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Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 1997 Abstracts

Session A.1

The Great War and education in Western Australia

Edward Groughan
Curtin University of Technology

This paper serves as a select presentation of work drawn from a Doctoral thesis. In its wider context the thesis is an appraisal of the education system of Western Australia during the period of the Great War of 1914-18. A period that has been widely portrayed as crucial in the formation of a white Australian masculine identity and culture at the expense of women, Aborigines and other non-Anglo-Saxon races.

A model, Education in War times, organises guiding themes within a chronology of changing societal emotions during the Great War. The themes include the response of the Western Australian education system to State, National and Imperial patriotic passions preceding the Great War, the support of educational institutions to existing cultural mythologies and legends, the evident impact on educational practice amid growing disillusionment at the progress of war, the subsequent questioning of educational ideology and the reconstructive measures adopted following the war.

The supporting hypothesis is that societal structures propagate values and mores and one of these, a national education system, is a prominent agent of patriotic ideology and citizenship.

For this paper the impact of Imperialism, Nationalism, Social Darwinism and Labour Movements as they relate to aspects of Western Australian State School education, are presented under the theme, patriotic passions.

Session A.2

Student perceptions of practical tasks in senior biology, chemistry and physics classes

Allan Harrison and Darrell Fisher
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology
David Henderson
Launceston College
Launceston, Tasmania

Regular laboratory work is regarded as an integral part of most science courses; however, a significant proportion of laboratory activities remain highly prescriptive and fail to challenge secondary science students. This unique study of senior high school biology, chemistry and physics laboratory environments drew data from student responses to the Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI) and a curriculum analysis of the implemented laboratory tasks. The study involved 387 biology, chemistry and physics students in 20 classes in Tasmania, Australia who responded to the SLEI. The curriculum analysis was based on Lunetta and Tamir's (1979) Laboratory Structure and Task Analysis Inventory and Laboratory Task Analysis. The study found that the SLEI differentiated between the three subject areas in the following ways: Students believed that physics was more open-ended than either biology or chemistry; rule clarity was greatest in chemistry; and biology was less integrated than either physics or chemistry. The Laboratory Structure and Task Analysis Inventory also confirmed the more open-ended nature of the physics investigations.

Session A.3

Factors affecting the implementation of a managing student behaviour plan in a primary school

Adrian Moore
Como Primary School
Education Department of WA

In 1987, the use of the cane was banned in Western Australian Government Schools. By 1988, the Education Department, or 'Ministry' as it was then termed, required each of its schools to develop, implement and maintain a Discipline Policy.

This study looked at the experience of a suburban Primary School in Perth, Western Australia, when it found that its Discipline Policy was not working well.

It examined:

It showed that the school community needed to develop a set of positive student behaviour expectations together with defined sets of responses to misbehaviour. It further showed that positive adoption and implementation of an appropriate plan would result in an improvement in management of student behaviour, staff attitudes and effectiveness of the School.

Session A.4

Conceptualising student empowerment: A report on research in progress

Anna Sullivan
Edith Cowan University

There is a growing call for students to be empowered, however, it appears very little research has been conducted on the area. Student empowerment will be explored with particular reference to power and motivation and power will be examined as a concept of power over and power with. After consideration of early and recent conceptions of empowerment through education a definition of empowerment will be offered. The relationship between motivation and empowerment will discussed and Control Theory will be offered as a reason for empowering students. Research on empowerment through education will be reviewed and models of empowerment presented. Student empowerment as a philosophy and a process will be explored. Processes that enable student empowerment include leadership, cooperative learning, student participation (student voice, negotiation, decision making, and ownership) and social skills. Student empowerment processes seem to facilitate motivation and help students meet their psychological needs.

This study examines student empowerment with a focus on student empowerment in the cooperative learning setting. A descriptive study drawing on ethnographic techniques is used to explore student empowerment from the perception of students and teachers. This exploratory study adopts many features distinctive to ethnography. As such the study seeks to identify variables associated with student empowerment in cooperative learning settings. One primary classroom is the focus of the study. The teacher of the class selected is confident in the implementation of cooperative learning strategies. The students have experience with cooperative learning.

By the time of the forum the data collection will be completed and I will be able to give insight into early trends and reflect on the methodology of the study.

Session A.5

The use of a multimedia package in a teachers' professional development program

Dorit Maor
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology

This paper provides a case study of the use of a multimedia package, to develop teachers, understanding of a constructivist epistemology in science education. The software, which itself had been developed with teachers is based on the Birds of Antarctica database (Maor & Phillips, 1996). The Birds of Antarctica software was designed as an interactive program which requires teachers to use a constructivist approach to teaching and learning in order to promote the development of inquiry skills and, in particular, higher-level thinking skills. This paper describes a professional development program which involves the use of the package to develop teachers, understanding of the constructivist epistemology in order for them to enhance the development of higher-level thinking skills among students. As part of this classroom-based study, a series of workshops for teachers was conducted. These were intended, firstly, to empower teachers to become comfortable in using computers in science classrooms and, secondly, to enable teachers to enhance their understanding of, and ability to use, personal and social constructivist approaches to teaching and learning in the computerised learning environment.

Session A.6

A tale of inclusion: A narrative portrayal of policy implementation

Jan Gray
Edith Cowan University

There is a growing acceptance in the social sciences that in the telling of a 'story' a form of truth can be developed. This 'truth' will be dependent on the reader actively constructing knowledge from an effective depiction of a 'real' culture, developed through the canons of narrative. Thus the use of multiple voices and genres, involving evocative, contextualised language, allowed development of new knowledge within a plot based on the impact of the implementation of an inclusion policy in Western Australia.

The study centred on the conflict generated within a particular urban Government primary school as the result of parents' insistence that their sons with intellectual disabilities be allowed to remain in the least restrictive educational support environment. The two boys involved had been judged by the Principal as being unsuited to this educational setting, resulting in the invocation of the rarely used inclusion policy (Section 20 of the Education Act of Western Australia, 1928).

The story format allowed the participants to become characters within the framework of an over-all story, reflecting perspectives of a contemporary and controversial issue. Five individual stories were blended by the narrator (researcher), developing a verisimilitude within which participants' actions could be justified. The five stories reflected the perspective's of the parents of the two boys involved, the parent advocate (a crucial influence at all stages of the conflict and its 'resolution'), the District Superintendent, and a representative of the Education Department. The over-all story was semi-structured to follow the process of the policy implementation, from its invocation to the impact of recommendation of the Independent Panel. Thus the reader could follow the public and open-ended nature of the problem from within an unfolding situation.

Apart from developing a perception of parenting a child with an intellectual disability and providing a comprehensive knowledge of the frustration engendered by the inevitable frustration involved in the implementation of an inclusion policy seen to negate parental choice, the study highlighted significant policy implications. Such issues as twisted policy intent and an increasing awareness by parents of the vulnerability of the Education Department's perceived power clearly emerged from the narratives. It became quite clear that parents considered that inclusion was a child's right and that parents were prepared and have the necessary expert support to push the 'system' for this right, even in a legal arena.

Session B.1

Attitude and aspirations and the effect on student achievement in mathematics: An Australian study

Beverley J Webster
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology

The purpose of this study was to investigate mathematics achievement of Australian students and how this achievement can vary from school to school. Data used in the study were collected from 161 schools in Australia for the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The focus of this paper was to report on the relationships between and the effects on student mathematics achievement that interest in mathematics, achievement motivation and perceived ability have. Adjustments were made in the analysis to account for the variation in achievement accounted for by: school level effects (school size, class size and location), and additional student background effects (socio-economic status and aptitude).

