Postgraduate Awards 2009

Dr Rosemary Evans

The effect of the Kids’ Science State Professional Development Program on the promotion of scientific literacy

PhD thesis, Curtin University

Rosemary EvansPresentation Abstract

This presentation reports part of a longitudinal study of a professional development program in primary schools to address the issues involved in promoting and sustaining a scientifically literate society. International research has indicated that scientific literacy is seen as important for all citizens and hence an important outcome of schooling. However, it is also clear that the meaning of scientific literacy is not well understood, yet teachers of science are expected to develop students’ skills in this area. This presentation reports part of a qualitative study that investigated teachers’ understandings of the term ‘scientific literacy’ using Personal Meaning Mapping (PMM), an interview-based technique for uncovering people’s conceptual ideas. This presentation reports the parallels and variations among two groups, teachers and the general public; it presents the findings from which assertions are made and implications are drawn.

Dr Gregory Hine

Gregory HineExploring the development of student leadership potential within a Catholic school: A qualitative case study

PhD thesis, The University of Notre Dame

Presentation Abstract

The intention of this research is to explore how one Catholic secondary school develops leadership potential in young adolescents, and what kind of leaders are being produced through its efforts. At the same time the research will endeavour inductively to conceptualise the underlying model of leadership being pursued consciously or implicitly by the school, by examining the philosophical perspectives held by those who have designed and implemented the student leaders’ developmental experiences.

Ms Catherine Pearce

Implementation of an outcomes focused approach to education: A case study

MEd thesis, Murdoch University

Presentation Abstract

Catherine PearceOutcomes focused education is an educational reform movement that has influenced many countries, including Australia, in recent years. This case study explores how one primary school in Western Australia has implemented an outcomes approach within the context of large-scale jurisdictional change. The research design utilises the qualitative approaches of ethnography and phenomenology. A number of richly informative case studies, have been developed drawing on data from a broad range of stakeholders including teachers, students, parents and the school’s principal. Departmental and school based documents have also been utilised to inform and guide the development of each case study. Emergent themes with respect to the implementation of educational change have been identified and the implications of these are discussed. At the time of the study a variety of key factors were identified as having a significant impact on the level of success achieved in implementation. The change management model as used by the school is identified, and several critical areas of weakness are revealed. The study raises critical questions about the effectiveness of the model used by the school and therefore questions the potential for this model to be used successfully in other schools implementing similar pedagogical change.

Ms Jessica Elderfield

Comparing single-level and multilevel regression models in analysing Rasch measures of numeracy

MEd thesis, Edith Cowan University

Thesis Abstract

Jessica Elderfield This thesis described a research study that investigated the empirical differences between two competing regression methods used to produce value-added performance indicator information for the monitoring of school effectiveness, and the practical consequences for schools when using this information for school improvement and accountability purposes. The two regression methods under review were single-level Means-on-Means regression and Multilevel Modelling. The study involved data from 24 government secondary schools with a total of 2862 students in 132 Year 8 classes in Western Australia. The dependent variable was a Rasch-created linear measure of Year 8 Numeracy from data of a Mathematics assessment, specially designed by the Department of Education. The main independent variable was a Rasch-created, linear measure of Year 7 Numeracy from student data of the Western Australian Literacy and Numeracy Assessment. Students’ scored responses on items from both assessments were calibrated on a common Western Australian Monitoring Standards in Education linear scale which enabled: (1) the movement of a student’s performance to be measured over time; and, (2) the application of subsequent statistical analyses from which valid inferences could be made. There were four other independent variables: (1) gender (male or female); (2) ethnic group (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, or non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status); (3) language background (English or other than English); and the school-level variable; and (4) school socioeconomic status.

