Melbourne Graduate School of Education - Theses
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Evaluation for Evidence-Based Performance Management: Understanding and Measuring Performance Managers’ Perceptions
A common claim is that high-performing organizations use evidence-based practice to manage staff performance, herein called performance management. The literature showed that the implementation of performance management policies is crucial because even well-designed performance management models fail if they are not implemented as intended (Armstrong, 2015). Given that behavior can be mediated by perception, this thesis focused on the perceptions held by implementers of performance management that might mediate their implementation of performance management policies. This is important because, despite the research on evidence-based performance management, there remains a gap in understanding and measuring the perceptions held by the implementers. Moreover, there is a sizeable gap between performance management research and practice due to a plethora of obstacles like poor access to reliable research. Three sequential research stages were conducted focusing on item generation, scale development and scale refinement and validation, respectively. An initial set of 130 items was developed, based on a thematic analysis in the narrative literature review and a scoping literature review study (Stage 1). These items were reduced to a set of 55, then 41 items in Stages 2 and 3, respectively, using exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, Cronbach’s alpha calculations and examination of conceptual importance of data from a combined 589 survey respondents. Furthermore, the effect of several antecedent factors was tested using multivariate analysis of variance. The thesis findings enhanced the extant understanding by presenting perception of performance management as a broad concept encompassing two higher order factors (Perception of Efforts and Perception of Results) and eight lower order factors (perception of Performance Evaluation, Documentation, Organizational Support, Supervisory Support, Climate, Turnover, Critical staff Withdrawal and New staff Withdrawal). The findings also added to the literature on the effect of antecedent factors, particularly age, work role, organizational size, industry sector and workforce experience. Finally, the thesis further narrowed the gap between research and practice by creating a theoretically grounded and empirically validated performance management perceptions scale for organizations to use in in evidence-based performance management.
Investigating the Impact of a Flipped Classroom Approach for a Teacher and Students in Year 9 in the Topic of Linear Equations
Access to technology in secondary education has increased substantially over recent years, affording new opportunities for teaching and learning. A technology-enabled flipped classroom is one approach that can be implemented when technology is readily available. This research investigated the impact and efficacy of a technology-enabled flipped classroom in secondary mathematics for the students and teacher. Students’ understanding of solving linear equations, their attitude to mathematics and experiences in the flipped classroom were investigated. The experiences and perspectives of the teacher in implementing a flipped classroom for the first time were also explored. Comparisons between two teaching approaches (flipped and nonflipped) were made through a 4-week linear equations topic in two separate Year 9 classes taught by the same teacher. A quasi-experimental design with a control (nonflipped, n = 23) and experimental (flipped, n = 22) group was utilised. Students’ understanding of solving linear equations was determined through pre- and post-testing using online diagnostic assessments (SMART tests; Specific Mathematical Assessments that Reveal Thinking). A pen-and-paper (delayed) assessment was also provided to students 3 weeks after the topic, which paralleled the items from the SMART tests. Students’ attitudes were gathered by pre- and post-topic surveys using a prevalidated instrument (Mathematics and Technology Attitudes Scale). An open-ended student survey furthered insight into student experience and perspective for the flipped group. The teacher’s experiences and perspectives were gathered through three semistructured interviews before, during, and after flipped classroom implementation. Qualitative analysis showed similar improvement to student understanding in the flipped and nonflipped groups directly after the linear equations topic. Delayed testing revealed a greater retention of understanding in the flipped group. Quantitative analysis of student attitude found no significant difference (p > .05) for all subscales measured between the flipped and nonflipped groups before and after the linear equations topic. Thematic analysis of student responses in the flipped group revealed favourable perceptions of the flipped classroom for most students. The teacher experiences highlighted a favourable perception of the flipped classroom, highlighting an increased capacity to support student needs, with reduced stress in the face-to-face classroom. The benefits of the flipped classroom were noted to have come at the expense of substantially increased planning time for the teacher. The results of this mixed-methods research provide insight into the efficacy of a flipped classroom in an Australian secondary mathematics classroom context, with practical implications and recommendations for future research outlined.
