Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses

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    The preparation and development of middle leaders in Victorian secondary schools
    Cooper, Peter Anthony Hope ( 2021)
    Middle leaders in schools provide a critical link between senior leadership and teaching staff. Employing a multi-perspective case study methodology, this study looked at the common themes facing middle leaders at three Victorian secondary schools, Catholic, government, and independent, with regard to their preparation for leadership, their professional and personal development in the role, how their role is perceived by those to whom they report and those they lead, and how they determine if they have been successful in their role. At each school, the following staff members were invited to participate in the study: senior leaders, middle leaders, and teachers. The middle leaders involved in this research were actively involved in leading pastoral, academic, and/or co-curricular departments within a Catholic, government, or independent school. Semi-structured interviewing was used for the purpose of collecting their responses. The participants’ responses were analysed, and emergent themes described. A total of 56 themes with 78 sub-themes emerged from the study, covering the dimensions of preparation, development, perception, and success in leadership. Common themes raised by middle leaders were professional learning, the support provided in their role, career progression, their ability to influence school direction, level of autonomy in the role, departmental management, professional relationships, and their support of students’ achievement. The study indicates that middle leaders’ measurement of success in the role was primarily linked to student achievement in academic and social domains. A leadership development model is offered to support aspiring and current middle leaders.
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    Tertiary music education and musicians' careers
    Hillman, Jenni Anne ( 2018)
    Australian tertiary institutions offer many courses for musicians intent on working in the music industry. There has been, however, limited research into how these courses from different providers contribute to musicians’ careers. The rationale for conducting this research was to provide insights to educators on how they might design courses to meet better the needs of musicians preparing to work in the music industry. A review of the literature highlighted the concerns of educators and academics about the balance in curriculum emphasis between musical expertise and industry practice. This study examined the merits of different pedagogical paradigms through the experiences of graduates from different tertiary music offerings. Using a mixed methods approach and a descriptive, interpretive research design, this study explored the experience of tertiary music graduates and how their learning contributed to establishing their music careers. Data were analysed around three themes, (1) the characteristics of music portfolio careers, (2) tertiary music education experiences and graduate outcomes, and (3) the ongoing professional development needs of musicians for sustaining a music career. The findings demonstrate the formidable challenges of working in a music portfolio career including the self- management of a career in a precarious employment market. Such careers required a mix of work realms such as music practice, teaching and entrepreneurial activities to generate new work. Consequently, career trajectories were found to be necessarily circuitous and “messy” but there is evidence that tertiary music education is a significant intervention in the continuum of learning for a musician’s career. It is argued that there are five broad categories of proficiencies that are required first to establish and then sustain a music career. The pedagogies and course emphases from different tertiary music providers in the Australian state of Victoria contributed in different ways towards musicians’ careers. Furthermore, there were some shortcomings in requisite proficiencies which suggest the potential for further curricular development. This potential lay in both undergraduate courses to better prepare musicians for starting out in their careers, and post-graduate courses to provide further development for the sustainability of musicians’ careers.
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    Promoting change in teacher practice through supported differentiation of instruction in mathematics
    Dermody, Bryce Gilchrist ( 2019)
    Differentiated instruction has been shown to be effective in improving student learning outcomes; however, the resulting work load can be difficult for teachers to manage. A teaching package known as the NRP (Number Resource Package) was created to support teachers to differentiate their instruction, and used effectively in two classrooms. The package allows teachers to identify their students’ current understanding using a diagnostic test and a Guttman Chart, and then provides appropriate material for the area in which students need further consolidation. It assists teachers to identify, and provide instruction for, several different knowledge levels within the one classroom. Use of the NRP in the two experimental classes was compared with five classes that did not use the NRP and continued to follow their school’s mathematics curriculum. This study involved a quasi-experimental approach, using qualitative and quantitative data. Involved were an experimental group (two teachers) and a control group (five teachers) and a total of 147 year 7 students. The research took place in a large school in western Melbourne, Australia. The qualitative data consisted of three surveys and provided information on the effectiveness of the components in the NRP. The quantitative data consisted of a pre- and a post-test completed by students in both the experimental and control groups. These tests were completed at the beginning and the end of a nine-week teaching cycle and the learning gains were determined for each student (i.e. the difference between the pre- and post-test). There was a statistically significant difference between the experimental group and the control group when these learning gains were analysed. The results demonstrated that students in the experimental group who were taught using the NRP showed greater improvement on the post-test when compared to students in the control group. It was noted that those students who performed ‘below’ the expected level and those students who performed ‘above’ the expected level showed the most improvement in the experimental group, when compared with the control group.
