Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    The new English : an analysis of ideology in the professional literature of English-teaching, 1963-1978
    Seddon, Jennifer Marie ( 1982)
    This thesis focusses upon the professional literature of English teachers in Victoria in the period 1963-1978. Its concern is, firstly, to identify and delineate the distinctive features of the successive ideologies of English teaching which emerged in the literature during those years, focussing in particular upon 'the New English'. Secondly, it seeks to suggest reasons for their emergence, by examining contemporary socio-economic, political and institutional developments, to which the theory of English teaching has been responsive. Although writers in the professional literature presented themselves as spokesmen for classroom English teachers, their rationales and pre-occupations were not widely shared or successfully communicated. Therefore, the theories of English teaching which are identifiable in the literature do not represent the changing practices of teachers, but rather a succession of 'attempts by theorists to direct and control those practices. They also reflect the changing composition and configuration of a particular segment of the intellectual field over a period of time. Some aspects of the changing ideology of English teaching are thus the product of quasi-autonomous internal processes of self-reflection and debate within the profession. However, the major purpose of this analysis is to demonstrate how more widespread historical developments called forth a specific range of responses amongst theorists, whose role was one of intellectual management of those developments. It is claimed that the New English merits attention both because of its congruence with broader structural changes and because of the challenge it offered to existing forms of control over both teaching practice and the production of theory itself.
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    An evaluation of computer science in the Victorian Higher Schools Certificate
    McCarthy, Mark ( 1984)
    This thesis evaluates certain aspects of the Victorian Higher Schools Certificate subject, Computer Science. Firstly, an overview is taken of the subject as it was intended to function in the first three years of its accreditation, 1981 - 83. In the light of this, the draft proposal for changes to the course in 1984 is reviewed. Secondly, a number of specific areas of the course are examined in more detail. A questionnaire to course designers and teachers is the basis of this investigation. The relationship between stated objectives of the course and items of course content is explored. An analysis is conducted on the extent to which the four option components are equitable in terms of time. The relative importance of the three components of assessment is explored, especially in the case of a 'barely passing' student. Actual raw mark components for the 1981 students have been used in connection with the latter investigation.
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    Australian studies and the Geelong College
    Peel, Geoffrey W ( 1988)
    The Geelong College pioneered the teaching of Australian Studies as part of the secondary school curriculum. The notion of teaching about Australia through an inter-disciplinary course was seen as revolutionary in its early days of the mid-1970s. Since that time, however, the teaching of Australian Studies has become increasingly widespread in schools, and also in some tertiary institutions. Over the same period, the Australian Studies course at The Geelong College has undergone review and change according to staff interests, student reaction and the contemporary situation. In the early 1980s, the face of Victorian Education was to change through the effects of the "Blackburn Report", an enquiry into post-compulsory schooling, of which a major recommendation was that all students should undertake a study of Australian society at Levels 11 and 12. The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Board has used this recommendation as the basis for introducing a compulsory two-unit course titled "Work and Australian Society" as part of the new Victorian Certificate of Education, which will be fully operational by 1991. The Geelong College, like all other secondary schools in the state, is having to prepare for the introduction of Australian Studies in this form. Although this school has had the advantage of experience with an established Australian Studies course, the present course does not fully satisfy the requirements of the VCAB guidelines; therefore some degree of modification and rewriting is necessary. This thesis will attempt to design, implement and evaluate some units of work for Year 11 Australian Studies students at The Geelong College, units which satisfy both the VCAB requirements and the needs of the student clientele of this particular school. In order to undertake such a project, this thesis initially examines the development in the study of Australian society and culture. It then attempts to identify a methodology which could be used as a model for the planning of curriculum modfications for this course. The nature of the particular institution in question will be examined as a preparatory step to the development of a curriculum. The thesis concludes with a review of the process undertaken and discusses its applicability as a general methodology.
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    A comparison of the difficulties of algebra, fractions and decimals for Year 9 students
    O'Leary, Eileen ( 1989)
    Skills tests in arithmetic and algebra were administered to 222 Year 9 students in two schools in Melbourne. Students, who were given one of four test papers, attempted twelve core questions, and three pairs of questions, the second of which was a j ump in difficulty from the first. These jumps in difficulty were expressions of the difference between working with fractions or decimals as opposed to whole numbers, and algebra as opposed to arithmetic. The results for the paired questions were firstly analysed using McNemar's test for changes. It was found that there is a jump in difficulty when moving from settings not involving fractions and decimals to settings where operating with fractions and decimals is necessary. Although the situation involving the addition of algebra is not as clear, it appears as well that the movement of a question from are arithmetic to an algebraic setting poses difficulties for students. Rasch analysis was used to give a measure of difficulty for all items, and the differences in difficulty for each of the paired questions calculated. The Newman-Kuels procedure was used to test if there was a difference in the difficulty jumps for the three areas. It was found that the jump in encountering fractions or decimals as opposed to whole numbers is significantly greater than the jump in coping with algebra as opposed to arithmetic. It is suggested that emphasis on acquiring a thorough conceptual, knowledge of rarional number needs to continue through the junior years of secondary school.
