Western Australian Institute for Educational Research

25th Annual Research Forum at Edith Cowan University

Forum 2010 Abstracts

Listed alphabetically by first author
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The effectiveness of orientation activities for first year Bachelor of Education combined course students at The University of Western Australia

Catherine Bapty
The University of Western Australia
Email: baptyc01@student.uwa.edu.au

First year university orientation is an important time in which students form initial understandings, attitudes and social networks which will shape their university career. This study consisted of individual interviews with five students from UWA's Bachelor of Education combined course. These students study education alongside another degree (their future teaching discipline), and are a significant group due to the growing trend towards undergraduate level courses which span multiple schools or faculties. A consistent picture of the functions of orientation; multiple views of the effects of interfaculty/school orientation; ideas regarding orientation as a concept; and multiple suggestions for future orientation models; emerge from the students' interviews. The students' perceptions of their general orientation experience, and of the effects of their combined course status, offer particular insights into the first year experience.
Keywords: first year, orientation, combined course

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Dare to differentiate: A strategy for gifted students

Jennifer Bejr, Rebecca Garfield and Janna Somers
Curtin University of Technology
Email: jennifer.bejr@student.curtin.edu.au, rebecca.garfield@student.curtin.edu.au, janna.somers@student.curtin.edu.au

During pre-service field experiences, it became apparent that gifted students often required further challenging educational tasks to address their unique learning needs and academic capabilities. It was observed that these students exhibited off-task behaviours, raising concerns that they were not meeting their full academic potential. This paper is the result of an Action Learning Research Project (ALRP) designed to engage and motivate gifted primary aged students in the English Learning Area Writing Strand, by developing and implementing a Tic-Tac-Toe (TTT) choice board strategy for differentiated instruction. Three students from a mainstream Year Five classroom were selected by their class teacher for participation in this project. Individual choice boards were developed according to the students' personal interests, to increase their engagement and motivation in the English Learning Area Writing Strand. Student interviews, surveys, and observational checklists were used to determine the study's effectiveness. Analysis of the results show that implementation of the TTT choice board within this study effectively motivated, engaged and extended gifted students within their mainstream classroom. The success and high impact of this ALRP has generated opportunities and interest in further development and research on a larger scale.
Keywords: Keywords: differentiation, gifted primary students, action research.

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Teacher resilience: A systematic review of recent literature

Susan Beltman (presenter)
Curtin University of Technology
Caroline Mansfield, Andrew McConney, Anne Price
Murdoch University
Lina Pelliccione
Curtin University of Technology
Email: S.Beltman@curtin.edu.au, Caroline.Mansfield@murdoch.edu.au, A.Mcconney@murdoch.edu.au, a.price@murdoch.edu.au, L.Pelliccione@curtin.edu.au

This paper presents a systematic review of literature related to teacher resilience. The review underpins a larger research project that aims to enhance the resilience of early career teachers by embedding evidence-based practice within the pre-service teacher education programs of two Australian universities. There is concern internationally with the high attrition rates of early career teachers. Numerous studies have examined factors such as workloads and behaviour management difficulties that contribute to teacher stress and burnout. More recently researchers have looked towards teacher resilience as a more positive way of addressing this problem. Definitions of resilience include the ability to "bounce back" after experiencing difficult events. A shift in thinking from attrition to resilience offers the potential for more effective interventions to occur. A search of databases such as ERIC and ProQuest revealed over 250 journal articles and conference papers linked to key words such as 'resilience' and 'burn out' published between 2000 and 2009. The selected papers will be analysed according to research methods used, key empirical findings, and issues raised. The paper will provide an overview of strengths and limitations of current research, suggest directions for future research, and derive implications and recommendations for pre-service teacher education programs.
Keywords: teaching, resilience, retention

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Maximising benefits of field trips and guest speakers in secondary science education: The teacher connection

Sophia Bickford (pres), Nancy Longnecker and Grady Venville
The University of Western Australia
Email: bickfs01@student.uwa.edu.au

From the outside, the interaction of teachers, students and presenters during a field trip or guest speaker activity may seem straightforward. In fact, effective delivery of an informal science experience requires collaboration among a diverse network of stakeholders. This talk presents a PhD proposal for mixed methods research on how relationships between teachers and informal science institutions shape the benefits of guest speaker and field trip programs serving secondary science classes. Case studies of a science centre outreach program and a national park-based field trip program will illuminate the degree of alignment in goals, expectations and actions among teachers and informal science staff and how that alignment shapes program outcomes. A state wide survey of secondary science teachers will be used to describe the current role of field trip and guest speaker programs in Western Australia, providing context for the case studies. The research is motivated by a desire to help schools and informal science institutions maximise the educational benefit of their collaboration. In addition to building upon the conceptual framework of alignment, data will be analysed from multiple theoretical perspectives to provide maximum insight for application to both theory and practice.
Keywords: informal education, secondary school, science

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Using interpretative phenomenological analysis in educational research

Richard Patrick (Pat) Branson
University of Notre Dame Australia
Email: branson.patrick@gmail.com

