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Thesis abstracts

This section publishes abstracts from theses in education from Queensland tertiary institutions. Abstract information for future editions is welcome. Contributors should forward a copy of their abstract, together with relevant biographic and institutional information to: The Editor, 'Queensland Researcher', Research Services Branch, Queensland Department of Education, PO Box 33, North Quay, Q 4002.

Title:An Investigation of the Relationship Between Teachers' Perceptions and Organizational Change in a Metropolitan State Primary School
Author:Flanagan, N. M.
Institution:University of Queensland


In this action research, Kuhn's (1979) notion of paradigm shift was used to analyse an attempt to introduce changes to a Queensland state primary school. The aim was to ascertain if the idea provides a useful conceptual framework whereby educational administrators might understand, promote end evaluate organizational change within their schools and school systems. Schooling was conceptualized as a form of paradigmatic activity wherein significant change is associated with a paradigm shift involving "knowledge structures" (Imershein, 1976), or "ways of seeing" (Berger, 1978). It was assumed that the structure of teachers' knowledge is organized primarily into ethnoparadigms (akin to scientific paradigms), the core of which is a single set of exemplars which serve as the basis for action by participants who rely on this knowledge. Ethnoparadigm analysis (Imershein, 1974) was seen as a means for examining the way in which participants engage in patterned activities which are systematically related to the knowledge structures on which they rely.

The theoretical and methodological foundations for examining change in terms of paradigms, paradigm shifts and ethnoparadigm analysis, were those of the related research traditions of ethnoscience (Sturtevant, 1964) and ethnomethodology (Sacks, 1963; Garfinkel, 1967). Ethnoscience was seen as an outgrowth of anthropology whereby researchers seek to analyse the structures of knowledge held by native participants and then relate these structures to patterned activities of the participants. Ethnomethodology was interpreted as a recent outgrowth of sociology whereby scholars attempt to analyse the patterned activities of the participants and relate what participants do to the knowledge and rules used by them.

The study was conducted over a period of fifteen months which was longer than the twelve months minimal period for ethnographic and neo-ethnographic field-work suggested by Bruyn (1966), Valentine (1968) and Bullivant (1978). During this period, the researcher, as school principal, played the role of active participant-observer (Schwartz and Schwartz, 1955:350). As the school principal, the researcher was in an ideal position to adopt such a role because his normal role behaviour involved both participation and observation in the school. Multiple indicants (McCall and Simmons, 19691, in the form of quasi-statistical measures, interviews and documented materials, were the main forms of data collection.

The study focused on one state primary school. However, because of the state-wide uniformity in the methods used for;

  1. teacher selection,
  2. pre-service and in-service training, and
  3. transfer and promotion,
it was considered reasonable to assume that the conclusions drawn would be applicable to most Queensland state primary schools and relevant to schools in similar bureaucratic systems.

The research was unsuccessful in identifying any meaningful shift from an existing "work-place paradigm" to a challenging paradigm, identified as an "education paradigm". However, the study provided useful insight into organizational change in schools. In particular, it was concluded that:

  1. Organizational change may sensibly be considered to be analogous to scientific change. This means that Kuhn's notion of paradigms and paradigm shifts may be usefully applied to schools by educational administrators.

  2. Schools have the potential to change, even though the major effort of teachers at present is towards maintenance, as opposed to change.

  3. If schools are to change, then a great deal will depend on the catalytic behaviours of formal authority figures. This necessitates a critical re-examination of the methods of selection, training, education, tenure and promotion of these persons, and the theory that legitimates these practices.
This study is considered to have theoretical and practical implications for:
  1. organizational change in schools,
  2. leadership in schools,
  3. education, training, transfer and promotion of teachers, principals and inspectors,
  4. the role of inspectors in schools, and
  5. research in the field of educational administration.

Title:A Case Study of School-Based Decision-Making in Curriculum Development
Author:Barrett, R.
Institution:University of Queensland


The thesis is centred on questions associated with the results of participation by teachers and other members of a particular high school community in decisions taken in the process of curriculum development.

The general hypothesis examined is that it is practicable and desirable to establish and maintain school-based decision-making (SBDM) in curriculum development (CD) in a school operating within the bureaucratic setting of an Australian state education system if selected principles governing procedures are used to guide decisions made about curriculum development.

The theoretical position adopted in the study is that greater emphasis on process dimensions of curriculum, organization and teacher development is essential in appropriate contexts if members of the high school community (especially teachers) are to be given an opportunity to participate in their own development. This would give them the opportunity to shape their future rather than being shaped by it.