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    Conceptual development in science practical work
    Williamson, Stephen Mark ( 1987)
    In an investigation of the effect of practical work upon the conceptual understanding of high school biology students the author employed concept maps as the primary research tool. Practical reports and responses to interview questions were also analysed. Misconceptions were identified in the concept maps, practical reports and interviews. The interviews appeared to reveal the greatest detail of the students' misconceptions. The component scores of the students' concept maps were substantially unaltered by the performance of a practical exercise selected from a year 11 biology course. If concept maps are reflectors of conceptual understanding then it appears that the conceptual frameworks of the students were stable over the duration of the practical exercise. Several component scores of the concept maps were found to be significantly correlated with either the students' exam results or their practical work assessment. Concept maps may have application as predictors of academic performance or be used to supplement or replace traditional measures of achievement.
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    A review of recent developments in the conception and administration of year 12 geography courses in Australia
    Wilson, Ian (1925-) ( 1981)
    Although geography has been taught in Australian secondary schools for most of this century, it is only in the past thirty years that all states have provided a course of study for the teaching of geography to Year 12 students. Geography has been a significant component of the school curriculum for many students at this level during this time. The development of secondary education systems in the post-World War II years has been influenced by many factors which have directly or indirectly affected Year 12 geography courses. These factors, varying from state to state, have included reports of commissions, for example, the Wyndham Report, development of curriculum theory, the removal of external examinations at various levels, and others. Specific factors which have influenced Year 12 geography courses have been changes in the nature of geographic thought, the writings of Bruner and Australian geographers Biddle, McCaskill, Shortle, Stringer, Blachford, and the increasing involvement of teachers in curriculum development. Each state has produced a Year 12 geography course unique to that state in many ways. A study of the current (1979) courses illustrates not only their similarities and differences, but also examines factors which have influenced their development. Various statutory bodies responsible for the development of the course in each state provided a degree of central control, and the external examinations continue to play a significant role despite the general movement toward school-based curriculum development and internal assessment at other levels of secondary schooling. The future geography at Year 12 level depends upon the ability of course developers, not only to meet the challenge of change, but also to provide a course of study seen by students to be not only interesting but also as relevant and meaningful preparation for the postsecondary world they are about to enter.
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    Education and the imagination: the theory and practice of children's imaginative reading in the middle post-primary years
    McRoberts, Richard (1948-) ( 1988)
    This study examines the teaching of imaginative literature in Australian post-primary schools. Commencing in a review of the historical background and contemporary justifications for novel study in the classroom, it then seeks to describe the orthodox prescriptions for practical work. Those principles which attract widespread agreement are noted, as well as those which are either ambiguous or in dispute. With this review of the theory as a foundation, the actual practice of reading in schools is then investigated. The field research consists of a random sample of two hundred and twenty-two Year 9 students and twelve teachers from six Ballarat schools, tested by questionnaire and selective follow up interviews. The results of both are used to provide a picture of the extent to which the theoretical principles correlate to the day to day reality of classroom work. The conclusion acknowledges the largely positive impressions emerging from this limited sample, but notes the dearth of research in this area, and the pressing need for further study on a large scale.