The purpose of my doctoral studies was to describe the role that the imagination plays in the religious conversion of adolescents who attend Catholic secondary schools. Data was collected from interviews and journals contributed by 15 Year 12 students attending Catholic secondary schools in the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to analyse students' accounts of their religious lives. The first step, which is common to all forms of data analysis in phenomenological research, was an iterative process: the transcripts of interviews and journals were read and re-read in order to gain an understanding of and appreciation for the richness of the experience of each participant's relationship with God. Second, through a process of categorising statements in the transcripts, themes were derived which were grouped or clustered into major themes that reflected the presence of statements identifying experiences of relating with God. Conclusions were drawn about religious conversion and about the role of the imagination in these experiences. James Fowler's theory of faith development, Lewis Rambo's theory of religious conversion and John Bowlby's attachment theory were used to guide the interpretation of major themes identified through the use of IPA.
Keywords: phenomenology, conversion, imagination

[Scheduling for this presentation]

The invisible-visible teacher: Perceptions about relief teachers and relief teaching in secondary schools

Laszlo Bubrik
Murdoch University
Email: bubrikl@yahoo.com.au

Relief teachers, their work and relief teaching are contentious issues in educational milieu. On one hand without relief teachers the continuity of teaching and learning in schools would be interrupted unfavorably. On the other hand, when relief teachers are at school they are seemingly perceived as not real teachers. What are the perceptions of stakeholders and relief teachers themselves about relief teachers, their work, and relief teaching in secondary schools?

Although various issues concerning relief teachers and relief teaching have been identified in the literature, stakeholders' and relief teachers' perceptions have not emerged as a coherent topic. In addition, there has been little attention paid to the relationship between relief teachers and stakeholders which influence perceptions about relief teaching in secondary schools. Filling this unexplored gap is the focus of this research. In order to achieve the purpose of this enquiry I will use mixed methods research strategies. I would like to claim greater validity of results by bringing together the benefits of both qualitative and quantitative approaches to research. I will use a qualitative dominant (QUAL+quan) mixed methods research design from the matrix defined by Johnson and Onwuegbuzie (2004). To this end an interpretative qualitative research method (Denzin, 2002) is considered with case study and autoethnography research designs. From quantitative research method side, by reaching a large number of relief teachers and stakeholders, I also consider using surveys in order to strengthen the validity, reliability and authenticity of the research.

The intended outcome from this study is to help support continuous teaching by relief teachers, through improved instructional delivery maintaining students' learning while their regular teacher is absent.
Keywords: relief teaching, continuity of teaching, perceptions

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Forging ties during transition: First year students and social support

Nichola Burton
The University of Western Australia
Email: burton01@student.uwa.edu.au

Support from and social interaction with fellow students can ease the stress of transition into higher education, but getting to know fellow students can itself be stressful for first year university students. By acting to aid the development of supportive relationships between students, universities can help to smooth the transition process. Samples of first year students from three faculties at The University of Western Australia completed an online survey designed to investigate factors that influenced students' ability to develop a network of supportive fellow students. Satisfaction with social support from within a student's course was found to be related to overall satisfaction with university life and course of study, including the ability to comprehend and cope with course work. Contact time with other students, class size, collaborative learning, and out-of-class activities and events were identified by students as key factors influencing their ability to get to know others in their course. Suggested changes to improve the development of social support in first year are also reported.
Keywords: social support, first year experience, post-compulsory

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What's the problem? Pausing to reassess the reasons for a national curriculum

Geraldine Ditchburn
Murdoch University
Email: g.ditchburn@murdoch.edu.au

Many changes in Australian education over the last five years have captured the national interest (national literacy and numeracy assessments, the MySchool website, national professional standards and evaluation, funding for school building programs). And yet, amid these other changes in education, it is curious that schools appear to have accepted the idea of a national curriculum with a certain degree of inevitability. So, why aren't we as a profession pausing to fully interrogate the reasons for, and the organisation of, the proposed Australian curriculum - and not just the details of content? Why are we largely accepting of the changes to state based curricula that are being imposed? What has happened to our voices?

The reasons for this apparent acceptance of national curriculum will be explored in this paper in terms of a critique of four overlapping agendas. The first agenda is the overt agenda provided by ACARA and Federal politicians who frame the reasons for a national curriculum in terms of pragmatics. The second agenda is about the impact of the 'globalisation and knowledge economy' agenda on education (Vidovic, 2004; Kenway, 2008) and how a 'neo-liberal' agenda positions this curriculum within a politically conservative context (Apple, 1979, 2006; Reid, 2005, 2009; McLaren, 1994); the third agenda is what I call the 'impetus agenda' where the introduction of a national curriculum has been overlaid by a sense of 'crisis' (Down, 2008) that is connected with a number of issues, including Australia's international ranking for PISA results; the fourth agenda is concerned with 'meaning making' in the implementation process (Fullan, 2001) where, I argue, there is the semblance, if not the substance, of participatory consultation and engagement with the implementation process.

Taken together I argue that these four agendas have provided a mantle of credibility around the introduction of the national curriculum. I conclude by proposing that the interplay of these four agendas, and the sense that a national curriculum might be defended on a range of levels, may go some way to explaining the overwhelmingly conciliatory responses by the teaching profession to the national curriculum.
Keywords: national curriculum, neo-liberalism

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Developing a measure of phonological awareness in pre-primary students: Extending the performance indicators in primary schools baseline assessment

Joanne Faulkner (presenter) and Irene Styles
The University of Western Australia
Email: joanne.faulkner@uwa.edu.au

The Performance Indicators in Primary Schools Baseline Assessment (PIPS-BLA) is administered by schools Australia wide in order to assess the foundational literacy and numeracy skills young children bring with them to school, and to track the progress of students over this important year. PIPS-BLA consists of two assessments. The first assessment is administered by teachers in the early weeks of pre-primary. The assessment is administered again at the end of the year allowing for student progress to be monitored.

