Western Australian Institute for Educational Research

17th Annual Research Forum at Edith Cowan University

Forum 2002 Abstracts

Listed alphabetically by first author [ Forum Invitation ]
[ Schedule ] [ Contents of Proceedings ]


Evaluation of the school based Traineeship in building and construction industries pilot program

Matt Barron, Renu Sharma & Moira Watson
Research & Development Division, West Coast College of TAFE

This research aimed to evaluate the pilot School-Based Traineeship program in Building and Construction, undertaken in 2001/2002. The program was aimed at enabling Year 11 and Year 12 students to complete School-Based Traineeships in the Building and Construction industry. Trainees worked towards both their Certificate II in General Construction and their high school graduation.

The Trainees came from eight schools in the northern and eastern corridors of metropolitan Western Australia. The program was originally designed for up to 75 Trainees. Initially 43 students registered in the program.

In order to assess the program, and most especially the participants' experience of the program, Trainees and employers were surveyed three times. Trainees were presented with short written surveys, with a mix of multi choice and short answer questions. Employers were surveyed by telephone, with structured interviews. The first round of surveys was conducted in May 2001, shortly after the commencement of the program. The second round was conducted in August 2001. The final round of surveys was conducted in April 2002, several months after the program was completed.

The results of both the survey of Trainees and the interviews with employers suggest that the program has had positive outcomes for all parties.

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Online learning for rural and remote VET learners: Access and equity concerns and issues

Matt Barron, Renu Sharma & Moira Watson
Research & Development Division, West Coast College of TAFE

The study was undertaken as a part of the ANTA funded Access and Equity in Online Learning (Stage 2) project for the Australian Flexible Learning Framework 2001. The Research & Development Division at West Coast College of TAFE in conjunction with the WestOne Services has carried out this study under the guidance of the Flexible Learning Advisory Group.

This paper examines access and equity issues for online VET sector learners in rural and remote areas.

Methodology included an extensive literature review to identify the perceived issues and barriers to online learning impacting particularly on learners in rural and remote locations. The outcomes of the literature review were used to inform development of questions for telephone interviews with learners and deliverers of online learning. The results of these interviews were analysed to identify the access and equity concerns and make recommendations.

The majority of recent research addresses those barriers which are significant for all online learners rather than focussing on those likely to be most relevant for rural and remote learners. Identified significant issues relate mainly to distance factors which affect costs, and the availability of and access to: telephone service, bandwidth, technology, repair facilities, learning/learner support, and training in IT. Potential strategies for overcoming the barriers are proposed. These include improving communication infrastructure and developing learning communities. A number of best practice examples were also identified.

Results with analysis and discussion of the implications will be presented at the WAIER Forum in August 2002.

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"Practice makes perfect": Examining the motivation of athletes and musicians to engage in solo practice and training

Susan Beltman
Murdoch University

Current theoretical and empirical findings suggest that motivation, like other constructs related to learning, is not only 'situated' within particular contexts, but jointly constructed by the participants in those settings. A reciprocal relationship exists between the personal history and characteristics of individuals, and the enabling or constraining features of the contextual environments or social settings in which individuals develop and act. In the present study solo practice or training is conceptualised as an activity at the intersection of the characteristics of individuals (such as interest, values, and motivational beliefs) and of the characteristics of the community of practice in which they participate or wish to participate.

Athletes and musicians were interviewed about the amount and nature of their individual work. They were also asked about their perceptions of the activity of individual (solo) practice as compared with group practice (team training or ensemble rehearsals) and group performance (team competitions or ensemble concerts).

The presentation will focus on understanding how the activity of solo work relates both to the characteristics of the individual and to the characteristics of the communities of practice.

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Adolescents' sense of belonging: A community high school perspective

Diane Broderick, Lynne Cohen, Neil Drew, & Lisbeth Pike
Edith Cowan University

For adolescents, the high school environment gives the appearance of being dominated by curriculum outcomes as opposed to a place where life long learning results from meaningful engagement and belonging with others within the school community. Although having a sense of belonging is one of a number of strategies required for the adolescent to negotiate the educational environment, the extent to which relationship issues and other factors contribute to adolescent belongingness is unknown. This qualitative study explored the adolescents' perspective of factors they felt contributed to their sense of belonging at a community high school in Perth, Western Australia. The data indicate that the adolescents' relationships with their teachers and their peers were the most significant aspects of belonging to their school. Additionally, a caring community school ethos, shared experiences, and adolescents' social roles in the school environment provided other positive opportunities for the students to benefit from their school community experiences. The results have implications for developing strong and inclusive high school communities. (Key words: Adolescents, Belonging, School).

