Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses
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Social emotional learning (SEL) in practice in early childhood: translating and applying the COPE-resilience program in Taiwan
Social emotional learning (SEL) has become a significant priority to policy makers and education providers around the globe. It refers to essential skills needed for individuals to function well in the 21st century, and directly impacts how well individuals adapt to change, handle interpersonal issues, and cope with challenges in life (OECD, 2018). A recent development in educational focus has placed a strong emphasis on SEL during the preschool years in Taiwan; however, there is a shortage of SEL training and resources available to support teachers in this endeavour. Preschool teachers in Taiwan are struggling to find effective strategies to teach social and emotional skills in intentional and evidence-based ways. Nonetheless, to date, limited research has been carried out in Taiwan to explore the effect of preschool SEL programs on both teachers and children. This doctoral thesis investigates the processes and considerations for translating a specific evidence-based SEL program, such as the six-week COPE-Resilience program in preschool settings in Taiwan to increase children's social and emotional competencies (SEC) and teachers’ SEL practices. A multiphase mixed methods approach is used in determining the practicability, translatability, effectiveness, sustainability, perception and understanding of the COPE-Resilience program and SEL practices in Taiwan. Findings across four sequential study phases provided preliminary support for the use of the Chinese COPE-Resilience program in preschools and kindergartens in Taiwan. The program demonstrated its cross-cultural utility by positively increasing children's SEC (i.e., emotional knowledge, empathetic responses, empathy and inhibitory control) in six weeks, sustained its effect for six months, buffered negative behaviour, increased school readiness and successfully prompted teachers to reflect on their own SEL practices. Teachers reported an increase in their levels of self-efficacy and change in their overall teaching techniques, including a greater focus on children's emotions and intentional preventive teaching of SEL skills. These results indicate that teachers' understanding of SEL and their own SEC could be enhanced through short workshops and training in the implementation of child-focused SEL programs.
Practices of professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care: Long day care educators at work
There is an emerging corpus of Australian research, both qualitative and quantitative, inquiring into how early childhood education and care (ECEC) educators experience and understand their work. This qualitative case study traces the lived experience of a group of centre-based long day care educators working in communities experiencing high levels of social and economic disadvantage. Set within the context of the Australian ECEC reform program, the study investigates what constitutes ECEC professionalism and how educators experience and practise it every day. Analysing data drawn from two quality centre-based long day care settings, it was found that educators predominantly frame professionalism in terms of pedagogic practice—what they do, how they use their knowledge and skills and how they enact professional identities they value. Thus, for many of the study’s participants, a commitment to social justice, of wanting to make a difference in the lives of young children and their families and, a belief in quality ECEC services as having the potential to ameliorate the socio-economic inequities many families in their community experience, was the basis on which their practice and professionalism was constructed. Altogether, the argument is made that educators’ understandings of their work practice, value commitments and the qualities and dispositions they privilege offer a nuanced and multifaceted view of professionalism, one that potentially widens the policy-based discourse of ECEC professionalism and requires that acknowledgement be made of the range and complexity of educators’ work in contemporary ECEC. The identity(ies) of relational and ethical professionalism that is both child-centred and family and community-centred most particularly requires recognition and support.
The Happiness Externality: Exploring the Social Role and Responsibilities of Business
Happiness refers to the way people feel and function in their lives and is something that is highly valued by most nations and their citizenry. Over the past two decades, happiness has been a topical area of interest in policy circles around the world. Today, various intergovernmental agencies and over 40 countries around the world are routinely collecting and publishing data on the subjective wellbeing of citizens. However, while much attention has been given to the role of governments in preserving and enhancing societal happiness, there has been minimal focus on the role and contributions of business in societal happiness. Businesses, in their various forms, are inseparable features of modern societies, and their activities bear far reaching consequences on all aspects of social life, including the subjective experiences of societal constituents. Given the systemic social connectedness of business in society and the importance of happiness to governments and their people, this dissertation draws on positive psychology and corporate social responsibility (CSR) concepts to frame happiness as an externality of business and examines the social roles and responsibilities of businesses for societal happiness. In the absence of specific theories and frameworks in the extant literature, my research first proposes a new humanist and normative concept termed ‘CSR for Happiness’, which contends that businesses have a social responsibility to respect, preserve, and advance people’s right to, and experience of, happiness. As a new concept, subsequent empirical work was undertaken and interpreted through the