Western Australian Institute for Educational Research

27th Annual Research Forum at The University of Notre Dame

Forum 2012 Abstracts

Listed alphabetically by first author
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Discourse analysis and the religious education class

Richard Patrick Branson
Kolbe Catholic College
Email: branson.pat@cathednet.wa.edu.au

Recent research conducted into the role of the imagination in the religious conversion of adolescents attending Catholic secondary schools (Branson, 2010) showed that some participants' images of God and of Christian faith and spirituality differed from the content of religious education courses mandated for Catholic schools in Western Australia. A pilot study of statements made by two participants from the study by Branson (2010) was undertaken for the purpose of clarifying the differences between the students‚ stated beliefs and elements of the content of religious education course documents. Working from assumptions that underpin social interactionism, for instance, that the language of discourse constitutes social reality, the data from interviews were analysed using a six-stage Foucauldian discourse analysis process developed by Carla Willig (2001) and 'tools' provided by James Paul Gee (2010). Several themes were isolated, which when compared with similar themes in course documents, highlighted the disjuncture that is likely to exist between what is taught in the religious education class and what is believed by some members of the class. Consideration was given to how religious education teachers can influence students to begin the task of changing their discourse about faith, life and culture.
Keywords: faith development, religious education, Foucauldian discourse analysis

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Slowmation: A multimodal strategy for engaging children with primary science

Jeffrey Brown
Edith Cowan University
Email: jeff.brown@education.wa.edu.au, jeffandwendy@iinet.net.au

Innovations in science teaching are having a positive impact on science education, however this is not reflected in improvements of student achievement nor increases in science as a study or career option. There remains a need to further develop pedagogies that promote the development of students' scientific literacy and engender a joy of science learning.

This study aimed to explore the implementation of student created slowmations in a primary connections science unit, investigating the ways in which the process engaged students in quality discourse and afforded opportunities for students to use representational modes as literacies of science in a socio-cultural paradigm. The research utilised aspects of ethnographic and naturalistic methodology in a case study of a multi-aged class in a rural primary school setting. Transcripts from videos of student interaction, interviews and analysis of finished slowmations generated information regarding the extent to which student created slowmation impacted on science learning.

The process of multi-modal representation, re-representation and substantive discourse required of the slowmation task, in addition to the ability of an animation to represent a moving phenomenon, leads to the general assertion that slowmation has a positive impact on the teaching and learning of primary science.
Keywords: primary science education, multimodal representation, slowmation

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Service-learning as a way of developing pre-service teachers' knowledge, perceptions, and cultural awareness of Indigenous education

Glenda Cain
University of Notre Dame
Email: glenda.cain@nd.edu.au

This research proposes to explore service-learning as a way of developing pre-service teachers' pedagogical literacy skills and cultural perceptions with regard to Indigenous education through involvement in an Indigenous educational setting. A qualitative approach was favoured whereby investigations occurred in a naturalistic setting. As such, the direct experiences of pre-service teachers formed the basis of data gathering and analysis. The researchers' field notes provided extra information for the purpose of better understanding the process experienced by pre-service teachers. A phenomenological approach was taken whereby the pre-service teachers' attitude, knowledge and pedagogy of Indigenous education prior to, during and at the completion of a teaching experience within an Indigenous educational setting, were explored. During the teaching session, pre-service teachers assessed planned and tutored Indigenous students for two hours per week for 10 weeks. After each tutoring session, a service-learning tutorial was conducted with the pre-service teachers on site for one hour, facilitated by suitably qualified university staff. Data were collected using observations, interviews, learning logs and reflective journals. Analysis of the data will enable the researcher to identify the impact of the service-learning experience on pre-service teachers' knowledge, perceptions, cultural awareness and pedagogy of Indigenous education. It is hoped that the research will provide further insight into how service-learning can be used as a pedagogical strategy within a pre-service teaching course.
Keywords: service-learning, pre-service teaching, Aboriginal education

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The interplay between ongoing historical trauma and yet to be acknowledged first nations sovereignty

Roslyn (Rose) Carnes
Murdoch University, Rockingham
Email: rosecarnes@bigpond.com

Aboriginal people have consistently experienced research conducted by non-Aboriginal people and institutions as disrespectful and disempowering. Therefore, while investigating gap(s) in prisoner education as experienced by Aboriginal people I have attempted to address this and my own white privilege by de-centering standard, colonial research practice. To do this I have adopted yarning, an academically and culturally rigorous methodology. I have yarned with ex-prisoners, family members and Aboriginal people who have worked in prisoner education and become aware of a picture of many gaps. These include social and educational such as lack of housing, irrelevance to communities of much prison training, English as a second, third or fourth language, and difficulty accessing any courses in prisons, standard teaching practice that is one way while it needs to be two way. Of special interest to me, however, is what Aboriginal people perceive lies beneath these gaps; a chasm in need of acknowledgement and action. The interplay between ongoing historical, inter-generational trauma and yet to be acknowledged first nations sovereignty and the resulting impact on education gaps will be the focus of this presentation. As is the case with my research, I attempt to de-centre dominant colonial discourse by prioritising and privileging quotes from my Indigenous teachers. These teachers have been the research participants and Indigenous academics and authors to whom I am indebted and grateful and from whom I continue to learn.
Keywords: critical whiteness studies, Indigenous sovereignty, historical trauma and Aboriginal education