The present study involved generating and trialling new assessment items with a sample group of 389 students from public schools in Western Australia, in order to replace the Phonological Awareness scale. The new items were incorporated into the PIPS-BLA for 2010. Analysis is now being completed on a larger, Australia wide sample group to further refine the assessment for 2011. Some challenges and unanticipated findings around the assessment of phonological awareness will be discussed.
Keywords: assessment, phonological awareness, early years

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Regulating emotions in the classroom

Leanne Fried
Edith Cowan University
Email: l.fried@ecu.edu.au

Schooling is a process rich with emotion. Emotions are based on an individual's interpretations and appraisals of specific situations and have been linked to aspects of cognition. There are often times in the classroom when students and teachers need to regulate their emotions in order to stay engaged, develop strong relationships and maximise learning potential. The strategies students and teachers can use to regulate their emotions have been classified in different models, however little is known about the effectiveness of these strategies in the classroom situation and how they are used. The author provides a review of research that highlights the importance of emotion regulation in the classroom and reports on a study conducted in a school that identifies the positive relationship between antecedent emotion regulation strategies and favourable student outcomes. The author also discusses aspects of pedagogy and strategies that have been identified as important in the development of student emotion regulation.
Keywords: emotion regulation, response focused strategies, antecedent strategies, engagement

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Pedagogical documentation in the Reggio Emilia Educational Project: Values, quality and community in early childhood settings

Stefania Giamminuti
Curtin University of Technology
Email: S.Giamminuti@curtin.edu.au

This presentation will provide an overview of the methodology and results of my PhD study. The context of the qualitative, ethnographic case study is the educational project of the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy. The research framework innovatively combines perspectives of several disciplines: Educational Connoisseurship and Criticism (Eisner, 1991); Social Semiotics (Chandler, 2002; Hodge & Kress, 1988; Van Leeuwen, 2005) and Semiotics of the Built Environment/ Semiotics and 3D Space (Jones, 2008; Preziosi, 1979; Ravelli, 2008; Stenglin, 2008; Van Leeuwen, 2008); and "Ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing" (Martin, 2003, 2008). Themes emerging from the case study in Reggio Emilia are conceptualised as Interdependent Values and include: Rich normality: The extraordinary in the ordinary; Narrative; Memory; Locality; Identity/relationship; Transparency/democracy; Language; Beauty/aesthetics. The study engages with the question of the reciprocal dialogue between the educational project of Reggio Emilia and international contexts and develops ten theoretical propositions conceptualised as Connective values: Encounter; Interdependency, Interconnectedness; Difference; Transformation; Intent; Research; Uncertainty; Complexity; and Possibility. The study develops a substantive theory of quality as interaction between local and connective values and thus contributes to current local and international debates around quality in early childhood settings and has significant implications for pedagogical policy, practice, research and theory internationally.
Keywords: early childhood education and care, Reggio Emilia, pedagogical documentation

Chandler, D. (2002). Semiotics: The basics. London: Routledge.
Eisner, E. W. (1991). The enlightened eye: Qualitative enquiry and the enhancement of educational practice. New York: Macmillan.
Hodge, R., & Kress, G. (1988). Social semiotics. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Jones, P. (2008). The interplay of discourse, place and space in pedagogic relations. In L. Unsworth (Ed.), Multimodal semiotics: Functional analysis in contexts of education. London: Continuum International.
Martin, K. L. (2003). Ways of knowing, being and doing: A theoretical framework and methods for indigenous and indigenist research. Journal of Australian Studies, 76, 203-214.
Martin, K. L. (2008). Please knock before you enter: Aboriginal regulations of outsiders and the implications for researchers. Teneriffe, QLD, Australia: Post Pressed.
Preziosi, D. (1979). The semiotics of the built environment. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Ravelli, L. J. (2008). Analysing space: Adapting and extending multimodal frameworks. In L. Unsworth (Ed.), Multimodal semiotics: Functional analysis in contexts of education. London: Continuum International.
Stenglin, M. (2008). Interpersonal meaning in 3D space: How a bonding icon gets its 'change'. In L. Unsworth (Ed.), Multimodal semiotics: Functional analysis in contexts of education. London: Continuum International.
Van Leeuwen, T. (2005). Introducing social semiotics. London: Routledge.
Van Leeuwen, T. (2008). Space in discourse. In L. Unsworth (Ed.), Multimodal semiotics: Functional analysis in contexts of education. London: Continuum International.

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The Peer Assisted Study Sessions program: Does PASS assist first year students in their transition to university?

Virginia Gogan
The University of Western Australia
Email: goganv01@student.uwa.edu.au

Emerging challenges in the Australian tertiary sector, such as lower staff-student ratios and greater diversity in the undergraduate student population, are leading Australian universities to seek innovative ways of improving the first year experience. This paper focuses on students' perceptions of the extent to which attending a peer-assisted learning program, Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS), has contributed to their first year experience at The University of Western Australia Business School, by fostering social connections between students, engaging students more actively in their studies, and contributing to students' development of study skills. Surveys of students indicate ways in which the PASS program can support these areas.
Keywords: peer assisted study sessions, student engagement, study skills

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Staying at school: Narratives of resistance and transition