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Reading the nation in Myanmar schoolbooks

Nick Cheesman
The University of Western Australia

Formal state schooling has since its inception been directed towards building national identity. As state discourses are commonly and readily transmitted through school textbooks, they may be uncovered by content and text analysis. This study examined five primary school Burmese language readers used in Myanmar (Burma) to reveal how they function to legitimise a version of national unity that serves the purposes of the state, which is dominated by the armed forces. The presentation of findings first examines the content and style of the written and illustrated text throughout the primers, and second, investigates three short pieces of written text in greater detail, to expose the prevailing use of lexicon and metaphor directed towards a particular national construct. The research makes an original contribution to a body of work already directed towards understanding how formal mass education buttresses powerful institutions and social groups, and its implications extend well beyond the state school system in Myanmar.

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An evaluation of the introduction of online resources in a first-year chemistry course

Gail Chittleborough, Mauro Mocerino & David Treagust
Curtin University of Technology

There is an increasing use of online resources in many university courses. This paper examines the introduction of on-line resources to an introductory, first year chemistry course. In this study, students were required to complete pre-laboratory exercises online. They also had access to email, a discussion forum and solutions to typical tests online. This paper examines the motivation for using on-line resources, the use of the on-line resources and the impact of these additional resources on the students' learning experience. The study concluded that the medium of the assessment was not a significant factor and students adapted quickly to the new online medium. The lecturer chooses in the best interest of his students as to how, when and where the on-line resources will be used. There are many factors which impact on these decisions and this paper investigates - the assessment of the appropriateness of the particular online resources, the specific requirements of the particular subject matter, the ability to customise resources, the teaching role of the online resources, the merits of the communication resources, as well as the accessibility, availability, flexibility and feedback of the online resources.

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A sociocultural analysis of language: Extending students' learning and development in a primary classroom

Wendy Cumming-Potvin
Murdoch University

Recently, intensified international trade and migration have amplified the profile of Australian schools as diverse sociocultural communities. The celebration of diversity in curriculum has been viewed as necessary for adapting educational institutions to the phenomenon of sociocultural diversity. In Australia, the institutional response aimed at meeting the needs of a diverse population has been characterised by a range of policies and programs at various levels of government. This presentation will provide insights into how policy and practice are related to the learning and development of children in a specific location. Results are drawn from an ethnographic study conducted in the Australian outback, which involved implementing a Language and Culture Awareness Program in a Year 4 classroom. Significant aspects of two case study students' learning and development during the study are framed within a cultural discourse of values and practices. Pedagogical implications are discussed in relation to the teaching of literacy in Australian primary schools.

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Equity or marginalisation? The effects of unilateral policies and procedures in higher education

Dawn Darlaston-Jones
Edith Cowan University

Universities are expending vast amounts of time and money to attract full fee paying overseas students as a means of addressing the deficits caused by recent Federal Government funding changes. However, under the guise of equity in terms of viewing students as a largely homogenous group, it is possible that we are overlooking cultural differences and the effects of isolation and resettlement that are faced by international students. This paper explores the consequences of this oversight in terms of the effect on student retention as well as the international profile of the universities involved.

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Factors influencing ethical decision-making amongst adolescents

Vaille Dawson
Edith Cowan University

Although science is viewed by some as objective, analytical and unaffected by morals and values, there are many ethical issues that arise directly from the practice of science in our society. In particular, rapid developments in the field of biotechnology means that our young people need to be equipped with the skills to make ethical personal choices and contribute to public debate about recent advances in biotechnology.

A survey of 1116 15 year old students about their understanding of biotechnology suggests that students are largely uninformed. About one third of students were unable to give an example of biotechnology, genetic engineering, cloning or a genetically modified food. Students were confused about the differences between cloning and genetic engineering and were unable to distinguish between genetically modified foods and food produced through selective breeding. When students were asked to resolve and justify ethical issues associated with biotechnology, their reasoning differed from experts. Students tended to resolve issues in a way that was naive, idealistic and rights based.

In aiming for a scientifically literate society, these findings provide a compelling argument for the use of effective teaching strategies in the science curriculum to ensure that students develop the skills to enable them to understand and make informed decisions about ethical issues.

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English language proficiency for tertiary study: Finding an appropriate entry level

Catherine Dunworth
Curtin University of Technology

This session reports on a study conducted into tertiary level English proficiency among students for whom English is not the first language. It was initiated as a result of the appearance of a number of articles in the academic press which intimated that the English language levels of many overseas students studying in Australia were not sufficiently developed to meet the demands of their academic programs. The study sought to determine how the construct of tertiary language proficiency is interpreted by university academics, and to develop a description of a 'gatekeeper' level of English competence. The results of this single site case study revealed that there was little consensus among academic staff, philosophically or pedagogically, and that there was no overarching strategy for determining appropriate entry levels. Recommendations from this study included a plan for an institutional level framework in which it might be possible to make judgements about the desired levels of language proficiency and improve on existing procedures for their evaluation.