Application of the single-level Means-on-Means regression model to measures aggregated at the student, class and school-levels found that the amount of variance in students’ numeracy measure that can be explained by the prior performance measure increased considerably at escalating levels of aggregation (individual, class, school). This highlighted the presence of aggregation bias under this regression method. Application of the Multilevel regression model to individual student measures found: (1) that once the effects of prior performance and other student background information were taken into account, the effects of the school reduced in their significance; and (2) that more of the variation in student performance was found at the student-level, followed by the class-level. In addition, a majority of schools were found to contain classes that were differentially effective in producing quality student outcomes. This is significant given that historically the Means-on-Means regression analyses of Western Australia’s literacy and numeracy assessment data has only been applied at the school level. A comparison of the residuals (performance indicators) calculated under each regression model found that there were marked positional differences between the ranks of both classes and schools when analysed using the single-level Means-on-Means regression method as opposed to the Multilevel regression method. It was also found that, under the single-level Means-on-Means model as compared to the Multilevel model, some classes changed in their category of ‘effectiveness in producing quality student outcomes’: (1) two classes went from being labelled with ‘as expected performance’ to ‘lower than expected performance’; (2) one class went from being labelled with ‘higher than expected performance’ to ‘as expected performance’; (3) one class went from being labelled with ‘lower than expected performance’ to ‘as expected performance’; and most notably, (4) seven classes went from being labelled with ‘as expected performance’ to ‘higher than expected performance’.

The findings of this study suggest that residual based performance indicators calculated using the Multilevel model are more accurate and fair than those produced using the single-level Means-on-Means regression model, and would enable both schools and teachers to report on accountability and investigate a greater range of class and school effectiveness issues with more confidence. The implication of the findings highlight the need for further research into the benefits of using multilevel, longitudinal models to measure school performance in Australia. Furthermore, the instability of residual estimates as performance indicators has been shown in this study and it is recommended that the limitations of their use be heeded.

Dr Di Gardiner

A historical analysis of the construction of education as an area of study at university level in Western Australia

PhD thesis, The University of Western Australia

Thesis Abstract

This thesis develops an understanding of how, historically, Education as an area of study (Education) has been constructed at each of the five universities in the State of Western Australia. The motivation for the study was the claim made by some academics that historically Education has been marginalised in certain universities in the UK, the USA and Australia, and that this marginalisation was intensified by a negative attitude towards its association with teacher preparation. Very little evidence, however, has been put forward to support this claim, thus highlighting a major neglected area of research. This thesis is a response to such neglect in relation to the situation in one state in Australia.

The focus of the thesis is on the ‘preactive curriculum’ as represented in the plans and syllabi that outline what was included in programs and courses. An ‘internal’ analysis of relevant documents was conducted along with an ‘external’ analysis which considered the broader social, economic and political context. It was recognised that a study of the ‘interactive curriculum’ also needs to be conducted to gain insights into how the ‘preactive curriculum’ was mediated by lecturers and students. From the outset, however, it was deemed that this would constitute a further major study in itself.

Three fundamental aspects of the study of Education were identified during the study, namely, the structure Education, the orientation of Education, and the content of Education. The central argument of the thesis is that the structure of Education at the universities in Western Australia developed along common lines. Each university was engaged in initial teacher preparation, professional development for practising teachers, higher degree studies and research. The orientation of Education, however, varied considerably between institutions and also within them over time. The most prominent were the ‘academic’, ‘integrated’, ‘vocational’, ‘technical’, ‘pragmatic’ and ‘professional’ orientations. The content of Education at the five universities also varied. Such variation offered breadth of opportunity for students. It also meant that, collectively, the universities served the needs of the State and their students by providing relevant and flexible curricula beyond what would have been possible in a ‘one size fits all’ model. Furthermore the claim that there was tension regarding the inclusion of ‘Education’ as an area of study within Australian universities generally, is not upheld for the Western Australian context.

While this thesis contributes to an understanding of how, historically, Education as an area of study has been constructed in one State in Australia, much further research remains to be done in this field of curriculum history. In particular, future research could focus on the way in which Education, along with other areas of university study, have been constructed in the other states of Australia and overseas. The identification of areas of contestation and omissions from courses are also worthy of consideration. Fine-grained studies of this nature could collectively make an important contribution to the understanding of the history of developments in the university curriculum at a macro level. Such work would, in the fullness of time, contribute to new understandings about institutionalised learning at tertiary level and provide historical insights to inform current practice as universities continue to try to find their way in a global society.