Objectives and process dimensions can and should co-exist and when applied appropriately to curriculum, organization and teacher development enable the establishment of school-based procedures which maintain the relevance of the curriculum in altering contexts. This also facilitates sustained implementation of a SBDM in CD model. The model, when applied, promotes the characteristics of a pro-active and adaptive school, that is as a school with alternatives rather than an alternative school. It illustrates that it is practicable and desirable to establish and maintain SBDM in CD at Toowong High, a school operating within the bureaucratic context of the Queensland Education Department.

An ethnographic methodology was chosen because the theoretical position required that descriptions and interpretations of decisions about innovative practices in curriculum be presented. This methodology when applied to SBDM in CD in the situations within which participants find themselves takes the following form: (a) delineation of significant curriculum events through a content analysis; (b) identification of significant curriculum decisions through a contextual analysis; and (c) derivation of guidelines for SBDM in CD for application in a wider context through a case study analysis.

The contribution of this study is its:

  1. highlighting of the complex inter-relationship between curriculum, organization and teacher development. It also indicates how this inter-relationship may be understood by application of procedures which are normative and re-educative;

  2. evolution of a situational methodology based upon principles governing procedures for application to SBDM in CD; and

  3. bridging of the theory-practice gap with an in-depth study of practice in one school. There was systematic application of principles to guide procedures and an ethnographic approach which articulates theory and practice within a school base.

Title:The Determination and Description of a Set of Factors that Influence Community Education in the Brisbane North Education Region
Author:Robertson, K.P.
Institution:University of Queensland


(i)      This study is concerned with the observation, analysis and evaluation of the relationships that exist between schools and their communities in Brisbane North Education Region. The primary objective is to identify the factors which have contributed to the development of community education.

The study used naturalistic research techniques; case study and survey analysis. Data was collected and included case study documents, researcher comments, tape extracts, school records and diary entries.

The six factors that the literature revealed as supporting the development of community education practices commitment of status people, support by communities, informed communities, structures within systems, resource support and developmental programs - were found in the region's schools but were not the determinative factors for the development of community education. The factors that are determinative are those three that have led schools into patterns of modification and are based more on human needs than organizational needs - student centredness, unity of vision and principalship. These three factors encapsulate the complexity of professional and interpersonal qualities necessary to generate the kinds of programs and processes that are fundamental to community education and without which the development of such practices would be impossible.

(ii)This thesis was written during 1982 and 1983, the last two years of my seven-year term as the Regional Director of Education in Brisbane North Education Region. As such, I was in a privileged position with access to information - official and unofficial documents, people's confidences, initiatives and community evaluations of schools and their operations - much of which would not have been able to be tapped by an outsider. Material of this sort was invaluable in proposing my thesis and in collecting supporting evidence for it.

I began recording information, in anecdotal form and by keeping diary accounts, of the changes taking place in the region from 1977. Some of the myriad documents, reports, tape recordings and related material I collected was unusable because of its confidentiality.

In addition to collecting my own evidence, I was able to draw on regional resources, including the services of a regional research assistance and a community education officer.

It was very important that I not do all the research into schools myself but should constantly test my findings and my conclusions against those of other people, for two main reasons. First, I needed to ensure that my conclusions were not simply misconceptions, or did not merely serve to justify my own preoccupation with community education. Second, because I was the Regional Director, principals, teachers ( and, probably, school inspectors) could hide from me, or present in favourable terms only, occurrences I wanted to know about. Without the research assistant, a person with a background of study in psychology but also a teacher, I could not have prepared such detailed cases, and without a community education officer, a person with a deep commitment to parental involvement in education and a teacher also, I could not have collected such accurate social information on the school communities.

At my request, they also kept precise records of their involvement with schools and community groups. At times, when one of us believed that an activity, project, meeting or discussion might be of special value, I would request that a tape recorder be used and transcripts kept. The use of transcripts was negotiated and a large part of this sort of material has been used elsewhere, particularly by those in schools and in school communities whose operations we were monitoring as part of their own documentation of change. However, some of the taped material has been included with the case studies as being especially relevant and revealing.

My knowledge of the region's schools and their communities, and of what was happening in them, was unique. I was personally involved in the region's community education from its first spreading-the-word exercises in 1977 until I left in mid-1983. This thesis reflects the intimacy of the relationship Brisbane North Education Region and I had.

Please cite as: QIER (1987). Thesis abstracts. Queensland Researcher, 3(1), 40-47. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr3/thesis-abs-3-1.html

Contents Vol 3, 1987 ] [ QJER Home ]
Created 22 Mar 2008. Last revision: 22 Mar 2008.
URL: http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr3/thesis-abs-3-1.html