Session B.2

Monitoring standards in the arts: A testing program using an outcomes framework

Beverley Pascoe
Education Department of Western Australia

This paper describes the testing program which was used to test the Arts at a system level in Western Australian schools in 1996 using Student Outcome Statements as a framework. Arts teachers and researchers will be interested in the innovative strategies which were used, the methods of marking and analysis, and the overview of the results.

Session B.3

Conceptions of learning held by students in the lower, middle and upper grades of primary school

Carole Steketee
Edith Cowan University

Conceptions of learning are the fundamental beliefs and ideas people hold about their own learning. To a large extent, these understandings determine the way in which learning tasks are tackled and, ultimately, the outcome of learning experiences (Candy, 1991, p. 249).

Using a phenomenographic approach, this study explored the conceptions of learning held by six students in the lower, middle and upper grades of primary school. Data collected from a series of individual in-depth interviews resulted in the identification of six distinctly different conceptions of learning. At the most basic level, the students articulated their understanding of learning in a very general sense. This level is a unique finding of this study and has been termed Generic Learning. At the next level, students associated learning with being physically involved and Doing Things. As they progressed to more advanced understandings, the importance of Knowing More Things and Knowing Harder Things about their world was evident. Making sense of material was characteristic of the two final and most sophisticated conceptions which were labelled Searching for Meaning and Constructing New Understandings.

These six categories show that primary school students perceive learning in a variety of ways. Therefore, teachers must not assume that all students perceive learning homogeneously, but rather endeavour to understand the differences and the implications these differences are likely to have on the way students approach their own learning. This knowledge will enable teachers to develop improved teaching methods that will facilitate learning, whatever their students' conceptions of learning may be.

Session B.4

Representing critical reflections in teacher education

David R. Geelan and Peter Charles Taylor
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology
Beverley Day
Ballajura Community College

This critical action research study explores the professional growth of a middle school teacher and two teacher educators. It focuses on a professional development program in which Bev, Peter and David took the roles of student, teacher and 'critical friend' respectively. The program was based on Habermas' theory of 'knowledge and human interests', emphasising the potential of the 'emancipatory' interest for creating empowering learning environments. The participants' teaching and learning roles, professional development and new understandings are explored with reference to a 'critical incident' that sparked this inquiry. Narrative accounts and collegial discussion are used to explore the sometimes conflicting meanings constructed by the authors, highlighting the complex nature of their educative discourses and problematising notions of emancipatory curriculum and student empowerment.

Session B.5

An investigation into the narrative constructs of children reading interactive multimedia storybooks

Cheryl Hadfield
Edith Cowan University

The use of Interactive Multimedia (IMM) products such as electronic storybooks is becoming widespread in primary classrooms, and research has shown that IMM storybooks can support reading development and improve the attitudes of reluctant readers. Research also suggests that there may be differences in the literacy practices of boys and girls. For example, girls appear to adapt to literacy practices in the classroom better than boys, and show a better understanding of linear narrative as presented in traditional story books. Boys, on the other hand appear more able to develop literacy skills for the reading of factual texts and use of computers, and these skills may be more desirable in the workplace. There is also evidence that girls prefer to work in groups at the computer, while boys appear to work better alone. The inclusion of IMM storybooks in a primary language programme may benefit boys who may see the reading of computer-based storybooks as more acceptable than traditional texts, and girls through the development of computer literacy skills. However little is known about children's ability to construct meaning in the context of IMM. There is a need for investigation into the narrative constructs of children reading IMM storybooks and the role of the narrative in children's construction of meaning, with particular regard to gender differences in this process.

Session B.6

Boolean versus continuous variables as tools of measurement

Jonathan Hippisley
Graduate School of Education
University of Western Australia

A Boolean variable, such as the write/wrong response to an item in a school test, represents a very crude method of measurement by the standards of natural science. This paper will consider from first principles the implications of combining a Boolean variable such as a write/wrong response to a question in an arithmetic test with a continuous variable such as the time taken to produce a correct response. The paper will also compare raw score distributions from an interactive arithmetic test with scoring rate distributions, and discuss implications for the relative reliability of the two metrics.

Session C.1

The Western Australian Anglican Schools Commission (Inc) 1986-1996 with special reference to its English and Australian antecedents

Ian Melville
Graduate School of Education
University of Western Australia

This work seeks to demonstrate that the Western Australian Anglican Schools Commission (Inc), established in 1986 under the Chairmanship of Peter M. Moyes (1917 ), has strong links with the 19th Century English Woodard Foundation in England in the 19thth Century and the educational ideas of Nathaniel Woodard (1811-1891). The exegesis of the links between the Western Australian Anglican Schools Commission and the Woodard Foundation, forms the several contextual parts of this work.

The formation of the Anglican Schools Commission revivified the educational ideals of Percy Umfreville Henn, who, under the auspices of the Church of England in Western Australia, became the first Headmaster to be appointed by the Church in 1910, to its newly acquired school at Guildford, remaining there for some fifteen years until his retirement in 1924.

In accepting the Guildford appointment, Henn was inspired not only by his success as Chaplain at Hurstpierpoint in the south-east of England and subsequently as first Headmaster of St Cuthbert's, Workshop, in the Nottinghamshire in 1895, but also by the work of Canon Nathaniel Woodard, in whose schools Henn had been employed. Henn came to the understanding that the Woodard model of Church Education, which increasingly catered for the English middle classes by providing a three tier system of schools based on the ability of parents to pay fees, could be established in Western Australia under his leadership.

The Church's involvement in education reflects its collective "conscience" which is determined on the one hand by its perception of "opus dei"; and on the other, by its secular role resulting from its response to contemporary economic and social conditions. In exploring the historical evolution of the Anglican Schools Commission (Inc), this work will reflect upon the reasons for, and the manner in which the church pursued its educational objectives in congruence with, and in contradiction, of its conscience.

The importance of the Anglican Schools Commission in reaching out to those areas in the community which are less affluent, regardless of the struggle involved, is according to Archbishop Peter Carnley, "fundamental to Parish growth and development".[1] This study will not only place the evolution of the Commission in its historical context, but also within the framework of educational provision in Western Australia until 1996. From such a perspective, this study is relevant both historically and educationally.

  1. Address by Archbishop Carnley to invited members of the congregation of St. George's Cathedral, June 4, 1995.

Session C.2

Quantitative research: Attitudes of primary school students and their teachers

Wally Moroz
Social Science Education
Edith Cowan University

A survey of 3132 primary school students and their teachers revealed interesting results about social studies and other school subjects. The questionnaires utilised Likert scales. SATSS, the students' questionnaire contained 137 items and TATSS the teachers' questionnaire, 104. As a result of the pilot and subsequent modification of SATSS and TATSS, the final survey was completed in 30 to 45 minutes with exceptionally high response rates and acceptable alpha co-efficients for most constructs being measured The methods used to fine tune the instruments included careful observation of a small group of students as they attempted to complete a questionnaire, followed up by a discussion about specific items, wording, sequence, time and ease of answering. The research data revealed surprising differences between student and teacher perceptions of the learning environment, a significant decline in attitude toward social studies, a liking for school and didactic teaching methods. There is a need for teachers to obtain feedback about the classroom learning environment from their students and to modify their teaching learning practices accordingly.