Investigating the student experience of internationalization at an Australian university
This thesis explores the student experience of an internationalized Australian university through the lens of Internationalization at Home (IaH) practices. Over the last quarter of a century, Australian universities have adapted to an increasingly globalized world by implementing comprehensive internationalization strategies that make the universities more desirable to and more applicable within a global society. A substantial portion of these strategies depend on student-centered actions and activities, such as students interacting with and learning from peers from diverse backgrounds. However, the implementation and effectiveness of these IaH strategies have faced consistent challenges, including negative responses among the student body: resentment towards peers, a lack of intercultural interaction, and consistent frustration with multicultural groupwork. As students’ responses pose some of the key challenges to IaH, understanding students’ experiences of IaH practices would offer helpful insight into how to move forward with IaH. However, research into how students experience an internationalized university is limited, despite the significant role students play in the implementation and success of IaH practices. There is a particular lack of understanding around domestic students’ conceptualizations and experiences of internationalized universities, even though they comprise the majority of the Australian university student population. This thesis aims to provide better understanding of the challenges facing IaH aims by investigating students’ experience of an internationalized university, incorporating both international and domestic students’ experiences. The research study presented in this thesis is guided by the main research question, “What influences students’ experience of an internationalized university?” The study adopts a single-institution case study methodology, and three different faculties within the institution are included to consider different teaching contexts and student populations. A mixed-methods approach is taken, and data are collected through an electronic student survey, one-on-one student interviews, interviews with the heads of each of the three bachelor’s programs, and analysis of university website messaging about the student experience. Findings suggest that students’ experience is influenced primarily by a misalignment between their conceptualizations and expectations of an internationalized university on one hand and their experiences of that internationalized university on the other. Students expect that an internationalized university will offer frequent, natural interaction, often in the form of intercultural interaction with peers or in-class discussion; yet, they do not often find this to be true. This thesis argues for a reframing of the role of interpersonal interaction in shaping students’ internationalized university experience, primarily because it predominates students’ conceptualizations and expectations of an internationalized university. The thesis further argues that such misalignment may partially explain students’ resistance to certain IaH practices. It is thereby proposed that incorporating more interpersonal and intercultural interaction into the formal curriculum and reducing structural barriers to interaction would improve students’ experience of internationalized universities and better support the aims of IaH.
What are the challenges for STEM education in the Australian context?
The introduction and implementation of STEM Education internationally and in Australia was centred around governments’ concern for future economic growth and prosperity within a highly technology driven and global environment. Attention was also drawn to decreasing student enrolments in the physical sciences, higher level mathematics and engineering and technology-based courses and, the under-representation of females in tertiary engineering and, physical and computer sciences in schools and higher education. The literature review identified who led the introduction of STEM education and the multiple approaches available for its implementation. This qualitative empirical study investigated the challenges facing STEM education in the Australian context. It was underpinned by a curriculum development framework and presented using a narrative inquiry approach. Data was collected and analysed from a document analysis, a Delphi study and semi-structured interviews. A document analysis of thirty-two selected international and Australian documents related to the introduction and implementation of STEM education was undertaken to identify themes common to these documents. The selected documents were representative of government policies and programs, published research and reports from business, industry and professional associations and organisations. Five common themes were identified. A Delphi study was conducted with eleven participants with a diverse range of experiences and positions in STEM education and the STEM disciplines from across Australia. The Delphi study sought to determine the purposes of and requirements for STEM education and whether a vision for STEM education in Australia in the Australian context could be constructed. The semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten Delphi study participants and with an additional six selected participants. The interviews explored how the participants’ conceptualisation of STEM Education shaped their approach to the implementation and future of STEM education in the Australian context. The study found three key challenges facing STEM education in the Australian context. The first challenge is that people have very different conceptualisations of STEM education which then hinders the design or implementation of STEM education programs. The second challenge is the establishment and sustainability of partnerships of people interested in STEM education to develop programs to implement STEM education that are inclusive of all Australian students. The third challenge is the use of local contexts to better engage students in STEM education programs that are also relevant to global issues within the context of increasing accountability against set national and international standards.