Jan Gray
Edith Cowan University
Email: jan.gray@ecu.edu.au

School completion remains a complex and 'wicked' problem in Australia, and the focus of on-going educational research. In this presentation, Narrative Inquiry is used as a way to build an understanding of students' struggle to stay at school. The presentation juxtaposes a student story within the context of a larger, longitudinal mixed-methods study of senior students' perspectives of a school culture conducive to remaining connected and engaged in learning. The student's story is considered in two ways. First, consideration as a narrative of resistance provides a way to explore the impact of social influences on the very personal narratives of people in marginalised social positions. Second, consideration as a narrative of transition provides a way to acknowledge the storyteller's reflections as she accounted for her accommodation of changing goals, negotiated her learning space and translated her home life. Interrogating the narrative coherence of this student's story through the twin lens of resistance and transition opened the way for new thinking about the struggle to stay at school. This approach allows opportunities for looking beyond the dominant retention narrative to consider other, marginal and illuminating narrative understandings of this complex problem, embedded as it is within a dynamic social context.
Keywords: narrative, retention, resistance

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The perceived influence of student accommodation arrangements on the first year experience

Tessa Groen
The University of Western Australia
Email: groent01@student.uwa.edu.au

This paper reports on a study that investigated the impact of accommodation arrangements on the first year experience at The University of Western Australia (UWA). A survey was conducted to collect data from residential and commuter students in order to compare differences in their first year experience. A complex picture emerged concerning the interaction of factors including accommodation arrangements and individual characteristics. Nevertheless, important accommodation factors that influence the university experience are identified. This study hopes to provide a starting point for further research into accommodation factors and their influence on the success of a student's first year experience.
Keywords: first year experience, student accommodation, higher education

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All the world's a stage: The impact of performance skills on students' attitudes towards the learning experience

Rachael Hains-Wesson
The University of Western Australia
Email: brownr08@student.uwa.edu.au

One way to assist in transforming a lecture experience into an occasion that can attract and engage students is with the use of acting skills. However, very few university academics have experience employing such techniques. Investigating the impact of certain types of performance skills on students' attitudes towards the learning experience can help better understand the relevance of such techniques. This presentation outlines a project which: i) surveyed students about their attitudes to face to face and online recorded lectures, ii) surveyed students about their attitudes towards performance techniques, in particular, spatial awareness, vocalisation, eye contact and passion and iii) interviewed lecturers about the potential benefits to student learning regarding performance techniques in the lecture theatre and their personal frequency of use. The results suggest that students and lecturers value face to face delivery of content, recognising the benefits of certain performance techniques in the lecture theatre. Recommendations are made regarding ways to encourage a wider use and evaluation of performance techniques in teaching and learning at the university level.
Keywords: performance techniques in the classroom, student engagement, performance-centred approach to learning

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Predicting the academic performance of international students within the Australian higher education sector

Richard Hewison
Perth Institute of Business & Technology
Email: richard.hewison@pibt.wa.edu.au

A study was conducted into the effect of learning process variables (LPV) on the performance of students at a university pathway college. Demographic and LPV variables were combined to provide a student learning profile. The LPV were determined by surveying student learning characteristics: learning style, classroom anxiety, self-efficacy, and beliefs about knowledge and learning. Initial analysis indicated that the LPV formed four groups: Altruistic, Anxious, Average, and Strategic. Altruistic students were characterised by a deep learning style, low levels of anxiety, high levels of self-efficacy, and the willingness to see knowledge and learning in relative rather than absolute terms, and thus were expected to perform relatively well. When the LPV group profiles were analysed against the final semester results, the Altruistic students did perform significantly better. These findings suggest that the Altruistic student profile provides a model of student characteristics that lead to relatively higher academic performance. Further analysis incorporating demographic data also supported earlier findings of regional and linguistic differences, suggesting cultural background influences on performance. The LPV group profiles are therefore potential predictors of the academic performance of international students as well as providing a basis for the future development of early intervention strategies to enhance the performance of non-Altruistic international students.
Keywords: Learning style, educational epistemology, learning anxiety, self-efficacy

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Effectiveness of education reform in Ghana

Agatha Inkoom
Edith Cowan University
Email: ainkoom@our.ecu.edu.au

Despite record investment in education, recent Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) results show that the gap between the country's best and worst performing schools is continuing to grow. Only 40% of students pass the examinations and gain admission into senior high school each year.

This study is an investigation of education policy implementation. It examines the effectiveness of education reform in Ghana in junior high schools in one district of the Upper West Region of Ghana. It explores reform implementation through leadership and administration approaches, teacher education and curriculum change, using mixed methods. A questionnaire elicited detailed background information from head teachers about junior high schools and the impact of the reform on their schools. Interviews and focus group discussions with key stakeholders were used to assess the extent of coherence in purpose, policy and program implementation. An analysis of Ministry of Education policy documents is also being used.

The study will contribute new knowledge about education policy implementation in one district in Ghana and the impact of the Education reform 2007 on junior high schools. It will inform policy development and implementation within the Ministry of Education. Preliminary analysis of the questionnaire data indicate that the qualifications and experience of head teachers are limited and that the schools have received little professional learning support or resources to implement reform initiatives.
Keywords: education reform, leadership, junior high school, Ghana

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Literacy and numeracy interventions for low achieving students, through the training and deployment of paraprofessionals in classrooms

Lisette Kaleveld
Department of Education
Lisa Alcock
Edith Cowan University
Email: Lisette.Kaleveld@det.wa.edu.au, lalcock0@our.ecu.edu.au

This pilot study was funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, and the Department of Education (the Department), in partnership with Edith Cowan University (ECU). In 2009, 20 pre-service teachers (PSTs) were given the opportunity to work two half days a week over six school terms in three primary schools in the Swan Education District (Balga, North Balga and Warriapendi). Working in collaboration with classroom teachers, and with the support of additional professional learning, PSTs implemented literacy and numeracy interventions for individuals and small groups of low achieving students from PP to Year 7.

