Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    Focus on form in a Thai university English course
    Muangkaew, Chanida ( 2006)
    This thesis reports on an investigation about the application of new pedagogy to the teaching of English grammar to the first year English major students in a Rajabhat University in Bangkok, Thailand. This study sought to explore the effectiveness of an indirect explicit instruction approach on improving students' motivation and attitudes towards learning English grammar. This study was conducted in a normal grammar classroom of thirty three students for sixteen two-hour weekly sessions. Kemmis and McTaggart's (1988) action research cycle method was adopted, involving two cycles of teaching-learning activity. Each cycle was regulated into steps of developing a unit of work, implementing an instruction for six weekly two-hour sessions, observing and reflecting. The data obtained consisted of teacher/researcher's journal, students diaries and interviews and students' self-assessment questionnaires. The teacher's journal provided information about how students were responsive to the new teaching approach whereas students reflected on their new learning experiences in their diaries. Moreover, self-assessment questionnaires using a 5-point Likert scale were employed to obtain a clearer picture on students' attitudes, activities provided and their perceived improvement in learning English grammar. The results of this study reveal that indirect explicit grammar instruction had a great impact on students' motivation and attitudes. Effective learning atmosphere and cooperative learning led to significant changes of students' learning behaviours. Students showed their eagerness to participate in the learning process. They became more self-confident and expressed their willingness to take risks in learning in the language classroom. It could be argued that students' attitudes had improved and they, therefore, were motivated to learn English grammar. However, the students' grammatical knowledge had not significantly developed since the study was undertaken over a short period of time. The study proposes some factors that the teachers should carefully take into consideration in adapting indirect explicit approach to their teaching. Of greater significance were contributions made by the study regarding the advantages of developing own instructional materials that respond to the learners' needs over commercial materials and the value of employing action research to investigate problems arising from teaching practice. Finally, it is suggested that a longitudinal study is worth trying in order to establish the applicability of the indirect explicit approach in teaching English grammar in EFL contexts.
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    Creativity in literacy : making meaning in the middle years
    Walters, Fiona ( 2004)
    Literacy is often described as either a social phenomenon or a functional one - it is rarely viewed as an imaginative or creative phenomenon. Yet the processes involved in the development of literate identities are akin to roleplay; readers and writers try on different stances as they engage in various ways with diverse texts, and this requires a capacity for imaginative projection. A `creative age' has been proclaimed in Western societies. Creativity and high levels of literacy are prized for their perceived capacity to fit people for the anticipated rapidly changing circumstances of the future. However, while vast resources are devoted to developing literacy in education, aspects of schooling may discourage creativity, and, indeed, the kind of literacy (or 'literacies') required for this new era. This thesis argues that much might be gained by reconsidering imagination and creativity for educational purposes. It recounts psychological approaches to studying creativity, which, despite limitations, have led to a model that is useful for identifying the `locus of creativity' - a systems model of creativity (Feldman, Csikszentmihalyi & Gardner, 1994). This model is re-evaluated so as to theorise a systems model of student creativity. The term `literacy' has come to signify many different things in education, and the complexity of the phenomenon is discussed to show how imagination and creativity are integral to it. An acknowledgment of their role offers exciting possibilities for middle years curriculum in particular. This investigation into the place of imagination and creativity in literacy involved the analysis of `official' curriculum documents and of two case studies - one Year 9 and one Grade 5/6 teacher and their English/literacy classes. This permitted observations of the ways in which curriculum is enacted in classrooms. The fieldwork revealed data about common constructions of creativity, and where it inheres in literacy.
