Melbourne Graduate School 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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    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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    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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    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.
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    Two teaching stategies for managing learning in small groups of different gender composition in science classes
    Matthews, E. ( 1996)
    This study was conducted in three Year 8 classes in one school. It contributes to an understanding of how small groups work in classrooms and the conditions which influence their productivity. In a formal research design two teaching strategies were implemented which managed the status of individuals and the groups. Cognitive and affective learning outcomes were assessed using transcribed group interactions from recorded problem solving sessions. The collaborating teachers of two experimental classes used both management strategies, a low role structure and high role structure over an 8-week teaching period. The third class was the control in which the teachers used no role structure strategy for managing small group learning. Three groups consisting of a boys only group, a girls only group and a mixed gender group from each class were chosen to test achievement using practical investigation problems at the end of each four-week session of implementation of the two strategies. These same students maintained their groupings throughout the eight weeks period of study. Using a combination of audio and video recording, the conversation and behaviour in each group during the problem solving session was made, transcribed and coded. Other support resources used to help interpret the results were: The Learning Preference Scale - Students (LPSS) administered to the students; scripted vignettes taken from student interaction's coded results; informal interview with the teachers, student questionnaire and the author's regular observations of the three classes during the study. From the coded scores on conceptualisation in the group discussion the following propositions were investigated. a) Teaching strategies that manage social and intellectual status differences in classroom groups enhance the achievement of cognitive and affective goals. b) Achievement gains can be linked to patterns of communication in small groups. c) Meaning making is a process of social and cultural conceptualisation which used concepts and skills within small groups. Students prefer cooperative over competitive and/or individualistic learning. d) Gender composition of small groups may influence patterns of communication and hence achievement. More specifically, the non-directional and directional hypotheses tested were: 1. There are no differences between the three strategies (the alternative hypothesis was that active role management treatment will be superior to the no role management). 2. There are no differences between the three gender groups (the alternative hypothesis was that the all boys group will be superior to the all girls group and the mixed gender group). 3. There are no differences between the two treatment phases groups (the alternative hypothesis was that students' performance after phase 2 will be superior to students' performance after phase 1 of the study). While no statistically significant results were found the trends in the data have been generally interpreted as consistent with hypotheses based on the published literature.
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    How may the use of an abstract picture language affect student learning of energy and change
    Fry, Margaret C. ( 2002)
    The teaching of `Energy' as a topic in school science has often been found in the professional and research literature to be incoherent and scientifically inconsistent. Boohan and Ogborn's `Energy and change' booklets are an attempt to outline a new way for teachers in junior science classes to talk about processes that drive everyday changes from the weather to a car moving. They have sought, around the central idea that change is caused by differences, to use easy language and find coherent ways to describe thermodynamic ideas. They developed a set of abstract pictures to make these ideas intelligible. In this phenomenological classroom-based study the experiences afforded two Year 8 classes and their teachers in the same school in Melbourne by the use of Boohan and Ogborn's abstract picture language are investigated. One teacher took a didactic/empirical approach. He taught from his architectonic conceptual map of energy and followed the standard textbook development of forms of energy punctuated by the recommended experiments and teacher demonstrations to illustrate various changes in form. The abstract pictures were used principally in discussion as summative and interrogative tools towards a clarification of the teacher's conceptual overview. The other teacher took a co-constructive experiential approach. She did not use a class text. The Boohan and Ogborn materials were used as gestural tools in the sense of presenting the gist of the embodied understanding- purposes and meaning- of teacher and students. There were some teacher demonstrations but no practical work. The picture language icons functioned as mediating tools in class conversations towards a perception not that certain predefined teacher concepts had been attained but rather individuals had attained confidence to go on from that juncture. The students' responses to the picture language, in class interaction and group interviews, revealed major similarities across these teaching approaches. Many saw the abstract picture language to be a powerful and economic representational or iconic device that afforded them a means of engaging their own embodied socio-cultural understanding of energy and change phenomena. Some were confused by the purpose and meaning inscribed in the icons. Both teachers felt professionally challenged in the employment of the materials and only partly satisfied by their different enactments. Both were engaged and curious about the intellectual, sensational and aesthetic dimensions of their and their students' experience.