Professional learning in literacy and numeracy was provided by the Department and ECU to support PSTs develop targeted interventions to respond to student learning needs. The training incorporated the ESL/ESD Progress Map, K-10 Syllabus and a range of First Steps literacy and numeracy resources. The effectiveness of the model is defined and measured by the PSTs' growth in skills, knowledge and confidence in providing quality learning for students, and through tracking students' literacy and numeracy proficiency against baseline data.

A pre-service teacher will share their experience and learning gained, and the pilot's Evaluation Officer from the Department of Education will present preliminary findings.
Keywords: pre-service teachers, low achieving students, literacy and numeracy interventions, professional learning

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More than words: An investigation into the misunderstanding of Standard Australian English texts

Patricia Konigsberg and Adriano Truscott
Department of Education
Email: Adriano.Truscott@det.wa.edu.au

The Western Australian Department of Education is currently collaborating with Monash University in investigating Aboriginal English speaking students' understanding of standard Australian English literacy materials. This project, conducted by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal two-way teams, is the latest in a series of research projects that looks at enhancing the teaching and learning of Aboriginal students. This session will describe the background to the project and highlight some preliminary findings.
Keywords: Aboriginal English, schema, primary

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Silos, systems and circles: Case study on the impact of AuSSI-WA at a primary school

Elaine Lewis, Catherine Baudains and Caroline Mansfield
Murdoch University
Email: e.lewis@bigpond.com

A longitudinal case study was conducted on the impact of the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI) at an independent primary school in Western Australia. The research utilised data related to Education for Sustainability (EfS) at the school from 1990-2009. The year 2005 was a critical year for the school because it marked the beginning of participation in the Sustainable Schools Initiative pilot in Western Australia (AuSSI-WA). The research investigated elements of EfS in operation at the school pre- and post-AuSSI-WA, as well as student and teacher outcomes after involvement in the Initiative. Results showed the school's approach to EfS progressively changed from an ad hoc, uncoordinated, 'silo' approach prior to 2005 to a planned, coordinated, integrated, evaluated, whole systems thinking approach, following engagement with AuSSI-WA. However, after three years in the Initiative, it became evident that the school had begun to revert to the previous approach to EfS. A silo approach to EfS dominated, taking EfS at the school full circle. The findings emphasise the challenges in sustaining change in schools. In addition, there are significant implications for organisational change, school administration, curriculum and teacher support.
Keywords: education for sustainability, sustainable schools, school change

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Schools of Isolated and Distance Education: Background, functions and challenges

Elaine Lopes
The University of Western Australia
Email: elaine.lopes@uwa.edu.au

For over 90 years Western Australia's isolated primary and secondary school students have been provided with an education by what was originally known as the Correspondence School, now the Schools of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE). Throughout this time there have been many significant changes in the areas of technology and curriculum and in the eligibility criteria for enrolment at SIDE. In the last decade, in particular, there has been a number of changes in regard to the methods of delivering distance education materials to students and in the types of students who are enrolled with SIDE. Such changes have had repercussions for the work SIDE teachers do and the way they carry out their work. This presentation draws on qualitative research which was carried out with the aim developing a thorough understanding of the history of SIDE, its current functions, and potential future challenges from the perspectives of the teachers who work there.
Keywords: isolated, distance education, home schooling.

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Class music and student values: Why students drop out of music programs in lower secondary school

Geoffrey Lowe
Edith Cowan University
Email: g.lowe@ecu.edu.au

The importance of music in the life and culture of young people is well documented, and engagement with music has immense mental and emotional health benefits. However, retaining students in secondary class music programs is an ongoing issue for most Western Australian music teachers. Class music generally operates as an elective subject, and while numbers can be healthy in Year 8, a large drop-out frequently occurs in Year 9. Eccles (2005) states that the values students attach to the activities undertaken in elective subjects are accurate predictors of future enrolment decisions. This paper reports on the values students attach to class music activities. Specifically, it draws upon a study into the values of over 200 Year 8 music students drawn from eight secondary schools across Perth.

The study found that while students still generally enjoyed music as a subject, the enjoyment and importance they attached to specific learning activities declined significantly over the course of the year. When coupled with a decline in the perceived usefulness of class music activities, the findings suggest that the sorts of activities undertaken in class music may be a direct contributor to low retention rates. The implications are clear. Unless there is a thorough review of the way class music is taught, low retention rates will continue to plague school music programs in Western Australia.
Keywords: retention, values, music education

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Design students' first year experience in an Australian university

Adelle Main
The University of Western Australia
Email: maina01@student.uwa.edu.au

The stresses associated with undertaking design courses at a tertiary level have long been recognised, with reports of students enrolled in design degrees presenting at student support service centres with "depression, perfectionist traits and hysterical personalities" (Braaten, 1964). As a consequence it is considered that students' perceptions of their learning environment, their engagement within a degree and their psycho-behavioural response to these situations is associated with student retention rates. The aim of the current study was to investigate changes in first year Architecture Landscape and Visual Arts (ALVA) students' perceptions of their teaching and learning environment during semester one at one Australian university. Students completed a course experience questionnaire in Week 5 and 28% (n=54) completed a second questionnaire in Week 12. Results indicated that there was a decrease in perceptions of the learning environment and their engagement with their course; in conjunction with an increase in student burnout. Notably there was an increase in students' perceptions of their educator. While students perceived there was a lack of resources and lowering level of course engagement, their educators were meeting the needs of the students in providing adequate support.
Keywords: student perceptions, teaching and learning, design faculty

