavor. BIS teachers were found to be a group of highly experienced professionals, averaging almost five years of involvement in the program. It was their collective belief that whilst the program was providing students with vital underpinning theoretical knowledge and practical skills, it also developed self-confidence and personal empowerment. In doing so, it was able to prepare students for studies at higher levels, both from theoretical and practical perspectives. Collectively, they agreed that the overall program was successful in achieving its aims, philosophies and objectives.
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    Phenomenal robotics! : so what are students' perceptions about the robotics experience?
    Martin, Julie ( 2006)
    Robotics as a learning experience is becoming very popular in Australian schools and is being offered to students at primary and secondary level. It is considered to be a valuable integrated unit particularly in the areas of science and mathematics but also provides an ideal environment for students to engage and learn via constructionist principles. But what do young students perceive to gain from participating in a robotics experience? This investigation looks at the lived experience of doing robotics through the eyes of a group of students who were of mixed ages but had participated in the robotics' experience when they were in grade six as 12 year olds. The students were interviewed regarding the effect of the robotics experience on their learning during and after the experience ended. Students reflected on the phenomenon and made strong connections with the social value of the program. Their emphasis was not so much on academic skills gained but on the sense of self and its relationship to the group. The robotics experience provided an environment that allowed the students to feel valued and motivated to strive for goals, without realising they were gaining valuable information and skills as well as enjoying themselves.
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    What is a quality rubric? : curriculum design, state frameworks and local assessment of secondary science
    Stewart, Jen ( 2009)
    In explicating Science the science teacher is likely to say, 'I have reached Chapter 9!' Bureaucracy has its own logic and State curriculum writers have pushed for results that looked rational: results that could codify, sort and explain to their masters. The schools and universities have responded. The rubric has recently entered the teacher lexicon as a quasi professional tool for instructional planning and student assessment in the public domain as a response to central accountability requirements in relation to mandated curricula and standards of student and teacher performance. The rubric is characteristically a grid which defines any piece of instruction, a list of anticipated educational attainments, stated as criteria, against levels or standards of attainment, stated as descriptors. The rubric has become a public statement, a quasi contract written by groups of teachers in a school that identifies what can be expected in terms of teaching behaviours and student learning, in the name of a school or the state. But how would the quality of a rubric be discussed or assessed in relation to science education? The study explores the use of rubrics to support situated cognition and social constructivist science teaching. This thesis does not investigate the question of educational 'quality' per se. It does not set out to prescribe or stipulate ideals. Nor does it recommend how teachers ought to use rubrics to measure or assess such ideals. Rather it is an ethnogenic study of the judgements made about the qualities of the rubrics designed and used by science teachers and a particular group of students in an inner urban secondary school. The students in this study are enrolled in the Select Entry Accelerated Learning program at Hill View Secondary College which seeks to engage them in higher levels of educational involvement and attainment.