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Education in transitional societies: A window to understanding change through dilemmas

Jaya Earnest
Curtin University of Technology

This paper focused on seven dilemmas that the researcher identified through analysing interview transcripts, teachers' classroom practices and documentary evidence. An analysis of these dilemmas in turn shed light on the tensions faced by teachers' in implementing a relevant education in transitional societies. The societies in transition were Uganda; Rwanda and Kosovo-three societies adversely affected by major social, political, economic, and ethnic upheaval. The societies have adopted national goals of implementing a durable educational policy and eradication of illiteracy. The research used interpretative case study methodology with quantitative and qualitative data. The study made use of questionnaires, interviews, photographs, classroom observations, narratives, personal reflexivity, and historical document analysis. Understanding the dilemmas also helped realise how certain changes have become essential norms of a society and education system and then have promoted or prevented new changes. Knowledge of the dilemmas provided important evidence of what teachers value and the concerns they have as they move from what they practice usually to adopting or adapting innovations. Thus, the dilemmas provide insight into how change could happen in reality and why, despite so many apparent changes, pre-established practices inside classroom have almost remained the same.

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Veterans' vendetta: What can a 19th century court martial teach us about how organizations exercise power?

Christine Fairhall
The University of Western Australia

In this paper a microcosmic historical example is drawn on to show how systems, educational or others, when seriously threatened, can be expected to behave. As such it is a case which could be used in social studies and as an example of the need to look behind surface evidence to the motivations of those involved. Further, it represents a little studied aspect of Australian history: studies of convicts abound, but those whose role it was to supervise the convicts have received little attention.

Does an authority under threat defend itself even to the point of subverting its own regulations?

An incident in the career of a middle ranking prison officer in the Swan River Convict System suggests that this may be so, as events unfolded in such a way that his prevention of a murder by disarming a drunken guard led to his own court martial. The evidence for these claims is drawn from the minutes of the military hearing itself and other primary source documents surrounding the incident.

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TALK: A language enrichment and social skills enhancement program

Sean Fitzpatrick, Lynne Cohen, Lisbeth Pike
Edith Cowan University
Neil Drew
The University of Western Australia

This paper presents the TALK program (TALK) as an innovative, school based intervention designed to provide the opportunity for modelling appropriate communication patterns between adults and children, and amongst children themselves. Originating in the US in the 1980s, the TALK format allows children to meet weekly with a group of their peers to talk about any topic of interest to them, in the presence of an empathic adult. The major principle underpinning the program is that exposure to good models of adult conversation and verbal skills can assist young children to engage with their school peers and staff in a constructive way. The current pilot implementation of the program takes place in the context of a local primary school where senior staff had expressed concern at the growing numbers of children engaging in antisocial behaviours in and out of the classroom. In a cooperative effort between the primary school, the Joondalup District Education Office, and the School of Psychology at Edith Cowan University, TALK was implemented over a ten-week period. This paper will present an overview of the program implementation, and key findings from the pre- and post-program evaluations.

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Ethical dilemmas in classroom-based research

Pat Forster
WAIER Early Career Award Winner 2002
Edith Cowan University

This presentation will address ethical dilemmas and pitfalls of classroom-based research from reflective practice (self-study) and participant-observer perspectives. Ethical stances associated with research purpose, informed consent, anonymity, trust and epistemology will be touched upon. The presentation is based on critical reflection of the conduct of my doctoral study in terms of the literature, at the conclusion of the study.

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Evaluation of an innovative approach to the extension of adult literacy skills

Jo Hart & Renu Sharma
Research & Development Division, West Coast College of TAFE

This paper examines findings from a DEST funded action research project undertaken by the Research & Development Division at West Coast College of TAFE.

The project evaluates the effectiveness of an innovative approach to extending adult literacy skills through the medium of information technology (IT). It brings together three groups: students of Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) or English Speaking Background (ESB) with low English literacy levels; young volunteers with IT skills and Senior volunteers. IT volunteers work with the students training them in basic IT skills. Seniors act as a communications "bridge", supporting the students in English literacy and also enhancing their own computer skills. A model for delivery and appropriate supporting materials for all participants were developed. These will facilitate utilisation of the concept in a community setting.

