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Thesis abstracts

Title:Dilemmas and Images: Gaining Acceptance for Child Responsive Classroom Practices
Author:Gail Halliwell
Institution:University of Queensland

This study is located in a literature which examines curriculum as it is enacted in the teachers' worlds of work. It will be of particular interest to the community of scholars who are reconstructing curriculum theory so that it acknowledges and informs the lived experience of practitioners.

Dilemmas that teachers identify as significant in their efforts to gain acceptance for child-responsive curriculum practices are examined. By focusing on dilemma situations it was possible to bring into discursive consciousness some aspects of the knowledge these teachers held about the social circumstances in which they acted and their knowledge of how to act within these circumstances. The construct of personal images, activated as teachers perceive and act towards dilemma situations, became an important tool for bringing into discursive consciousness the ways in which knowledge of social processes may enter into the practical curriculum work of teachers. It is claimed that these constructs of teacher dilemmas and teacher images are important conceptual tools for achieving in-depth understanding of knowledge held and used to inform practical action.

Ethnographic case study methods and Gidden's (1979, 1984) theory of structuration were used to direct the focus to intersections where structural regularities come into contact with teacher agency. The study indicates that teachers are aware, at a practical level of consciousness, of the need to take into account temporal, spatial and relational considerations Their perceptions of their work milieu extend far beyond the micro-setting of classroom, to include school, community and professional groups. The study also indicates that teachers hold knowledge of social processes in ways which enable them to understand and to act deliberatively within a world of work which is characterised by contradiction and ambiguity and where the consequences of action are always uncertain.

The researcher worked with teacher volunteers to construct narrative accounts which captured something of their knowledge about how to gain acceptance for valued practices. As we engaged with this task over a one year period the teachers expressed satisfaction about the sense of increasing personal ability to manage dilemmas. Their reactions are interpreted as evidence of engagement with what Gidden calls a 'double hermeneutic', that is, once participants in the ongoing culture become aware of structural regularities in their lives they have the means for strengthening or altering them.

On the basis of data accumulated and interpretations made it is argued that the constructs of teacher dilemmas and teacher images make important contributions to the task of reconstructing curriculum theory so that it reflects and informs practice. These constructs acknowledge that practical curriculum work always takes place in a milieu of competing imperatives, where dilemma is an endemic feature of life for the teacher who accepts that she is accountable for the quality of the curriculum as it is enacted in the classroom.

As curriculum theory is reconstructed to take account of the complexities of acting in the teachers' worlds of work, languages of practice are evolving. It is argued in this work that a language of practice which features the constructs of teacher dilemma and teacher image could provide a basis for scholarly inquiry where practitioners work as equals with researchers to pursue a shared interest in improving curriculum practice.

Title:Gender and Curriculum Policy in the Australian Context: Applying feminist theorising and curriculum theorising in an analysis of curriculum policy with reference to the National Policy for the Education of Girls in Australian Schools and related policies
Author:Leonie Daws
Institution:University of Queensland

This thesis addresses the question: Can insights derived from examining the intersection of curriculum theory with feminist theories about gender and education be applied to an analysis of curriculum policy to enhance the pursuit of the objective of gender justice and equity in the Australian context? To answer this question a multidisciplinary approach has been employed that is located in the field of policy studies and that is informed by gender studies and curriculum studies. The theoretical framework for the study addresses the identification of significant discourses and of significant curriculum policy contexts, and the application of these to a textual analysis of policy documents.

In terms of significant discourses, the study investigates curriculum theories and feminist theories about gender and education. Feminist theories are categorised as either system maintaining theories, whose effect is to serve the interests of the state even though they may not discuss this explicitly, or system opposing theories, which explicitly seek ways to challenge state interests. An examination of the intersection of these two sets of theories suggests that feminist theories fail to adequately describe how fundamental curriculum change can be achieved, while curriculum theories fail to address the issues raised in feminist theorising.

The thesis proposes a set of criteria for developing an adequate feminist theory of curriculum. Such a theory should address structure and agency, providing a comprehensive analysis of the power bases inherent in existing structures and of the avenues for change available through the agency of individuals and groups. It should address the issue of male female differences, providing the basis for developing a politics of identity. It should also address the issue of diversity, both of female experiences and of feminist positions. A feminist theory of curriculum should draw on each of these understandings to elaborate a vision of gender justice and equity, and to clarify the nature of gender inclusive curriculum. Such a theory must also provide an account of curriculum structures within a broader theory of the state, and must identify the curriculum sites and agencies that are central to understanding curriculum as a vehicle for achieving gender justice and equity.

An historical analysis of the Australian curriculum policy context reveals significant tension between trends towards devolution of decision making and administrative functions on the one hand, while, on the other hand there is a trend towards increasing centralisation of curriculum policy within state systems and nationally. There is now an established expectat ion of federal intervention in curriculum matters, together with an established pattern of cooperation and collaboration between the states and the Commonwealth to achieve agreed goals. The counter theme to this is the increased responsibility and accountability accorded to schools.

Gender policy has traditionally been seen as belonging to the separate jurisdiction of 'disadvantaged groups' or social justice initiatives, rather than as centrally relevant to curriculum policy. The challenge arising from this analysis of feminist and curriculum discourses is to identify effective curriculum policy forums in which to advance the gender agendas for curriculum reform. In the past two years, implementation of the curriculum aspects of gender and education policy increasingly has been aligned with mainstream national collaborative curriculum activity. There is no documented analysis of the appropriateness of this choice for achieving gender justice and equity objectives.