Session C.3

Using First Steps - the reality of the classroom

Janet Hunter
Edith Cowan University

The First Steps Project in literacy was developed by the Education Department of Western Australia and has resulted in state-wide professional development for teachers, and the subsequent marketing of the teaching, planning and assessment resources interstate and overseas. The purpose of this study was to present an insight into the various ways that teachers use First Steps in their classrooms and to discover where different teachers stand within the theoretical framework of language learning, and what orientation and experiences lead them to the planning, teaching and evaluation choices they make.

The study examined the literacy teaching practices of teachers in four classrooms in different Perth metropolitan schools. The teachers reflected a diversity of professional development experiences related to First Steps. A case-study was constructed for each classroom and a cross-case analysis was performed to identify patterns of shared or conflicting understandings and the ways in which these understandings influenced language learning events.

All the teachers in the study used a variety of First Steps teaching strategies, and all teachers, to varying extents, used the First Steps developmental continua. While all teachers made planning decisions on the basis of the assessment of their students' progress, this process most often happened in teachers' heads, rather than being recorded in any documents. Teachers who demonstrated a deep understanding of First Steps theoretical principles appeared to have internalised the First Steps developmental indicators as part of their tacit monitoring system. Other teachers seemed to h ave their own sets of indicators, which they translated to "First Steps language" when the time came to record students' progress on the developmental continua.

The study demonstrates that, while all case-study teachers used a variety of First Steps practices in their classrooms, both for teaching and assessing students' learning, the extent to which teachers used and adapted First Steps materials was influenced not only by their professional development experiences, but also by their own life-histories and the context of their teaching situations, and the ways in which these factors impacted on their understandings about the nature of literacy development.

Session C.4

Comparing content-centred and learner-centred approaches in school mathematics

Jennie Bickmore-Brand
Faculty of Education
Curtin University of Technology

Abstract: This paper looks at the results of a study which investigated teachers with different emphasis in their methodology. One teacher was trained in a science/ mathematics tradition and believed that preparation for higher mathematical studies was a priority which encouraged her to have a content-centred approach. The other teacher was trained in a humanistic/language arts tradition and believed that mathematics should be relevant to the students' lives and her approach was learner-centred. The advantages and disadvantages of these methodologies have been explored through test results, the voices of the teachers and their students.

Background: Jennie Bickmore-Brand, Director of the Adult Literacy Research Network Node for Language Australia: National Languages and Literacy Institute of Australia, researcher in tertiary literacy demands across faculties, lecturer and consultant in literacy and numeracy, has undertaken an extensive interpretive search to identify common principles of learning across many disciplines: language arts, mathematics education, education, socio-psycholinguistics, language and learning, metacognition, literacy learning, educational psychology, adult learning and early childhood learning. She developed seven principles of teaching and learning which are currently being adopted across Western Australian secondary schools. The Bickmore-Brand Principles of Teaching and Learning are recognisable to most teachers because they are embedded in good teaching practice.

Session C.5

The development of multimedia software design guidelines for use with Aboriginal students

Matthew Platt and Tony Fetherston
School of Multimedia and Learning Technologies
Edith Cowan University

The purpose of this paper is to present a methodology for determining a set of guidelines for a Science Interactive Multimedia software package for Year 9 Aboriginal students, which takes into account preferred Aboriginal learning styles. The learning needs of Aboriginal students, the features such a software package should possess, and existing guidelines will all be considered in the production of the guidelines. Relevant literature sources, a critical review of existing Aboriginal software; and consultation with Aboriginal community members will also all be involved. This paper will present relevant aspects from these sources.

Session C.6

A study of religious education teachers' personal constructs of revelation

Richard Patrick Branson
University of Notre Dame Australia

With almost twenty years experience as a religious education coordinator in a Catholic school and some time spent as a consultant with the Catholic Education Office in Perth, this researcher is concerned about the differences between what religious education teachers in Catholic secondary schools know and what they need to know. Religious education teachers in Catholic schools are expected to teach what is revealed. Revelation is understood to be God's self-communication recorded in Scripture and tradition and transmitted by the Church's Magisterium.

Working from the assumption that personal knowledge is constructed, evidence is sought for the existence of personal constructs of revelation and the influence of these constructs on the teaching of religious education. A qualitative research approach known as phenomenography is used in the study. In the context of this study, phenomenography provides a way of identifying the qualitatively different ways in which religious education teachers experience or think about the content of their faith. Data is gathered from personal journals written by religious education teachers for the purpose of the study, interviews with the teachers and some of their students, and classroom observations. Documents are generated from all the data sources and categories of description are sought through a process of grouping and re-grouping statements from the data sources. The categories are stated as bi-polar dimensions, such as presence vs. absence, each dimension being considered to be a construct subordinated to each teacher's personal construct of revelation. Some bi-polar dimensions are identified as common to the respondents in the study while other dimensions appear to be particular to each respondent.

Differences in personal constructs of revelation are found to reside principally in the content of subordinate constructs. Some differences are identified between personal constructs of revelation and what the Catholic Church teaches about revelation. The findings support conclusions in other studies about the influence of significant others in the faith development of individuals.

Session D.1

The nature and processes of transformative learning: Research with adult teachers and learners

John Carrigg EdD [UNE]
College of Education
University of Notre Dame, Australia

On the basis of research into the learning experiences of women in re-entry programs offered by community colleges and universities in the United States during the 1970s, and using certain theoretical constructs derived from the work of Freire (1971, 1972) and Habermas (1971, 1973), Jack Mezirow developed an approach to the learning of adults which he at first called perspective transformation (1978, 1981) and more recently transformative learning (1985, 1990, 1996). Mezirow's definition of this type of learning was that it involved the process of learners becoming critically aware of how and why the structure of certain of their psycho-cultural assumptions can come to constrain the way they see themselves and their relationships, and reconstituting such 'meaning perspectives' to permit a more critically reflective and discriminating integration (Mezirow 1981).

The research of Collard and Law (1989), Hart (1990), Tennant (1990) and Newman (1993) indicated that there are aspects of transformative learning which are problematic. The development of the concept of transformative learning by Mezirow and others since 1981 has been based largely upon theoretical explication rather than upon empirical research. The research project described explored the nature, processes, strategies for facilitation and implications for practice of transformative learning through an empirical study of the actual experiences of teachers and learners.

A research design was developed involving interviews with persons (practitioners) who have been significant contributors to the literature of transformative learning and who are professionally involved as facilitators of adult learning programs. The group included Mezirow himself. The learners (participants) were selected from adults attending a program Facilitating Adult Learning, conducted over six days by one of the practitioners. The researcher himself took part in the program as a participant-observer. The interview transcripts were analysed using a program designed to handle interviews (QSR NUD*IST).

The findings of the research indicated support for the concept of transformative learning and endorsed its emancipatory and liberating potential. Emotional and imaginative as well as cognitive learning processes emerged as significant. As a result of the resea rch Mezirow's continued use of the term 'meaning schemes' was questioned on the basis of both precision of meaning and consistency of application. The research raised questions about the extension of the concept of transformative learning by Mezirow in 1985 to cover instrumental and communicative learning. Certain processes and strategies of facilitation and a number of ethical considerations were identified as appropriate in reference to facilitating transformative learning.