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Assistive technology and education assistants: Perceptions of efficacy and use in the classroom

Dianne Chambers
University of Notre Dame
Email: dianne.chambers1@nd.edu.au

The purpose of this research was to investigate the perceptions of Educational Assistants (Special Needs) of themselves as users and facilitators of assistive technology in the classroom and to examine how skills learnt in a training situation might transfer into a classroom setting. Both Educational Assistants (Special Needs) and assistive technology are being increasingly utilised in the regular classroom to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities, often at the same time. It is important, therefore to ensure that the Education Assistants who may be using the technology feel empowered and capable of doing so.

A mixed method study incorporating a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies underpinned the research which utilised eighteen participants from five primary schools in the Perth metropolitan area. As part of the study, an eight week training program was designed to the Education Assistants to incorporate a wide range of assistive technologies, from low-tech to high-tech, across a number of functional areas. The research revealed that significant impacts for the Educational Assistants (Special Needs) were evident in the areas of confidence in using and facilitating assistive technology. Recommendations to address these barriers are presented. Future avenues of research are also highlighted.

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Replicate or re-create? Delivering face to face units in an online environment

Eloise Cole and Nicola Griffiths
Curtin University
Email: eloise.cole@curtin.edu.au

As online versions of traditional face to face courses are rapidly becoming commonplace, the context of online teaching and the reconstruction of the persona of the online teacher needs to be considered. This paper will examine some of the recent experiences of two online teachers working across both contexts. Drawing on a conceptual framework from Coppola, Hiltz and Rotter (2002), the cognitive, affective and managerial role of the online teacher will be examined. Aspects such as maintaining a social presence and the explicitness of course material will be explored. It will be proposed that teachers cannot replicate face to face courses in an online environment, but rather, the success of online teachers is largely dependent on their ability to recreate their pedagogy. Effective online teachers need to be competent online communicators and reflective practitioners in order to engage in a deeper level of discourse that online learners demand.
Keywords: online teaching, face to face, re-create

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"What is this thing called Love?" or "What is this thing called, love?": Transcribing interview data for use in qualitative research

Christopher Conlan
Curtin University
Email: c.conlan@curtin.edu.au

There is often an assumption amongst researchers - in education just as in many other fields - that preparing transcripts of recordings of interviews is a pretty unproblematic affair. Just write down what is said - what could possibly go wrong? Speech, however, is an aural medium while orthography is a visual medium, so the answer to that question is: an awful lot can go wrong. And does. And another complicating factor is that the ultimate form a transcription takes will vary depending on the intended use of the primary data. (as an analogy, compare music which is intended to be heard, with "written" music as it appears on paper and is intended to be read: while a doe-rei-mi notation may be fine for a primary school singing teacher, it is unlikely to be much use to a concert pianist.) This paper argues that if transcriptions to be used in educational research are to maintain the validity and reliability of the research, using conventional orthography is a troubled option and that transcription methods which have emerged within the fields of applied linguistics and ethnomethodology provide a more accurate and speedier way of transcribing interview data.
Keywords: research methodology, transcription, qualitative data

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Social marginalisation and wellbeing: Exploring an outdoor pedagogical approach to learning to promote self esteem and engagement

Fiona Cumming
University of Melbourne and Murdoch University
Email: f.cumming@murdoch.edu.au

Melanie Nash
University of Melbourne

This project examines a specific outdoor learning approach known as Forest Schools in regional Western Australia. This is important in relation to Australian research as the majority of studies directly related to Forest Schools are focused within the context of the United Kingdom. Disadvantaged, rural and remote groups are of concern in terms of Australia's health and wellbeing (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2010), and the need to explore strategies that can address issues of marginalisation and mental health warrants further investigation.

Kappos (2007) among others (Maynard, 2007) also offers evidence, which suggests that the reduced contact children have with nature can be linked with a decline in physical, mental and social development. Mallor et al. (2005) maintain that contact with nature can act as a vehicle to reduce the burden of mental health and promote mental and emotional wellbeing along with physical wellbeing.

The aims of the research are to explore the impact of this approach to learning on self-esteem and engagement and identify emergent themes. By exploring the impact of such strategies we may gain an insight into the value of such approaches in promoting wellbeing and in turn education outcomes. A qualitative methodology frames the study design, which uses a case study method bounded by a single case school and the time frame of a ten-week term. This presentation will briefly outline the methodology and data collected with findings emerging from early stages of data analysis.
Keywords: outdoor learning, Forest Schools, wellbeing

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The legitimate consumers: Private tuition for primary school aged students

