Seminar Series 2008

All are welcome, including our HDR students and any other interested parties.


Seminar One:   Wednesday, April 9, 1-3pm

Cultures of Primary School Dining Rooms

Presenter: Jo Pike, Food Health and Education Research Group, Institute of Learning, University of Hull

Abstract: This seminar is a presentation of results from a recent study that focuses on the cultures of primary school dining rooms in the UK.

Biography: Jo has spent the past 8 years researching with children and young people using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Prior to joining the University of Hull in 2005 she managed an SRB funded research project investigating young people's entrepreneurialism before moving to the public health field where she led the development of an adolescent lifestyle survey. As research assistant with the Food Health and Education Research group Jo has led the development of a range of data including large scale quantitative surveys, interviews and focus groups and variety of creative research methods. Jo is currently completing her doctorate, which focuses on the cultures of primary school dining rooms, and she has presented findings from this work internationally.

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Seminar Two:   Wednesday, July 9, 3-5pm

Improving Teacher Quality: A Comparison of Teacher Policies in the US, Australia and Japan

Presenter:Motoko Akiba, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Educational leadership and policy analysis, University of Missouri, Columbia

Abstract: This study used a mixed-methods approach to examine teacher quality in the U.S., Australia, and Japan using the 2003 teacher survey data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and case studies of teacher policies in these three countries. Specifically, the difference in teacher quality between high-socioeconomic status (SES) and low-SES schools is highlighted and teacher distribution policies are compared.

Biography:Dr. Motoko Akiba conducts research on school safety, multicultural education, and comparative and international education. Applying quantitative policy methods, her research program aims to produce policy-relevant knowledge useful for improving students' learning and health.
After receiving a B.A. in Education from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, Dr. Akiba pursued her Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Comparative and International Education at Pennsylvania State University. Before joining MU, she was a researcher at Mills College and Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL).

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Seminar Three:   Thursday, September 11, 3-4.30pm

Supporting professional learning for subject teachers in rural and regional Victoria

Presenters:Professor Russell Tytler and Professor David Symington, Deakin University

Abstract:This paper will report on a study of the provision of professional development for teachers of mathematics and science in rural and regional Victoria. The data gathering began with interviews with six Regional Project Officers with special responsibility for this issue. They were asked to suggest schools which would illustrate best practice in professional development in mathematics and science. From those nominated seven schools were selected that included primary and secondary schools, schools in different districts, and schools of varying sizes.

Interviews were conducted, each of approximately one hour, with seven principals and a total of 37 teachers of mathematics and science, concerning teacher professional learning in rural schools. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed to identify the issues raised and the thinking of the study participants around these issues.  The data clearly reveal that, even within these schools which had been identified as illustrating best practice, there are significant problems related to rurality in ensuring that professional development opportunities adequately address the needs of the teachers responsible for science and mathematics. The paper will identify the main features of these problems, and will present a model which locates professional learning in science and mathematics in three discourse communities; the school, the local community, and the wider community of science and mathematics education professionals. It will discuss the professional learning problems and possibilities revealed in these interviews in terms of tensions and synergies between these communities. The paper will consider questions about the allocation of resources and the key sites for decision making in a complex of competing demands.

Biography:Russell Tytler is the Chair of the Reimagining Futures in Science, Technology, Environmental and Mathematics Education (STEME) strand of EFI. Professor Symington is a member of research teams for a number of funded projects - the development of an Innovation Framework for the Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics Project; the School/Community Links Project; and the Professional Development in Rural and Regional areas Project.

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Seminar Four:   postponed

Building school-community partnerships using applied learning: a case study of Colac

Presenters: Dr Damian Blake

Abstract: This project documents the experience of Colac Secondary Colac as they attempt to make their Year 9 curriculum more engaging for students by developing applied learning partnerships with industry and community organisations. Teachers, students and members of the Colac community were interviewed about their experience of forming these partnerships and their impact on students’ learning, teachers’ work and the wider Colac community. A DVD was prepared from the interviews examining the overall process of forming school-community partnerships to support applied learning.

Biography: Damian Blake is a senior lecturer and course coordinator for the GradDip Applied Learning course. A lecturer in the School of Education, Dr Muriel Wells teaches undergraduate language and literacy subjects and units on the use of new technologies in Education and professional development in the Master of Education program. She is also the course coordinator for the Bachelor of Education (Primary) at the Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus.


Seminar Five:   Thursday, October 23, 12.30-2.00pm

Literacy, Rurality and (Public) Education: Some Programmatic Possibilities

Presenters: Professor Bill Green, Charles Sturt University, NSW.

Abstract: Rural-regional sustainability is increasingly on the national agenda. What is happening in and to rural-regional communities, given not simply the long-term consequences of modernity but also, and more recently, matters such as general economic downturn, globalisation and climate change, is a major issue. More specifically, what does all this mean for inland Australia? Rural education is, I suggest, critically implicated in these various crises and challenges. In this presentation I focus on the question of literacy education and rural schooling – on so-called ‘rural literacies’. Drawing from a range of recent research undertakings, I firstly provide a context for understanding such developments and debates, and some terms of reference. I then focus more directly on the significance of literacy in this regard, working from and within the frame of what is called the New Literacy Studies. I briefly outline a possible research program in this area, and suggest some likely outcomes of such a concerted endeavour.