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    The public examination of English in Victoria : a study of one external influence on the secondary school English curriculum
    Hamerston, Michael T. ( 1980)
    The secondary school English curriculum was determined by groups outside schools during the period 1944-1974. External domination of teaching content and methodology was ensured by a system of Public and Matriculation Examinations which empowered agents of the universities to prescribe courses and to assess students' performance in those courses. The University of Melbourne exercised these functions through its Professorial Board and the Schools Board before relinquishing its powers to the Victorian Universities and Schools Examination Board in 1965. Statute and tradition allowed these bodies to establish themselves as a centre apart from schools, and to legitimise their authority through the institutionalised processes of prescription, examination and review of performance. The effect of these processes was to subordinate schools, teachers and pupils. There was immense inertia in the Victorian system of external prescription and examination. Courses and examination papers remained essentially unmodified for long periods. Significant development in the conception and content of English courses occurred, effectively, only at Year 12 in response to social and educational pressures which had previously led to the withdrawal of Public Intermediate and Leaving Examinations. Broadening the goals of H.S.C. English did not, however, signal diminished control over curriculum from the centre. The fact of competitive examinations at the end of secondary schooling continued to shape content and methodology in the earlier years. Competitive examinations engendered in schools, teachers and pupils a narrow conformity, the results of which can most clearly be seen in the failure of the Class A system to produce school-based curriculum initiatives of any substance. The effect of external prescription and examination of English courses was profound. Relationships between teachers and pupils were strongly mediated by the system, reducing the autonomy of both by subjugating their intentions to the instrumental demands of evaluation. So much of a student's 'life chance' depended upon examination success that teachers and taught were continually constrained to focus their attention on the tasks expected in examinations. Fragmentation, in line with the different sections of examination papers, rather than integration became, therefore, the organising principle for teaching aimed at developing those techniques believed to be essential for success in the examination game. External examinations dictated that the English classroom was a place where pupils met to prepare for their encounters with examinations rather than to explore the nature and richness of experience through literature and their own use of language for real ends. The system of Public and Matriculation Examinations established in 1944 was a potent influence on the secondary school English curriculum. The system rested upon a powerful, conservative centre whose legitimacy was so thoroughly entrenched that it was able to admit reform only on its own terms. Thus, it was possible after twenty-five years of relative stasis to negotiate evolution in the details of the school English curriculum without alteration to the essential power relationships. After thirty years, English teachers were still without autonomy. Year 12 English courses continued to exert the pressures and to exact the dependence which had constrained mother tongue studies throughout secondary schools since 1944.
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    The mole concept: teaching and learning
    Gilchrist, Paul ( 1982)
    Historically, teachers were responsible for the accurate teaching of prescriptions delineated in courses, textbooks and examinations. Recent developments in chemistry education assume a broader responsibility of teachers to become involved in the process of learning itself. This thesis is an account of one teacher's explorations of the relationship between the teaching and learning of a central concept in Chemistry; the Mole concept, through the surprisingly rich and varied literature that exists in this important scientific idea. The problem of teaching the Mole is a practical curriculum problem and as such is as much concerned with the problem of understanding the current theory in the scientific literature and understanding the perceptions of students as it is with the logical presentation of material as indicated by the text. The confusion surrounding the nature of the scientific language itself in professional literature and textbooks is weighed and the thinking of eight students recently introduced to the Mole is explored through structured interview. The thesis concludes with an evaluation of some teaching strategies and techniques of diagnosis of learning problems in this area of chemistry.
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    Some determinants of students' course selection in mathematics
    Flinn, Christine ( 1984)
    In this study some determinants of students' course selection in mathematics. were investigated, with particular attention being given to those factors which may result in differential participation rates between boys and girls. The aim of the study was to assess the relative importance for student decisions of various psychological variables related to achievement attitudes. Such knowledge could then be used in the design of appropriate programs and techniques to increase the likelihood of students continuing to take maths. Questionnaires were administered to the 115 students in Year 9 and to the 107 students in Year 7 at a Melbourne inner-suburban .high school. Specific findings apply to those students in that particular school; without investigation of the effect of such variables as socioeconomic status, ethnic background., administrative structure, course-availability and class size they could not be extrapolated to other students in other schools. Students' estimates of their maths abilities and their expectations for maths performance, decreased with age, as did their perception of their parents' and teachers' beliefs about their ability and expectations for their success. Students' beliefs about the importance of success in maths and their declared interest in and liking'for the subject also decreased with age, while their estimates of the difficulty of maths increased with age. Year 9 boys had higher opinions of their maths ability and were more confident of success in future maths courses, than were Year 9 girls. These girls saw the subject as being more difficult and the cost of the effort required to do well to be higher than did their male classmates. At the Year 7 level, however, the only sex differences were in the stereotyping of the utility of maths for females and in the stereotyping of maths as a male domain. Plans to continue with maths were facilitated by high expectations, by firm beliefs in the value of maths and in one's own ability and by low estimates of the difficulty of maths. Sex differences favouring boys were found on these variables. On the basis of these findings, certain areas for intervention were identified. These areas included the encouragement of positive attitudes towards maths, the provision of career awareness programs, and the attempt to modify parents' and teachers' attitudes as to the maths, ability of girls and the importance of maths for them.