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"Like a kid in a candy store": Liberal education, autonomy, and the first year experience

Justin A. Manzano
The University of Western Australia
Email: manzaj01@student.uwa.edu.au

The perceptions and experiences of Bachelor of Arts [BA] students in Australia have received little attention within the literature. The issues faced by these students may be at odds with a public that promotes 'useful skills' and a faculty culture that presupposes and reproduces self-responsibility. The study gathered data from 106 BA students and 22 Arts faculty staff via a survey. This was followed by eight in-depth interviews with BA students. The study found that students value their degree most for the autonomy it provides. However, first year BA students problematise the increased individual autonomy granted by the BA course, as it has the potential to hinder peer interaction and requires teaching staff to engage the personal interests of a diverse group. Students also perceive the need to negotiate between an academic lifestyle and financial imperatives, and are often unaware of the extrinsic value of their education. The study opens up new pathways for future research in tertiary education and student development in response to the recent general decline in liberal education across Australia.
Keywords: first year experience, liberal arts education, choice

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Schools of Isolated and Distance Education: A school of last resort for students with an autism spectrum disorder

Jasmine McDonald
The University of Western Australia
Email: jazmike@iinet.net.au

Current research indicates that students with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulty accessing reliable inclusive practice in mainstream schools over time. This situation sometimes leads to a 'crisis point' where the parents of the child with an ASD feel compelled to withdraw their child from formal mainstream schooling. Home schooling, with the support of the Schools of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE), is sometimes undertaken by such families as a viable alternative educational pathway. This presentation will focus on the parent experience of two WA families who decided to home school their children with an ASD, with the support of SIDE, as an educational choice of last resort. Their experiences were captured in a 2010 grounded theory study that investigated how six WA families dealt with the education of their child with an ASD over time.
Keywords: distance education, home schooling, autism spectrum disorders, parent experience.

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Other voices: Four female students talk about their first year experience

Cybèle McNeil
The University of Western Australia
Email: mcneic02@student.uwa.edu.au

Research into the experiences of low SES and non-traditional students tends to focus on access to education, aspirations and retention rates whilst little attention is paid to their actual lived experiences. Over the course of one semester, four female students enrolled in The University of Western Australia via alternate entry schemes were interviewed. Through these conversations, something of the complex, often difficult, at times rewarding, experiences of these students emerges. The aim of this research is to reinstate their voices as the central focus. In this way, dominant discourses in which these students are defined in terms of 'disadvantage' and 'deficits' (Gale 2009) are displaced by a more meaningful discussion of equality in education.
Keywords: first year experience, higher education, socio-economic status

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Understanding and fostering the effective use of multimodal representations in science learning and teaching

Maureen Michael
Edith Cowan University
Email: m.michael@ecu.edu.au

Science like all disciplines has developed its own unique language. Such language underpins the thinking, activity and communication that is integral to participation in the scientific community. This is true for anyone, from a professional scientist to a community member to a student who has an interest in the world of science and how science impacts on our everyday lives. Facility in multimodal representation (MMR) using words and pictures in the form of graphs, tables, written text, diagrams, models, talk, experiments, etc, for doing, communicating and thinking about science is fundamental to full participation in learning, doing and using science. Research indicates that even some of the brightest science students do not fully understand how to effectively use and combine the knowledge and understandings that can be gleaned from pictures and words as they are used in science and in particular how to maximise their learning through the effective use of MMR. This research will identify how MMRs are used by teachers and students in the teaching and learning of science determine the factors enhancing or constraining their effective use and implement and evaluate a professional learning intervention designed to enhance the effective use of MMRs.
Keywords: multimodal representation, science, high school

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Multimodal representations of science in a primary school interactive whiteboard classroom

Karen Murcia
Edith Cowan University
Email: k.murcia@ecu.edu.au

This presentation shares the process and emerging findings from a school based research project that examines how students learn science with an interactive whiteboard (IWB). The IWB has been found to support a range of multi-modal representation types including verbal, graphic, tabular, mathematical, pictorial and kinaesthetic. Effective interactive pedagogies used by the research Teachers will be discussed and examples from their primary science classrooms will be used to illustrate how students learn science through the multiple representations afforded by interactive whiteboard technology.
Keywords: Multimodal, science education, interactive whiteboard

[Scheduling for this presentation]

What you see is not always what you get: An analysis of student perceptions and expectations of their transition into Law School at The University of Western Australia

Krystal Ng and Jade Roberts
The University of Western Australia
Email: ngk13@student.uwa.edu.au, roberj05@student.uwa.edu.au

Despite the substantive amount of American based research on the first year experience of students entering law school, little is known about the unique experience of students in the transition to law in Australian universities. Through a survey of eighty-two students and interviews with four first year students, this study reveals the perspectives, expectations and experiences of the first year transition into The University of Western Australia's law course, cohort and community. An analysis of the results reveals many students perceive the transition to law to be a difficult and challenging experience. This study adds to our understanding of the issues facing first year law students and has implications for the provision of transition support.
Keywords: first year experience, transition, student perceptions

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Principals' strategies for improving students' academic achievement in rural Junior High Schools in Ghana

Erasmus K. Norviewu-Mortty
Edith Cowan University
Email: enorview@our.ecu.edu.au

The academic performance of students in public basic schools in rural Ghana during the past two decades has declined significantly. Government efforts to remedy the situation have not yielded any sustainable result. The Saboba District Junior High Schools are mostly affected. Generally, inadequate funding and resources are blamed for poor academic achievement of rural and low socio-economic schools. My observation during eight years of teaching in Saboba is that the academic achievement of some students remains high while that of others in the same locality stays low.