Session D.2

Discoverland: Exploring young children's interactions with science exhibits

Wendy Speering, Scitech Discovery Centre
Leonie J. Rennie and Terence P. McClafferty
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology

This paper describes a generic approach to researching young children's interactions and understandings of exhibits at science centres and science museums, and whether exhibits achieve their intended science-related outcomes. Previous studies in science centres/museums have researched audience, visitor engagement (time), gender preferences and general behaviour of social groups, and have neglected to research young children's interaction with the exhibit and understanding of the exhibit's intended message. A model was developed using field-tested instruments to collect observational data of children's use and understanding of selected exhibits in Discoverland, a purposive exhibition for children 3-7 years at Scitech Discovery Centre. Centre staff were trained in data collection and analysis. They were able to document children's interactions as well as identify exhibits requiring remedial modification . A cost-effective model for researching the learning of young children has been developed and the findings provide insights into children's pattern of use of different exhibits.

Session D.3

Autonomy with young children

Lesley Payne
School of Education
Murdoch University

This paper reports on a research project undertaken to examine the phenomenon of autonomy within a Montessori classroom setting. The aim was to investigate the relationships between teacher practices and the development of autonomous behaviour and attitudes for a particular group of students. It was also anticipated it may provide some insight into why some students are seen to behave more autonomously than others. The perspective taken, and the meaning assigned to the term autonomy within this paper, is as an act of will demonstrated by action fully endorsed or consented to by the self.

The study is qualitative in design. The main concern is with description, reflection and interpretation of a few cases, rather than with measurement and control of many. As an in depth study, it is a descriptive account of people's behaviour and understandings in naturally occurring, on-going settings. The study focused on a classroom of forty eight six to nine year old students in a Perth Montessori school. The methods chosen for undertaking the research were those of questionnaire, observation, and interview. Data collected were analysed for factors promoting or hindering autonomy development and for any variations of perceptions as to the amount of choice and control available for the students.

The overall classroom responses to the questionnaire items indicated a high autonomy orientation from both teachers and students, and the observations revealed a classroom that had many factors promoting autonomous behaviour. There was a strong supporting framework and opportunities to undertake autonomous behaviour. However, there were distinct differences between Low and High Autonomy students in the responses they gave in their interviews, in their observed behaviour and from the teacher reports on them.

The major implications that can be drawn from this research is for teachers in their practice and view of their classrooms. The findings indicate that teachers need to examine their teaching strategies for their effects on students' and the student's possible misinterpretations of teacher behaviour and motivation; and that there is a need to understand that the perceived level of autonomy in the environment may vary for different students; and that the frameworks put in place by teachers for autonomy may need to be adapted frequently in order to meet the changing requirements and development of students.

Hypotheses have been made around these differences being due to: the students' own world views and interpretations of the dynamics of their classroom, the adequacy of the person-environment fit for autonomy development and the possibility that for these students it is the subtle nature of some factors or the fact that these factors are not made explicit by teachers, that is important. The import for teachers and teaching strategies is discussed.

Session D.4

A 'quality' policy trajectory: From global homogenisation to localised differentiation

Lesley Vidovich
School of Education
Murdoch University

'Quality' has emerged as a global theme of education policy in the drive for microeconomic reform over the last decade. This study examines the way in which policy makers in Australian higher education reconstructed notions of quality employed in other countries to develop a particular Australian program, which operated between 1993 and 1995. The study then analyses the continuing recontextualisation of the quality policy from the ministerial level, through the Higher Education Council, and the Committee for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (CQAHE) to the site of intended policy effect - individual universities.

Stephen Ball's (1994) notion of a policy trajectory study is employed as a theoretical framework. Drawing on postmodern perspectives, he emphasises the messy realities of the policy process, including resistance, negotiation and transformation from the 'macro' context of policy production to the 'micro' context of policy practice. Policy effects are thus variable, and even contradictory, across different local sites. Interviews were conducted with CQAHE members and with senior academics/administrators in 6 universities over two states (NSW and WA) during 1995/96. This paper presents the interview findings in a manner which reveals much of the 'messiness' of the quality policy process.

Session D.5

Multimedia and art education: Chalk and cheese, or bread and butter?

Cassandra Zervos and Tony Fetherston
School of Multimedia and Learning Technologies
Edith Cowan University

Multimedia technology has the potential to empower children in learning. However, unless multimedia learning packages are carefully designed and implemented, children may find the whole experience mis-educative rather than educative (Dewey, 1963). Therefore, certain conditions need to be satisfied for this potential to be realised.

This paper will investigate one way of reducing the chances of mis-educative programming with the application of Cross-Link Learning (Zervos, 1997). This consists of combining multimedia with a school subject (such as art education), multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1983), multi-sensory experiences, and creativity.

Cross-Link Learning will be demonstrated through a product produced by Voyager called The Louvre: Museums of the World for Kids. This will reveal what components of Cross-Link Learning are present and a determination made as to whether art education and multimedia work together as 'chalk and cheese' or 'bread and butter'.

Session D.6

'Inefficient Citizens': Ideologies and policies regarding children with intellectual disability in Western Australia 1907-1950

Rosemary Kerr
Faculty of Education
Curtin University of Technology

This presentation focuses on the ideologies and policies that influenced government and voluntary sector services directed towards children with intellectual disability in Western Australia. It discusses the argument that during the first half of this century the family and education were considered th e two best institutions for training for `good', efficient citizenship. Western Australian child welfare policy and legislation during the period reinforced the place of these two institutions. This is illustrated by the extensive use, where possible, of family based care and protection measures for children and a heavy emphasis on school attendance. Much of the rhetoric of the period is part of the movement for national efficiency and racial purity, steeped in Eugenics during its early stages. It was widely believed that education for citizenship would instil in the children of the state a national pride and sense of duty that would make the state prosperous. It is important to point out that during period under study the concept of an efficient, full citizen was recognised as an adult, male industrial worker who provided for his dependents ( i.e., wife and children).

Intellectually disabled children, however, were not viewed as potential full citizens because of their perceived state of lifetime dependence. Boys who were considered educable were taught manual skills, such as basket weaving, within the confines of a Salvation Army institution. Because of this potential for, at least, partial self-sufficiency these boys were considered potential partial citizens. Ineducable boys were reduced to the status of girls. An institution for intellectually disabled girls was never set up during the period under study, although numerous women's organisations campaigned vigorously for this service . Their campaign used the rhetoric of citizenship but it was in terms of the right to demand care and protection, not self determination. Intellectually disabled girls were viewed as a moral menace to society which required enforced separation from the community lest they should further contribute to the population of inefficient citizens. For both boys and girls segregation from family and community were viewed as essential in their management. Punitive attitudes towards the families of disabled children remained the norm with appropriate education and care services virtually non- existent from the government and voluntary sectors.

In 1929 the Mental Deficiency Bill in Western Australia was defeated. It had aimed to provide for compulsory registration, surveillance and control of all intellectually disabled people. The bill's failure to become law had far reaching consequences for intellectually disabled people. The government refused to establish specific services for intellectually disabled children and adults because it argued that without full control over these people the state could not afford to establish a comprehensive service without guarantees that it would it be utilised. By the 1940s Western Australia was the only state in Australia with no organised system and policies concerning intellectually disabled children. Families were forced to struggle alone or institutionalise their disabled children in the Claremont Mental Asylum or at one of the orphanages that took limited numbers of these children.

