Early Career Awards 2001-2007

Dr Maria Northcote, Edith Cowan University

Maria NorthcotePresentation Abstract

An affective PhD: Topic and process

This paper examines the affective dimensions of a PhD study in which the researcher investigated the educational beliefs held by a group of university teachers and students. The final thesis was titled “The educational beliefs of a group of university teachers and their students: Identification, exploration and comparison”. By analysing the perspectives of both the research participants and the researcher, the author reflects upon how the research topic and the research processes in this PhD were intertwined with various emotional influences from the very beginning of the research process, when the topic of study was established, through to the final writing and reporting processes.

Dr Eva Dobozy, Edith Cowan University

Presentation Abstract

Power to the students: Contributing to debates on effective learning about civic engagement, human rights and democratic values

Eva DobozySchools need to be seen as important social and political communities that impact upon children and help shape their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours. The way schools and classrooms are governed is central to the question of human rights and values education. In this presentation I will discuss some findings from my recent research into effective human rights and values education and the connections I draw to school environments. More precisely, I will discuss some research findings regarding the characteristics that democratic schools appear to have in common. These commonalities seem to have contributed to the case study schools’ status of being perceived to be reputable democratic schools. For the purposes of the reported study, four schools that were diverse in their philosophical approaches to education and socio-economic composition were selected as case study schools. A specific selection criterion was that these schools had a reputation for nurturing the critical capabilities of students within an explicit ‘children’s rights and citizenship framework’. Students were not seen as ‘objects to be acted upon’, but rather were trusted to be subjects of rights and responsibilities within the school community in some form or other.

The research included analysis of interview, observation and document data. Three major corresponding features were identified: a) the principals perceived their schools to be ‘out of the ordinary’, b) all four case study sites had carefully developed school rules as statements of principles rather than an extensive list of do’s and don’ts, and c) three of the four schools seem to employ differential treatment practices rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the discipline of students.

The findings suggest that it is possible for schools to educate effectively in and for democracy and human rights by ways of day-to-day educational practices that inspire some aspects of political and moral empowerment of students.

Ms Karen Murcia, Murdoch University

Presentation Abstract

An evidence based framework for developing scientific literacy

Karen MurciaClarifying what it means to be scientifically literate in our modern world, increasingly shaped and directed by science was the theoretical springboard for this doctoral research. The research took the view that citizens with a reasonable level of scientific literacy would be better able to participate in public debate and decision making processes, and also to adapt lifestyle and work practices to meet the demands of a rapidly developing and changing world. In this contemporary context, scientific literacy was seen as a relevant and desired learning outcome for all citizens. In particular, it was an attribute both industry and the general community could reasonably expect from higher education graduates, as they would be potential experts in the community and could hold positions of influence in social debate. As such, this research aimed to identify and document the development of scientific literacy amongst a sample of 244 first year university students.

A framework for scientific literacy was generated based on a review of the literature, reflection on teaching and learning experiences, and parallel research in numeracy. This framework and an associated set of levelled indicators were used to explore students’ development of scientific literacy. The converging findings from the quantitative and qualitative components of this process challenged the assumption that development of the dimensions of scientific literacy was hierarchal in nature. It became evident that the participants’ development of the construct was more complex in nature. Evidence suggested that the development of scientific literacy was the result of increased intertwining of knowledge and understandings in the three dimensions: key science ideas, the nature of science and the interaction of science with society. A Rope Metaphor was used to represent in a concrete medium, the weaving together of knowledge in order to think and act scientifically and capture realistically the complexity of developing scientific literacy observed through out this research.

Notwithstanding the focus on the development of scientific literacy amongst first year university students, the applicability of this research is intended to be much wider. It should clarify the meaning of scientific literacy within our contemporary context, increase the useability of the construct in teaching, and learning and so has relevance at any level of education.

Dr Jaya Earnest, Curtin University

Presentation Abstract

Action research for staff professional development: A case study of a school in Uganda

Jaya EarnestTo date, only a few studies of school improvement, action research and staff professional development have been undertaken in Uganda and none have been at the early childhood level. The present study evaluates one early childhood institution’s attempt to improve the school effectiveness and classroom environments that teachers create, through positive leadership and on-going teacher professional development.

This longitudinal study, implemented over four years, involved the investigation of factors that influenced school effectiveness, and teacher professional development in an early childhood institution in Kampala, Uganda. The study made use of action research methodology with a framework of teacher professional development. Uganda’s rapidly expanding education system and largely teacher centred mode of delivery makes this study timely, because it provides potentially significant insights into how a school improvement program using action research methodology can provide a sustainable means of professional development.

Dr Farzad Sharifian, The University of Western Australia

Presentation Abstract

Aboriginal cultural conceptualisations in English words: A study of primary school children in Perth

Dr Farzad SharifianNational measures of achievement among Australian school children suggest that Aboriginal students, considered as a group, are those most likely to end their schooling without achieving minimal acceptable levels of literacy and numeracy. This study explored the possibility that, despite intensive exposure to non-Aboriginal society, Aboriginal students in metropolitan Perth may maintain, through a distinctive variety of English, distinctive conceptualisations which may help to account for their lack of success in education. In this study, a research technique called Association-Interpretation was developed to tap into cultural conceptualisations across two groups of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. The technique was composed of two phases: the ‘association’ phase, in which the participants gave associative responses to a list of 30 everyday words such as ‘home’ and ‘family’; and the ‘interpretation’ phase, in which the responses were interpreted from an emic viewpoint and compared within and between the two groups.

The analysis of the data provided evidence for the operation of two distinct, but overlapping, conceptual systems among the two cultural groups studied. The two systems are integrally related to the dialects spoken by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, that is, Aboriginal English and Australian English. The discrepancies between the two systems largely appear to be rooted in the cultural systems which give rise to these dialects while the overlap between the two conceptual systems appears to arise from several phenomena such as experience in similar physical environments and access to ‘modern’ life style. The results of this study have implications for the professional preparation of educators dealing with Aboriginal students.

Pat ForsterDr Pat Forster, Edith Cowan University

Presentation Abstract

Ethical dilemmas in classroom-based research

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.

Dr Libby Lee, Murdoch University

Presentation Abstract

An action learning project for teachers of gifted young children

Dr Libby LeeThis presentation will explore the processes and outcomes of a collaborative action learn ing project conducted with a group of early childhood teachers (P-2) teaching in a Perth school. The teachers initially felt that their existing provision for gifted young children was limited and inadequate. The teachers undertook to work collaboratively in an action learning project to critically examine their existing practices and to trial a range of strategies to improve children’s participation and engagement with learning at school.

The session aims to use the findings of a research project conducted in 2000 to facilitate discussion regarding issues of equity and educational provision for gifted young children. The session will highlight the process of action learning as a powerful tool for critically reflecting on current practices, refocussing and rethinking programming for individual children who have been identified as gifted. This session will also focus on the means by which early childhood professionals might collaborate with colleagues and parents in developing programs to cater for gifted children. The equity and gender dimensions of identifying gifted children will also be highlighted. Issues regarding the management of data in the research project and the partnership between researcher and participant will also be explored.