Jenny Davis
The University of Western Australia
Email: jmartdav@yahoo.com

The aim of my research project is to generate theory about the phenomenon of private tuition for primary school aged children. Inquiry into private tuition, or shadow education is a relatively new but rapidly growing area of educational research. There is considerable debate in the literature concerning whether shadow education entrenches educational inequality or provides a way forward for disenfranchised groups. My project consists of qualitative case studies that were analysed by combining grounded theory techniques and Bourdieu based insights. Five detailed case studies were constructed to deepen understanding of private tuition provision in Australia. Parents, tutors and children were interviewed for the project. This presentation will deal with the interviews conducted with the parents. Throughout the interviews themes emerged that identified key elements that predisposed parents to respond to the legitimating claims of private tuition providers. These elements included aspiration, anxiety and action. The parents interviewed for this project were often optimistic about their children's long-term futures but expressed considerable anxiety about their immediate schooling experiences. Most significantly the parents were proactive child-rearers, particularly in the field of education. These parents were willing to take responsibility for their children's education and consequently often transferred trust from schools to their private tuition providers.
Keywords: primary education, school choice, private tuition

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A pilot program to build research competence in teaching and learning

Vaille Dawson
Curtin University
Email: v.dawson@curtin.edu.au

As some universities move towards becoming more research intensive while maintaining high standards in teaching and learning it is expected that all academic staff will engage in scholarship of teaching and learning. One aspect of scholarship is research in teaching and learning. Although academics may want to conduct educational research they do not necessarily have the research background to do so. Educational research has its own particular research paradigms, methodologies, data sources and methods of analysis. Although academics may (or may not) have a doctorate in their discipline, they may still be unfamiliar with educational research methods. In 2011, a curriculum resource to enable academics to engage in educational research in a tertiary setting was developed. The curriculum resource includes modules on educational research paradigms, research methodologies, data sources, ethics, data analysis, writing and publishing. A year long program is currently being piloted with 26 academics from all university faculties. The participants meet fortnightly for formal and informal sessions. The program has been challenging as academics struggle to understand research methods they are not familiar with and find time within their busy academic lives. Nonetheless, the participants are enthusiastic and making steady progress in their research. This presentation will focus on preliminary findings of the experiences of the participants.
Keywords: educational research, early career academics, workload

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Implementing knowledge-centric transdisciplinary pedagogical templates

Eva Dobozy
Curtin University
Email: eva.dobozy@curtin.edu.au

Bronwen Dalziel
University of Western Sydney

In a move to professionalise the future workforce, paradigmatic changes are required to the way in which university education is conducted. The greater adoption of learning design principles and the successful dissemination of knowledge-centric transdisciplinary pedagogical templates for use in various contexts may provide a possible way forward. This presentation explores the implementation of learning design principles through the development of knowledge-centric transdisciplinary pedagogical templates and gauges initial practitioner reactions. The benefits of this approach for the renewal of university education are discussed and some obstacles in pilot implementations of scenario-based designs in medical and teacher education are explored.
Keywords: transdisciplinary pedagogical templates, learning design, 21st century skills development

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Language learning and identity: Identity negotiation in immigrant women of Afghan and Iranian origin in Australia

Parisa Ebtekar
University of Western Australia
Email: Ebtekp01@student.uwa.edu.au

It is evident that social and linguistic aspects of language learning inform each other (Block, 2003; Canagarajah, 1994; Norton, 2000; Pavlenko & Blackledge, 2005; Pennycook 1994). Informed by a post-structuralist notion of identity and in response to the recent call for socially-oriented SLA research, this study opened up a space in which a broad view of the language learning context was integrated with an in-depth understanding of immigrant women's changing identities. It examined the language learning experiences and negotiation of identities of six Iranian and Afghan immigrant women. The post-structuralist framework facilitated a multi-layered understanding of these women within their social context. Identity was considered to be a dynamic process of becoming, context dependent and constructed through discursive practices of individuals within their social setting (Dolby 2000; Farrell 2000; Hall & du Gay 1996; Said, 1978; Spivak, 1990; Weedon, 1997; Woodward, 1997).

A comparative case study based on the narratives of six immigrant women informed the analysis of data in the present study. Their life histories appeared not to be a single coherent account, but a series of multiple, inconsistent and contradictory narratives. In response to their psychological needs and their constantly changing environment they represented complex, multi-faceted and changing identities. While going through different stages of their lives, these women experienced an intense struggle to come up with a coherent sense of identity and a meaningful place in society and in doing so some were more successful than others. Three prominent themes revealed to have a great impact on afghan women's language learning experiences: the role of gender, the social support system and health-related factors. For Iranian women, these themes were: the role of gender, perception of discrimination and, social status. Both groups appeared to be under the influence of similar factors within their language learning process, that is to say the above themes were relevant to both Afghan and Iranian immigrants to different extents. However, the same themes played out differently as the social forces and the contextual environments appeared to be different for the two groups.
Keywords: identity, language learning, immigrant women

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Using an evidence-based approach to engage teaching staff in curriculum development and reform