Biography: Bill Green is Professor of Education at Charles Sturt University in NSW, Australia, and CSU Strategic Research Professor, associated with the Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education (RIPPLE). He was previously Professor of Applied Curriculum Studies at the University of New England. Prior to that, he worked at Deakin and Murdoch Universities, in Victoria and Western Australia respectively. He is located in the School of Teacher Education on the Bathurst campus. He is a Foundation Key Researcher with RIPPLE, and an adjunct member of the Professional Practice and Ethics Research Group in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. He is currently Co-Editor of the UK-based journal Changing English: An International Journal of English Teaching.

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Seminar Six:   Tuesday, October 28, 1.00-2.30pm

A Questionnaire Instrument to Assess and Interpret East African Students' Dispositions Towards Learning Science: Composite Instrument for Assessing Disposition for Contextual Learning of Science (CI_ADCLOS)

Presenters: Dr. Samson Madera Nashon S. University of British Columbia, Canada

Abstract: Like many developing countries, Kenya has in its 1997-2010 Master Plan on Education and Training (MPET) the goal of attaining industialised nation status by the year 2020. This goal is unlikely to be attained without reforming the science and technology curriculum to connect to locally evolving industries. Jua Kali is a small-scale manufacturing and technology-based service sector, which comprises jobs ranging from servicing to small-scale manufacturing for local use in Kenya. It has become the most direct pathway for securing employment by Kenyan high school graduates. Yet, there is no strong curriculum link between activities in Jua Kali, which have come to characterise the socio-cultural environment of many young Kenyans and their ways of knowing. The view in this paper is that classroom knowledge should have relevance to real world contexts. However, any attempt to link classroom science to the real world of Jua Kali activities cannot be successful if there is no understanding of students' ways of learning and knowing. In this paper, ways of knowing are understood to embellish the values and assumptions inherent in the development and interpretation of scientific knowledge. This is what underlies an ongoing research study investigating East African (EA) students' ways of knowing in science discourses. The study has as one of its key aims to develop and validate an instrument to assess EA students' dispositions towards science and how the instrument as an intervention affects their worldviews of science learning. Therefore, this paper reports on the development, validation, and interpretation of a questionnaire instrument called: "Composite Instrument for Assessing Disposition for Contextual Learning of Science" (CI_ADCLOS). The instrument is intended to assess students' dispositions towards contextualized learning of science and as an intervention, to evoke the students' worldviews of science learning.

Biography: Dr. Nashon is an Associate Professor of Science Education at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He is a Kenyan citizen and has been involved in some significant research projects based in Canada and also in Africa. He writes: My research focuses on ways of teaching and learning. My area of specialization focuses on students' alternative understandings that have roots in cultural backgrounds and curricula, and are accommodative of students with varying degrees of abilities. My research is dominantly qualitative, borrowing primarily from contemporary theories of constructivism. My most recent research projects include the ongoing Metacognition and Reflective Inquiry (MRI), East African Students' Ways of Knowing (EASWOK), The Status of Physics 12 in BC, The Nature of Analogies Kenyan Physics Teachers Use, and Students' Access To Senior Science and Mathematics Courses in Rural BC. Previous studies include, The Role of Practical Work in Science, and The Kind of Science in Kenyan "Harambee" Schools.

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Seminar Seven:   Thursday, October 30, 1.00-2.30pm

Literacy and environment: curriculum and teaching challenges

Presenters: Helen Nixon Associate Professor of Education, University of South Australia, Adelaide

Abstract: When teachers work with students to learn and communicate about their local rural and regional environments using a wide set of literate repertoires, they are faced with a range of curriculum and teaching challenges. This presentation draws on an ARC Linkage Project (2005-2007) in which teachers worked to address these challenges as part of the Special Forever ‘environmental communications’ program sponsored by the Primary English Teaching Association and the Murray Darling Basin Commission. I draw on case studies of 8 teachers who brought together studies of the environment and an expanded view of literacy–including multimodal literacy and multimedia communications–to explore what different approaches to studying and representing ‘place’ and
‘the environment’ make it possible for students to experience and to communicate about their learning.

Biography: Helen Nixon is Associate Professor of Education in the Hawke Research Institute at the University of South Australia. She has taught and researched in the fields of English and Cultural Studies, English Curriculum Studies and Literacy Education. Her research interests include the ways in which children’s out-of school media popular culture interests might be used within a critical literacy/English curriculum, and the challenges posed to literacy education by the widespread take-up of new media. She is currently working on an ARC Discovery project (with Sue Nichols, UniSA and Jennifer Rowsell, Rutgers USA, 2007-2009) titled
Parents' networks: the circulation of knowledge about children's literacy learning. She is an Editorial Board member of the journals Literacy (UK) and The International Journal of Learning and Media (USA).