Session E.1

WAIT to Curtin University: A change in policy direction

Julie Tyers
Graduate School of Education
University of Western Australia

The problem presented in this research is Which of the three major paradigms presented by Ball (1994) best explains the strategic decision making during the transition of WAIT to Curtin University.

I conclude that strategic decision makers are boundedly rational, that power wins battles of choice and chance matters. I also propose a new research agenda for future research which centres on a few, key research areas and opens up research to new paradigms.

This study concerns the strategic decision-making and policy formulation encountered in the transition of WAIT to Curtin University. The study derives its fundamental concepts from literature on the sociological analysis of complex organisations and bureaucracies and political science studies of decision-making.

Three epistemologies (Ball 1994) are interwoven as interpretative resources in the study as an exercise in sociology:

  1. Critical policy analyse
  2. Post-structuralism
  3. Ethnography
The transition of WAIT to Curtin University is controversial and has not been answered by previous researchers. The study will prove fruitful for potential applications of the research's findings to the sociological analysis of complex organisations and bureaucracies and to political science studies of decision making.

Session E.2

Student knowledge construction and learning journal writing

Scott Zehnder, Sorrento Primary School
Leonard King, Edith Cowan University
Kevin Barry, Edith Cowan University

In the light of current research, learning can no longer be viewed in terms of response strengthening, information processing or knowledge construction. These approaches appear simplistic and narrow in their conception because they do not examine or describe learning in its full complexity and context. Several new theories have appeared which reveal a classroom spectrum which is far more "complex, multi-layered, and context dependent than was previously imagined by teachers and educational researchers (Nuthall, 1996, p.209). Some authors have suggested that the emergence of a fourth metaphor of educational psychology may be imminent (Nuthall, 1996; Vosniadou, 1996).

The research reported in this paper sought to take account of the complexity of learning in the classroom and stemmed directly from a teacher,s classroom observation of student work during the writing of a "learning journal. The study investigated the extent to which the quality and quantity of content recalled by the students varied over time, examined the relative merits of three methods of reviewing student knowledge, examined the effects of time and context on the permanence and stability of student learning and tested the merit of student learning journals as a data source for the study of student learning.

All students recalled more in their learning journal two days after a factory visit, suggesting they required time to assimilate or process the information gained. The teacher review group produced the highest quantity of recall but did poorest on the recall of significant content, indicating that the teacher's influence and student mediations impeded student recall of intended content. Qualitative analysis revealed the highly individual, dynamic and idiosyncratic nature of the students, learning (Nuthall and Alton-Lee,1993). Interview data indicated that students were more likely to recall information and experiences that were related to their previous experience, a finding which confirms the role of prior knowledge as a powerful variable in student mediations (Chan, Burtis, Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1992; King, 1994).

The learning journal entries proved a rich data source for this study and when combined with interviews, have the potential to provide insights into the individual nature of learning and the ways in which students mediate between teacher cognitive intent and actual learning outcomes. Research of this kind may assist in tracking student learning over time and context in order to better inform practice and contribute to the continuing development of learning theory.


Chan, K.K., Burtis, P.J., Scardamalia, M. & Bereiter, C. (1992). Constructive activity in learning from text. American Educational Research Journal, 29(1), 97-118.

King, A. (1994). Guiding knowledge construction in the classroom: Effects of teaching children how to question and how to explain. American Educational Research Journal, 31(2), 338-368.

Nuthall, G. (1996). Commentary: Of learning and language and understanding the complexity of the classroom. Educational Psychologist, 31(3/4), 207-214.

Nuthall, G, & Alton-Lee, A. (1993). Predicting learning from student experience of teaching : A theory of student knowledge construction in the classroom. American Educational Research Journal, 30(4), 799-840.

Vosniadou, S. ( 1996). Towards a revised cognitive psychology for new advances in learning and instruction. Learning and Instruction, 6(2), 95-109.

Session E.3

A glimpse at the perceptions of teachers and students on the personal relevance of school science and the incidence of student negotiation in Zimbabwe secondary schools

Nduduzo Phuthi
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology

The potential impact of constructivist approaches on science teaching and learning in a variety of classroom situations, and for students of culturally diverse backgrounds, has been highlighted vividly in contemporary literature(Cobern, 1996; Aikenhead, 1995, 1997; Jegede, 1996; Waldrip and Taylor, 1995, etc.). Zimbabwe, largely a non-western culture, has, for the past ten years or so, proposed to pursue the goal of improving the quality of education in its schools in general, and science teaching in particular. Directly or indirectly, this has posed a challenge on the effectiveness of the teacher education institutions in the country. This study, conducted recently, takes us into the classrooms of four teachers in the urban schools of Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe. Through questionnaires, classroom observations and interviews with the teachers and their students, some information is obtained which gives an indication of their knowledge and practice of constructivism in their teaching. In particular, the importance of learning a science that is personally relevant to the students' needs and aspirations, and the opportunity to engage in active discussions on their learning is addressed. It is suggested that such knowledge and practice derives considerably from whatever preservice or inservice teacher education these teachers have received, as it does on their motivation and initiative. It becomes clear from the study that the teacher education system in Zimbabwe needs to be sensitive to the characteristics of the average student to whom science is an alien culture or subculture.

Session E.4

Reading acquisition using phonemic strategies for students experiencing difficulties with learning: A case study

Jacky Lovegrove and Heather Jenkins
Faculty of Education
Curtin University of Technology

Phonemic awareness, or the ability to recognise spoken words as a sequence of individual sounds is thought to have a positive correlation with early reading success. This case study was developed to investigate incorporating phonemic awareness strategies into programs of reading acquisition for students experiencing difficulties with learning.

The study targeted two eleven year old girls who were classified as non readers at the beginning of the year of the study (1996). The two students were observed as members of two separate groups, one using the THRASS program (Teaching Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills) which is based on phonemic awareness strategies and the other DI (Direct Instruction).

These were administered over an eight week period to determine the nature and extent of differences arising between the programs, including transfer into other work areas. The comparative data was generated from a participant observer's activities, including observational notes and reflections kept in a teacher diary, together with gains measured via a series of pre and post tests administered to each student.

Results indicated that the student on the phoneme-grapheme based program THRASS appeared to make more significant gains than her matched partner receiving Direct Instruction, even in the short time period of this study. The THRASS program was observed to increase accessibility to everyday reading material, provide an easy modeling tool for adult assistance in spelling and reading and provide a more consistent basis on which to make judgments or choices of graphemes-phonemes without having to learn a variety of rules or sayings.

The study findings provide strong evidence to suggest further investigation into THRASS and other phonemic awareness based programs.

Session E.5

Changing paradigms in computer-based education: The potential of the WWW to influence higher education teaching and learning

Ron Oliver
School of Multimedia and Learning Technologies
Edith Cowan University

Teachers have been experimenting and applying computer-based learning (CBL) for over 3 decades. Until now CBL has mostly been has been as an expensive alternative to conventional education and an approach for innovators and technologists rather than mainstream teachers. Many teachers who have embraced CBL have done so with computer-based teaching programs of a tutorial and instructional nature. The advent of the WWW has provided alternatives to the conventional role of the computer in learning environments and seems set to bring about major changes to the ways computers are being used as instructional devices. In this talk Ron will describe how the WWW is influencing the design of contemporary computer-based learning materials and will demonstrate and discuss some of the research currently being undertaken at ECU in this field.