Two pilot courses were delivered. The first targeted students of NESB and finished in December 2001. The second pilot ran from February to June 2002, targeting a broader range of students. Effectiveness has been evaluated throughout using surveys and focus questions designed to generate reflective comments which were administered to all participants. Analysis indicates positive benefits for all groups, particularly with respect to increased confidence levels.

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The intimate educational environment: Redefining the teacher-pupil relationship within an 'emotion' paradigm

Vicky Houghton
Edith Cowan University

School-based conflict, alienation from curricula-driven processes, academic failure and teacher stress remain issues of great concern for Australian educators. In 1997 the Western Australian Government called for continued research into these matters, stating with over 55% of the 1996 student sample demonstrating social, emotional and behavioural problems, that "considerably more work needs to be done". The call was to find ways to "modify...or eliminate underlying causes [and to] improve students' self images and attitudes to schooling". The aim of this paper is to report the results of a study that was completed in 2000 as a response to this Government call. The study focused upon pupil and teacher alienation from the academic process and collected qualitative data from 129 pupils and teachers over a three-year period. This paper will reconceptualise the teacher-pupil relationship in terms other than those of an educational nature and will present evidence that research into causes of alienation, and research into solutions might be better served by a focus upon both teacher and pupil within a domain of emotion.

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Peer relationship problems and implications for socio-emotional functioning among psycho-socially at-risk and not at-risk children

Rick Kellner
The University of Western Australia

This paper investigates the peer-related interpersonal problems and socioemotional functioning of psychosocially at-risk (n = 172) and not at-risk children (n = 119).

The self-reported peer-related experiences of 291 children (Grades 3 - 12; 185 males, 106 females), aged from 96.92 months to 213.93 months enrolled in Western Australian metropolitan government/ non-government primary and secondary high schools, were examined. Subsequent to informed consent, all were assessed with an Interpersonal Relationships Questionnaire comprised of six reliable and valid paper-and-pencil measures: Social Desirability, Interpersonal Difficulties (HSociable), Social Self-Concept, Social Self-Confidence (SSCfd), Preference for Solitude (PS), and Social Interaction Anxiety (SIA).

Pearson product-moment correlations, Chi-square, univariate and multivariate analyses of variance were used to examine the data. Moreover, two hierarchial multiple regressions were performed to independently examine the unique contributions of peer-relational (i.e., H.Sociable, PS) and peer-competence factors (i.e., SSCfd, SIA) in predicting levels of Social Self-Concept (i.e., feelings of peer acceptance and being ignored) by Risk Level and Gender. Neither Gender, Age, nor Social Desirability were significantly associated with children's self-reports. Pearson correlations showed that measures of interpersonal relationships and socioemotional functioning were highly correlated. Analyses of variance revealed significant main effects for Risk Level and Gender. Hierarchial regression showed that peer-relational variables were differentially associated with Gender in predicting levels of Social Self-Concept. Furthermore, there were three-way interactions between Risk Level, Gender for each of the following variables: Preference for Solitude, Social Self-Confidence, Social Interaction Anxiety.

Psychoeducational and clinical implications for understanding the functional and discriminant significance of social impairment among at-risk and not at-risk children are discussed. Appropriate recommendations for the practice and effective delivery of individualized interventionist school programmes for targeted individuals experiencing problematic peer relations are also addressed in light of the research findings.

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Making sense of radian measure: The experience of technical students in Brunei Darussalam

Madihah Khalid
Curtin University of Technology

Students always wonder why they learn some things in Mathematics. Often, the fragmented information offered to students is of little use or application and was delivered poorly to them. Topics or areas that doesn't make sense make them lost interest and leads them to develop a certain phobia to mathematics. This resulted to poor performance and a syndrome of studying by memorising formulae and facts just to pass examinations. Radian measure is one of the topics that comes under this category. Students don't have a clue why they need to learn about angles in radian (after being familiar with angles in degree) and the benefits of studying it. I believe that effective instruction that emphasise on connecting real-life context with subject matter contents and an authentic approach could help in overcoming this problem. This paper will look at some of the instructional practices used in trying to teach the topic of radian measure to the students of a Technical College in Brunei Darussalam. It is part of a larger research involving a teaching and learning package that was developed for the topic of trigonometry for these students. It tries to investigate what the students already know about radian, where their problems in understanding lies and what will motivate them in learning mathematics. We will then look at the instructional approach and then evaluate the end-results. Qualitative and quantitative data are used in this research and they were collected through pre-tests and post-tests, interviews, observation and survey questionnaires.

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Deciding whether to adopt a qualitative or quantitative approach to case-text based research

Patrick Maher
Edith Cowan University

This presentation and paper discuss an approach to deciding on whether to use qualitative or quantitative methodologies when using text sources as 'cases' and describes a qualitative solution using Grounded Theory and HyperRESEARCH.

