Issues In Educational Research, 1(1), 1991, 47-67.

1990 WAIER Research Forum

24-25 August

Presentation Abstracts

The influence of teacher beliefs on constructivist teaching practices

Peter Taylor
WAIER 1989 Early Career Award Winner
SMEC, Curtin University of Technology

A collaborative research study was designed to facilitate, at the local school level, the design and implementation of "constructivist" approaches to teaching mathematics in high school classrooms. This paper discusses the nature and influence of a teacher's professional beliefs on his attempts to create an innovative learning environment congruent with the principles of a constructivist theory of knowledge development. Constructivist instructional strategies were designed and successfully implemented. However, the narrow scope of these innovations highlight the significant role of the teacher's established positivist belief system in determining boundary conditions for conceptual change.

"Problem solving" workshop effectiveness

Kath Ahern
School of Nursing, WACAE Churchlands

The purpose of this study is to determine the reasons participants attended a one-day workshop on creative problem solving, and to determine the elements of the workshop which met their needs.

Respondents included sixteen registered nurses who elected to attend a one-day workshop advertised as a creative problem solving workshop. Participants were from nursing areas of intensive care, community, gerontology, management and staff development.

The workshop consisted of blocks of didactic teaching and small group work, culminating in a role-training session where participants explored and practised new methods of dealing with self-identified problems. At the end of the day, participants were asked to complete an open-ended questionnaire regarding their reasons for attending the workshop and their reactions to the workshop.

Two main themes evolved: What people saw as their motives for coming to the workshop and what they gained from the workshop.

The major reasons for attending were to gain skills in work related fields, (especially problem solving and conflict resolution), and concern for others. The importance of concern for others was reflected in participants' identification of helpful elements cited the friendly, sharing aspects of the workshop). This is an indicator that nurses are motivated by concern for people they work with, and that the effectiveness of the interactive small group approach reflects this.

Of the content of the workshop, the role play was identified as being of most benefit in clarifying issues and consolidating knowledge.

Areas recommended for future research include the assessment of the value of distributing content outline and preparation material prior to the workshop and an analysis between participants" motives for attending and their perception gained.

Training in business and industry: A research and development agenda for higher education

Roger Atkinson

Attention to training in Australian business, industry and government has grown very rapidly in recent years. The most immediate stimulus is the Training Guarantee Bill 1990, but the underlying origins are due to longer term changes in society. These include demographic changes, technological changes, economic reforms such as award restructuring and multi skilling, and changing expectations about people's working lives, such as life long learning and career paths for everybody.

What roles should educationalists in universities seek to adopt in response to these changes? This paper argues that education should seek extensive roles broader than the traditional roles associated with services to the school teacher sectors, early childhood, primary and secondary. Education faculties are very experienced in the provision of research for these sectors, but there is relatively little research provided for the corporate trainer. Broad topic areas such as adult learners, curriculum processes for industry training, designing open learning for businesses, educational technologies for the workplace, educational evaluation of training systems, and many other topics are receiving little attention from university researchers and developers.

Education faculties and other university units such as Distance Education Centres do possess relevant skills and resources that enable them to enter into new roles in business and industry based training. Indeed, it is important that they do so, because these skills are an essential ingredient in the measures needed to meet high expectations about multi skilling, career paths and other elements that depend upon life long learning. However, we will encounter some complex issues, outlined in this paper, that are likely to inhibit the abilities of universities to develop new agendas linking themselves with business and industry.

These include the education versus training debate; differences between corporate trainers and teachers; the need to understand non traditional learners and the non traditional methods of delivery associated with them; questions about the control of learning and learners; demarcations between universities, TAFE, and private or corporate providers; industry perceptions about academic education; dealing with subject areas unfamiliar to universities; privatisation of education and other issues.

Developing a model of community support for disadvantaged families with young children in Albany

Jo Barrie
Department for Community Services

This pilot project was undertaken to explore an alternative approach of staged intervention to assist access to community resources by disadvantaged families with young children.

In the present project the Early Education Programme was used to engage caregivers. This programme recognises and targets caregivers as contributors to, and supporters of, young children's education. The content of the programme is concerned with the appropriate language skills and social behaviours needed by young children at the time of entry to pre-school and primary school. The programme aims to empower caregivers to develop these skills in their children through language interchange, plans and activities.

The project took place over a six months' period with a part time Project Officer, and was constrained by time and resources. Families were referred to the project by the District Guidance Officer (Education) Social Workers (Community Health) and Social Workers (Community Services). Five & mikes took part with one family leaving the project before its completion. The project was undertaken in three stages. Stage 1 was a home-based programme; Stage 2 was a centre-based programme; and the third stage involved access to the wider community.