Sonia Ferns
Curtin University
Email: S.Ferns@curtin.edu.au

The higher education sector is moving into a regulatory environment where standards and outcomes will be monitored and measured. These factors have prompted sector-wide curriculum reform with an increasing focus on employability capabilites; student and graduate satisfaction; and the quality of student experience. Processes for curriculum review and reform have become key strategies for universities in ensuring rigorous student outcomes evidenced by robust stakeholder engagement. Comprehensive course review is an intensive process which uses an evidence based approach to engage teaching staff and inform the development of a quality curriculum. The tool used to initiate the comprehensive course review is the needs analysis which contains a rich source of data where both qualitative and quantitative data over a five-year period are collected and scrutinised, including course performance statistics, national benchmarking, and feedback from a range of stakeholders. Data is presented visually to heighten staff awareness of gaps and strengths in the curriculum and enable scrutiny of the units to determine how they function collectively. The needs analysis promotes staff engagement and decision-making enabling a critical and constructive interrogation of the course experience. This presentation will describe the data contained in the needs analysis and its effectiveness in the comprehensive course review process.
Keywords: staff engagement, curriculum reform, standards, evidence-based

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Transforming professional learning: Scaffolding primary school teachers in a multiliteracies book club

Veronica Gardiner, Wendy Cumming-Potvin and Sandra Hesterman
Murdoch University
Email: veronicagardiner@y7mail.com

Australian school teachers currently face many dilemmas about global technological change and national curriculum reform. It is now imperative to equitably promote literacy for 21st century futures against the backdrop of an increasingly divisive and market driven educational environment. The new national curriculum requires all primary teachers to provide learning experiences with 'multimodality', a concept arising from expanded notions of literacy in a digital world (New London Group, 1996). Yet, it is not clear how teachers might attempt this, when new terminology is dissociated from theory in curriculum documents, and professional learning is dominated by a print-focused standardised assessment regime.

This qualitative case study explores how a 'multiliteracies book club' can support the collective literacy learning of a group of primary teachers from low socio-economic schools. Aiming to generate participatory approaches to professional learning and knowledge building, the study integrates a framework of multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996) and communities of practice (Wenger, 1998). Critical discourse analysis is expected to reveal emergent multiliteracies' perspectives and knowledge, scaffolded within a community of practice.
Keywords: multiliteracies; community of practice; professional learning

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An authentic exam: Paradox or partnership?

Jan Herrington, Jenni Parker and Dani Boase-Jelinek
Murdoch University
Email: j.herrington@murdoch.edu.au

Can an authentic learning environment include a separate final examination - a method associated more with standardised assessment - and still be considered authentic? Authentic learning is not normally associated with an examination, and indeed, it appears to be almost a contradiction in terms. Authentic learning is normally aligned with authentic and integrated assessment of genuine products. However, in this presentation, we describe a study of a compulsory first year university educational technology unit that used a 'reflective examination', thereby enabling students to reflect on action on an entire semester unit in an authentic and valid manner. By presenting challenges to students to reflect at several levels (individual, community, lesson, and project) and think about how they might apply technology in specific situations, the examination encouraged students to move beyond simple recollection to a deeper and more encompassing level of reflection of a whole unit. In this sense, and combined with other product-related assessment, the reflective examination was in our view authentic.
Keywords: authentic learning, reflection, assessment

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Teacher perceptions of their students and their motivational practices

Lisette Hornstra and Caroline Mansfield
Murdoch University
Email: T.E.Hornstra@uva.nl, Caroline.Mansfield@murdoch.edu.au

In motivation research, mastery oriented motivational practices that emphasise students' striving towards mastery and understanding are believed to result in more adaptive motivational outcomes in comparison to performance oriented motivational practices that emphasise extrinsic rewards or focus on students' relative ability (e.g., Meece, Anderman, & Anderman, 2006). However, previous research has shown that teachers often rely on performance oriented strategies and consider such strategies to be more effective (e.g. Turner 2010).

Teacher beliefs about what is most suitable and motivating for their specific student population may be a very important determinant of their motivational practices. This qualitative study therefore explores how teacher perceptions of their classroom cohort, in terms of students' ability and background characteristics, influence their beliefs about and their actual motivational practices. Our first preliminary results, obtained through interviews with nine grade-six teachers at different schools throughout the Netherlands, indicate that teachers who perceive their student population to be of low ability and from disadvantaged backgrounds find performance-oriented motivational practices more effective for their students, whereas teachers who perceive their student population to be of higher ability and from more advantaged backgrounds are more inclined to use mastery-oriented motivational approaches.
Keywords: motivational practices, student motivation, perceptions of students

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Teachers developing knowledge and mathematics classroom practice in remote Indigenous communities

Lorraine Jacob
Murdoch University
Email: l.jacob@Murdoch.edu.au

In Western Australia, many teachers in remote Indigenous communities are new graduates, and as well as being inexperienced in teaching mathematics, they also have little experience being in a remote community with Indigenous people. In 2010 seven schools in the Kimberley in Western Australia established the Fitzroy Valley Numeracy Project. The project aims to improve the numeracy outcomes of Indigenous students by developing a systematic and coordinated approach to teaching mathematics that can be sustained long-term, beyond staff turnovers, transfer of 'expert' teachers, or one-off funding arrangements. A study was commenced to examine the impact of the project on primary teachers' content-pedagogic knowledge and classroom practice. This presentation examines some preliminary data after almost a year of implementation of the project, in terms of teachers' developing knowledge and classroom practice. At the end of the year they seemed confident to select a mathematics focus, cater for the range of achievement in their classes, monitor student learning and use classroom management strategies. They seemed less confident in diagnosing student learning, making the mathematics focus of the lesson clear to their students and providing activities that engage their students.
Keywords: content-pedagogic knowledge, classroom practice, Indigenous communities