lens of social contracts, to clarify the conceptual boundary conditions of CSR for Happiness. The empirical contributions of this dissertation comprise two studies that examined lay perspectives regarding CSR for Happiness using a single large survey dataset. Study 1 was a quantitative study that analysed Likert-style responses of 1,319 participants. Study 2 was a mixed-method study that analysed open-text responses from over 1,000 participants. In undertaking Study 2, a novel mixed method was developed that used a combination of natural language processing and thematic analysis techniques to process and analyse large volumes of textual survey data, thus also contributing a method to the extant literature. Collectively, both studies found that the study participants were supportive of the notion that businesses hold some degree of social responsibility for happiness. Findings from exploratory analyses in Study 1 indicates that there is stronger support among less privileged respondents in the public and that the perceived degree of social responsibility for happiness tends to be greater for high-proximity stakeholders such as customers and employees, compared to low-proximity stakeholders such as suppliers. Study 1 also found that business activities that enhance happiness of societal constituents corresponds with stakeholder behavioural intentions that may enhance business performance outcomes. In Study 2, analysis of the textual data revealed that lay construals of happiness were defined in terms of socioeconomic conditions and psychoemotional experiences. Further, although the public believed that businesses have some social responsibilities for happiness, their expectations were tempered by a number of caveats: (1) responsibility not to harm happiness, (2) responsibility to enable happiness, (3) responsibility to exercise awareness of happiness in decision making, (4) responsibility for happiness is greatest for stakeholder that are spatially near, and (5) responsibility to act within scope of their purpose and capability. Interpreted through a contractarian lens of CSR, Study 2 clarifies the conceptual boundaries of CSR for Happiness by identifying the perceived nature and extent of businesses’ social responsibilities for societal happiness.
Assessment of mathematical problem solving: addition and subtraction in arithmetic word problem solving
Researchers consider mathematical problem solving (MPS) to be a vehicle for teaching and reinforcing mathematical knowledge, solving real life problems, and helping to meet everyday challenges. Like many other countries in the world, Bangladesh has given great importance to MPS in its primary curriculum. The country has achieved well in quantitative parameters of primary education (e.g., net enrolment rate, completion rate, etc.) but there are concerns about the quality of learning. This is particularly the case for primary mathematics, as exhibited in different examinations. One of the issues with mathematics teaching and learning is the lack of formative assessment materials that teachers can utilise to diagnose students’ learning deficiencies and use as a basis for designing appropriate remedial teaching. Furthermore, there is a paucity of research on mathematics assessment at the primary level in Bangladesh that has addressed the issues related to quality of learning. It is the aim of this research to develop and validate assessment materials using the latest developments in psychometrics that can (a) be used for this purpose, and (b) serve as a model for further relevant work. Arithmetic word problem solving (AWPS) is an area within MPS that is often used to help children learn how to apply the formal mathematical knowledge and skills they acquire at school in real-life situations. Although AWPS plays an important role in understanding mathematics, it is an area where students experience great difficulty. It is a complex activity that requires a series of cognitive processes, but current assessment of AWPS in Bangladesh relies exclusively on giving a single score based on the solution being correct or incorrect. There is limited opportunity for understanding students’ difficulties in the component cognitive processes. In the global context, empirical studies exploring the cognitive processes involved in solving arithmetic word problems are scarce. In the Bangladeshi education context, no studies were found that focused on AWPS. This research endeavoured to develop assessment materials that will enable teachers to identify specific difficulties students face while solving AWPS. The research objectives were to (a) develop a theoretical framework for arithmetic word problem solving using an iterative process (as discussed by Wilson, 2005) by (b) constructing tasks aligned with the framework, (c) trying them out in both small- and large-scale studies, (d) investigating the results using qualitative and quantitative methods, and (e) evaluating the success of the process by investigating the validity and reliability of the results. Only addition and subtraction operations for AWPS were considered to limit the scope of the study. Based on review of existing literature, a framework for assessing AWPS was developed. This framework theorises five cognitive elements/strands of AWPS: comprehension of the problem, mapping conceptual relations to a numerical representation, selecting an appropriate strategy for solution, performing the calculations, and verifying the solution and communicating the results. The validity and reliability of the framework were investigated by developing and administering a test (with items representing the different processes). The test was administered in two phases in Bangladesh: a pilot study with 62 students (from one school) and a final study with 808 students (from nine schools). Grade 4 and grade 5 students were selected through convenience sampling for both iterations of data collection. Four different types of validity evidence (based on test content, response processes, internal structure, and relations with other variables) were collected and analysed. In addition to using test