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Seminar Eight:   Thursday, November 6, 3-4.30pm

Innovation in school science through school community links: learning from the rural experience

Presenters: Professor Russell Tytler and Professor David Symington, Deakin University

Abstract: There is an increase in school-community linked initiatives in school science, and a substantial proportion of these involve rural schools. This paper will examine ways in which these initiatives offer possibilities for improved engagement of students with school science, and for teacher professional learning. The paper draws on information obtained primarily through interviews with participants in a number of school-community linked science initiatives in rural areas, including   'innovation exemplars' from the recent Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics (ASISTM) project. The initiatives are analysed in terms of an 'innovation framework', concerning the ideas and purposes underlying them, the knowledge and pedagogies used, the 'actors' that were enlisted to define and support them, and their potential for sustainability. The framework provided a powerful way of understanding the synergies that operated for schools and their communities in generating and sustaining new practices in schools, and the potential of these practices to provide effective ways  to engage students in science. The paper will explore the usefulness of innovation  as a way of conceptualising and supporting such initiatives, and understanding their role as productive directions for schools, teachers and communities in rural areas. We discuss the challenges and policy directions that need to be pursued at a system level to encourage and support these practices.

Biography: Russell Tytler is the Chair of the Reimagining Futures in Science, Technology, Environmental and Mathematics Education (STEME) strand of EFI. Professor Symington is a member of research teams for a number of funded projects - the development of an Innovation Framework for the Australian School Innovation in Science, Technology and Mathematics Project; the School/Community Links Project; and the Professional Development in Rural and Regional areas Project.


Seminar Nine:   date and time to be confirmed

Supporting Teachers as Action Researchers (STAR)

Presenters: Dr Damian Blake and Muriel Wells, Deakin University

Abstract: This project explores how school improvement initiatives can be enhanced in 22 Victorian Catholic Primary Schools by drawing on processes of teacher-based action research and supporting teachers’ active participation in wider communities of professional practice. The research approach draws on previous studies showing that action research is an effective strategy for promoting teachers’ professional learning. However, the researchers consider that such benefits may be further enhanced by encouraging the teachers to systematically document and publish their action research initiatives so they can be shared in a wider community of professional practice.
The research questions guiding this project are:

  • How can schools develop and sustain curriculum and pedagogical initiatives by combining the principles of action research and communities of practice? 
  • How can teachers’ professional learning be enhanced through regional and university support for the presentation and publication of their work as action research?

Biography: Damian Blake is a senior lecturer and course coordinator for the GradDip Applied Learning course.


Seminar Ten:   Thursday, November 20, 3-4.30pm

Creating a rural and regional science challenge

Presenters: Dr Damian Blake and Dr Coral Campbell, Deakin University

Abstract: Interest and participation in science in schools has been declining for many years and there is a genuine need to rejuvenate interest in science at the secondary level.  One such solution is the completion of real science projects which fulfil an authentic purpose in the community. This paper discusses the results of research into the establishment of a rural and regional science challenge which makes use of partnerships with local industries and community groups to encourage the development of authentic science projects. In the development of the science challenge, many issues are emerging in relation to teachers’ work, resources, and administration and school cultures.  This paper reports on the preliminary findings and indicates directions for the future.

Biography: Damian Blake is a senior lecturer and course coordinator for the GradDip Applied Learning course. Coral has worked as a primary teacher until her recent appointment to the position of lecturer at Deakin University. In her teaching role she taught as a generalist classroom teacher and as a specialist science teacher. She delivered Science Education Professional Development for the Department of Education & Training, was involved in the development of the Teachers' Online Primary Science CD and was involved in the Science in Schools Research Project at local schools. Her research interests include science education, mathematics education and technology education within the contexts of primary and secondary schools.


Seminar Eleven:   Wednesday, November 26, 3-4.30pm

The small rural school principalship: key challenges and cross-school responses

Presenters: Professor Karen Starr and Dr Simone White, Deakin University

Abstract: This seminar explores the responses of school principals of small rural schools in Victoria, Australia to leadership challenges they identify as characteristic of these contexts. The research is an exercise in grounded theory building, with the focus on the principalship as it is enacted in small rural settings. The seminar also seeks to trace the impact of macro and meso influences on micro rural contexts. While many very positive attributes of small rural schools are evident, this seminar speaks to principalship engagement with contextual problems  issues concerning work intensification, role multiplicity, school viability, new regulatory funding requirements and the abandonment of equity policies in education  since there is a dearth of information in Australia at this time about how school principals confront these challenges in small rural locations. The research exposes a growing culture of creative collaborative responses to the pervasive impediments of leading small rural schools.

Biography: Karen Starr is the Director of the Centre for Educational Leadership and Renewal. Simone White is the Deputy Directory of the Centre for Educational Leadership and Renewal.

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