Postgraduate Awards 2006

Dr John Bednall

Leading religiosity in Anglican and Uniting Church independent schools: A phenomenological exploration

PhD thesis, The University of Notre Dame

Presentation Abstract

Sixteen Heads of Anglican and Uniting Church Heads were asked to describe their experiences of providing leadership to religiosity in independent Church schools. It was found that there was a strong ironic tension characterising how each of the affiliated Churches engaged with the religious culture of these schools. The accounts of this indicative group of Heads suggested that the use of the word church as a dynamic descriptor of the schools needed to be re-appraised. Indeed, in order to maintain the schools’ educational integrity, the Heads seemed inclined to keep the contemporary Church at arms length. The authenticity of this research was established through a carefully designed model of phenomenology. A valid distinction between the notions of epoche and bracketing was articulated and then a process for the clear operationalisation of both was designed. The professional literature seemed reluctant to be so specific in describing either concept within qualitative research methodology. This presentation will describe how the researcher activated both at the point of data interpretation and how the intuitive connection of the researcher’s own life experiences to the data provided by the sample Heads could be authenticated according to the nature of phenomenology as a social research method.

Dr Maria Fiocco

‘Glonacal’ contexts: Internationalisation policy in the Australian higher education sector and the development of pathway programs

PhD thesis, Murdoch University

Presentation Abstract

Maria Fiocco Through a critique of Ball’s (1990) policy analysis framework, this paper explores the influences that led to the deregulation of international student recruitment (‘the policy’) and the subsequent development of pathway programs in the Australian higher education sector. Ball’s framework was extended to include Marginson and Rhoades’ (2002) glonacal heuristic to analyse the global, national and local contexts that contributed to the creation and implementation of ‘the policy’. The development of pathway programs was chosen as one aspect of implementation which allowed for an exploration that progressed from a macro to a microanalysis of ‘the policy’ cycle.

The study examined the key ‘players’ or individuals who contributed to ‘the policy’s’ creation, the ideologies that influenced these individuals and the contexts within which decisions were made. The research found that glonacal influences of neoliberalism, globalisation, internationalisation and commercialisation were paramount in the formation of ‘the policy’, and in influencing key ‘players’. It was also recognised that it was not always possible to definitively describe the role of these ‘players’ or ‘actors’ according to a hierarchical structure and separate contexts, confirming Ball’s (1990) theory that influence on policy is often ad hoc and trajectory in nature.

Dr John O’Rourke

Academic and social support mechanisms for adolescents with mild disabilities in inclusive classrooms: The development and evaluation of a program

PhD thesis, The University of Western Australia

Presentation Abstract

John O'Rourke The research reported in this thesis investigated support mechanisms perceived by secondary school aged students with mild disabilities as enhancing their academic and social outcomes in regular school classrooms. To achieve the research aims three separate yet inter-related studies were conducted. Study One developed the Student Perceptions of Classroom Support scale (SPCS), a 28 item, picture based scale using common features of inclusive classroom models (ICM) identified in the research literature. This scale assessed student’s perceptions of curricular, instructional, adult, and peer support through four subscales. Two separate pilot tests with secondary school students with mild disabilities (MD) demonstrated the SPCS to have appropriate content and no administrative issues.

The findings from the first study were used in Study Two which further developed and empirically validated the SPCS. In Study Two, 60 secondary school aged students with mild disabilities participating in regular classrooms were administered the SPCS. First, item affectivity, item discrimination, person discrimination, and internal consistencies (Cronbach’s Alpha) were established. Following this, participant’s preferences towards the types of support they received for academic and social outcomes were investigated. Significant differences were evident in preferences in general, and also in regard to academic versus social outcomes. For example, support mechanisms rated highly in terms of positive academic and social outcomes often represented traditional teaching values, whereas support mechanisms such as one to one assistance from teacher assistants or volunteers was perceived as positive in terms of completing classroom activities, but of limited value in establishing friendships with peers.

Study Three developed an intervention program, which incorporated the support mechanisms endorsed by Study Two participants as being positive. The newly developed program, entitled the ‘Team teaching’, ‘Interesting and enjoyable content’, ‘Clear instructional approach’, and ‘Collaborative learning’ (TICC) Support Program, was subsequently implemented and evaluated with target and control students in one Year Seven, Eight, and Nine regular classroom using a multiple baseline research design. The support mechanisms were introduced in a pyramidal, additive components design, whereby each mechanism was introduced cumulatively and then removed in the same order as it was introduced. Data were collected using a video camera and direct observations over a 10-week period. Statistical analyses revealed no significant group or individual changes in levels of academic or social engagement for students with MD, compared to controls from baseline to intervention phases. Significant differences were evident, however, in levels of competing behaviour, a measure commensurate with student centred classroom models. An extensive qualitative ecobehavioural examination was also conducted on the data and this revealed that while overall academic engagement levels were similar for target and control students, the highest rate of academic and social engagement for students with MD occurred when all support mechanisms were implemented. Students with MD were also found to maintain a passive approach to set tasks and were involved in limited social interactions.

This research raises important questions pertaining to academic and social support mechanisms for adolescents with MD, and the opportunities which arise (and how such opportunities might be facilitated) for them in regular classrooms. These issues are discussed in the light of the current research literature and suggestions are made for further research.

Dr Lou Siragusa

Identification of effective instructional design principles and learning strategies for students studying in web-based learning environments in higher education

PhD thesis, Curtin University

Lou SiragusaPresentation Abstract

As online learning (or eLearning) is integrated into ever growing numbers of university courses, there is a need for practical guidelines and recommendations to facilitate the development and delivery of pedagogically effective eLearning environments. A recent study by Siragusa (2005) examined factors which make for effective instructional design principles and learning strategies for higher education students studying with these environments. Surveys were administered to students and lecturers in Western Australian universities revealing numerous areas of students’ eLearning experiences which they had perceived as being successful and those needing improvements.

This paper presents a model that was developed from the study’s survey findings, which lecturers and instructional designers may use to design, develop, evaluate and refine their eLearning environments in higher education. The model is accompanied with recommendations that accommodate the varying pedagogical needs of learners as well as varying modes of course delivery. For each recommendation, a pedagogical dimension is presented to illustrate the varying pedagogical needs and instructional requirements. The dimensions are utilised in a similar manner to Reeves and Reeves’ (1997) pedagogical dimensions and highlight the decisions which need to be made during the instructional analysis, design, delivery and evaluation phases for the implementation of pedagogically effective eLearning environments.

Robert Ely Dr Robert Ely

Creating a creative university

PhD thesis, Edith Cowan University

WAIER Fellow and all Award recipients 2006