Faculty of Education - Theses

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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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    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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    Egan's stage theory : an exploratory study of its use in the analysis of science textbooks
    Valmadre, Christopher Charles ( 1985)
    Kieran Egan (1979) has challenged educationists to consider the need for a Theory of Development which is specifically Educational. Such a need is discussed and examined in the context of science teaching. Egan's Theory was applied to the selection of science text material for a group of eleven and twelve year old students. The students' responses to the materials were compared with Egan's descriptions of certain developmental stages, particularly of his Romantic Stage. The author concluded that Egan's theoretical proposition assisted in interpeting certain student behaviour and preferences. Possible classroom uses of Egan's theory are discussed, implications for text usage and design are outlined, and some areas of research are suggested.
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    From I can't and I don't to I can and I want to : a study in teaching and learning
    Surman, Lynne ( 1998)
    In recent years, the teaching and learning of science in primary schools has been a major concern within professional sectors and at all levels of education. This study reveals teachers' responses and personal growth within a long term professional development program. Through an analysis of workshop session transcripts the researcher identifies a range of meanings made by the participant primary teachers about the teaching and learning of science in their classrooms. The findings indicate that positive changes in the teachers' views of themselves as learners of science takes place when teachers and tertiary teacher educators work together in long term collaborative inquiry. A further outcome is that the teachers develop new confidence and abilities which inform their classroom practice.
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    The Australian Science Education Project: a case study in curriculum implementation
    Gill, William ( 1991)
    The Australian Science Education Project (ASEP) was developed between 1969-74 as Australia's first national curriculum project. ASEP was designed to introduce major changes for years 7-10 science in materials, content and assigned roles for teachers and students. While initial sales of the ASEP materials were excellent in Victoria the extent of implementation was low. This study examines reasons for this unsuccessful implementation from a user (i.e. teacher and schools) perspective. Determinants or causes of the extent of implementation relating to the nature of the ASEP materials, the strategies for implementation and the nature of teaching and schools are examined. The fundamental cause of the low level of implementation in Victoria is related to the development of the ASEP materials from a 'technological' perspective with limited input by classroom teachers. The materials developed in this way could only be successful if the implementation strategies included extensive in-service and curriculum support for science teachers and this did not happen in Victoria. Based on Havelock's 'Problem Solver' perspective of curriculum change a model for effective implementation is proposed which incorporates a 'user' perspective and the notion of mutual adaptation between the innovation and the user system.
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    Distinguishing the science content taken by grade 12 students
    Cross, R. J. ( 1977)
    The population of grade 12 students in Australian secondary schools has been steadily increasing over the past two decades. For most of this period the percentage of students at this level choosing science-type courses has been decreasing, and recently the actual number taking physics and chemistry has declined in some states. This study aimed to find a set of variables that would maximize the prediction of grade 12 student science content. Emphasis was directed toward identification of science talented students not opting for high science content in grade 12, and, equally as important, those of low science ability who select predominantly science courses at this level. It was proposed that the variables could be measures of any area likely to be related to the criterion. For example, factors associated with the home, the school, and personal measures were all included. The variable set was then searched for that combination returning optimal criterion prediction. Attention was focussed on six main units of analysis viz males, males of higher science ability, males of lower science ability, females, females of higher science ability, females of lower science ability. The data in each unit was subjected to both discriminant (stepwise and direct) analysis and a process similar to a stepwise regression procedure called the Automatic Interaction Detector (AID). AID employs a branching process using variance analysis to subdivide the sample into subgroups which maximize dependent variable value prediction. The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) conducted a series of tests on a stratified random sample of grade 12 students throughout Australia in 1970. The results, held at ACER, included measures of some 418 variables thirty four of which were selected for this investigation. Included in this group were the results of the four Commonwealth Secondary Scholarship Examination (CSSE) ability tests taken two years earlier. Analysis units were formed on the basis of sex and CSSE - Science score. The results indicate successful science content prediction is possible with the personal or internal variables of science interest, attitudes and abilities, consistently being of greatest importance. The participating external variables vary depending on the unit of analysis. The non-monotonic "State" and "Type of School" factors are predominant in AID analyses.