design and specification, an expert opinionnaire was used to collect validity evidence based on test content. Analysis of this data showed that overall, the experts’ association of strands with items agreed with what was hypothesised, that is, they nominated items for strands they were hypothesised to be representing in this research. Cognitive interviews were conducted with 20 respondents from three schools to collect validity evidence based on the response processes. Data from these cognitive interviews were analysed using a qualitative method called ‘reduction and synthesis’ (Miller et al., 2014) and showed that the items were mostly working as intended. An Item Response Theory (IRT) approach was adopted to evaluate the internal structure of the test. A dichotomous Rasch analysis was used. The analysis showed that the item difficulties were appropriately distributed, and that the item fit statistics suggested that almost all the items were within a reasonable range (weighted MNSQ 0.88 to 1.14) and did not show any extreme over-fit or under-fit. The fit t statistics for the items also indicated a good fit. Overall, the data showed good adherence to the Rasch model and can be considered to be demonstrating reasonably good evidence of validity in terms of internal structure of the test. Two types of data were collected with the aim of establishing validity arguments based on the AWPS test’s relation with other variables: (a) scores from six textbook items included in the test that was administered and (b) students’ test scores for Bangla and Mathematics from their schools. These scores were positively correlated with students’ performance on the test conducted in this study, and hence showed good evidence of validity in relation to other variables. Test reliability was calculated using both IRT and CTT measures. The WLE person separation reliability was 0.81 and the EAP/PV reliability was 0.82. The Cronbach’s Alpha value was 0.82. The findings of this study can inform the inclusion of appropriate assessment techniques in the primary mathematics curriculum in Bangladesh, and the development of professional development materials for teachers using the assessments. Teachers of mathematics could utilise the framework to design their own tests that would help them to diagnose students’ learning deficiencies and design appropriate remedial teaching. In addition, future research can replicate this study in different settings to refine the AWPS framework and use it in different contexts. Furthermore, the methodology used in this study could be used in future research to develop assessment materials for other areas of mathematics including other areas of problem solving (e.g., arithmetic word problem solving where other operations like multiplication or division are used).
Literacy assessment in the early years: teachers at work in a changing policy paradigm
This thesis reports on a mixed-methods, two-phase study, which focused on the literacy assessment practices of early years teachers and literacy leaders in Catholic schools in the Melbourne archdiocese in a period following the devolution of assessment responsibility to schools. Phase 1 of the data collection resulted in 76 literacy leaders’ responses to a questionnaire on literacy assessment practices in their schools. In Phase 2, semistructured interviews with 23 early years teachers and seven literacy leaders were conducted to investigate their literacy assessment beliefs and practices. Importantly, the thesis reports on the participants’ interrogation, innovation on, resistance to, or acceptance of both previously mandated and current options around literacy assessment priorities and practices. Additionally, the thesis explores assessment in the early years within the contemporary high-stakes assessment environment which is characterised by heightened levels of teacher accountability. Bernstein’s (1990, 1996, 2000) pedagogic device is used as a theoretical framework to examine the complexities and tensions of policy enactments at the school and classroom level. Findings from this study illustrate that early years teachers’ literacy assessment work is complex due to working in a “boundary zone” of tension and compromise where, on one hand, they are encouraged to engage in age-appropriate, child-centred early years pedagogies yet, on the other, are mandated to assess and report against system-wide primary curriculum standards.
The impact of testing on students: Australian students' perspectives on NAPLAN and internal assessments
National and state testing policies have become an increasingly common feature of the policy landscape in education, both in developed and developing countries. Testing policies can generate a range of emotional responses among students, including high levels of stress. Alternatively, students’ emotional responses may not be discretely associated with large-scale standardised tests, but instead generalise to any testing situation. This study aimed to compare student responses and perceptions of assessment in both NAPLAN and internal tests. This study used an anonymous survey to gather data from 206 Year 7 and Year 9 Australian students on their perceptions of the importance their parents and teachers placed on doing well in tests, and their own self-reported responses to both NAPLAN and their internal tests. We found that the students in this study placed more value on internal tests than NAPLAN and students were also more likely to be confident in internal tests and bored for NAPLAN. A small percentage of students reported negative physical responses, such as crying or feeling sick to both types of tests, however, there were no significant differences between NAPLAN and internal tests in the number of students reporting negative physical responses. Furthermore, individuals who placed a high value on a given assessment and have greater emotional stability were more likely to experience positive responses to assessment. The findings suggest that NAPLAN does not cause significant negative responses in the majority of students. Implications for schools and policymakers are discussed.
