Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    The evolution of concepts of decimals in primary and secondary students
    Moloney, Kevin Gerard ( 1994)
    This thesis studies children's conceptions about ordering decimals. It builds upon previous work which established three commonly used systematic errors in children's understanding as they encounter decimal notation. Students were categorised according to erroneous rule usage. This work includes a small longitudinal study which showed little change over twelve months in rule usage by an Australian sample of 50 secondary students. The categorising tests were redeveloped to make them suitable for primary students and to have increased reliability. The main study traced the use of rules from Year Four to Year Ten in a sample of 379 students and showed how students with different rules performed on other decimal tasks. It was found that one of the rules, called the whole number rule (in comparing two decimals that with more decimal places is chosen as the larger) was important in earlier years but disappeared with time. The second rule, called the fraction rule (the decimal with fewer decimal places is chosen as the larger), persisted in worrying proportions well into the secondary years and it was shown that significant gaps in knowledge of decimal notation existed which had not corrected themselves with time. The third rule was shown to be not important. Further investigation of a longitudinal nature to examine how individuals actually make the transition to mastery of decimal notation is encouraged by this study.
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    The Victorian Certificate of Education : the change process and teacher practice
    Mouritz, Peter Damian ( 1995)
    There are two key issues in this study. Firstly, to examine the extent to which teacher practice has changed during the first year of implementation of the Victorian Certificate of Education's Year 11 Legal Studies study design - Unit 1 - Criminal Law and Civil Law. The second key issue is to explore the extent to which any change in teacher practice is due to the new course and the manner in which it was implemented. For this study I have used a case study approach with a series of cross-case techniques when analysing the data. Three cases were selected for study. Several different methods of data collection were employed. Specifically, external observation, systematic interviewing, collection and analysis of documents and checklists were used on a regular basis. To develop the cross-case synthesis I adopted cross-site analysis techniques as suggested by Miles and Huberman (1984) in their text Qualitative Data Analysis: A Sourcebook of New Methods. In order to plan this study, an overview of some of the key writings in this area was undertaken. Specifically, key writings on implementation and the process of implementation in relation to teacher practice were reviewed. This process is explored through the examination of several theories and models on implementation. How teachers perceive a change to existing curriculum programmes and the extent to which that curriculum leads to a modification in teacher practice is examined in detail. Particular attention is paid to the range of variables and interventions that can lead to a modification in teacher practice. The major findings and conclusions drawn from this study indicate that the teachers' pedagogical judgments, plans and decisions reflected a reasonably narrow collection of educational goals. These goals were shaped, in the main, by the realities of their classroom environments. The teachers prioritised most matters on a cost benefit ratio. This was particularly evident in relation to the intervention strategies. They also underwent a period of uncertainty about the change which compounded their reluctance to move away from established classroom practice and adopt certain teaching techniques that complemented the flexible nature of the study design. Decisions regarding teacher practice, therefore, were orientated around 'tried and true' techniques that met a number of preconditions. Specifically the need to balance the competing academic needs and interests of their students; student willingness to cooperate and feel comfortable with the teaching style adopted; perceptions of what the new content and assessment offerings required, and the limitations of time dominated their decision-making process. The end result was a general reluctance to discard established methods of teacher practice given these classroom 'realities'. The major findings, therefore, indicate that an educational change in terms of a modification to teacher practice was difficult to achieve.
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    A study of student perceptions of difficult genetics concepts
    Tribe, Jane ( 1990)
    The teaching and learning of genetics has interested many researchers in recent years. Some authors have used genetics as a topic which exemplifies broader curriculum issues, while others have studied problems which are inherent to the topic. However, all have acknowledged that genetics is a significant subject because of its scientific importance and social relevance. This thesis reviews some broad issues of science teaching in order to place genetics within a science framework. Problems specifically pertinent to a genetics curriculum are then focussed upon. Three major areas of research in science learning are discussed. These are meaningful learning, concept mapping and problem solving. Meaningful learning is not just "getting the right answer", but occurs when new concepts are linked to existing ones. Many researchers therefore stress the usefulness of concept mapping as a tool to encourage meaningful learning. Problem solving is a special case of meaningful learning and is also recognised as a skill applicable to novel situations. Research into genetics teaching can be divided into three categories. These are difficult concepts, sources of misconceptions and problem solving strategies. There is general agreement about the concepts which are most difficult for students to understand. All authors emphasise the importance of associating meiosis with classical genetics. Valuable work has provided lists of difficult terminology and concept maps of suggested teaching sequences. It is clear that some textbooks are confusing and reinforce misconceptions that students hold. Studies of problem solving strategies confirm that an expert/novice dichotomy is artificial, rather that a successful/unsuccessful continuum exists. Recent literature indicates that teachers benefit from knowing which genetics concepts students perceive as difficult. Students in both Australia and Britain were surveyed and thirty statements were then placed in rank order of difficulty. These results supported previous research and confirmed the need to view a topic from the learner's point of view rather than just the teacher's standpoint.