Exploration of Stress-Related Factors and Sleep Disturbance and Implementation of an Insomnia Intervention
Insomnia, which is highly prevalent and on the rise, can adversely impact health and wellbeing, therefore identifying those at risk and developing optimal preventative and therapeutic programs is important. While many factors, including stress, can contribute to insomnia, knowledge concerning specific risk factors is limited. Further, despite the effectiveness of cognitive and behavioural therapies for insomnia (CBT-I), not everyone responds well to such treatments and therefore improvements are needed. With the broad objective of enhancing knowledge concerning insomnia risk factors and exploring the utility of including tailored strategies targeting these when delivering CBT-I, this research involved three studies, each comprising adult convenience samples recruited from the Australian general population. The first study (N = 242), which employed a cross-sectional survey design, explored the interrelationships between perceived stress, cognitive arousal (arising from general and sleep-related rumination), emotion dysregulation, adaptive change as operationalised through the Adaptive Change Model (ACM), vulnerability toward stress-related sleep disturbance (i.e., sleep reactivity), and insomnia. Together, high perceived stress, cognitive arousal, and emotion dysregulation, and low adaptive change contributed significantly to sleep reactivity. In turn, high sleep reactivity, perceived stress, cognitive arousal and emotion dysregulation were associated with insomnia symptomatology. Similarly, high sleep reactivity, perceived stress, cognitive arousal and emotion dysregulation were associated with lower capacity for adaptive change. While there was also evidence of an association between low adaptive change and insomnia, the strength of association was less strong. For the second study (N = 101), processes identified in Study 1 as contributing most significantly to sleep disturbance (i.e., high sleep reactivity, perceived stress, cognitive arousal, and emotion dysregulation) were used to define three vulnerability-risk groups (Low, Medium, and High) and then explore the trajectory of their respective sleep experience over a six-month interval. A direct relationship between sleep disturbance and vulnerability-risk was evident whereby higher vulnerability levels were associated with higher levels of insomnia symptomatology and vice a versa. While vulnerability level and respective sleep patterns were relatively enduring, reductions in vulnerability-risk corresponded to improvements in sleep. For the third study (N = 10), an individually-tailored small-group intervention was delivered to young-adult participants (n = 5) experiencing sleep problems. The intervention incorporated CBT-I with additional strategies for stress management and ruminative tendencies, alongside skills-training to promote adaptive change. Relative to no-treatment matched controls (n = 5), the intervention group demonstrated meaningful improvements in their sleep alongside evidence of greater use of the ACM’s Support factors and a more adaptive response to stress. Together, the research findings implicate sleep reactivity and various cognitive-emotional vulnerabilities as important predisposing risk factors for acute sleep disturbance and chronic insomnia, while higher capacity for adaptive change may offer some degree of protection. Cognitive and behavioural therapies incorporating stress management, psychoeducation around the processes of adaptive change, and addressing general as well as sleep-related rumination may help prevent insomnia and improve treatment outcomes.
Exploring pre-service teachers' perceptions of preparedness for teaching in Indonesia
The current study aims to explore pre-service teachers’ perceptions of preparedness for teaching in Indonesian contexts through the lens of English language student teachers. Accordingly, two questions were addressed to elaborate the focus of this study: (1) What factors impact on pre-service teachers’ sense of preparedness for teaching in Indonesia?; and (2) How do these factors influence pre-service teachers’ perceived preparedness for teaching in Indonesia? A convergent mixed-methods approach was employed to accomplish the purpose of this investigation: two sets of data, quantitative and qualitative, were considered equally important. The quantitative data were collected through a Likert-scale survey, while the qualitative data were collected with an open-ended survey, interviews and pre-service teachers’ personal written reflections about their experiences in the teacher education program. A cohort of final-year students who were enrolled in a four-year undergraduate English language teacher education program in Yogyakarta, Indonesia participated in this project. The two sets of data were examined separately and then triangulated. The statistical analyses suggested factors that potentially influence pre-service teachers’ perceived preparedness for teaching, namely motivation towards the teaching profession, professional self-efficacy, personal beliefs about the teaching profession, and perceptions about the contribution of the teacher education program. Much of the findings from the statistical analyses were convergent with those of the thematic analysis of the interviews and open-ended survey questions. Additionally, the thematic analysis revealed the participants’ perseverance, resilience and commitment to teaching, particularly from the interviews. Those personal aspects unveil the importance of personal dispositions in pre-service teachers’ professional development. In conclusion, it is suggested that pre-service teachers’ sense of preparedness for teaching is shaped through the connectedness between personal, social, and academic dimensions. Each pre-service teacher brings their personal foundations, which include motivation, beliefs, and attitudes, into the teacher education program. Their interactions with diverse experiences during their coursework and teaching practicum have shaped their professionalism, including their self-efficacy in teaching, commitment for teaching, as well as their perseverance and resilience.
