Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Uneasy lies the head : the repositioning of heads of English in independent schools in Victoria in the age of new learning technologies
    Watkinson, Alan Redmayne ( 2004)
    This study explores the discursive practice of six Heads of English in Independent Schools in Victoria during a period of major cultural change. This change has been associated with huge public investment in New Learning Technologies and shifting perceptions and expectations of cultural agency in communities of practice such as English Departments in Schools. In this social milieu tensions exist between the societal rhetoric of school management and marketing of the efficacy of NLTs as educational realities and discursive practices at a departmental level, embodying and embedding academic values and attainments. In their conversations with the author, the Heads of English reveal much about themselves and the nature and distribution of their duties and responsibilities within the local moral order of their schools and with their individual communities of practice. A model is developed of the dual praxis of the Heads of the Heads of English, mediated by autobiography and historically available cultural resources in a community of practice. As agents concerned to both maintain and transform their local culture of English teaching, and consequently the whole school culture, the Heads of English account for themselves as responding to their own `sense of place' in their own community of practice, but also the `structure of feeling' of the period by which their achievements and standing are known. This study of the persons of the English co-ordinators draws upon both Positioning Theory and critical realism to reveal the dynamic nature of both their identity and the social organization of English teaching in schools.
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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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    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.