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    Learning to write scientific discourse
    Barker, Gayle ( 2000)
    This thesis describes the perceptions of a group of first year science students about writing tasks during first semester of their tertiary studies. Questionnaires and interviews were used to collect data from students. An interview was also conducted with one key science lecturer. The questionnaire and interview responses were analysed using the framework of four features of scientific academic writing - Generic Structure, Content, Surface Level Features and Access. The students' questionnaire and interview responses provided insights about their perceptions of the differences between writing at school and at university and also about the difficulties they experienced with learning to write scientific discourse. The students came to realise during the semester that they were not adequately prepared to cope with writing across the range of scientific genres or with the more sophisticated level of contextual knowledge required in their university studies. The interview with the science lecturer revealed a gap between the students' and the lecturer's perceptions that may be a factor in the problematic nature of learning to write scientific discourse at university. While the students did not appear to consider the language of science relevant to their contextual knowledge, the lecturer indicated that he perceived the language of science to be intrinsically bound with a command of the content. The students also indicated that the lecturer's expectations about discourse requirements were not sufficiently explicit. The lecturer, on the other hand, indicated that explicit instructions about discourse requirements were provided for students. This study signals the need for closer collaboration between Communication Skills lecturers and science subject lecturers in bringing the perceptions of the students and the lecturers closer together. The Communication Skills lecturer can assist students to learn the required scientific discourse by working alongside science subject lecturers to collaboratively provide in-context, explicit instruction, scaffolding and modelling of specific written tasks.
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    Educational accountability and organisational capacity in school science departments: a material critique of management models of mandated curriculum reforms
    Bainbridge, John ( 2007)
    In Sociology, Bourdieu (1977), Giddens (1984) and Schatzki (2001) have developed theories of practice to offer an alternative to rational and normative concepts of action and to solve the problem of the relationship between agency and structure. They argue that cultural, political and economic processes are mutually constitutive of social agency, as agency can be productively read as a historically specific confluence of discursive and material processes. In applied disciplines such as organizational and management studies (Niccolini, 2001) as well as in education (Southerland, Smith, Sowell and Kittleson, 2007), practice has been adopted to redefine the concepts of knowledge and learning and to understand change in working life. In these contexts, practice-based research has become part of new research areas, such as organizational learning, knowledge management, innovation and workplace studies and this research is in this modern tradition. This is a study of the praxis of two groups of science teachers, in different countries under different policy regimes of state mandated curriculum management. It is a study towards an understanding of the pedagogy of resistance and transformation. The significance of the resistance of material entities for the objectivity of knowledge is an important theme in the sociology of knowledge. The practice theorists in science and technology studies (for example Pickering 1993,1995, Latour 2000, Miettinen, 2006) have taken this resistance manifesting itself in experimental activity as a constitutive factor in accounting for the emergence of facts and scientific concepts. Pickering (1955: 560) talks about the temporal emergence of experimental activity in research as a "real-time dialectic of resistance and accommodation". Resistance refers to the blockage in reaching a goal or realization of a hypothesis. Fleck (1981) proposes that a fact is understood as a resistance expressed in experimental work and interpreted by the practice community. The widespread notion of "constraint" is usually understood as some kind of external condition that objectively limits scientific activities and epistemologies of transformative material activity more generally. "Resistance" is to be preferred, Pickering argues, because resistances are genuinely emergent in time, as a block arising in practice to a passage of goal-oriented practice" For Latour (200) objectivity refers to the presence of things that "object to what is told about them". This study uses surveys of whole school and science department staff as well as interviews conducted over a year in each of two schools, one in England and one in Melbourne Australia. It looks at the agency of science teachers as a transformative material activity, its relationship with policies of State mandated standards, and the objectivisation of teacher knowledge. Whereas subjective identity operates here in terms of types of experience that are available, agency of these teachers has to do more with a distribution of acts. Bhaskar's (1993) Transformational Model of Social Action has been applied to the analysis of staffroom praxis and offers an informing under-theory to the study of teacher agency and practice.