Academic Performance Management and the Nature of Academic Work: A Proposal for Australian Public Universities
This research focuses on academic performance management at select Australian universities. Academic performance management in this study is broadly understood as universities’ holistic and integrated approach to defining, organising and optimising academic performance, with a view to achieve their mission and development goals. Whilst academic performance management is concerned with academics and their quality of work, which constitute the core of the university, previous studies have consistently shown that it does not adequately support academics in their work or reflect the nature of the work itself. The literature has revealed a range of issues related to misalignments between academic performance management policies and the nature of work, and a mismatch between polices and their implementation. Whilst various suggestions have been made to improve the system, little has been done at a holistic and conceptual level to address the core misalignment issues. In response to this research gap, this study proposes an empirically based conceptual framework to better align academic performance management with academic work. It argues that such alignment better reflects and supports academic work and the universities’ attainment of their mission. The study explores what constitutes this framework through examining the nature of academic work at universities, academics’ experience of academic performance management and their suggestions for the policies and implementation of academic performance management. The overall research question of this study is: What constitutes an academic performance management framework proposed for Australian public universities? As this research uses the locus of academic work as the lens to conceptualise academic performance management in university contexts, three sub-questions are asked to guide the inquiry: 1. What is academic work like at three Australian public universities? 2. To what extent did existing academic performance management align with the nature of academic work at these universities? 3. What should academic performance management be like to better reflect and support the nature of academic work at Australian public universities? To that end, qualitative multi-case study methodology was employed to seek the views of academics on their work and academic performance management at select Australian public universities. The study’s qualitative data included interviews with thirty-seven academics across different roles, levels and disciplines, as well as policy documentation collected from three university sites: an urban research-intensive university (University A), a regional dual-sector university (University B) and an urban dual sector university (University C). Data was analysed using a content analysis approach involving case-by-case analysis and cross-case analysis. The study found that within the changing university context, academic work reflects a very broad and multi-dimensional profession. Academic roles in education, research, and engagement involved a large range of activities and inherent complexity, and were underpinned by key values such as scholarly and intellectual pursuit, self-efficacy, disciplinary norms, collegiality and dignity at work. Here the study proposes the concept of the ‘community locus’ of academic work to describe a distinctive characteristic of academic work, which challenges the common approach to academic performance management as solely based on individual performance. In terms of the issues of existing academic performance management, the study reveals misalignments between policies and the nature of academic work, misalignments between policies and their implementation, and a range of suggestions from academics to address these issues. Academic perspectives varied only slightly across the three university cases, and these small variations were often associated with differences in the type of institution, discipline, academic role and/or perceptions of the supervisors/line-managers.