Qualitative and Quantitative methods are epistemologically sound and play important roles. Case-based methods and variable-based (statistical) methods "are neither congruent nor convergent in their (1) units of analysis, (2) conception of causality, (3) conception of adequate explanation, or (4) logic of analysis. Statistical methods seeking to carry out randomised studies or to apply 'treatments' to both 'control' and 'experimental' groups of managers or organisations in pretest and post treatment conditions may not be feasible, especially where fatalities have occurred or where coronial enquiries or legal action may follow participant revelations and the only feasible sources of data are text based reports. A 'quantitative' research design may create an illusion of gravitas, but nevertheless be flawed in studying the current phenomena of interest since socially and clinically significant findings are more useful in practice than a set of probabilities, which may be statistically satisfying but convey little of practical use, and the prime purpose of research is to add something of significance to the body of work.

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Situated motivation: The complexity of multiple goals and contexts during early adolescence

Caroline Mansfield

The nature of student motivation during early adolescence has been of great interest to researchers and educators. Student motivation has received particular recent attention in Western Australia as schools have attempted to adapt educational contexts to more adequately meet the needs of early adolescents. Motivation has been investigated using a goal theory approach that has enabled understandings about students' reasons for engaging in learning activities and their class behaviours to be developed. Focus has also been directed to the nature of the contexts that students encounter and how contextual variables may influence students' motivational patterns and goals. More recently the 'situative' approach to motivational research has allowed the nature of motivation to be considered as an interactive experience where individuals and contexts have the potential to influence each other and where the relationship between personal and contextual goals appears to have a significant impact on the motivational patterns of individuals. This paper will outline a longitudinal research project, combining qualitative and quantitative methodologies, that investigated the multiple goals pursued by a group of seven early adolescents over the duration of a year. The findings emphasise the impact contextual variables (school, classroom, family and peer) have on students' motivation in classrooms and provide some insight into how early adolescents seek to accommodate and respond to these contexts through their school-related beliefs and behaviours over a school year. The project has implications for educators and school administrators working with early adolescents and theoretical implications for research in the field of motivation.

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The dual school system in Australia: A culture of choice

Angela McCarthy
University of Notre Dame Australia

This paper is the result of an historical investigation into education in Australia as a background for a thesis on choice of schooling. It offers an overview of education in Australia since the beginnings of European settlement in the 18th century. Special emphasis is placed on education in Western Australia. Each of the Australian colonies established their own educational systems and until the present time they remain responsible for this matter. Throughout this time there have been alternatives to government education through an independent system that has provided a level of choice not widely available in other countries. This paper seeks to explore the reasons for such a provision and the resultant culture of choice that exists in Australian society. Such background was required by the thesis because a difference of attitude among parents born overseas needed to be placed contextually within the grounded theory study.

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Understanding the student: History helps

Wayne McGowan
Graduate School of Education, The University of Western Australia

The language of rights was used to legitimise the state's power to identify the compulsory school-aged student as 'other' (the one political discourse acts upon) when introducing the School Education Bill to the Parliament on 26 November 1997. This paper reports on the first analytical phase of work in progress. It draws on Foucault's thoughts about governmentality and the history of childhood to explore the different rationalities that motivate our constitution of the compulsory school-aged student. The findings offer a springboard for those interested in the governance of the school student as power relations rather than a liberal contract that says, 'Give up your mind, body and soul and we promise you a healthy and prosperous life!'

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How do personal theories of childhood influence everyday practice?

Zsuzsanna Judit Millei
The University of Western Australia

The new craze in early childhood education, the Reggio Emilia approach calls for a reassessment of our images of children. Changing our underlying conceptions of what a child is and what a child is capable of, we can transform our whole approach to their education. This paper reflects on personal theories of childhood to grasp why this issue is so important for early childhood practitioners. Common situations from the life of a pre-primary classroom are drawn from my research's observational data. I will demonstrate how images of childhood influence all areas of our work with children and relate this to recent literature on the sociology of childhood, which calls for the necessary re-conceptualisation of the images of children to change their position in education and to revolutionise our role in educating them.