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    Form 4 attitudes to science and the choice of a science and in particular physics in Form 5
    Doig, Graeme R. ( 1976)
    Although the more recent curriculum writers have stressed the importance of affective outcomes in science education, students who study physics come to enjoy it less. Also, the proportional and absolute enrolments in physics have continued to decline. A review of the research literature suggested that attitudes to science are a factor in the choice of science and physics study. Attitudes to the science oriented concepts science and physics, scientists, science career and science teacher are pervasively unfavourable. Furthermore, student perceptions of science and physics suggested that the physical sciences were avoided because of certain inherent characteristics (physical science traits) and the absence of humanitarian, social and freedom connotations (non-science traits). Several research studies implicitly supported the hypothesis that favourable attitudes to science oriented concepts and physical science traits were associated with a science study preference whilst favourable attitudes to non-science traits were associated with a non-science study preference. The purpose of the present study was to explicitly examine the assertion that form 4 student attitudes to the above three classes of concepts were associated with the preference to pursue a form 5 science subject and in particular physics. Two identical sets of research hypotheses were formulated for the preference to pursue Science versus No Science and Physics versus No Physics. A questionnaire was administered to 385 form 4 Victorian secondary students in August 1974. The questionnaire elicited student responses to twenty two concepts using a form of\the semantic differential (Osgood, Suci & Tannenbaum, 1957) and their form 5 study preferences. Student attitudes were determined using the D (distance) statistic for profile congruence (Osgood, Suci & Tannenbaum, 1957) using the marker concepts Things I Like and Things I Dislike. The DLike and DDislike concept profiles were separately subjected to a multivariate analysis of variance procedure (Clyde, Cramer & Sherin, 1966) with Expressed Preference for Form 5 Study and Sex as the independent variables. Within the former independent variable, there were two orthogonal contrasts. These were Science versus No Science and Science (Physics) versus Science (No Physics). The two contrasts were necessarily taken together for the set of Physics versus No Physics research hypotheses. In general, the results based on the DLike profiles supported the assertions that student attitudes to science oriented concepts and physical science traits were associated with the preference for a future science subject and in particular physics. However, student attitudes to non-science traits were not associated with the preference to avoid science and physics. The results based on the DDislike profiles were consistent but less pervasive than the DLike profile data. The substantial disparity in the number of significant findings for the DLike and DDislike profile data further suggested that subject choices are made on the basis of "likes" rather than "dislikes". The overall findings of the research investigation presented a tentative picture of subject choice. Prospective science science and in particular physics students have an affinity for ("likes") and their non-science counter-parts an indifference to (rather than "dislikes") science in general and the nature of the physical science curriculum. Furthermore, since such preference groups did not differ in their attitudes to non-science traits, it may be argued that prospective non-science students are indifferent to their actual subject choices. However, this argument could not be overstated. The implications of the research investigation are that attitudes to science (in general) and the nature of the physical science are an important factor in a future choice of science and in particular physics. If future physical science enrolments are to increase, then the attitudes of those students who avoid science and physics must be nurtured. This may be effected through incorporating additional dimensions into the physical science curriculum and the consideration of teacher behaviour on student attitudes to science.
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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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    Origins and development of general science in Victoria 1942-1962
    Boyd, Lawrence Charles ( 1976)
    This thesis is a detailed study of the teaching of General Science in Victorian secondary schools during the period, 1942-1962. The beginnings of the General Science movement can be traced to investigations into science education in England in 1918. However, many ideals of the subject date back to the nineteenth century. Hence some time has been spent in researching the aims and practice of science teaching in England during these earlier stages. Similarly, it has been necessary to study early science curricula in Australia. This background allowed an analysis of effects that Nature Study courses, university science subjects and any unique aspects of Australian education may have had on the origins and implementation of General Science. Syllabuses, courses of study, examination papers and examiners' reports have been thoroughly studied to determine the nature and direction of teaching that took place. In particular, the effect of subject content, examinations, text books and teaching methods has been researched. Hence it has been possible to analyse critically the origins and evolution of General Science. This retrospective study has not only allowed close scrutiny of the ideals and actual classroom practice of the time; it has also afforded valuable insight into essential guidelines that are necessary for general curriculum evaluation and development. Many of these guidelines remain relevant today, even though some thirty years have elapsed since the first General Science course was adapted in Victoria.
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    Opening the door of the 6th form chemistry laboratory: a study of professional collaboration between a science teacher and an English as a second language (ESL) teacher in senior chemistry
    Acevedo, Margaret Claire ( 1997)
    True professional teacher collaboration has been limited by the institutional roles which are constructed for us and through which we view ourselves. This thesis is a narrative case study of teacher collaboration for the purpose of addressing the language learning needs of English as a Second Language students in Year 12 Chemistry classes. It explores the issues involved in the professional working relationship through the voices of a Science teacher and an ESL teacher over a two year period. This was done through transcripts of classroom teaching, analysis of teaching and learning materials produced, interviews and reflective journal writing. The study looked at the groundwork which took place to establish a school climate conducive to the collaboration in terms of the Habermasian interests; technical, practical and emancipatory. The emancipatory nature of the collaboration is explained in terms of the repositioning of the teachers with regard to each other, the students, the scientific and linguistic subject matter. By exercising power in their respective fields the collaborating teachers achieved a professional parity which allowed them to reflect on their practice and move beyond the static and ritualised institutional roles of a Chemistry and an ESL teacher. Through the interaction they established language as legitimate content in the science classroom and together explored new practices afforded by the adoption of a social constructivist epistemology. This research points to the emergence of a new more empowering professional development role for ESL teachers in the future. At the heart of this collaboration is a commitment to conversations about issues of fundamental importance in classroom practice which reconcile boundaries of differing departmental cultures and discourses.