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    A qualitative study of developing problem solving competence in students of a food technology diploma course
    Yu, Richard Shue-Tak ( 2000)
    This thesis is a qualitative study of developing students' problem solving competence or ability in a Technical and Further Education (TAFE) Diploma course. The problem solving ability has been identified as highly desirable by the Australian food processing industry. Its development in students has been specified in the Course Aims Statement as a requisite learning outcome of the Food Technology Diploma course. The thesis research aimed to explore the situation if the development of problem solving ability happened as envisaged by the major stakeholders of the course and how it was accomplished in the classroom. To facilitate the thesis research, ethnographic methods, including observation, interviews and document analysis were used. Activities of teaching and learning in classrooms and laboratories were observed and recorded on videotapes. Semi-structured interviews with stakeholders including Industry Representatives, Course Designers, Course Administrators, and Module Teachers were conducted. Document analysis included review of approved Accreditation Submissions for the course (accredited by the Food Industry Training Accreditation Board in the Victorian Department of Education), review of students' written work of practical reports and answers to test questions. From the interviews, two divergent views emerged that might be regarded as 'aspirant' and 'practitioner' stances. The 'aspirant' stance represented the views of industry representatives, course designers, and course administrators, whereas the practitioner stance those of the module teachers. The 'aspirant' view concurs with the industry's desire and expectation of developing Diploma students' problem solving ability in the classroom. It did not however stipulate to what standard or level this development should attain. The practitioner side on the other hand maintained that the development of problem solving ability is not their job but it belongs to other educators including teachers of degree courses in higher education. Also the practitioner side maintained that as bona fide TAFE teachers, they know what and how the course should be taught. The TAFE teachers in this particular case believed what they do is appropriate because there has not been any complaint from the industry regarding the quality of the Diploma graduates that they produced. In terms of improving students' problem solving ability, the official stance in the approved Accreditation Submission is that the Diploma course should be delivered in a manner consistent with the constructivists' problem based and situated learning approaches and presented in a holistic, integrated manner based on predetermined learning objectives. In their classroom practice, the Diploma course teachers in this particular case simply delivered what they considered necessary in a ' teaching as telling ' mode, without attending to the recommendations described in the approved Accreditation Submission or an objective-based plan, which incorporates strategies for developing students' problem solving ability. There was no apparent modeling or benchmarking by the teachers of attitudes and dispositions, attributes acknowledged to be required for superior problem solving ability, including reflection, metacognition, self-directedness in learning and construction of individual meaning from knowledge learned, as well as thinking critically or creatively. On the contrary, their delivery and assessment of learning was tuned down, encouraging students to learn in a 'surface approach'. The teachers' practice thus affected adversely the quality of students' reports of experiments. The review of students' reports of the three applied science modules, Food Chemistry, Food Technology, and Microbiology, established that students (1) did not understand the theoretical bases of the experiments, (2) did not show critical reflection or objectivity on the conduct of the experiments or the validity of the results obtained, (3) tended to exert minimal effort in the reporting, and (4) were generally unable to articulate and communicate their thoughts and knowledge. Another parcel of data supporting the conclusion of students' poor state of professional knowledge and inability to apply it came from their answers of test questions. Review of their answers showed that they did not understand the knowledge. Although the test questions of the three applied science modules did not really test them for the application of knowledge in resolving some industry-related issues that is solving industry related problems, the students' answers demonstrated that it was highly unlikely they could do so because of their lack of understanding of the fundamental concepts and theories underlying many of the current or contemporary industry problems/issues. The triangulation of the data from three sources, that is observation, interviews, and document analysis, converged to illuminate this particular situation showing (a) the teachers did not teach in a manner conducive to the development of students' problem solving ability and (b) students did not learn effectively to improve their problem solving ability. In explaining the occurrence of this situation, it has been rationalised in terms of teachers' low expectation of their students, the teachers' inadequacy to teach problem solving skills, and the failure of those in authority to properly communicate this specific course aim to all those who need to know, the students and teachers in particular. Based on this explanation, this thesis made the suggestion whereby improvement in the development of students' problem solving ability can be effected for the Diploma course in the short term by attending immediately to the teachers' practice in the classroom.
