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Thesis abstracts

This section publishes abstracts from theses in education from Australian tertiary institutions. Abstract information for future editions are 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:Receptive Communication Abilities of Hearing-Impaired
Author:M.B. Hyde
Institution:University of Queensland

The linguistic development and academic achievement of severely and profoundly hearing-impaired students is significantly delayed in comparison to their hearing peers. A major contributing factor to these delays has been the difficulty of identifying communication methods that facilitate development of students' Linguistic and academic competencies (Moores, 1982; Quigley and Paul, 1984). Although there has been emotional debate concerning the effectiveness of particular methods of communication since the sixteenth century, it is only in the last thirty years that there have been empirical studies of this important issue.

The results of these empirical studies have been interpreted as supporting the use of simultaneous combinations of oral and manual methods of communication with severely and profoundly hearing-impaired students. This approach has been implemented in a majority of schools and is most frequently described as Total Communication or "simultaneous communication" (Schlesinger, 1986; Johnson and Kadunc, 1980).

In addition to studies which examined the methods of communication used with hearing-impaired students, another area of relevant research has involved studies of the information processing consequences of hearing impairment. The findings of studies related to communication methods and to information processing abilities have been inconsistent. The linguistic and cognitive abilities of subjects, the difficulty of tasks, and the nature of stimuli have not always been considered in these studies.

The present study attempted to control the effects of these variables. The 30 subjects were the total metropolitan population of severely and profoundly hearing-impaired students between the ages of 10 and 16 years who met certain criteria for the study. These criteria were intelligence within the average range, no additional disability, similar communication experience, linguistic competence, and instructional and social background. The communication experience consisted of exposure to Total Communication (including the use of Australian Signed English) for at least five years. Linguistic competence involved being able to understand and use simple sentences and instructional background involved at least three years attendance at the students' present school.

Control of other experimental variables related to task difficulty was attempted by using a low-demand, four-alternative recognition task with planned linguistic content. The nature of the stimuli for each presentation was controlled by using: (a) a consistent signal-to-noise ratio that replicated the acoustic conditions measured in classrooms; (b) videotaped presentation of all communication conditions for re-test reliability; (c) a large number of trials per subject per condition to achieve data stability; and (d) different testing sequences for various groups of subjects to protect against serial learning effects.

Another variable that may have influenced the results of previous studies was the subjects' degree of hearing loss. Although differences between severely and profoundly hearing-impaired subjects have been demonstrated for listening and for lipreading (Erber, 1974c), the possibility of differences between the two groups with other communication methods has not been examined. Most studies have described their subjects as "severely to profoundly hearing-impaired" and their results may have been influenced by the proportions of severely versus profoundly hearing-impaired students involved. For this reason, the present study allocated the students to either the "Severely Hearing-Impaired Group" or to the "Profoundly Hearing-Impaired Group" based on their better-ear-average, unaided hearing loss.

Eleven communication conditions were used to examine the receptive communication abilities of the severely versus the profoundly hearing-impaired students. The communication conditions involved the presentation of videotaped sentences unimodally, bimodally and multimodally. The unimodal conditions were audition, lipreading, fingerspelling, and signs (Signed English). The bimodal conditions were all possible bimodal combinations of these four communication methods. The multimodal conditions presented information through the two combinations most frequently used in classrooms: either through audition, lipreading and signs or through audition, lipreading and fingerspelling.

In addition, a questionnaire was used to obtain teacher ratings of the students' communication abilities. The questionnaire was adapted from that used by Conrad (1979) and sought information on the students' receptive communication abilities and their speech intelligibility. It was found that the association between these ratings and the study communication measures was only moderate, with the rating for fingerspelling the only one to reach significance.

The main results indicated that: (i) there was no evidence that the most common communication practice used with Total Communication (simultaneous audition, lipreading and signing) was more effective than the use of signing alone for either group or the use of the auditory/ lipreading combination for the severe group; (ii) the communication abilities of the severe group were significantly better than the profound group on all communication conditions not involving signing; and (iii) there were significant negative correlations between the severely hearing-impaired group's ability to listen and their ability to receive signing or fingerspelling.

It was also noted that the addition of speech to signed information did not produce an enhancement of students' scores. It was suggested that this may have been caused by the slower production rate of Signed English disturbing the prosodics of speech. This could have made the use of lipreading and listening more difficult. An alternative explanation for this result may have been due to students' facility in encoding signed information, rather than speech information, in short-term memory.

Several other findings of the study, when taken in conjunction with each other, indicated that the simultaneous use of audition, lipreading and signs may not necessarily produce benefits in both the oral and manual skills of students. These findings include: (i) the significant negative correlations between the severely hearing-impaired groups' listening and "manual" abilities (fingerspelling and signing); (ii) the poor performance of the profound group with "oral" communication conditions (audition, lipreading and the auditory/lipreading combination); and (iii) the students' low speech intelligibility ratings.

To develop the listening, lipreading and speaking skills of hearing-impaired students may require separate attention to the relevant components and a more "active" use of oral communication strategies in Total Communication programs. Based on information gathered during the study, improvement of the signal-to-noise ratios in classrooms would also seem to be relevant to acquisition of these skills.