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Teaching to the difference: Confronting cultural barriers as a key to effective Australian indigenous education

Peter Milnes and Keith Truscott
Edith Cowan University

Indigenous studies have usually emphasised traditional "pre-British" Indigenous life and reconciliation issues. While these are important, they fail to recognise the wider context of Indigenous life within cross-cultural Australia in two significant ways - cultural changes that have occurred since colonisation and cultural boundaries with the non-Indigenous peoples of Australia. Francis (1981) noted that misunderstandings can arise from assumptions based on past cultural behaviour is confused with a present local culture that is influenced by dynamic spiritual, political, economic, technological, and social expectations of both communities (Truscott 2001). Cultural boundaries are significant determinants of social behaviour. In educational contexts, the classroom often becomes a meeting place and boundaries are actively maintained. Even local indigenous instructors should be aware of cross-cultural boundary issues in a curriculum designed by a non-Indigenous mainstream cultural group that is just as eager about maintaining its own cultural boundaries. The cultural boundaries in Indigenous education should be interrogated in terms of the power differential, permeability and psychosocial factors. This will be done by analysis of the boundaries in the early colonial period, the boundaries in the twentieth century and the present local context. Confronting cultural barriers yield insights that enable educators to "teach to the difference" in Indigenous education.

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Evaluating the contribution of two key teachers to the systemic transformation of educational support and the professional development of their colleagues in the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa

Tulsi Morar
University of Port Elizabeth

Research into teacher professional development, teacher change and systemic reform is concerned with establishing the links between the three (Bybee, 1993; Loucks Horsley, Hewson, Love and Stiles, 1998). However, systemic transformation is not based on challenging standards and assessment (Goertz, Floden and O'Day in Kahle, 1997). In South Africa the focus has been on a new and improved curriculum and better-trained educators to facilitate reforms in the schools. Systemic reform is a new concept in South Africa. The meaning and understanding of systemic reform is not understood by many educators as a result of limited exposure to current developments in education, and therefore, the transformation process is characterized by misguided interventions of change. This paper evaluates the changes implemented at two-leader teacher's schools. The findings of this paper are contrary to the beliefs of the role-players that significant reform is taking place in the education milieu in their districts. Therefore, it is evident that the role of leader teachers can only be fully realized in a context of systemic reform within schools and districts. This investigation reveals that these leader teachers have only succeeded, to a limited extent, in transforming their classroom practice and have made little or no impact on their colleagues.

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Investigating the integration of ICT into teaching and learning at Sevenoaks Senior College

Kath Murray & Barbara Combs
Sevenoaks Senior College
Jill Aldridge & Barry Fraser
Curtin University of Technology

This paper reports part of a larger, ongoing study that focuses on Sevenoaks Senior College, which has integrated an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure into the delivery of educational programs, online curricula, and management systems through the use of WebCT. The paper examines the learning environment created during the teachers' and students' use of ICT at Sevenoaks, ways in which the teacher librarian helps teachers to the use of ICT into the teaching and learning, and investigating whether outcomes-focused and ICT-rich learning environments are associated with student outcomes. Qualitative and quantitative research methods (including questionnaires, classroom observations, and interviews with teachers and students) were used to collect data for the present study. The findings indicate that all teachers at the school have developed courses in WebCT, but to different levels of complexity. It appears that the successful integration of ICT into the teaching and learning at Sevenoaks is due largely to a supportive school-level environment and the webmaster/teacher librarian. The findings suggest that the learning environments created using WebCT are related to students' attitudes towards their subject and academic efficacy. Finally, the learning environments preferred and perceived by students was found to differ depending on student gender and whether they were enrolled in subjects that were wholly school-assessed or assessed by the Tertiary Entrance Examination.

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Interviewing: Tales to make you put your tape recorder away

Gary Partington
Edith Cowan University

Doing interviews looks easy until you come to analyse the data. Shortcomings in interview technique can result in lost opportunities, invalidation of data and embarrassment for the interviewer. In this account of a series of interviews for a research project, some key flaws in interviewing are outlined.

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Investigating the success of a grade 11 online nuclear physics program

Dave Proctor & Paul Knapton
Sevenoaks Senior College
Jill Aldridge & Barry Fraser
Curtin University of Technology

Our study examined the learning environment created through the implementation and use of an online course, designed within a constructivist framework, to teach nuclear physics. We made use of a case study approach with two Grade 11 physics classes, over two years, throughout a unit of work. Interviews and discussions with students and teachers throughout the implementation of the online course were used to provide insights into students' interaction with online materials and the learning environment that was created. A survey was used to compare students' perceptions of the learning environment created in their regular physics classes and in their online classes. It was found that students' perceived more opportunities in terms of differentiation (to work at their own speed and with work that suits their ability and interests) during the online course than in their regular physics classes. Also, the implementation of the online program created a learning environment in which the teacher was considered to be supportive and encouraged cooperation and collaboration between students. This positive learning environment was due, in part, to the learning environment that teachers developed prior to the implementation of the program.

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How do parents manage home schooling of children with disabilities?