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    MicroWorlds programming, mathematical problem solving and teaching for transfer : a year long classroom study
    Walta, Caroline J ( 2000)
    This thesis is based on research conducted to investigate the effects of computer programming on cognitive and affective outcomes in two upper primary classes. The subjects of the research comprised two classes of eleven to twelve year old students at the same school in Melbourne, Victoria. The aims of the research were to establish whether a particular type of methodological intervention, which reinforced strategies developed in a programming context, could improve the likelihood that problem-solving strategies acquired through programming would be transferred to mathematical problem-solving. In addition, the research set out to investigate whether programming affected individuals with differing personality traits in different ways. Students worked over a twelve-month period with the programming software MicroWorlds. In the first term they learned basic semantics and syntax of the programming language and thereafter completed five tasks that were research assignments from a range of key learning areas. These tasks were called Lap-T tasks and as part of the overall curriculum were completed and presented for evaluation. Pre and post-tests in maths problem solving which sought evidence of ability to obtain correct answers, identify appropriate strategies and articulate strategies used, were administered at the beginning and end of the year. In addition, students completed a questionnaire at the beginning, middle and end of the year to establish attitude change to aspects of learning with computers and learning through programming. Other data was obtained through the Rosenberg Self Esteem Test and the Eysenck Personality Inventory. Students kept journals in which they reflected on their programming experience. A series of class lessons for highlighting strategies developed in programming, called strategy training was directed towards one group only, the Strategy Training Group or STG for a total of 18 hours. The other group, the Independent Learning Group, was not assisted to make connections beyond those automatically acquired while programming. The findings of the research were an affirmation for the value of the strategy training for improving the likelihood that strategies acquired during programming would transfer to other problem-solving contexts. In addition, there was confirmation that programming is a valuable addition to an upper primary curriculum, contributing to students' perceptions of control of their own learning and providing challenge and satisfaction while developing transferable problem-solving skills. The research indicates that strategic use of programming in the primary school curriculum can be utilised in the development of improved use of mathematical problem-solving strategies.
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    Predictors of performance in arithmetic in the middle years of primary school
    Pincott, Rhonda Marie ( 2002)
    While the amount of research into difficulties in mathematics has increased markedly over recent years there continues to be a need for more research into mathematics in the middle years of Primary School. The present study examined the extent to which performance on various maths related processing tasks (e.g. reading numbers, reading number statements, mental arithmetic) and measures of maths understanding (e.g. numeration and counting) predicted maths computation ability as determined by performance on typical Year 3-5 un-timed pen and paper arithmetic tasks. Analysis consisted of a stepwise regression for each of the three year levels. Some of these tasks were found to be highly predictive of achievement in arithmetic. The multiple regression was not only significant at each of the three year levels but accounted for a substantial proportion of achievement criterion variance: Year 3: 61%, Year 4: 59.8% and Year 5: 61.5%. Achievement in arithmetic was best predicted by a combination of factors at each year level with some similarities occurring across levels. The most striking of these is Mental Arithmetic: multiplication which was found to be a predictive factor at all three levels. Other significant predictive factors included Mental Arithmetic: subtraction (Year 3), Numeration: tens of thousands (Years 3 & 4), Processing of 4-digit numerals (Years 4 & 5), and Mental Arithmetic: addition (Year 5).
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    The academic achievements of language centre students at a secondary college
    Warrick, Geoff ( 2001)
    What are the academic achievements of adolescent new-arrival English as a Second Language (ESL) students at secondary schools in Victoria, Australia? Research on Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) students in Australia has tended to neglect new arrival ESL students. To examine the academic achievements of this important subgroup of NESB students, the current study will highlight the academic achievements of a cohort of Victorian Language Centre students at a Secondary College over six years with interruption to schooling in their first language (L1) as the key variable linked to academic achievement in their second language (L2). Victorian Language Centres provide new-arrival ESL students with the English skills they need to start their secondary educations in L2. The current study examined the academic achievement of two groups of Language Centre students, those who completed their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) and those who left the Secondary College prior to completing VCE. Their academic results were summarised into spreadsheets for quantitative analysis. Subsequent to the quantitative analysis interviews were conducted with four ESL students from the Language Centre currently completing their VCE studies to provide further insight into the factors that enabled them to do their VCE. Results indicate that the academic achievements of this cohort of ESL Language Centre students are poor and that interruption to education in Ll had a major impact on the students' ability to achieve academically at the Secondary College. The study suggests that L1 education is the key variable influencing the student's ability to acquire the academic language skills necessary to meet the academic demands of secondary education, particularly the VCE. Other factors such as support for learning and strong motivation were found to help students overcome difficulties encountered in their secondary education. However, students who were unable to overcome these difficulties left the College prior to completing VCE. It was concluded that the majority of Language Centre students faced uncertain economic futures once they left the Secondary College. The results of the study suggest that Language Centre students need more support and assistance to enable them to complete VCE or to access educational alternatives to the VCE. This study also suggests that more research into the effect of L1 education on L2 education be conducted as this was found to be the key variable in the students' ability to acquire the academic language skills necessary to meet the academic demands of VCE.