An Examination of the Significance of the Concept of Internalised Racism in the Contemporary Australian Zeitgeist
This study investigates the usefulness of the concept of internalised racism (IR) in understanding issues of racism in contemporary Australian society. It does so via the lived experiences of 1.5 and 2nd generation Australians of East and Southeast Asian descent. The research consisted of multiple semi-structured interviews discussing experiences of racialisation and racism with each of the 17 participants. The study aimed to both utilise the concept of IR to understand the lived-experiences of the participants, and to determine how it could be revised for salience in the contemporary zeitgeist. Through the analysis of participants’ lived experiences, the study demonstrates that the concept of IR, whilst contested within the extant race scholarship, is nevertheless integral to understanding the structural impact of racism within the narratives. As such, in order to retain the concept of IR for contemporary salience, it needed to be revised to account for both psychological and sociological dimensions. Subsequently, the study demonstrated how revising the concept of IR impacts current dominant forms of anti-racist praxis. By acknowledging these limitations, the revised and rearticulated concept of IR was then applied to the narratives again to demonstrate its utility in better understanding contemporary experiences of racism.
Specialist nurses’ engagement with an online bioscience subject: a quantitative analysis
Bioscience has been a fundamental element of Australian nursing education programs since the early 1990s. The term bioscience in nursing curricula encompasses elements of physiology, pharmacology, immunology, genetics, biochemistry and pathophysiology. In postgraduate programs the capacity to link bioscience concepts to complex healthcare problems is required for competent and safe specialist nursing practice. The types of teaching and learning technologies utilised to engage specialist nurses with theoretical content in technology-enhanced learning environments are constantly evolving. Technology-enhanced learning involves the contemporaneous use of information technologies to augment teaching and learning. This approach has been widely accepted in various forms; the conventional mode of delivery for postgraduate bioscience subjects is frequently online. There is however, an absence of robust empirical evidence to substantiate the effectiveness of online learning on learning outcomes. In particular, there is a limited understanding of the relationship between students’ learning behaviours, readiness to learn and their academic achievement within technology-enhanced learning environments. The aim of this thesis research program was to establish whether postgraduate specialist nurses’ learning behaviours and readiness to learn, contribute to variability in academic achievement when studying bioscience via a technology-enhanced learning environment. An exploratory descriptive cohort study was conducted in two phases. Learning analytics were used in Phase 1 to identify nurses’ learning behaviours and explore the relationship between these behaviours and academic achievement. Learning behaviours included the total time spent online, the total number of logins, and the total number and frequency of hits on specific content areas. Hit activity was linked to topic summaries, webinars, formative multiple choice questions (MCQs) and online library readings. The endpoint measure of academic achievement was a combination of the cumulative mark for five summative assessments. Based on learning outcomes, participants were categorised into three groups according to their achievement level; high (greater than or equal to 75%), medium (64% to 74%) and low achievers (less than or equal to 63%). In Phase 2 a cross section of students from Phase 1 completed the Self-Directed Readiness Scale for Nursing Education (SDRSNE) survey (Fisher et al., 2001). This instrument was used to measure specialist nurses’ readiness for self-directed learning. Comprised of 40 items, the SDRSNE measured self-management, desire for learning and self-control. Respondents rated each item on a Likert scale with anchors from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to explore the data. Participants in this study accessed online information more than 70,000 times over two semesters. While the average time spent online was over 48 hours there was substantial variability in the number of times individual students logged into the subject, the total time they spent online and the number of hits in content areas. Learning behaviours did not differ according to level of academic achievement, but there were trends in the data that warranted scrutiny. High and medium achieving students had a similar number of logins and hits but high achievers spent more time online. Topic summaries were the most frequently accessed online content followed by webinar recordings, online library readings and practice quizzes. No particular resource or content area was associated with improved learning outcomes or level of academic achievement. Specialist nurses undertaking an online bioscience subject demonstrated improved learning outcomes over time, with high achievers demonstrating the greatest knowledge gain when comparing pre and post quiz results. Mean scores for low, medium and high achievers in four summative MCQ were consistent and similar throughout the semester. Specialist nurses in this study demonstrated high levels of self-reported readiness to undertake self-directed learning and the SDRSNE was shown to be a valid and reliable tool for assessing readiness to learn in this cohort. There was no evidence of a relationship between a specialist nurses SDRSNE and their learning outcomes, and no substantiative relationship between SDRSNE and learning behaviours. Specialist nurses were ready to undertake self-directed online learning and actively engaged with the bioscience subject, achieving learning gains over the semester that demonstrated the effectiveness of the subject. There was however, no clear relationship between learning behaviours and learning outcomes, indicating that the learning of bioscience by specialist nurses is complex and multifactorial. Findings from this research provide valuable insights into online learning as a pedagogical tool for bioscience and nursing education. Future studies designed to test the effectiveness of active, collaborative online learning strategies will enable those involved in education to explore the links between students preferred learning behaviours and learning outcomes. There is opportunity to develop a variety of synchronous and asynchronies learning strategies to accommodate and acknowledge the diverse learning behaviours of students while simultaneously identifying students that may be at risk. Future research should focus on learner to content, learner to instructor and learner to learner interactions in technology-enhanced learning environments. Facilitating nurses’ understanding of bioscience principles is challenging; multiple factors impact upon the mastery of bioscience concepts. The findings from this study offer nurse educators and curriculum designers baseline data to guide and support innovations to shape contemporary student focused online learning.