Session E.6

Examining science classroom environments in a cross-national study

Jill M. Aldridge and Barry J. Fraser
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology

This study combined qualitative and quantitative research methods in examining the learning environments of science classrooms in Taiwan and Australia. To provide a parsimonious view of the learning environments in each country, the Learning Environment Survey (LES) was administered to 50 lower secondary school science classroom in each of Taiwan and Australia to provide students, perceptions of seven dimensions. Those dimensions on which larger differences between Taiwan and Australia occurred were examined more closely using observations of classrooms and interviews with students. The findings contributed towards explaining the differences in students perceptions. In addition, the results provided valuable insights into precautions that should be taken when interpreting questionnaire results across cultures.

Session F.1

Self-perceived performance of academics: Effect of internal services

Peter Sanders
Edith Cowan University

Research into the importance of staff in boundary spanning roles that clients/customers interact with has significantly increased in service firms in recent years. Academics are professionals in teaching and research. Their activities in dealing with students directly places them in the front stage of contact. They are the contact staff that meet the students both in the lecture halls and also as advisers and academic counsellors. This paper is an exploratory look at academics in their front-stage contact with students. Academics are supported by a range of internal services. These services can be predicted to either directly or indirectly affect the performance of academics in their teaching and research activities. The purpose of this research paper is to investigate the impact that the perceived quality of these internal services has on the perceived self-assessed quality of teaching and research activities of academics. One would a priori predict that the perceived quality of internal services would affect the teaching/research performance of academics. An exploratory survey was conducted identifying the of some academics in two faculties of a local university on the quality and importance of the various internal services that were provided to assist them in undertaking their duties. An open-ended questionnaire was used to gather data. The preliminary results indicate a hygiene-motivation attitude.

Session F.2

Performance management: Problem solved or created?

Philip Paioff
John Forrest SHS

I have recently returned (last week) from Canada and Britain as a part of my Churchill Fellowship. I intend to report on the key issues and findings of my investigation into Performance Management. The topic is also the basis of my doctoral research (UWA).

Background  Public institutions face calls for greater accountability. Schools have met these demands by redefining (corporatising) their operational structures to demonstrate the quality of education delivered in relation to the resources used. Teacher salaries constitute a major expenditure item in the education budget; hence, the links between teacher competence and student learning has led to the push for performance management in line the broader quality assurance/accountability agenda.

Definition/Purpose  Attempts to define performance management are contingent upon the purpose of the intended policy. Policies that focus on the 'improve' dimension of teaching seek to enhance student outcomes and promote professionalism among educators. Policies that focus on the 'prove' dimension are more concerned with teacher competence and accountability. Unless the purpose is clearly articulated from the outset, the validity of the process may be compromised.

Australian Perspective  PM has been embraced by most States and Territories in Australia with only Tasmania and Queensland resisting commitment to the process.

Canada  Teacher evaluation has been in place for several decades and is firmly (culturally) entrenched in Canada's education system. The process has been streamlined or minimised for the sake of efficiency as well as to meet local school board concerns for accountability.

England  Education (School Teacher Appraisal) Regulations were enacted in 1991. Schools are in their second or third cycles of operation; however, momentum has waned due to the labour intensiveness of the process and an overcrowded educational agenda.

Scotland  Staff Development and Appraisal in Scotland was initiated in the late 1980s and implementation has occurred gradually since 1992. The voluntary status of SDA has meant that a low proportion of schools have taken the policy on board despite a professional development program that has absorbed in excess of thirty million pounds to date.

Lessons for Australia  WA, SA, NSW, NT, ACT and Vic have gone beyond the initiation phase of managing the PM innovation. Successful implementation will require ongoing training, provision of tied resources, and strategic consideration of the pressing innovations and issues in the respective education systems.

Session F.3

The role of education in a prison environment in reducing the high rate of recidivism amongst 17 to 25 year old male prisoners

Roger Blackett
Education Officer
University of Western Australia

The purpose of this study is to consider the effects of prison education and training programmes on the high risk, recidivist aged prisoners in Perth metropolitan prisons. The research will examine the impact of academic and vocational achievement as a catalyst for change in deviant behaviour. Initial data analysis suggests that prisoners with low self esteem who participate in short term vocational and general education programmes may continue to build on their achievements progressing to higher levels of cognitive development as incremental stages of learning are reached. The study is based on the Piagetian theory of cognitive development which emphasises the importance of a person reaching operational mode to be able to function effectively in the community. It is the strong view of the researcher that a high proportion of offenders have not reached a functional level of social integration and premature release from prison may result in their reoffending.

Education centres within corrective service institutions in Perth need to know if their programmes are fulfilling the purpose of equipping offenders for successful integration into the community. Currently there are no formal education requirements for the release of prisoners based on their ability to function to set educational levels of preparedness skills. The method used in the research includes both quantitative and qualitative studies. The quantitative research will be in the form of a longitudinal study over a period of twelve months. Students will be monitored for nine months within the Prison Education Centre and three months post release in the community. The qualitative study will involve a grounded theory study of data obtained from interviews with prisoners enrolled in education courses. Theory will be generated from the integration of core categories.

This study has considerable relevance for prison based educators, administrators, offenders and community leaders concerned with the formation of community values and marketable skills by prisoners who are preparing to return to the community.

Session F.4

Taking a stand against the notion of 'acceptable losses': An education program servicing alienated students

Cecilia Netolicky
Edith Cowan University and The VIP Program

The VIP Program offers educational service to year 10 students classified "category 3 alienated" (unable to be serviced with education in mainstream). The Program does not exclude young people from the classroom because of their behaviours. Crises and disruptions are dealt with as an integral part of literacy, numeracy and general curriculum. The emphasis is on developing skills to access legitimate success in the adult world, acceptance of responsibility for one's actions and learning to manage one's unacceptable behaviours.

These strategies are currently being developed as Strike Four! an educational paradigm for troublesome behaviour students. Other programs employing this paradigm have achieved 100% attendance and 100% successful placement of students. Many of these young people achieved employment on work experience, a type of external examination of their modified behaviours. In 1995 and 1996 students were still in their placements three months down the track. A similar program in 1997 has achieved similar attendance 100% and all students have been placed in work, apprenticeships, traineeships and TAFE.

The 15 young people on the VIP Program are attending regularly and inappropriate behaviours have decreased significantly. Many of these young people failed to attend school for up to two years yet they are attending on a daily basis, many of these "chronic truants" arrive 45 minutes early in the morning and have to be asked to leave half an hour after schools finishes. Siblings, friends and parents with criminal records or poor educational backgrounds have requested assistance and have been moved on to appropriate opportunities through the program.

The VIP Program operates on the notion that every young person deserves an opportunity to access legitimate success, there are no "acceptable loses". Many of these young people view school as a hostile environment. Appropriate inviting opportunities need to be made available for many more of these young people. Successful programs need to be studied as many have short-lived funding. This is the least expensive point of service. If these young people can be redirected toward accessing legitimate socially endorsed paths to success they can become contributing, rather than draining members of the community.

Session F.5

Reading multimedia - a literary theory approach to the educational use of interactive multimedia

Mark McMahon and Tony Fetherston
School of Multimedia and Learning Technologies
Edith Cowan University

Special requirements - Data Panel with OHP or computer projector capable of connecting with an Apple Macintosh and suitable for displaying Interactive Multimedia.