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Peer relationships and the biomedical doctorate: A key component of the contemporary learning environment

Matthew Kemp, Timothy Molloy, Marina Pajic and Elaine Chapman
The University of Western Australia
Email: matthew.kemp@uwa.edu.au

Comparatively little attention has, to date, been paid to the scholarship of doctoral education generally, and more specifically, to the form and function of doctoral education in the biomedical sciences.

Drawing on the work of Marton and Booth, the present work presents an analysis of the results of a series of semi-structured interviews and identifies interpersonal relationships as a key component of the learning environment in the contemporary biomedical doctorate. We suggest that the relationships between students and their 'non-supervisor' peers (other doctoral students, post-doctoral researchers and research assistants) are perceived as being at least as important as the traditional, institutionally revered student-supervisor relationship. Furthermore, we identify an ontological evolution in interpersonal relationships across the course of the biomedical PhD, characterised by an increase in the perceived importance of inter-student or student 'non-supervisor' peer relationship relative to that ascribed to the student-supervisor relationship.

We conclude that although student-supervisor relationships remain important and warrant further investigation, the provision of an environment in which PhD students can organically develop authentic 'non-supervisor' relationships is critical to the learning process in the biomedical doctorate.

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Codification and practice: The apostrophe in contemporary Australian English

Stephanie Kildare and Christopher Conlan
Curtin University
Email: stephanie.kildare@education.wa.edu.au

The term codification refers to the processes by means of which what is considered to be acceptable usage in language is enshrined. Language, however, is always in flux; and so, ipso facto, concepts of acceptability are also constantly changing. An increasingly influential driver of language change is technology, as developments in technology have brought about a greater range of contexts in which written language is presented, used, and (to a greater or lesser degree) codified. Locating the findings within an historical context, this paper reports on preliminary research into current attitudes towards the use of the apostrophe and on aspects of its codification in the early twenty-first century.
Keywords: punctuation, codification, language attitudes

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Case studies of how teachers from different WA school cultures support kindergarten children's social and emotional development

Gillian Kirk
Murdoch University
Email: kirk.image@westnet.com.au

The way in which teachers from eight Western Australian kindergartens supported children's social and emotional development was observed over a period of eight months. The participating schools were located in different areas of the Perth metropolitan region, yielding a diverse range of parental expectations and school cultures. In turn, these differences placed varying demands on the kindergarten teachers and were instrumental in how they developed their programs and responded to children's social and emotional needs. Using a triangulation of qualitative instruments to collect data, the findings from this study were analysed using the theories of Bronfenbrenner (1976, 1977, 1994), Vygotsky (1978), Rogoff (1990, 1995, 2003) and Goldstein (1999). The case studies were discussed in terms of school background (cultural-institutional focus), the interpersonal relationships (interpersonal focus), and how individual children (personal focus) acted/interacted within the parameters of their respective curricular systems over the data collection period. A cross-case analysis provided an insight into the similarities and differences of pedagogical practices in supporting kindergarten children's social and emotional development in varied school cultures.
Keywords: social and emotional development; school culture, kindergarten

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Reflections on a sustainability continuum in a primary school context

Elaine Lewis, Catherine Baudains and Caroline Mansfield
Murdoch University
Email: e.lewis@bigpond.com

A longitudinal case study was conducted on the impact of the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AUSSI) at a primary school in Western Australia. The research utilised data related to education for sustainability at the school from 1990-2009. The year 2005 was a critical year for the school because it marked the beginning of participation in the sustainable schools initiative pilot in Western Australia (AUSSI-WA). The research investigated elements of education for sustainability in operation at the school pre- and post-AUSSI-WA, as well as student and teacher outcomes after involvement in the initiative. Results showed the school shifted along the sustainability continuum, to more or less sustainable positions, at different times over the twenty year period. Initially, the school's approach to education for sustainability was ad hoc and uncoordinated, and after 2005 it gradually changed to a planned, coordinated, integrated, evaluated, whole systems thinking approach. However, after three years in the initiative, it became evident that the school had begun to shift to a less sustainable position on the sustainability continuum. The findings emphasise the challenges in sustaining change in schools, as well as important implications for organisational change, school administration, curriculum and teacher support.
Keywords: education for sustainability; longitudinal research; primary education

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Development of an English classroom questionnaire in China