Lucy Reilly
The University of Western Australia

Few studies have examined home schooling in Australia and no studies have investigated the home schooling of children with disabilities. As this growing phenomenon is yet to receive the research it deserves, it is likely that families who home educate are not acquiring the assistance necessary for management to reach its full potential. This paper explores how six Western Australian parents manage the home schooling of their children with disabilities. Ten propositions emerged from the case studies, which provide an understanding of the parents' reasons for home schooling their children with disabilities, the strategies they use to educate from a home base and their concerns and needs regarding this educational alternative. While the tentative propositions in this study specifically provide insight into how parents manage the process of educating their children from home, the findings also have implications for theory, practice and future research aimed at developing more specific theories for different gro

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Can an action-oriented organisational culture be a learning culture?

Fiona Scott
The University of Western Australia

Achieving organizational development through the promotion of learning in the workplace is a popular strategy evident in the literature (Argyris, 1999; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Senge, 1999). Educational theory has informed this literature by emphasizing the important role context plays in what is learned in organizations, and how learning occurs (Billett, 2001; Lave & Wenger, 1991). Organisational culture has emerged as one of the most important contextual factors influencing formal and informal workplace learning (Schein, 1992). Recent Australian studies have identified an environment where communication is open and knowledge is shared as vital to a "learning culture" (Figgis et al., 2001; Johnston & Hawke, 2002; Scott, Butler, & Edwards, 2001b). This paper outlines findings on the influence of an "action-oriented" organizational culture on learning in a lean production factory. Using a sociocultural framework, it describes how the meaning of performance specific to this organizational culture discouraged the open communication and knowledge sharing required for organizational learning. It describes how introducing learning sets into this "action-oriented" culture challenged the production discourse, and created a discursive space for collective reflection and the beginnings of organizational learning.

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Class-centred teaching: A new approach to understanding classroom behaviour

Rose M. Senior
Curtin University of Technology

This paper is based on Rose Senior's doctoral study (which won her the WAIER Postgraduate Prize in Education, 2000). In the study Rose examined the social evolution of eight intensive English language classes for adults. She identified the fact that teacher classroom behaviour is directed towards two complementary goals: (1) that of providing multiple opportunities for student learning, and (2) that of keeping the class functioning as a socially cohesive unit. This second goal is so widely accepted as being a key component of effective teaching that it frequently remains below the threshold of teacher (and researcher) consciousness.

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Dilemma stories as a way of addressing ethical issues in the context of science education: An evaluation

Elisabeth Settelmaier
Curtin University of Technology

Traditionally, many science educators have taught science in a moral vacuum: there has been a focus on subject-matter without problematising certain ethical aspects of science. Ethical questions can be addressed in the form of moral discourse which, on the one hand, helps educators to bring to the fore problematic issues in relation to science, and which, on the other hand, offers an opportunity for students to practice their future engagement in the public discourse about science. This paper presents the results of an evaluative case study about dilemma stories as a tool to initiate moral discourse in an attempt to include ethical issues into the context of science education. Using an ethnographic lens, it evaluates the dilemma-approach from the multiple perspectives of the students, teachers, and researcher. The context of the study was a project conducted in a senior high school with one biology teacher and one mathematics/physics teacher and their classes.

[Scheduling for this presentation]


An industry-led VET system: Issues for policy, practice and practitioners

Renu Sharma, Jo Hart, Pokua Asomani & Moira Watson
Research & Development Division, West Coast College of TAFE

Research & Development Division of West Coast College of TAFE is working with Research Centre for Vocational Education and Training (RCVET) on a research project entitled: An industry -led VET system: issues for policy, practice and practitioners. The research will focus on the goal of developing a learning workforce and on the key issues effecting vocational education policy and practice and its many practitioners that arise from an industry led VET system. The purpose of the research is to investigate the ways in which an "Industry-led VET system" has affected practice and practitioners in TAFE Institutes.

RCVET is the lead organisation. West Coast College is one of the four Institutes selected from across Australia. The other participants are Adelaide Institute of TAFE, SA; Bendigo Institute of TAFE, VIC and TAFE NSW.

The project research will focus on three specific industries:

The study will also consider the practitioners and practices in areas that are prevocational or cross industry and which will develop more general cross industry and generic skill outcomes.