The study of literature has been subject to a process of revision and re-evaluation of recent years which has carried through to the teaching of historical and literary texts in schools and colleges. The traditional approach to "Literature as canonical - a collection of divinely inspired works of poetry, drama and prose , which embody some form of universal truth, is giving way to a more flexible interpretation of the work to include a range of cultural practices. Contemporary Literary Theory can be regarded as a menagerie of philosophies that embrace Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Structuralism and Feminism to name a few. Implicit in all these approaches, though, is the notion of literature as a socially and psychologically constructed artefact, and that literary meaning, is not absolute or necessarily inherent in the text, but generated by the reader, author, and social context of the work.

At a high school level, the traditional notion of literature is a human pursuit, requiring techniques of Practical Criticism and close reading of works by canonical authors is now broadening to acknowledge the wider concepts of literature as cultural discourse that include non-traditional media such as television documentaries and advertising. The rise in the study of Media and inclusion of Film into English courses is the manifestation of this. Students have become used to deconstructing film and print advertising to explore the values that are inherent in such works, yet Interactive Multimedia (IMM) is rarely seen in the same light. Interactive CD-ROMs are a new medium for which accepted modes of analysis have yet to be established, and as CD-ROMs become more common in schools and in the home, students need to be equipped with the skills to recognise the dominant readings of a multimedia text and effectively analyse it in terms of its inherent values.

As an example of the application of literary theory to IMM this paper will include a reading, of the multimedia CD-ROM From Alice to Ocean using a broad Critical Theory approach. An adaptation of a coffee table book, the text follows a traditional narrative structure framed around an exploration of the outback by camel. Author/protagonist Robyn Davidson,s commentary will be examined in the light of the colonial Australian assumptions which inform her representations of landscape, gender, and ethnicity.

Session F.6

Collaborative learning: Group dynamics and group assessment in undergraduate education

Sarah Veitch
School of Education
Murdoch University

This presentation is about a research project conducted in 1996 by a third year Education student in the unit Education Studies, and which investigated the relationship between assessment and group dynamics in one undergraduate unit. The ideas presented in an article by Noreen Webb (1993) were particularly illuminating and influential in this focus.

Ten students were interviewed about their experiences of group work. Although the results are not representative, both the literature and the research provide some interesting issues concerning the effects of the assessment procedure upon the quality and types of group interaction and upon the degree to which the aims for the inclusion of group work are achieved.

The rationale for the inclusion of group work in tertiary learning is usually based upon particular practical and/or theoretical aims concerning learning and knowledge. These include such aims as deeper and more active learning, being intellectually challenged by a variety of perspectives and sources of information, greater student responsibility in learning and the learning of group work skills in preparation for the workforce.

The assessment of group work often uses the assessment of the group's product as each group member's individual assessment. This practice raises three important questions. Firstly, is this an accurate and fair reflection of individual achievement; secondly, how does this assessment focus influence the attainment of the aims of group work; and thirdly, what assessment procedures are appropriate to group work?

Methodology: Ten students were interviewed about their experiences in a unit available to second and third year students. Using a list of students who completed the unit, a process of availability when telephoned to request an interview was employed in order to generate examples of some of the experiences students encountered. The students interviewed were a mix of both male and female, part-time and full-time students of various ages and from a variety of programmes.

The presentation: The presentation will focus on information from the interviews to provide examples of the group dynamics experienced and the issues of the different degrees of contribution and of control in the groups. The presentation will also provide information concerning the most pertinent references found that describe the effects of assessment on group interaction and that describe alternative assessment procedures.

Reference : Webb, N. (1993) Group collaboration in assessment: competing objectives, processes, and outcomes. Project 2.1: Designs for assessing individual and group problem solving, effects of group characteristics on groups and individual performance. Los Angeles : National Centre for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing.

Session G.1

Purposeful mathematical inquiry activities with Aboriginal students

Theresia Tirta Seputro
National Key Centre for School Science and Mathematics
Curtin University of Technology

These upper secondary mathematics inquiry activities with Aboriginal students provide insights into the ways these activities enhanced the mathematical understanding and investigative skills of the group.

Session G.2

Cinderella observed: Two case studies of community learning centres

Tony Fowler
Faculty of Education
Curtin University of Technology

Early in 1991, eight individuals clustered around a twin-engined aircraft parked on the edge of a small dirt airstrip in the middle of a million acres of wheat. The place was Merredin, in Western Australia; the individuals were members of a Senate task force charged with investigating adult and community education (ACE) within Australia.

The result of their labours was 'Come in Cinderella' (Senate Standing Committee Report, 1991). The report acknowledged the important role played by community Learning Centres, lamented the lack of research carried out in the ACE sector and defined the educational perspectives of the adult educators involved in that sector.

This presentation deals with my attempt to give form to the spectral figure of the Senate Committee's Cinderella by attempting to describe 'what goes on' in the classrooms of two Community Learning Centres within the Perth metropolitan area. Adopting an interpretive ethnographic approach I relied heavily on participant observation of 65 two-hour classes, attending patchwork at Parkside centre and calligraphy at Riverview. In the later stages of the research, 'key informants' were selected and interviewed at each centre.

During the course of the research I had difficulty coming to grips with ethnography and ethics. Since I am convinced this problem confronts many researchers, both topics will be discussed, together with the research findings and suggestions for further research in the area of Adult and Community Education.

Session G.3

Child welfare ideology: A changing philosophy or creative recycling of theory?

Judith Hill
Faculty of Education
Curtin University of Technology

Western Australian child protection legislation established state control over institutional provision for destitute children and juvenile offenders. The period 1888 to 1914 saw a succession of social legislation addressing welfare, education and training of institutionalised children. Prior to this period, government had made ad hock attempts to provide some welfare relief, but it was not until the 1870's that the state undertook greater supervision of orphanages and industrial schools. Thereafter, the progression of child welfare legislation, culminating in the passing of the 1907 State Children,s Act, established state authority over all child welfare provision in Western Australia.

This examination of child saving legislation considers the influence of a burgeoning un derclass in the developing state. Public and government action to curb its effect upon the community must be viewed in light of the prevailing ideologies of the era. The shifts in popular philosophy which in turn influenced government and public charities' intervention, must be analysed in light of state development. The desperate survival of the early years of the colony was exacerbated by the lack of established charities to address the needs of the poor. The impact of convict transportation, the effects of a rapidly increased population of the goldrush years, and state political development, all resulted in a re-positioning of public ideology and action in dealing with children of the poorer class.

Session G.4

The identification of principles for the development and implementation of technology education: A case study of Mauritius

Desire Mallet
Edith Cowan University

Technology is a creative process to solve problems. It enables people to exert control over the natural world, and it is observable in all cultures. This new way of thinking is bringing with it an evolving type of education which is being referred to as Technology Education. Technology Education is concerned with helping people construe their understanding and culture about technology. Technology Education is being implemented in many countries of the world through different approaches. This case study will identify a set of principles for the structure and implementation of the subject in the Republic of Mauritius. It will examine the organisation and development of the subject, and the views of the main stakeholders with regard to the relevance of the subject in Mauritius. The study will be based on a dynamic conceptual model in which beliefs, conceptions, points of views, and ideas are considered. These beliefs and ideas would form a basis which will present both a picture of the current reality and a vision of how the subject should evolve. The data will be collected through a literature review, audio recorded individual and group interviews, and video recorded technological school activities. The participants for the interviews will include teachers, lecturers, secondary school students, and representatives of different educational and professional bodies. Two software packages will be used to support the data analysis: NUD*IST and VideoCode. From the results of the analysis of the data, a set of principles will be derived. This set of principles will be validated using a modified version of a Delphi technique. The Delphi panel will consist of fifteen to thirty participants.