Liyan Liu
Curtin University
Email: Liuly778@hotmail.com

The English Classroom Environment Questionnaire (ECEQ) is a new instrument developed based on the study of an array of widely-used and extensively-validated classroom environment questionnaires and information collected from questionnaires and interviews. The sample consisted of 1235 students in Grade 7, 8, 10 and 11 English classes. In the first stage of study, exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis identified 3 dimensions, 5 scales and 25 items of the instrument. In the second stage, ECEQ was administered to assess students' perceptions of their English classroom environment. Data analysis supported the questionnaire's validity and reliability. Further analysis revealed there were statistically significant differences in the way in which students of different genders, grade levels and districts perceived their English classroom environment.
Keywords: English classroom environment, perceptions of classroom environment, classroom environment questionnaire

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The functional roles for considering learning biological concepts with diagrams and text

Yang Liu and David F. Treagust
Curtin University
Email: yang.liu12@postgrad.curtin.edu.au, d.treagust@curtin.edu.au

The use of multiple external representations to enhance learners' understanding of complicated science concepts is now commonplace. Biology teaching and learning involves using scientific diagrammatic representations to explain concepts, to provide visual images, or to improve communications between teacher and students. However, there is considerable evidence showing that combinations of representations could inhibit students from the benefits of multiple representational learning. Multiple representations are powerful tools but they need to be carefully engaged into biology instruction.

Since diagrams and text are the most common used representations in the everyday biology teaching, this study aimed to ascertain the cognitive relationship between secondary students' interpretation of diagrams together with their counterpart text. Interview protocols were designed so as to interpret and analyse the understanding of the participants. Interpretative research method was used because researchers could follow up to ask questions that cannot be answered fully or satisfactorily by other methods. This study intended to find out the cognitive process of individuals' interpretation of biology concepts by correlating both diagram and text, and addresses how representational modes may be related to each other in conveying information.
Keywords: interpretive research, biology, diagram

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Backboards to blackboards: A critical auto/ethnographic study of the struggle for culturally-sensitive educational pathways for Aboriginal girls

Helen CD McCarthy
Curtin University
Email: helen.cd.mccarthy@westnet.com.au

This presentation describes my personal and professional involvement with the Yolngu, Nyungar and Wongi peoples, where I regularly observed Aboriginal parents and Aboriginal teachers express dissatisfaction with the way mainstream Anglo-Celtic education was delivered in their schools and communities. This disparity never sat well with me and became the prescience to my doctoral research.

As a consequence I embarked on a study that deployed a critical auto-ethnographic research design within an interpretive paradigm where "the writing process and the writing product were deeply intertwined". The research became the site of exploration about the struggle for culturally-sensitive educational pathways for at-risk Aboriginal adolescent girls and the need to accommodate Indigenous epistemologies that venerated the girls ways of knowing and learning.

The investigation took place at a metropolitan Aboriginal secondary school, where staff developed an emergent curriculum framework known as the Yorgas Program to re-engage Aboriginal learners in their schooling, through a sporting program known as the Girls' Academy. As a consequence of the Yorgas Program there were observable improvements in the girls' behaviour leading to regular attendance, improved personal hygiene, greater commitment to study, self-regulation and willingness to defer risk-taking social behaviours, resulting in a significantly larger number of Year 12 graduates completing their studies with the majority of students going on to traineeships or further studies.
Keywords: Aboriginal girls' education, auto-ethnography, Indigenous epistemologies

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Task-based authentic learning activities in computer assisted foreign language learning

Ildeniz Ozverir and Jan Herrington
Murdoch University
Email: ldeniz.ozverir@emu.edu.tr, j.herrington@murdoch.edu.au

This presentation will describe research aimed at exploring authentic activities in foreign language education. Research was conducted with pre-university level adult learners at Eastern Mediterranean University in North Cyprus. The learning environment aimed to provide learners with opportunities to learn in context along with experiencing the difficulties of real world activities. In so doing it was aimed to develop robust knowledge in contrast to inert knowledge and achieve genuine authenticity in language education. The study employed design-based research and qualitative research methods such as interviews, observations, teacher journal and focus group discussion. It investigated how language learners engage with and respond to web-based language learning environment incorporating characteristics of authentic activities and in what ways and to what extent students achieve foreign language competency through the use of authentic activities. Moreover, being loyal to the nature of design-based research, how students and teachers view the importance of each of the characteristics of authentic activities in computer assisted foreign language education has also been investigated to test, refine and redefine the characteristics of authentic activities in this research context.
Keywords: EFL, computer assisted language learning, authentic activities

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Authentic e-design: An online professional development course for higher education practitioners

Jenni Parker
Murdoch University
Email: j.parker@murdoch.edu.au

In the field of education we have known for a long time, that people learn better when they are actively involved in the learning process. However, many online university courses are still primarily information dumping grounds that foster student isolation and boredom. A key challenge for university professionals is to identify how to construct more interactive, engaging and student-centred environments that promote 21st century skills and encourage self-directed learning. Existing research suggests the use of real-life tasks supported by new technologies, together with access to the vast array of open educational resources on the Internet, have the potential to improve the quality of online learning. This paper describes how an authentic online professional development course for higher education practitioners was designed and implemented. It describes the course aims and how the course was designed to provide university professionals with the opportunity to: experience online learning from a student perspective, learn how to use authentic learning guidelines to design their own real-life learning courses, explore how new technologies could be used as pedagogical tools to support student learning, and use online social media tools to network with their peers. It discusses the initial findings from the first implementation of the course and the effectiveness of the design approach. Finally, it offers recommendations for improving the next iteration of the course.
Keywords: Authentic learning, higher education, professional development

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The bishops' religious literacy assessment: How do religious education teachers in WA Catholic schools perceive this standardised assessment?