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    Motivations, expectations and experiences of international students from the People’s Republic of China studying in Australian secondary schools
    Lindner, Karen Jayne ( 2018)
    International students in the schools sector are a particularly vulnerable group, due to their age and status as unaccompanied minors. It is vital that these students are understood, in order to cater for their unique needs. Using an exploratory mixed-methods approach, this qualitative study examined the motivations, expectations and experiences of international students from the People’s Republic of China studying in Australian secondary schools. Data were collected in two phases from 116 international students, 25 parents, 10 teachers and three homestay providers using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, and descriptive analyses employed. Six key findings were identified that suggest overall satisfaction with the experience of studying in Australia across most areas. School to school connections are increasingly influencing students in their choice of study abroad, while education agents and family/friends remain a commonly accessed source of information for international students, despite some concern over the reliability of this information. The choice to study in the Australian secondary school sector is driven more by lifestyle reasons, including preparation for living and working globally, than dissatisfaction with the educational opportunities available in China, although learning outcomes are considered greater in Australia due to an emphasis on the application of information and skill development. International students both expect and experience increased independence in Australia, but significant tensions exist in balancing this independence with guardianship requirements. Discrepancies between experiences and expectations were found in two areas: English language development is a key concern that persists longer than expected into the period of study in Australia, and international students from China are seeking more opportunities to form relationships with Australian peers.  To reduce dissonance between expectations and experiences of studying in Australia, it is recommended that Australian schools work with both international and domestic students to provide authentic opportunities to build relationships; that substantial English language support is offered for international students in Australian secondary schools; that Australian curriculum and pedagogical practices are reviewed; that parents are provided with ongoing information during the study experience; and that accurate pre-departure information is provided including, in particular, guardianship requirements.
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    Acting with care: how actor practice is shaped by creating theatre with and for children
    Andersen, Jennifer ( 2017)
    Research has investigated the backgrounds, dispositions and skills of artists working with children in both school and in out-of-school contexts (Ascenso, 2016; Brown, 2014; Galton, 2008; Jeanneret & Brown, 2013; Pringle, 2002; Pringle, 2009; Rabkin, Reynolds, Hedberg, & Shelby, 2008; Waldorf, 2002). Actors make a significant contribution to this work but few studies focus in depth on how they create theatre with and for children. Incorporating constructivist, phenomenological (Van Manen, 1990) and case study methodologies, this research investigates the practice of nine actors who create theatre with and for children in diverse contexts. Drawing on document analysis, surveys, semi-structured interviews and performance observations, the research explores two key questions: What characterises the practice of actors who create theatre with and for children? and How is actor practice shaped by working with children? This thesis explores actor practice in relation to being, doing, knowing and becoming (Ewing & Smith, 2001). Shaped to be outward facing and ‘pedagogically tactful’ (Van Manen, 2015), actor practice gives emphasis to four key qualities: listening, reciprocating, imagining and empathising. When creating theatre with and for children, pedagogically tactful actors are guided by a sense of care and respect. This thesis adds to the discourse about artists working with children, making actor practice visible and drawing attention to their beliefs, goals, motivations and acting techniques.