The purpose of this paper is to report the outcome of preliminary analysis and interpretation of my research data. School effectiveness and school improvement literature has identified important issues concerning the enhancement of students' academic performance. Through case study research involving four effective and less effective junior high schools at Saboba and 100 participants comprising principals, teachers, students, parents and local stake holders in education; leadership practices that promote effective teaching, learning and student achievement are emerging. Effective leadership of the principal appears as the essential difference between high and low performing rural and low socio-economic schools.
Keywords: International education, rural

[Scheduling for this presentation]

"Taking away the stars": The first year rural student experience at The University of Western Australia

Fiona Nunn
The University of Western Australia
Email: nunnf01@student.uwa.edu.au

Rural students attending their first year of university across Australia appear to be at a significant disadvantage compared to their metropolitan counterparts. Voluntary, anonymous surveys were administered online and three interviews were conducted with first year rural students attending The University of Western Australia (UWA) who lived in off-campus accommodation. A large proportion of students surveyed felt they experienced greater difficulties in learning than other students because of their rural background. While most students felt they were receiving enough support from family and friends, many appeared to feel dissatisfied with the support provided by UWA for the stresses associated with their transition to university. Financial problems were also a common complaint in both interviews and surveys. With decreasing opportunities for young people in rural towns, this study provides an addition to previous research on the experiences of rural students in higher education.
Keywords: first year transition, rural students, higher education

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Voice from the law: An analysis of student perceptions of the transition to studying law

Ciara O'Loughlin
The University of Western Australia
Email: ciara_oloughlin@hotmail.com

A large body of research indicates high levels of psychological distress amongst both the legal profession and law students. This study examines the perceptions of first year law students at The University of Western Australia through a range of surveys and interviews. The results do not indicate high levels of stress per se, but do raise issues of concern regarding the first year law students' experience. This study is part of a growing body of research regarding the well-being of university students that reiterates the importance of understanding such issues in order to better implement tertiary educational policies.
Keywords: transition to legal studies, the first year experience, stress

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Building leaders, building communities: Ten things you wanted to know about the role of an Aboriginal Islander Education Officer

Philip Paioff
Department of Education
Email: ppaioff@bigpond.com

Research into the role of Aboriginal Islander Education Officers (AIEOs) found that despite on-going frustrations, AIEOs continue to play a highly important and positive role in the educational experiences of Aboriginal students (information gathered from Indigenous Education Strategic Initiatives Programs). The research also found there is a mismatch between the skills required to be a successful AIEO and the types of training provided. Successful approaches to this mismatch may include the provision of training opportunities in such areas as conflict resolution, time management, effective communication, information technology, basic book keeping skills, and literacy and numeracy pedagogy.

The support of principals is consistently identified as a key factor in determining the effectiveness of the AIEO. Recognition of the importance of the role through award levels and promotion were also considered important factors. However, two major blockers were found to be:

  1. expectations of the position far outweigh the role statement; and
  2. a lack of cultural knowledge and respect from some staff.
Principals Australia, via its Dare to Lead program, convened a forum of 150 AIEOs and principals from all parts of Australia to share their common issues and constraints as well as provide the opportunity to propose potential ways forward. This presentation will consider the 10 most compelling problems identified by AIEOs and elaborate on a program developed by Dare to Lead Consultants that has been successful in building the leadership capacity of AIEOs within schools.

[Scheduling for this presentation]

The use of the Orff-Schulwerk approach as a pedagogical tool for the teaching of Italian to upper primary school students

Annamaria Paolino
Edith Cowan University
Email: annamarp@our.ecu.edu.au

It is common practice for Languages (formally Languages Other Than English (LOTE) prior to 2005) teachers to use songs/music in the classroom. Research literature is positive about music as a cognitive, linguistic and affective enhancer which increases pattern memory, working memory, spatial temporal reasoning, eyesight, coordination, hearing, concentration and higher level thinking. In contrast, the Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA) does not consider Languages and Music one of the four essential core school subjects. Music and Languages are presently fighting for survival in the Western Australian curriculum at all levels due to curriculum pressures and there is an increasing need for teachers to become 'interdisciplinarians'. This study investigates whether songs/music are being used as pedagogical tools in the teaching of Italian in Western Australia's primary schools; if primary Italian teachers consider the Orff-Schulwerk approach (a music teaching method) to be an effective pedagogical tool for the teaching of Italian in the upper primary context; Italian teacher's attitudes towards the use of music/songs in the classroom. It is a qualitative study, using questionnaires, interviews and focus groups to ensure triangulation of data. It invited 255 primary schools and 215 teachers across the state of Western Australia to participate.
Keywords: music, languages, primary, Italian

[Scheduling for this presentation]