Antonella Poncini
University of Notre Dame
Email: poncini.antonella@ceo.wa.edu.au

A significant development in education during the past few decades has been systematic data collection using large-scale, standardised assessments. Educational system administrators use standardised assessments to measure student learning across many learning areas. The use of standardised assessments has been employed by system administrators to improve standards in learning. In 2006 a large-scale, standardised assessment program known as The Bishops' Religious Literacy Assessment (BRLA) was introduced by the Catholic Education Office of Western Australia. This assessment program was developed to measure student knowledge and understanding in religious education (RE) across Catholic schools in Western Australia. Teachers of RE are directly involved in preparing students for the administration of this assessment. How these teachers interact with and respond to the standardised assessment is the focus of this study and the basis for the research problem.

The study aims to investigate how Western Australian primary and secondary Catholic RE teachers perceive the BRLA as a large-scale, standardised assessment program in RE. Three aspects regarding RE teachers' perceptions of the BRLA will be explored. These aspects are based on how RE teachers perceive: the purpose and role of the BRLA; the different components of the BRLA; and, how RE teachers' perceptions influence the quality and learning in RE. A mixed methods approach will be used to address the research problem. The study will be conducted in two sequential phases whereby quantitative and qualitative data will be collected and analysed. Survey strategies will be used in both phases of the study. An online questionnaire will be used in the first phase and semi-structured interviews will be used in the second phase. Individual and group interviews will be conducted. The structure of the interview questions will draw upon the findings of the online questionnaire. The complementary nature of the survey strategies in both phases intends to address the issue of generality, lead to stronger inferences and enhance the trustworthiness of the overall study.
Keywords: religious education, large-scale, standardised assessments, measurement and assessment

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Using the e-learning life cycle to plan and review and environment to develop reflection in pre-service teachers

Pauline Roberts
Murdoch University
Email: Pauline_k_roberts@me.com

There is increased use of e-learning platforms in tertiary education. The challenge is to ensure that units are not simply transferred to an electronic format but that the new design meets the needs of the changing student population. The e-learning life cycle model (Phillips, Kennedy & McNaught, 2011) may provide a framework for the development and evaluation of these environments. This research used a modified implementation of this model within an e-portfolio platform aimed at the development of reflection in pre-service teachers. Through the process of planning and implementing the environment with two cohorts of students, a number of key considerations were identified.

The first implementation highlighted the need for a strong theoretical framework as the basis for the planned environment. The second implementation identified the need for specific strategies to encourage interaction amongst the students to promote reflective discussions and to collect data to determine the value of the environment. Future cycles of the research are planned to address these issues as a means of developing a strong environment for the development of reflective pre-service teachers.
Keywords: e-learning, pre-service teachers, reflection

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Transforming our practice: Listening to student voice

Janean Robinson
Murdoch University
Email: J.Robinson@murdoch.edu.au

Official responses by education ministers and executive directors to issues of student disengagement from schooling all too often become an exercise in labelling and blaming students as defiant and the cause of "the problem". Such approaches, I argue, shift the focus away from the broader sets of structural, organisational, cultural and pedagogical conditions leading to student alienation and disengagement from schooling. Recent media stories reinforce this kind of victim blaming analysis whereby "troublesome" students are seen to be "nicking off at lunchtime, having a smoke down on the oval and disappearing" (Emerson, 2012). In response, we witness short-lived and ineffectual threats such as "police return students to school to reduce crime" and "they should never forget that attending school is the law" (Oliver, 2012).

In this paper, I argue that these kinds of simplistic policy responses to the phenomenon of student truancy and behaviour urgently require a more sophisticated and theoretically robust form of analysis. As educators, we have a responsibility to move beyond individualistic deficit and pathologising responses to young people and search a more critical analysis capable of helping us to better understand the complex social, historical, cultural and economic factors at play. Throughout this paper, I use critical ethnography as a research methodology to unsettle simplistic versions of student behaviour in schools and instead use student voice to help inform and reposition educational policies and practices from the perspectives of young people themselves (Pasco, 2000).
Keywords: student voice, student engagement, critical ethnography

[Scheduling for this presentation]

High school students' proficiency and confidence levels in displaying their understanding of basic electrolysis concepts

Josephine Sia
Curtin University
Email: dtjosephine@hotmail.com

A two-tier multiple-choice diagnostic instrument consisting of 17 items was developed to evaluate students' understanding of basic electrolysis concepts. The instrument was administered to 16 year old secondary school students (N = 330) who had completed the first year of a two year chemistry course. The instrument was found to have a high Cronbach alpha reliability coefficient of 0.85. Analysis of students' responses identified 30 alternative conceptions that involved a variety of electrolysis concepts relating to the nature and reaction of the electrodes, the migration of ions, the preferential discharge of ions, the products of electrolysis, and changes in the concentration and colour of the electrolyte. In addition, there was a mismatch between students' confidence in answering the items and their correct responses. Students' level of confidence in providing correct responses to these items ranged from 44% to 72%, but the actual correct responses ranged from 19% to 53%. As no other similar instrument has been reported in the research literature, this instrument is a convenient diagnostic tool that teachers could use to identify students' preconceptions prior to introducing the topic. In addition, using the instrument in formative assessment during classroom instruction will enable teachers to identify students' alternative conceptions and institute appropriate remediation measures with the students concerned.