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    Mapping the landscape of language learning in Victorian independent schools
    Tuckfield, John ( 2017)
    The researcher for this study was granted access to a hitherto unanalysed collection of data: the results of annual surveys on language learning of all independent schools in the state of Victoria, Australia. These surveys detailed the language learning programmes of 126,377 students in 203 primary and secondary schools in 2013. Using the methodologies of Descriptive Research and Grounded Theory, the researcher undertook quantitative analyses of the data to produce an overview of language learning across the Independent sector in Victoria, and snapshots of several languages, calculating the total number of students learning the language and schools teaching it, the location of the schools (metropolitan or regional), the average Socio-Economic Status (SES) index of the schools, the gender balance of students and the number of teachers. The next part of the study involved pursuing patterns and theories that emerged from the data. Four main issues were explored using the data from the surveys: 1. the concentration of students at primary school level in learning certain languages, and the time allocated to these languages in schools; 2. the issue of compulsory language studies, and retention rates; 3. boys and language learning; and 4. children of different socio-economic status and language learning. It was found that some languages, such as Japanese and Italian, were almost exclusively taught in primary school, but in most schools they were given considerably less than the government recommend ninety minutes per week; there was a strong correlation between the mandating of language studies and student retention, and making languages compulsory for longer was associated with higher retention rates in the final year of schooling; languages in the final year of schooling showed in general a stronger proportion of girls, but this was largely due to the strong position of French, which showed a marked imbalance between the genders; and children of low socio-economic status were more likely to learn languages in their final year of schooling than other students, but they tended to choose community languages, which had an impact on the score used to determine university entrance.
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    Artistry, identity and the drama teacher: a case study using performance ethnography as mode of enquiry
    McConville, Kelly ( 2017)
    Drama is a compulsory subject in secondary schools in Victoria, Australia, with a rich history of dedicated and passionate educators. Despite this, little research has been done in recent times that investigates the professional lives of these drama teachers, and even fewer studies use drama as a method through which to do so. This research project reveals that drama teachers often experience feelings of being perceived by others as teaching a subject which is inferior, and whose value to schools lies more in extra-curricular activities than in the academic realm. This can result in teachers who are marginalised, yet whose time outside of the classroom is in demand. This thesis presents the results of a qualitative case study, which investigated the experiences of seven drama teachers in Victoria, Australia who engaged in a process of ethnographic performance making about their professional lives, drawing on their own lived experiences as data. Interview transcripts, participant journals, creative artefacts and researcher observations were analysed to interrogate the responses and reflections of these teachers as they undertook a process of generating, analysing and presenting their lived experiences through performance. Findings from the case study suggested that the process of ethnographic performance-making was invaluable to these teachers, bringing them to new understandings about their professional lives, as well providing insights into the context of their work. The ethnographic process gave them agency to find a voice through which to communicate the importance of their subject to others. Furthermore, it was found that the role of the audience was significant; the audience for the associated live performance came to new understandings about the drama teachers’ role and subject, and their responses energised the drama teachers to continue to advocate for the importance of their subject and identity within the school . This study forms part of a growing body of research on the identity of the drama teacher, and contributes a crucial new dimension to the scholarship that supports professional development for teachers more broadly. Furthermore, it highlights how ethnographic performance-making can provide a framework through which all teachers may reflect on, and come to meaningful understandings of, their professional lives and possibilities for the future.