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    Seeing you seeing me : constructing the learners and their target language speakers in Korean and Australian textbooks
    Song, Heui-jeong ( 2006)
    To be successful in real-life communication with their target language (TL) speakers, language learners need to develop a sound knowledge of modern-day target language society, and an understanding of the beliefs and values most commonly shared by TL speakers. Such knowledge forms the basis of what Clark (1996) calls 'common ground', and is essential for interlocutors to exchange meanings. Removed from natural settings, textbooks are one of the principal resources for foreign language learners to construct a conception of their TL speakers in relation to themselves. This project examines the constructs of the learners' TL speakers provided in, respectively, a Korean language textbook for Australian beginner learners and an English language textbook for Korean beginner learners. By analysing how each presents the other set of people in terms of the attributes the other group assigns to itself in its own books, this study assesses how well each book assists their local learners to begin constructing sound common ground with their TL speakers. Analysis is made of the verbal and visual texts in each whole book with respect to topic and attributes; as well, using Gee's discourse analysis framework, close analysis and comparison is made of the information about the TL speakers and the learners themselves in the first three chapters of each book in relation to the three major beginner learner topics: Self-introduction, family and school. While there are a number of similarities in representation of the TL speakers by both sides, even this small examination shows glaring omissions and contradictions in the construct of the TL speakers proposed for the learners of each language compared to how their actual TL speakers project themselves. Furthermore, these differences would easily lead to confusion over meanings if used in real life. If such mismatches persisted over years of language learning, it can be predicted that learners would fail to create some elements of 'common ground' essential for them to understand what their TL speakers mean in interaction and be understood themselves.
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    Assessing the writing of Chinese as a second language learners
    Zhu, Xiao Qi ( 2005)
    This thesis is concerned with the assessment of Chinese as a second language in the Language Other Than English (LOTE) program in Victoria schools. In particular, its purpose is to investigate how Victorian secondary Chinese teachers carry out a common assessment of Chinese Second Language (CSL) students and Chinese Second Language Advanced (CSLA) students. The study explores how eight VCE Chinese teachers differentiate their assessment between five CSL students and five CSLA students' performance in a writing test. Teachers adopted the official criteria to assess the written samples, including holistic scales and analytical scales. The results indicate that there is little stable agreement within the teachers of how to differentiate between the two levels. Moreover, lacking a training process prior to assessment, teachers' judgements are mainly based on their own expectations and their interpretations of official criteria are heavily influenced by their various experience and backgrounds.
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    Investigating the growth of teacher knowledge on teaching reading through a professional development program
    Villanueva, Victor A ( 2007)
    This thesis is an investigation of the growth and development of teacher knowledge on teaching reading to students with reading difficulties. The effect of a professional development program was examined to achieve the aim of this study. Thirty preschool and elementary school teachers volunteered and attended a 10-day professional development seminar that focused on understanding the processes in learning to read, identifying and remediating reading difficulties. The teachers' subject matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge were tested using two separate tasks, before and after the professional development seminar. The data were analysed using both quantitative and qualitative data analyses procedures. The results indicate that a professional development seminar can significantly raise both teachers' subject matter and pedagogical knowledge on teaching concepts and procedures that research had earlier identified as essential for teaching reading. The results of investigating subject matter knowledge at pre-testing showed that there are clear gaps in what teachers know from what they should know. Particular concepts were identified to form part of what teachers know and concepts that are unknown to the teachers. The investigation of the growth of this knowledge showed that there are concepts that are more readily learned compared to others. The audit of teachers pedagogical knowledge at pre-testing revealed that teachers knew procedures that are consistent with the recommended teaching procedures for teaching literacy to students with literacy learning difficulties. The investigation of the growth of this teacher knowledge showed that there are teaching procedures that teachers have effectively learnt from the seminar. The investigation of the relationship between how teachers learn concepts for subject matter knowledge and procedures for pedagogical knowledge showed no relationship using statistical analyses. However, through qualitative analyses, the evidenced showed that the terms that teachers used on the instrument for investigating pedagogical knowledge revealed a strong relationship with subject matter knowledge growth. The teachers at post-testing showed a tendency to use concepts in literacy learning that they did not know at pre-testing. The evidence from this study lends support to notion that teachers learn new subject matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge in an integrated manner. From this study, recommendations for the development and implementation of professional development programs for teaching reading are drawn. The value of a solid knowledge base for such recommendations is underscored. Recommendations are also made with regards to improving efforts to investigating teacher knowledge as a means to improve educational practice.
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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.