Analysis of national policy documents and related policy documents in Queensland and South Australia, using the conceptual framework outlined above, reveals that liberal feminism has been the predominant influence in these policy documents. Increasingly, radical feminist and socialist feminist analyses and solutions are also being incorporated into gender and education policy documents. Poststructuralist feminism was not seen to be influential. Curriculum theories were most notable in their omission from these documents. Assumptions about change strategies within the gender and education policy documents, while not apparently informed by theories of curriculum, were generally consistent with system maintaining theories of curriculum.

Gender and education policy documents were weakest at those points where feminist curriculum theory development is also weak. These are the areas of responding to the diversity of female experience, and of applying feminist analyses to the traditional domain of curriculum theory which includes identifying significant sites and agencies of curriculum change, and analysing the operation of power in curriculum policy processes.

More concerted attention to those areas highlighted by the criteria for an adequate feminist theory of curriculum should result in further theoretical clarification of the causes of gender differentiated educational outcomes, and elaboration of curriculum policy alternatives. Such attention needs to be exercised both by those concerned with theory development and by curriculum policy makers at all levels.

Title:The Gendered Classroom: A Study of Teacher Attitudes and their Reflection in Classroom Interaction
Author:Jillian Brannock
Institution:University of Queensland

Given the rapidly changing nature of sex roles in post-industrial Western societies, it is pertinent to examine the part played by schooling in the reinforcement or transformation of sex roles and the sex stereotypes Since teachers arguably are key players in the schooling process, and in particular, are highly significant forces acting upon pupils within classrooms, empirical research into the attitudes, expectations and practices of teachers should strengthen our understanding of the part played by schooling. The GATAP (Gender and Teacher Attitudes and Practices) project was undertaken in fourteen schools, primary and secondary, government and non-government, in south-east Queensland, Australia, during 1990. The project employed a multi-dimensional model incorporating interviews, written surveys and classroom observation by a non-participant observer.

The GATAP project adopted as its focus the attitudes of teachers and principals to sex differences, gender and gender equity, and the way in which teacher attitudes translate into equitable or non-equitable practices in classrooms. It was hypothesised that a significant gap exists between the teachers' perceptions of equitable teacher-pupil interaction in their own classrooms and the perceptions of an observer.

The GATAP project concluded that teachers and principals are passive and reactive agents in the maintenance and reinforcement of sex role stereotypes, with the attitudes of teachers and principals to sex roles and gender equity falling short of accepting a proactive educational role. The response by teachers to the survey question employing the Byrne Attitude Scale on Sex Roles indicated a marked reluctance to commit themselves to affirmative action on gender equity, with male teachers consistently more reluctant in this regard than female teachers. Further, egalitarian views of classroom interaction and teacher practice are not necessarily reflected in egalitarian teacher practices. While there is a perception by teachers that their own classrooms are sex equitable, first hand observation analysis revealed that a significant number of teachers actively reinforce sex stereotypes within the content of their interaction with pupils, and/or passively reinforce the sex stereotypes by consistently failing to challenge the sexist dialogue and/ or behaviour of pupils, and/or by failing to apply issues of gender equity within the lesson context. Significant differences are revealed in the quality of the interaction that occurs between teachers and male pupils, and teachers and female pupils, with the gender differentiation most evident in the dominance by a minority of boys over teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil interaction, and the adversarial relationship established by boys with their teachers, factors positively correlated with inconsistent classroom management strategies on the part of the teacher. Qualitative differences are also evident in the teaching styles of men and women teachers, with female teachers more likely than male teachers to demonstrate high levels of praise, warmth and encouragement to their pupils in the classroom interaction.

The GATAP findings support the need for intensive in-service programs within Queensland schools, directed at educating teachers and principals on the need for proactive work in classrooms, and strategy based programs aimed at enhancing teacher classroom management so that the dominance behaviours of boys may be effectively addressed.

Title:Parent, Child and Text: Factors in Reading Aloud in the Home
Author:Julie Spreadbury
Institution:Queensland University of Technology

This study investigated some aspects of the family literacy practices of 25 Australian families over a period of a year, from the end of the children's preschool year, that is the year before formal schooling, to the end of Grade 1.

Data were collected by interviews of parents and teachers, from observation of the children at home and at school, from samples of the children's work, from standardised tests of the children's knowledge of literacy, language ability, self concept and reading ability, and from transcripts of parents and teachers reading to the children at home and school.

The study showed that family literacy practices changed from preschool to Grade 1. While socioeconomic status or education level were uncorrelated with the frequency of parent-child reading in the home and the amount of interaction between parent and child during such episodes, there was considerable variability in individual parent style.

Some parents were highly interactive when reading aloud with their child while others saw reading aloud more as a performance and had little or no verbal interaction with their child.

The number of utterances between parent and child decreased from the end of preschool to the end of Grade 1, but the compl exity of questioning increased. Some children had difficulty with inferential questions but many parents helped them succeed by providing information or dropping the level of questions. Although three-quarters of the children verbally interacted with their parent during the preschool reading, more than half the children were silent during the reading at the end of Grade 1.

As in Wells' (1985) Bristol study, the children's knowledge of literacy on entering school was highly predictive of their reading ability at both six and eight years old, as was the amount of interaction between parent and child during reading in the home.

This study showed not only the great variety in parent styles but also the complex intertwining of cognitive and affective factors that make up individual parent style. This research reveals that many parents are highly competent at teaching their own children and as such, has implications for both parent and teacher programs of the future.

Please cite as: QIER (1993). Thesis abstracts. Queensland Researcher, 9(3), 36-43. http://education.curtin.edu.au/iier/qjer/qr9/thesis-abs.html

[ Contents Vol 9, 1993 ] [ QJER Home ]
Created 6 May 2006. Last revision: 6 May 2006.
URL: http://education.curtin.edu.au/iier/qjer/qr9/thesis-abs.html