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    Shaping futures, shaping lives: an investigation into the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Australian boarding schools
    O'Bryan, Margaret (Marnie) ( 2016)
    The role of boarding schools in helping to overcome education disadvantage for First Australian young people has received increasing attention, and funding, from government, the media, and private sector investors in recent years. Notwithstanding policy approaches encouraging, and for some populations even mandating, that students leave home to attend boarding school, little research has sought to understand how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students experience ‘mainstream’ boarding school and what impact it has on later life outcomes for them, their families and communities. It is well understood that a wide range of social factors, ranging from the macro-social to the individual, influence the health of populations generally, and Indigenous populations specifically (Saggers 2007, Anderson 2007). Education attainment levels are recognised as one of the social determinants of Indigenous health (Dunbar 2007). By contrast, in education policy, scant regard is paid to the social factors that underpin education engagement and success for First Australian students in predominantly non Indigenous schools. This thesis uses a narrative, multiple case study method to examine the experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Australian boarding schools, and in their post school years. In all, seventy-four interviews were conducted, across every state and territory except Tasmania. These include interviews or focus group discussions with alumni of boarding schools (35); parents or community members (27); and school leaders or staff in boarding schools (12). Interview data were analysed to identify what participants sought to achieve through boarding school; what constrained or enabled positive outcomes; and what were the actual outcomes achieved by alumni in the short, medium and, in some cases, long terms. This research presents the most comprehensive evidence to date on the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in Australian boarding schools. It establishes that as well as being determinants of health, racism, trauma, and social connectedness were also fundamentally important to education success for participants in this study. Data presented here indicate that when schools engaged authentically and proactively with these issues they assisted these young people to maximise the benefits they derived from education. Findings challenge the narrow and exclusively empirical measures currently used to define education ‘success’. Whereas schools and scholarship providers focus on preparing students to fit into school systems, research findings indicate that more critical attention should be paid to the systems themselves.
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    The constructivist learner: towards a genealogy
    Flenley, Rachel ( 2016)
    This thesis traces the genealogy of constructivism in Australian primary mathematics education. I place my focus on the mathematical learner and consider how this learner has been shaped, in turn and together, by three significant forms of the discourse—Piagetian, radical and social constructivism. Motivated by my own experiences as a primary teacher and educational publisher, I investigate how it has been possible for the constructivist learner to become a leading learner subjectivity in mathematics education today and analyse the effects of this predominance. To study this ‘problem’ of the constructivist learner, I follow Michel Foucault’s genealogical approach to discourse analysis, and undertake a history of the present. Drawing on a range of documents including curriculum frameworks, mathematics education association material and teacher education texts, I study the constructivist learner of three different eras—1965–1975, 1985–1995 and 2005–2015. I examine the conditions of possibility for each learner, consider who this learner is allowed to be, and, who is allowed to be this learner. Taking a step back from taken for granted assumptions about constructivism, I reflect upon what this opens up and closes down for learners and learning. The thesis analyses the constructivist learner as a shifting subject, emerging from historical-cultural contexts, and in response to theoretical shifts in—and pedagogical recontextualisations of—the constructivist discourse. However, the thesis also finds certain continuities in the conceptualisations: the constructivist learner is engaged, active, a rational thinker and a collaborative problem-solver. I propose that this subjectivity embodies Australia’s hopes for the ideal 21st century citizen and fears for those who fail to attain this ideal. While these aspirations are future-oriented, I claim they attach to our progressivist past as well as our neoliberal present. In understanding subjectivity as both discursively produced and mutable, I argue that the constructivist learner is neither a natural, nor necessary, subjectivity and that its dominance has closed down the possibility of other learner subjectivities. Rather than arguing against constructivism, I seek a consideration of other types of learners and space for other learning theories.
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    A political malaise: education for political understandings in Australian curriculum: history
    Atherton, Hugh ( 2016)
    This study examines the notion that Australia has entered a condition of political malaise. It seeks to find explanation for this development in a particular domain: Australian history education. Recent developments therein are assessed for the extent to which political understandings have been made available to students. On this basis the newly implemented Australian Curriculum: History is evaluated. The study employs a methodology of discourse analysis. Perspectives of politicians, experts and theorists are collected to examine contemporary political conditions. Theories regarding the manner in which history and education are harnessed for the purpose of constituting political and national identities are considered. Australian Curriculum: History is scrutinized in the context of the contestation that surrounded its creation and reception. The study posits the notion that the historical discourse has been coopted into the ideological conflicts of Australian party politics; that Australian Curriculum: History is constitutive of ideological predilections of antagonistic parties rather the historically informed critical faculties necessary for useful democratic participation.