[Scheduling for this presentation]


Research into the effectiveness of online learning in higher education: Survey findings

Lou Siragusa
Curtin University of Technology

With the use of online learning environments firmly integrated into many higher education courses, the effectiveness of this mode of delivery has come under question and has been the subject of various studies in this area. This paper presents an ongoing research study seeking effective instructional design principles for the online learning environment in higher education. A survey was administered to students and their lecturers studying in various courses throughout the major universities in Western Australia who are using online learning environments. The survey utilised both quantitative and qualitative methods for collecting data including questionnaires and interviews. The student survey involved over 245 students who responded to an online questionnaire and 25 students who were interviewed. The survey focused on elements of online learning including content, structure, motivation, feedback, interaction and learning strategies. Among the findings, many students indicated that they were generally satisfied with using online learning support for the units they were studying, but are often disappointed with the way in which it is being used in some of the courses.

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Learning genetics with multiple external representations: Preliminary findings in a laptop school

Chi-Yan Tsui & David F. Treagust
Curtin University of Technology

This paper discusses the preliminary findings of a case study of two Year 10 classes (n = 48) in a laptop school for girls in Perth. The case study was part of a larger research study on the teaching and learning of genetics with multiple external representations (MERs). Taught by two experienced biology teachers, the students learnt genetics over six weeks with different representations including the computer-based MERs in BioLogica, an interactive program for learning introductory genetics, and MERs in some web-based multimedia about human and molecular genetics. MERs, as researchers claim, support student learning by complementing information/processes, constraining interpretation, and constructing understanding. Classroom observations, and teacher and student interviews indicated that most of the students enjoyed learning using the MERs of genetics particularly those in web-based multimedia on human genetics. Preliminary findings based on students' pre-instructional and post-instructional online reasoning tests and questionnaires show that students' class-wide genetics reasoning substantially improved after instruction but only in the easier reasoning types. However, the gene conceptions of some high-achievers were found to be sophisticated. The findings reveal some issues of student learning in a multi-representational learning environment and the important role of teachers in making better pedagogical use of MERs.

[Scheduling for this presentation]


Qualitative data analysis packages

Roger Vallance
Notre Dame University

Many researchers find the range of qualitative data analysis (QDA) packages confusing. This workshop will demonstrate the three main products from QSR. QSR produces NVivo, and the Nudist range of QDA software: N4; N5 and N6. The emphasis of this workshop will be to demonstrate the interfaces, discuss the benefits and consequences [pro and cons] of each package and to answer all questions, with demonstrations, of participants. It will be possible from this workshop to access demonstration versions of each package as well as to see the recently (July 2002) released Version 2.0 of NVivo. This workshop is recommended to all those who are anticipating collecting qualitaitve data so that they might estimate the benefits for their own research of one or other of these methods or tools of analysis. The workshop will be lead by an experienced teacher of QSR software who has used these packages since 1994 and teaches workshops within Perth.

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The status of science classroom learning environment at Indonesian lower secondary schools

Wahyudi
Curtin University of Technology

This study reports cross validation results of the Indonesian version of modified WIHIC (What Is Happening In this Classroom) questionnaire and the use of the questionnaire to investigate the nature of science classroom learning environment of Indonesian Lower Secondary Schools. Using nearly 1400 students of those schools with their teachers as samples, the study come up with several assertions. First, the study confirmed that the Indonesian version of modified WIHIC is a valid and reliable instrument to measure classroom-learning environment for Indonesian educational context. Second, there are significant differences between students' perceptions of actual and preferred learning environment. Students tend to have more favourable classroom learning environment than they actually do perceive. Third, the study found that both male and female students hold similar perceptions on actual, yet they have perceived their preferred learning environment significantly different. Fourth, students held less favourable perceptions on both versions than their teachers did. Finally, there are significant differences of students' perception on actual classroom learning environment with regard to schools' locality. Students in rural schools held less favourable perceptions than students in urban and suburban did for all seven scales. Students at urban and suburban perceived their classroom environment similarly with the exceptions on Teacher Support and Cooperation scales. Students at urban schools viewed their classroom as having greater cooperation yet less teacher support than students at suburban schools did.

[Scheduling for this presentation]


First past the post is the winner: First year students' adaptation to university

Jayne Walton
Edith Cowan University

The performance of students in university was considered a function of both the students' and the university's commitment (Tinto, 1975). However, a shortcoming of this approach was that it failed to consider systemic factors. In Australia, tertiary applicants are ranked in order of merit for each course the student has nominated as a preference. Despite acknowledging the existence of this system, prior research has not considered what effect not gaining their first preference has on a students' integration to university. Therefore, this present study explored 105 first-year female (aged between 17-25 years) university students' preferences and their adaptation to university. Adaptation was measured via the students' first semester results and their self-reporting of their sense of community at university. The results indicated that students who gained their first preference had higher semester results and sense of community scores than those who gained their second or a lower preference. This exploratory study based on students' preferences has contributed to current knowledge regarding transition and adaptation. The implications of this study are considered with regard to ways in which students' transition to university can be assisted.

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