Understanding the conditions to support the on-the-job learning of teachers: A case study of a P-12 school
This study investigates the important concept of informal, on-the-job learning of teachers in a P-12 school in the Australian state of Victoria. Literature that examines how teachers learn within their school environments typically focuses on either Primary or Secondary schools. However, in recent times there has been an escalation in the prevalence of a new type of school, the P-12 model, which combines these sectors. Therefore, this thesis confronts how the P-12 school environment facilitates the professional learning of its teachers so that we can better understand the relationship between environment and learner. Whilst informal learning is understood to be a significant aspect of teacher learning, the dedicated research pool on this topic can be described as “limited”. Therefore, the focus of this study will not be on structured external Professional Development courses or formal examples of educational programs. Instead this study highlights how the everyday informal incidental learning of the practitioner is encased within a school environment embedded in its contextual conditions. This is done through an ethnographic case study which uses online survey, face-to-face interviews and observation fieldnotes. All data have been collected and analysed by a researcher-practitioner working within the college environment. This allows for a strong connection between researcher and context and as the environment in question is highly significant the methodology allows for a deeper connection. The data extracted is used to understand the interaction between environment and professional learner as the learning that takes place. Specifically, this study interprets and understands the case through an ethnographic lens using the concept of “Five Rs”: routines, rules, rituals, roles and relationships. From this, it can be determined how routines, rules and rituals support the teacher learners who portray roles and build relationships. This frame encompasses the institution within its own complex social network allowing for a multilayered picture of teacher learners as they build, maintain and regulate their own professional knowledge and skills.
Teaching Geoscience Out-of-Field with Digital Technologies: Understanding Agency through Positioning Theory
The professional rights and duties science teachers ought to attend to as skilled members of the profession are evident from roles specified by initial teacher education, registration authorities, subject-specific teachers’ associations, education policy and state- mandated curriculum documents. Of particular interest are the assumptions made by stakeholders within and beyond the community of professional educators about both digital technologies and teachers’ capacity to incorporate them into their practice. Research literature suggests that teachers’ use of digital technologies varies considerably and depends on a number of factors (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2013; Inan & Lowther, 2010; Somekh, 2008; Waight, Chiu, & Whitford, 2014; Zhao & Frank, 2003). In addition, for multi-disciplinary subjects like general science the accepted reality is that teachers may be highly accomplished in some areas but not others (Carlsen, 1992; Kind, 2014; Nixon, Campbell, & Luft, 2016; Nixon & Luft, 2015; Sanders, Borko, & Lockard, 1993). Geoscience is a sub-discipline of science largely taught by non-specialists (King, 2008, 2013, 2015) or science teachers teaching out-of-field (OOF) (Hobbs, 2015). This qualitative research sought a more empowering and useful understanding of teachers’ lived experience teaching with digital technologies in the Australian state of Victoria. Positioning theory (Harre & van Langenhove, 1999) was the overarching philosophy and methodology for the research design. Ten science teachers from an inner- city school in Melbourne were invited to reflect on their lived experience teaching with digital technologies. Constructivist grounded theory coding procedures (Charmaz, 2014), pronoun grammar analysis (Muhlhausler & Harre, 1990; Redman, 2013a; Redman & Fawns, 2010) and the positioning triad (Harre & van Langenhove, 1999) were the analytical tools used to methodically code data to better understand extent to which teachers perceived themselves to be permitted and/or empowered (Foucault, Martin, Gutman, & Hutton, 1988) to act autonomously before, during and after teaching geoscience with digital technologies. Prior to offering teachers support to teach OOF with digital technologies, two notable conclusions emerged from the data analysis. First, teachers did not make connections between their institutional and subject-specific duties to utilize digital technologies. Second, without a formal program of digital experiences for students and teachers’ varying degrees of personal and professional history utilizing digital technologies, the sign systems (Foucault et al., 1988) were not yet in place for most of these teachers to identify the pedagogical possibilities for digital technology use. Notably early-career teachers who trained as scientists could not be assumed to intuitively draw on their transferrable skills to teach for technology-enabled learning (Brantley-Dias & Ertmer, 2013; Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2013). In addition, most teachers did not readily identify their existing digital practices as transferrable and linked to teaching OOF. Four teachers participated more extensively by teaching a year nine geoscience unit designed to support their personal and pedagogical growth to use digital technologies in the OOF area. External and internal factors that both strengthened and compromised teachers’ evolving sense of personal agency are identified and explained. Notably, science teachers cannot be grouped as homogeneous users of and teachers with digital technologies. Teachers’ interpretations of their professional rights and duties to utilize digital technologies must be understood for effective, differentiated professional growth to occur across both subject-specific and institutional expectations. The range and complexity of competencies for which teachers are personally and professionally accountable are explained and the research is shown to make unique contributions to the fields of OOF teaching, digital technology use in education, better understanding the experiences scientists who became teachers and research methodology. The Explicit Personal Pragmatic Approach (EPPA) to professional learning is a three- dimensional model offered that illustrates the relationships between subject-specific and institutional expectations placed on teachers. The EPPA may also hold value if applied to other occupations where workplace professionals change roles and are required to continually refine their knowledge and skills in unfamiliar contexts. Finally, recommendations are made for implementing school-wide use of digital technologies which may have international implications, particularly in a time when a variety of stakeholders rely on teachers’ digital technology use to help combat global health issues.