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    Effects of teaching and learning atomic structure concepts through the use of constructivist influenced multimedia
    Wong, Norman Kwong-kai ( 1997)
    The purpose of this study was to investigate the attitudes of female students toward multimedia learning and the way in which they accessed information from an interactive CD-ROM. The CD was an award winning educational software aimed at improving students' understanding of the periodic table and atomic structure. Twenty year-10 (14-15 year old) female students from a girls school in Melbourne, Victoria, participated in the project. An ethnographic approach was adopted which included a pre and post questionnaire and some videotaped laboratory observations. Results indicated that female students were generally aware of the value of multimedia learning programs and showed strong interest toward multimedia learning though they did not register a special preference toward multimedia learning in comparison with traditional ways of teaching (teacher talking and using textbooks). After working with the CD-ROM, no significant change was noticed in students' interest toward multimedia learning, their confidence in ability to learn and use multimedia software packages, and personal preference of instruction mode. Direct observation of students' interaction with the CD-ROM revealed that there was a strong tendency by the students not to access unfamiliar topics/areas. They tended to choose aspects of the CD-ROM that offered little learning difficulty or presented quick responses to short term goals. They spent most (60%) of their available time on the quiz section and ignored the tutoring aspects of the CD-ROM. According to the result of an opinion poll, students stated that the quiz game aspect of the CD was the most interesting area. Overall, students were unable or unwilling to explore the contents of the CD-ROM in a judicious way when teacher instruction or guidance was absent.
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    German in Victorian secondary schools : differences in provision
    Wilson, Glenys Margaret ( 1990)
    The following thesis focuses on the provision of German language teaching in the secondary school curriculum. As a supportive comparison considerable attention has also been paid to French language teaching. Both of these subjects have undergone great changes, and a general decline in popularity and importance, during the post war period. It would also appear that both German and French, often recognized as traditional modern language subjects, have been neglected in general pronouncements about L.O.T.E. in favour of Asian and community languages. The study reveals that very little consolidated information exists on the availability of language teaching in Victoria. The thesis, therefore, attempts to pool available published and unpublished data on availability, popularity and geographical location of German as a subject in the Victorian secondary school curriculum.
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    Literature and English teaching : a study of literature in the teaching of English at Scotch College, Melbourne
    Watkinson, Alan Redmayne ( 1991)
    The first chapter of this thesis provides a personal memoir of my teaching career, and places it in the wider historical context of developments within English teaching in England and Australia. It establishes my own position at the key points of these developments in 1966, 1975, 1980 and 1985 and introduces the main area of interest - the place of literature in the teaching of English. The second chapter concerns the vast amount of writing on the nature and teaching of literature in English. It provides an historical review of the main body of this writing and derives some of its focus from the seminal work of John Dixon in 1966, as well as the Bullock Report of 1975. The vigorous yet sometimes slightly artificial debate on the issue of literature teaching is also examined in the review of the important journal, The Use of English. Chapter Three develops the ideas propounded in some of the writings examined in the previous chapter and provides an analysis of my own experience at Melbourne Grammar School. Chapter Four shows the similarities and differences existing between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar School and details a more critical view of the state of English teaching from 1980 - 1990 at Scotch College. It reviews some of the specific examples of literature teaching and shows the slow progress which has been experienced over a decade within the College. The final chapter brings together the case of Scotch College and reviews possible future progress in the light of perceived difficulties inherent in the structure of the College. The general outlook for English at the College is seen in positive terms and suggestions are provided for further research into both the reading habits of students and the processes involved in the teaching of literature within the current restraints.