Session G.5

Improving science students' problem solving skills

Stephen R. Kessell
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology

Students lack of basic problem solving skills is a frequent complaint heard from teachers, lecturers and especially employers. During the past four years, I have attempted to improve problem-solving outcomes in Curtin,s School of Computing by presenting an intensive course on philosophy of science, the scientific method, induction/deduction/falsification, and the theories of measurement, classification, and time, to first year students; and changing assessment tasks (both assignments and the examination) to discourage shallow, and encourage deep, learning.

The performance of second and third year students, who had completed the new first year unit, was noticeably better than prior cohorts, especially in advanced modelling and simulation subjects, where systems design ñ abstraction skills are especially important. Changes to assessment included fewer but more complicated assignments, the use of group assignments (to encourage teamwork and division of labour), and the replacement of the standard two-hour final examination with a take-home exam (requiring about 20 hours to research and complete). Student performance improved significantly (the pass rate went from 75 to 100 percent) and student appraisals of the subjects also improved.

I am now introducing the use of material on the scientific method, and the evolution of scientific understanding, in short courses aimed at secondary and upper primary science and technology teachers.

Session G.6

Sex and cultural background: Are they a determinant of differences in teacher-student interactions among Australian secondary science and mathematics students?

Tony Rickards and Darrell Fisher
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology

The purpose of this study was to examine associations between science and mathematics students' perceptions of their interactions with their teachers, the cultural backgrounds of students and their sex. A sample of 3,589 students from 173 secondary school science classes in 35 schools completed a survey including the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI), and questions relating to cultural background. The sample was chosen carefully so as to be representative, though only coeducational classes were used in order to permit an unconfounded test of sex differences. Statistical analyses have confirmed the reliability and validity of the QTI for secondary school science students. Females were found to perceive their teachers in a more positive way than did males and students from an Asian background tended to perceive their teachers more positively than those from the other cultural groups identified in this study.

Session H.1

Continuum of preservice and novice science teachers' beliefs related to teaching ethics in science

Vaille Dawson and Peter Taylor
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology

Although science can be viewed by some as objective, analytical, rational and unaffected by personal morals and values, I believe that science is a social endeavour, and its application is inevitably influenced by our political, cultural, religious and ethical values. School students need to be equipped with appropriate decision making skills if they are to contribute (as adults) to public debate about the ethics of problematic issues such as population growth, food and health resource allocation, environmental degradation and control of information technology. Thus, science teachers whose subject impinges on many areas of ethical debate have an obligation to help students develop the abilities to recognise and evaluate ethical issues.

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether teachers' beliefs about the nature of science are related to their views about the importance of teaching ethics in science. For example if a teacher perceives that science is a search for truth and knowledge, does this mean that they would consider the teaching of ethics to be inappropriate? During 1996, 20 preservice and novice (less than one year of teaching experience) science teachers were interviewed regarding their beliefs about the nature of science and their perceived role in teaching ethics. A preliminary evaluation of the interviews has led to the development of a six-step continuum of beliefs related to the importance of teaching bioethics in science. The continuum provides a framework in which to categorise the beliefs of the novice and preservice science teachers who were interviewed. The framework arises not from an external theoretical perspective, but rather as grounded theory based on my initial reflections of the interview data. Each of the positions is outlined initially in a brief statement that encompasses a particular view of ethics and science. Each position is illustrated further through an example of a teacher who holds that view. The teacher's views of the nature of science are also described.

Session H.2

Private girls' schools in Western Australia between 1846 and 1945

Noreen Riordan
Graduate School of Education
University of Western Australia

Private girls' schools in Western Australia between 1946 and 1945 made a major contribution to the education of gir ls. They provided education when the government could or would not do so. when the government did begin to provide educational opportunities for girls, they offered choice in education. Moreover, they were at the forefront of educational changes that were needed to enable girls, and especially country girls, to be employed as skilled people outside the home.

There were two categories of private girls' schools, private venture and denominational. The over riding concern for all those involved in the establishment and operation of private girls, schools was finance. Because of this none of the proprietresses was free to do as they liked, be they private venture or denominational. It was determined: where and how many schools were established; for how long they operated; what subjects they taught; what, and how many, teachers were employed; the standard of teacher qualifications for which they could ask; what facilities and living conditions they could provide; and even how pupils were disciplined.

The education provided by private girls' schools in Western Australia, circa 1846, was similar to that of England and her other colonies, other Western European countries and North America: it was home-centred, and consisted, mainly, of the accomplishments,. By 1945, while it was still aimed at girls being in the home and nurturers in society, the educational base had been broadened to become secondary education, and included skills such as would fit them for home duties, employment, and academia.

Session H.3

Determining the strength of linguistic background in LOTE students

Bob Peck
Curriculum Council

For various reasons Year 12 results for LOTE (Languages other than English) subjects are scaled in Western Australia on the basis of the results of non-background candidates. Students with a significant background in the target language are omitted both from the scaling population and from the population of students eligible for the subject exhibition because they are thought to have achieved their results in a way different from those who do all their learning in an Australian classroom.

How are these background students identified? This session will explore the factors which contribute to the decision to categorise LOTE students as background candidates, and will conclude with an application of Thurstone's Law of Comparative Judgment to calibrate these factors.

Session H.4

Normalising the unknown .... Ways of constructing value, individuals and society: A perspective of change of the Western Australian post-compulsory secondary science education

Carolyn Montgomery and Lesley Parker
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology

The implementation of the Beazley and McGaw reports in 1985 marked a significant shift in the focus of upper school curriculum and assessment. Prior to this time, the upper secondary school curriculum in Western Australia fulfilled two major tasks " selection and preparation for higher education. McGaw called for a broadening of the focus to provide students flexible access to courses likely to be of value to them and for society. The upper secondary education was to be modified, in an attempt to give all who participate access to a relevant and valued curriculum.

Later, in the early 1990s, the reports of Finn, Mayer and Carmichael mark an adjustment of the focus by clarifying the education-economy link of post-compulsory secondary education. These reports promoted a broader range of educational outcomes based on vocation rather than general education. A new vocabulary was introduced. Terms such as outcomes, competencies, flexibility, vocational, pathways, TAFE/school/industry links became part of the post-compulsory secondary education policy and practices.

In this paper, I focus on how the discourses of post-compulsory secondary education have been shaped by these shifts in focus. To do this, I re-write Foucault's The Dangerous Individual, to provide an alternative perspective on the reforms that have occurred specifically within Western Australian post-compulsory secondary science education since 1985.

Session H.5

Ultra portable computing in a primary school: A five year case study between 1993 and 1997

Barney D Clarkson
Faculty of Engineering Science and Technology
Edith Cowan University

Scotch College, an independent school in Perth WA, trialed and then instituted a palmtop computer program for all students from Year 5 upwards. This session will describe the educational aims as well as feedback from students, staff and parents over the period. Examples of integration into the school program will be demonstrated; and finally will be an opportunity to see and discuss some of the latest palmtop computers available in 1997 and how they can be used in schools.

Please cite as: WAIER (1997). Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 1997 Abstracts. http://www.waier.org.au/forums/1997/forum97.html

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