Large standard deviations were obtained for both groups for fingerspelling and also for the profound group for "oral" communication conditions. In addition, certain students performed in a manner that was discordant with the range of group measures. These variations indicated that there were individual differences in communication competencies. It was suggested that these should be taken into account by using the methods of Total Communication in a flexible and discriminating manner which caters for individual differences. The practical implications of the poor performance of the profound group with fingerspelling were discussed in relation to the relatively small size of the Signed English lexicon.

The results of the study have shown that there are group and individual differences in the communication abilities of students and only a moderate correlation between the ratings of teachers and the study measures of communication abilities. These results have important implications for the implementation of Total Communication and the evaluation and remediation of the communication abilities of hearing-impaired students.

Title:Environmental History, Drama, and Authentic Historical Sites as a Focus for Environmental Education
Author:R. Tooth
Institution:University of Queensland

In this thesis, curriculum is viewed as a continuing process where both the theoretical and the practical are set within a unified model, the central tenet of which is practical theory worked out through "the committee action of praxis" (Carr and Kemmis, 1983, 165). It is this notion of praxis that lies at the heart of this thesis and directs its every word. It "... has its roots in the commitment of the practitioner to wise and prudent action in a practical ... situation. It is action which is informed ... and which may, in its turn, inform and transform the theory which informed it" (Carr and Kemmis, 1983, 165). Praxis demands involvement. It requires intimacy and finds little place for the detached curriculum observer.

Three hitherto unconnected strands of thought are drawn together - environmental history as a base for environmental education content; the artistic interpretation of content within an improvised drama process; and the verification of environmental history within real historical settings. These ideas are given concrete expression within the Settlers Drama as described in this thesis and are interpreted within a dynamic and ongoing action research cycle.

The central argument is that environmental history content, beyond the experience of children, can be made personal and real through the artistic process of child drama verified within authentic settings.

In claiming this, three important assumptions are acknowledged. First, that because existence is ecological the categories of content, process and setting must be understood as one unified and dynamic reality, linking curriculum design and practice to the real world. Second, that when content is said to be personalised by drama, there is an implication that it will be changed and transformed by individuals. Any notion of the final truth is rejected. Teachers must remain flexible and expect open-ended solutions to problems. Third, that the reason environmental history content, drama process and authentic setting worked so well within the Settlers Drama is because they allowed the total physical, imaginative and intellectual involvement of the children. The inner unity of the children was catered for through the natural unity of the experience.

The Settlers Drama has gone a long way towards achieving the goals of this thesis. Children have taken "outer culture" and in personal ways have drawn it into their "inner worlds". Just what they will do with these ideas is open to question. The process, however, is only beginning.

Title:Measuring the Effects of a Self Esteem Program with the Self Description Questionnaire
Author:J. Stenton
Institution:University of Queensland

This study examined the effects of a Self Esteem Program on children's and teacher's self esteem and on its social impact in the classroom. The Self Description Questionnaire (Marsh, 1986) was used to measure changes in the children's self concept. It is based on a multifaceted, hierarchical model of self concept as proposed by Shavelson, Hubner and Stanton (1976) and was specifically designed for preadolescents. It contains separate subscales measuring students' self concept of physical ability, physical appearance, peer relationships, parent relationships, reading ability, mathematics ability, general school ability and general self. Sociometric techniques were used to measure changes in social status within the classrooms. The Coopersmith Self Esteem Inventory Adult Form (Coopersmith, 1975) was used to measure changes in the self concept of the teachers. Fifty-six children (ages 10 and 11) and two teachers participated in the study. A specific reading program was undertaken as an alternative treatment. The results indicated that: (a) the self esteem program had no measurable effects on the self esteem of the children; (b) there was no measurable effect on the social status of the children; and (c) there was a positive change in the self esteem of the teachers.


Bibliography of Education Theses in Australia for 1986

Bibliography of Education Theses in Australia: A List of Theses in Education Accepted for Higher Degrees at Australian Universities and Colleges in 1986.
ISSN 0811-0174   Frequency: Annual.   Price: $25.00   ACER Contact: Liz Oley
Annual issues available on standing order.

The Bibliography of Education Theses in Australia for theses accepted during 1986 lists four hundred and eighty-nine higher degree theses in education that were accepted at Australian universities and colleges during 1986. This is the ninth in a series of annual volumes covering education theses accepted from 1978 through to 1986.

Theses for degrees at both master and doctoral levels are included. Subject coverage is determined by topics that are relevant to education and not restricted to those produced through the faculties or departments of education. As well as being of interest to educational researchers in general, the publication enables higher degree candidates to check on studies that have already been carried out to ensure that topics are unique.

Please cite as: QIER (1988). Thesis abstracts and Notices. Queensland Researcher, 4(3), 58-66. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr4/thesis-abs-notices4-3.html

[ Contents Vol 4, 1988 ] [ QJER Home ]
Created 10 Mar 2008. Last revision: 10 Mar 2008.
URL: http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr4/thesis-abs-notices4-3.html