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Evaluating the implementation of the Indonesian school-based curriculum in the teaching and learning of writing in Year Two

Sulfasyah, Caroline Barratt-Pugh and Yvonne Haig
Edith Cowan University
Email: sulfasya@our.ecu.edu.au

This PhD research focused on the implementation of the Indonesian KTSP (school-based curriculum) in the teaching and learning of writing in Year 2 primary schools in Indonesia. The main purpose was to describe teachers' interpretation of the KTSP in relation to teaching writing to Year 2 students in Makassar City, Indonesia, and to evaluate the extent to which the teachers incorporated the KTSP into their practice. This study stems from the paradigm shift in the teaching and learning process in Indonesia following the introduction of the KTSP, which is the latest curriculum in Indonesia. The study utilised a mixed method approach in which the researcher collected quantitative data first, followed by qualitative data. Preliminary findings showed that there appeared to be some inconsistency in the way the teachers interpreted and implemented the KTSP in teaching writing and the theoretical perspective that informs the KTSP. The findings of the study are expected to add to the body of knowledge about implementing educational change, particularly in relation to writing in Year 2 classrooms in Indonesia.
Keywords: curriculum change, implementing change, early writing

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Students' ability in English reading comprehension by gender and bilingual and monolingual learning: An Acehnese case

Khairiah Syahabuddin and Russell F. Waugh
Edith Cowan University
Email: ksyahabu@our.ecu.edu.au

Learning English as an additional language in Indonesia where English is not learned as a first language is challenging. Students not only struggle with English vocabulary and grammar which are different from that of their first language, but they also struggle to understand the contexts in which English is taking place. Students need to be able to construct meaning and ideas from the texts, and to actively engage with previous information (also called prior knowledge) and new information in their memories. The present study investigated the ability of first year government middle school students in Banda Aceh, Indonesia (N=780), to learn English reading comprehension, as the dependent variable, in the context of differences in gender and school types (bilingual and monolingual schools), control/experimental group, pretest/posttest study. Data were collected during 2011/2012 and a linear, uni-dimensional scale was created using Rasch measurement with the Rasch Uni-dimensional Measurement Model (RUMM2030) computer program. The construct validity of the data was tested by designing the items in ordered patterns of item difficulty which were then compared with their Rasch measured item difficulties for different groups for females and males. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to test for main and interaction effects with SPSS to compare bilingually-taught students with mono-lingually-taught students.
Keywords: English reading comprehension, gender, bilingual/monolingual learning

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Outline of the relationship between metacognition and ill structured problem solving

Pina Tarricone
Edith Cowan University
Email: p.tarricone@ecu.edu.au

The schema of metacognition and ill-structured problem solving provides a framework connecting the taxonomy of metacognition (Tarricone, 2011) and five ill-structured problem solving processes. It represents clear relationships between metacognition and problem representation; problem solving strategies and generation of solutions; argumentation, justification of opinions and perspectives; monitoring and evaluating the problem space, performance and solution; and noncognitive variables or affective demands. This presentation provides an outline of the important role that metacognition plays in problem solving, including the structure and purpose of the schema of metacognition and ill-structured problem solving, and how it can be used to inform and transform teaching and learning practice.
Keywords: metacognition, problem solving, theoretical frameworks

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Just how 'high-stakes' is NAPLAN? Teacher perceptions of the effects of NAPLAN in WA and SA

Greg Thompson
Murdoch University
Email: greg.thompson@murdoch.edu.au

NAPLAN continues to be a divisive issue in Australian education. Since its inception in 2008, NAPLAN has been a central plank of the Australian Government's Education Revolution, a policy platform that aims to improve education equity and outcomes through improving accountability. Australian school NAPLAN results are published online on the My School website each year. This presentation will present research from phase 1 of an ARC funded project "The effects of NAPLAN on Australian school communities". Phase 1 consisted of a survey of in-service teachers conducted in 2012. Participants completed an online survey open to all teachers in WA and SA. The survey ran for three months from April to June 2012. After an initial demographic response schedule, participants were asked their perception of the impacts that NAPLAN has had on their achievement goal orientation, stress levels, self-efficacy and effects on curriculum and pedagogy. These themes were chosen because research literature from the US and UK suggest significant impacts of high-stakes testing in these areas. The survey results suggest that NAPLAN is having a significant impact on school communities.
Keywords: NAPLAN, high-stakes testing, effects

[Scheduling for this presentation]

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