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    The Wesley College technology enriched graphing project
    Steele, David ( 1994)
    Graphics calculators are rapidly becoming more affordable to students of mathematics. In time, it can be expected these calculators will become as essential a tool for mathematics students as scientific calculators are now. This thesis investigates how best to use graphics calculators to improve student achievement and understanding of senior secondary graph-sketching topics. The Wesley College Technology Enriched Graphing Project was an experimental study which involved 180 Year 11 students (8 intact classes) over 15 lessons at two campuses of this large co-educational independent school. Two teaching programs were devised, which differed in the degree of teaching emphasis on issues of scaling and obtaining a complete picture of a graph. The effect of frequency of calculator use was also investigated with a 2 x 2 experimental design. Daily use of the calculator was found to lead to significantly more improvement on general graphing questions than less frequent use. The teaching emphasis on scaling led to significantly more improvement in students' ability to deal with potentially misleading questions where the finite view of a function provided by the calculator omitted important features. Students' attitudes to calculator use were very positive. In the light of these results it is recommended that schools move as quickly as possible to personal ownership of graphics calculators by students and that teaching programs emphasise scaling issues. This approach takes no more time than traditional teaching methods, but confronts student difficulties and leads to better understanding of functions.
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    Standing strong or standing weak? Equal opportunity, violence against women and the school curriculum : a case study
    Ollis, Debbie ( 1994)
    Despite violence against women becoming a very public issue in recent years, remarkably little material on this subject has so far found its way into the school curriculum. This thesis examines a set of curriculum materials called Standing Strong, which specifically aims to help students make sense of violent and sexually abusive relationships. The thesis outlines and evaluates the materials in light of their ability to achieve one of the major objectives of recent equal opportunity policy, namely, to help achieve "equality between the sexes, and...improv(e) the conditions of life for girls and women...taking account of their cultural, language, and socio-economic diversity...". (Commonwealth Schools Commission, 1987: Recommendation 2, p. 25). The evaluation takes two main forms, one theoretical, the other empirical. The theoretical evaluation draws upon recent post structuralist and constructionist feminist writings. The empirical evaluation is undertaken by drawing upon the research findings derived from in-depth interviews with 24 young women who had used the Standing Strong materials during their secondary school education. The thesis argues that Standing Strong is flawed theoretically, and that this is likely to hamper its usefulness in practice. The research data confirm this pessimistic conclusion. The thesis concludes by reflecting on whether a focus on education might be more of a hindrance than a help to the development of a meaningful and effective solutions to violence against women.
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    Trigonometry: a comparison of two teaching methods
    Kendal, Margaret ( 1992)
    Prior to the 1960's, introductory trigonometry was taught in Victorian schools using the traditional RATIO method. With the advent of "modern mathematics", a new UNIT CIRCLE method was introduced and gradually incorporated into official curriculum recommendations. The UNIT CIRCLE method was not universally accepted by teachers and both methods are used in text books published in the 1990's. The purpose of this study was to compare the effectiveness of the two teaching methods, explore their differences and determine which best facilitates student learning. Eight classes (176 students) were randomly allocated to either the RATIO or UNIT CIRCLE method. Each method group contained a similar number of students at each ability level. As far as possible, the content and teaching strategies of the lessons for the two methods were matched. Students' learning was measured by performance on the trigonometry test and improvement in student attitude was gauged from an attitude scale. A detailed comparison of the methods included analysis of pre-requisite skills, the demands involved in solving right-angled triangles and difficulties encountered by the students. The advantages and disadvantages of both methods were also examined. The RATIO method was found to be significantly more effective. An exploration of algebraic skills needed for the RATIO method revealed that students with advanced algebraic skills are likely to be highly successful with trigonometry although some other students also succeed. While introducing basic trigonometry to students, it is recommended that the best features of both methods be adopted. There is considerable value in using the UNIT CIRCLE trigonometric function definitions, connecting them to the RATIO definitions and then using the algebraic techniques of the RATIO method.
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    A study into the effectiveness of a genre-based approach to teaching writing
    Howes, David ( 1994)
    An exploratory study was undertaken to assess the effectiveness of an approach to teaching writing based on genre theory, with particular reference to the impact of individual differences in cognitive style on that effectiveness. The writing performance of 31 secondary school students was assessed under a variety of conditions prior to and after genre-based teaching. The position of the students on one of two fundamental cognitive style dimensions was assessed using the Cognitive Style Assessment Task. A comparison of writing performance under different conditions indicated that genre-based teaching did benefit all students, but this improvement was not maintained over time and was not transferable to unfamiliar situations unless models and support were available. A comparison of cognitive style and writing performance showed a significant interaction under some writing conditions. This indicated that genre-based teaching may be more effective for some cognitive style groups than others.