Translating neuroscience and psychology into education: Towards a conceptual model for the Science of Learning
This thesis reports on an empirical comparison between disciplines of educational psychology and educational neuroscience. an integrated conceptual model for the emerging field of the Science of Learning that subsumes both disciplines. After developing a conceptual framework that divides educational phenomena into five discrete layers, and a translation schema, the thesis reports the results of a systematic review of 548 studies in the educational neuroscience literature. To compare this impact with that of Educational Psychology, the thesis reports on two empirical reviews of the educational psychology literature: first, a meta-analysis of 10 well-established learning strategies, and second a meta-synthesis of over 42 learning strategies and their moderators, which formed the basis of a proposed Model of Learning. Finally, the respective strengths and limitations of both disciplines formed the basis for an integrated conceptual model for human learning – the Pedagogical Primes Model for the Learning Sciences. This model provides a means by which all learning-related disciplines (including but not limited to neuroscience) can meaningfully communicate with each other, and in so doing enhance the valid translation of Science of Learning research into educational practice.
Positive psychology and the purposes of schooling: A qualitative exploration of the role of positive education in nurturing eudaimonic conceptions of prosperity and success
Positive education emerged from positive psychology and its aims include expanding the metrics in education to encompass flourishing: defined for this thesis as the achievement of Aristotelian eudaimonic happiness. This goal aligns with educational philosophies that espouse education for happiness, citizenship and collective wellbeing. However, the philosophical foundations of positive education may diverge, in part, from the ideas of normative ethicists like Aristotle, and its aims may be impeded by societal beliefs about the purpose of education as well as narrow definitions of success, goodness and prosperity. In this thesis qualitative methods are used to explore these concepts through the writings of 431 students. Using thematic analysis as well as the PERMA, PWI and Aristotelian frameworks, across three studies, this thesis examines: a) whether positive education can achieve an ideological shift towards education for collective flourishing, and b) whether positive education may be a vehicle for augmenting a more social purpose of education. Studies found that students of positive education may be more likely than comparison groups to attribute prosperity to relationships and less likely to discuss money as indicative of success and that students in all groups view relationships and positive emotions as important. Social equity, health, moral goodness and collective wellbeing did not feature prominently in student responses, and most students emphasised the credentialing role of education, suggesting potential for further development of positive education programs to nurture flourishing and engender a more social purpose of schooling.
Collaborative Problem-Solving and Academic Performance of Adolescents: The role of activity achievement emotions
This thesis examined the relative incidence, origins, and influence of achievement emotions in academic performance, including collaborative problem-solving (CPS). A theoretical model was tested to investigate whether individual differences in the intensity of achievement emotions experienced by students while completing CPS tasks would be linked to their effort regulation, which in turn, would predict CPS social and cognitive performance. It was also hypothesised that students’ achievement emotions would influence their levels of participation, responsiveness, and perspective-taking during the activity affecting, in turn, their final social CPS performance. The sample consisted of 100 adolescent dyads (n = 200) who completed a series of five computer-based CPS tasks while self-report questionnaires measured their enjoyment, boredom, and anger responses. Regression analysis revealed that enjoyment was associated with higher performance on both social and cognitive CPS tasks by predicting participants’ effort and social interactions between problem-solving partners during the CPS tasks. This contrasted with the experience of negative emotions, including boredom and anger, which was associated with lower motivation to invest effort, which in turn was linked to more reduced cognitive CPS task performance. These findings expand existing knowledge by highlighting the importance of commonly experienced discrete achievement emotions in predicting complex students’ abilities such as the critical skills for 21st-century schooling: Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity, grouped within CPS.