The heredity of Australian higher education
This dissertation defines the heredity of Australian higher education. Consistent with higher education and public policy literature, this heredity is embedded in an integrated higher education and public policy cycle, bridged by legislation. Financing legislation between 1850 and 2020 was examined demonstrating that legislatures have accommodated expansion in participation and research through internationally distinctive frequent incremental change. Discontinuous changes in financing legislation are rare. Insights arising from heredity contribute to the description of a more stable approach to financing legislation.
The Vincenzo vitale piano school: myth or method?
Abstract: The Vincenzo Vitale Piano School (VVPS) is unique among piano schools. It was formed in 1928 by Vincenzo Vitale (1908-1984) whose teachings have persisted to this present day. Its distinctiveness is marked by its conception of interpretation and technique as fundamentally indivisible and its physiologically grounded approach to piano playing. There are, however, as many facts as myths about the School in circulation. Given the fragmented state of knowledge about the School, it is a research priority to demystify the School and develop an accurate and pedagogically useful account of its methods. The oral, practice-centred approach inherent to the School’s pedagogy, although well- suited to the cultivation of pianists whose practice followed the School’s guiding principles, proved ill-suited to the reliable promulgation of this knowledge beyond the School’s early cohorts. The fractured state of knowledge on the School’s identity, values, principles, and practices created the risk that this knowledge could be lost altogether. It is the aim of this investigation to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the VVPS through an examination of its identity, values, principles and practices. Such an investigation is intrinsically interdisciplinary, and, to this end, this research employs and triangulates findings gleaned through a qualitative and multidisciplinary approach. Through the use of the Ferrari Model (2019), this investigation has demonstrated that the VVPS is a dynamic living reality, not a myth.
Practices and characteristics of principals in low educational advantage, improving Victorian secondary schools; contextually aware leadership
This study investigated the leadership of two secondary schools of low educational advantage on an improvement journey located in Victoria, Australia. This study provides further understanding of the ways school principals interact with specific contextual factors in order to support their school improvement journey. In both cases, the principals overcame their school’s challenging circumstances, defined by low performance and low advantage, by employing research based initiatives to drive improvement. Informed by a multiple perspective case study methodology, including interviews with the principal and other school leaders, teachers, parents, students and members of the school council, evidence found principals with a strong moral purpose and change leadership enabled long term, albeit slow improvement. This improvement was enabled by the principal’s navigation of a range of contextual factors that influenced, and were influenced by, the characteristics and practices of the school leader. Along with a strong moral purpose, the school principals had a relentless drive for change that enabled them to overcome great adversity within their school contexts. Employing practices such as increased accountability for teachers around their teaching and learning, implementing collaborative practices across many levels of the school and instilling hope through a strong vision, enabled transformation of these schools into a more desirable destination for students, teachers and the wider community.
Building partnerships with families using Web 2.0 technologies: A case study of using new technologies to build partnerships with families.
Social media is a rapidly emerging phenomenon, shaping the ways people communicate and collaborate. This research sought to gain insight into the new opportunities that social media may afford to collaborate with families in the early years. Engaging with a Third Space Theory theoretical framework, this research took an inclusionary rather than exclusionary approach, where existing practices were valued with new practices not superseding, or preferencing existing ways of collaborating. The research design employed a case study methodology to gain greater insights about current practices of collaborating with families through the use of three individual cases, each exploring the potential of different social media platforms. Principal findings indicate that social media does offer new opportunities for collaborative practices in early childhood. Educators and families alike noted that the benefits of social media were ease of use, immediacy, and ease of access. However, the use of social media by educators appeared to be dominated by evidence around compliance issues and attaining quality in very specific, and perhaps narrow, ways. The findings suggest a culture of compliance that is dominated by outcomes, standards, and assessments and that this has changed the dynamics by which educators engage with families.