The use of RPL in the Australian higher education sector

Tim Pitman
The University of Western Australia
Email: tim.pitman@uwa.edu.au

The recognition of informal or non-formal learning as credit towards tertiary qualifications (RPL) has traditionally been viewed as having limited application in university studies, being more suited to the vocational and technical education sector. This paper reports the preliminary findings from a three-year study into the RPL policies and practices of selected Australian universities. Within a critical framing, participant interviews complemented a discourse analysis of university policy documents. The findings reveal that RPL practices are not limited to the notion of 'credit for work experience' but encompass a wide range of admission and equity policies, marketing strategies and the development of alternative entry pathways. Furthermore, RPL policies highlight tensions between quality and access goals in the Australian higher education sector.
Keywords: Lifelong learning, recognition of prior learning, higher education policy

[Scheduling for this presentation]

The mature age student: Pressures of the first year experience

Bernadette Podesta-Meaney
The University of Western Australia
Email: podesb01@student.uwa.edu.au

Over the last thirty years the proportion of mature age students within The University of Western Australia's student population has been growing, and with it the need to accommodate the issues and embrace the advantages of their presence. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected from 112 mature-age students using a survey and interviews throughout various faculties within the UWA. These surveys and interviews were designed to garner what most influences mature-age students and how they perceive university life. The research backs a previous study conducted in 1980 by Barrett and Powell that posit the chief concerns of mature-age students as academic performance and financial security. The combined data of both the surveys and the interviews indicate that, for the majority, social integration is neither sought nor fretted over. The research recommends avenues for the improvement of programs and facilities aimed at supporting mature-age students during their first year.
Keywords: The first year experience, mature-age students, higher education

[Scheduling for this presentation]

First year international students' perception of language support as a way of coping with studying at an Australian university

Jonathan Poh
The University of Western Australia
Email: jonathanpoh87@gmail.com

The significant increase in the proportion of international students in Australian universities over the past decade has led to greater efforts by the universities to improve their support for such students. The improvement is often centred on language support programs. But little is known about the awareness international students have of such programs and whether they have various other strategies to cope with personal language difficulties. This research aims to identify the degree of awareness and use of language support programs by international students at The University of Western Australia (UWA) and their various language coping strategies. Data were collected via an online, university-wide survey of all international students, followed by face to face interviews. Despite acknowledging language difficulties, first-year international students made little use of the available language support programs. While 58.3% were unaware of the available support programs, all students indicated that they had found their own ways of handling their language difficulties.

The study provides insights into the improvements needed for the support services to more effectively reach out to help first year international students cope with their language difficulties.
Keywords: first year experience, international students, language support

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Teachers' perspectives of students' first year experience in higher education

Kate Ryan
The University of Western Australia
Email: ryank02@student.uwa.edu.au

The first year experience of university students occurs in the context of the institution itself, this includes academic staff. However, little is known of the extent to which academic staff are aware of the problems unique to first year students, and what can be done to ease the transition into higher education. Academic staff at the University of Western Australia were invited to participate in an anonymous online survey, which assessed their knowledge of issues surrounding the first year experience. The survey invited staff to report on what they perceived as factors which facilitated or inhibited their ability to enhance the first year experience. Results indicated that there was widespread understanding of the problems first year students face. The study further highlighted that staff perceive resourcing constraints, resulting in large class sizes and inadequate time to dedicate to first year students, as one of the biggest barriers to addressing first year problems. This study adds a valuable insight into the first year experience from the point of view of academic staff.
Keywords: first year experience, tertiary education, staff perspectives

[Scheduling for this presentation]

University students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and their first year: a theory of developing empowerment

Michele Toner
The University of Western Australia
Email: micheletoner@hotmail.com Web: http://www.micheletoner.com/

The past decade has witnessed students with disabilities attending university in ever-increasing numbers. In particular, students with 'invisible disabilities' (such as learning disabilities and mental health disabilities) comprise the vast majority of those seeking support from Disability Services. However, relatively few researchers have investigated the processes involved in the university education of these students, particularly during their crucial first year, when the highest rate of student attrition occurs. In turn, the substantial body of research which has investigated the 'first year experience' for university students in Australia and the USA has ignored the issues unique to students with disabilities during this critical period. This qualitative study, undertaken for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Western Australia aimed to address this gap. Specifically, this study aimed to generate theory about how students with ADHD deal with their first year.  This presentation will focus on the theory generated, while mentioning the implications of the study for further theory development, policy and practice.
Keywords: ADHD, university students, first year

[Scheduling for this presentation]

Critical literacy practices and higher order thinking in a Western Australian literature course

Tara Tuchaai
University of Western Australia and MLC
Email: ttuchaai@mlc.wa.edu.au

Currently I am registered as a PhD student at the University of Western Australia focusing on critical literacy practices and higher order thinking in a Western Australian literature course. The aims of this project are to identify productive pedagogical practices for development of critical reading competencies and higher order thinking in the context of a specific Year 11 Literature course in Western Australia. To achieve this aim, the project will explore the relationship between the reading process and critical reading practices, the perspectives of students and teachers on the efficacy of critical reading practices in promoting higher order thinking, and the possibility of transfer of higher order thinking competencies in Literature to students' other areas of learning.

As part of my research I have designed various curriculum intervention strategies to promote critical reading practices in the classroom. These intervention strategies provide a practical approach to reading practices with reference to Australian poetry. You can use these approaches across genres, but for the purposes of the presentation I have selected poetry. This presentation will focus on learning strategies which promote critical pedagogy, critical literacy and higher order thinking to promote reading practices in the WACE Literature course.
Keywords: reading, cognition, pedagogy

[Scheduling for this presentation]

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