Measures of mother-child language interaction adapted from Clezy (1979) and a Home Situations Behaviour check-list Barkley (1987) were used before Stage 1 and at the completion of Stage 2. Families were followed up three months after the conclusion of the project to record community involvement.

The results of the project were encouraging. Measures indicated gains particularly in language interchange between caregivers and children. The measure of caregivers and child language interchange seems likely to have important implications for learning, socialisation and development of caregivers' quality of the interaction taking place. The numbers and severity levels of difficult behaviour in home situations were also reduced. Follow-up probes showed that families were linked into various community supports with which they previously had not been involved. The results showed that planned and staged community access which involved caregivers with their children through an education focus and further linked them to available community support structures, might encourage community cohesion and lessen dependency on welfare. During the course of the project families developed personal support networks as well as access to the wider community supports.

The three step assessment plan

Mervyn Bond
Ministry of Education, Curriculum Policy Branch

Assessment! Is it driving you, or are you driving it?

Over the last three years successful appeals have been made by Year 12 students against the grades awarded by their teachers. These appeals have been won on the basis of prescribed structures being ignored by teachers. Coming to terms with the assessment requirements in the Upper Secondary and in the Unit Curriculum is a non-trivial exercise. The Three Step Assessment Plan is a straight forward, no nonsense approach to assessment planning that is equally applicable to the Unit Curriculum or Upper Secondary TES/CSE courses. Participants will see how to move from a syllabus statement to marks book entries in three logical and time saving steps.

Young children using computers: Patterns of cooperation

Yvonne Burgess and Sue Trinidad
Curtin University of Technology

In Western Australia, most early childhood teachers are aware of the need to give serious thought to the place of computers in pre-primary centres. Undeniably computers are part of children's general environment and will play an increasingly important role in their lives in the future.

During the last few years, researchers have reported enthusiastically about the possible benefits to the young child. It has been postulated that computer usage helps to develop fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem solving abilities, particular awareness of cause-effect relationships, decision making skills, self confidence, reading and writing skills and so on. Whilst acknowledging current research, the teacher needs to examine the possible benefits and drawbacks of computer activities in relation to the needs of the particular children in his/her care.

This paper describes a preliminary investigation into social behaviour patterns when computer activities are provided for preschoolers. By monitoring patterns of social behaviour over time, teachers can make informed decisions about the value of using computer-based activities in the early childhood years.

Towards a theory of pastoral care in the primary school

Lyn Callaghan
Murdoch University

Pastoral care has been a formal dimension of secondary schooling in Australia for two decades. However, the literature suggests that pastoral care has often failed to achieve its objective of providing a constructive and positive caring function, mainly because of problems arising from the distinctive organisational structures in secondary schools. In recent years, primary schools have been focusing their attention on formulating pastoral care policies and setting up pastoral care structures. The primary school's organisational unit called "the class", provides an ideal forum for the integration of pastoral care principles into the normal curriculum, thus avoiding many of the misdirections that have occurred in secondary schools, such as the institutionalisation of pastoral care and the development of a pastoral/academic split.

The present study seeks to develop an integrated approach capable of providing a clear and shared understanding of what is involved in pastoral care, what is the conceptual relationship between pastoral care and general education, and how pastoral care may be practised in the normal educational setting.

Influences on the socialisation experiences of aspiring principals

G. Campbell-Evans

This paper describes research on how principal certification courses influence the formation of the candidates' image of the principalship. Aspiring principals typically begin pre-service training with varied or ill-formed images of the principalship. Moreover, a variety of factors appear to influence their decision to pursue these training programmes. The premise of this study was that course objectives are attained to the extent that candidates develop an image of the principal as a systematic problem-solver.

For the purposes of this study, the image of the effective principal was characterised by a sound educational philosophy, extensive knowledge about effective educational practices and a clear understanding of the policy environment framing the school's purposes and practices. Given the array of educational experiences and skills required for the development of such a comprehensive image of leadership effectiveness, it becomes necessary to take a longitudinal view of administrator development. Van Gennep's (1960) three stages of professional socialisation (Initiation, Transition and Incorporation) proved helpful in conceptualising how and when administrators should have what experiences, and in giving reason to reactions course candidates manifest during formal training experiences.

Through the use of a pre-course survey instrument, dialogue journals and focused interviews the investigators collected data from approximately one hundred candidates enrolled in the Northwest Territories Department of Education Principal Certification Program. This data was analysed using the key dimensions of effective principal practice (Leithwood and Montgomery, 1986) as well as a conceptualisation of principal socialisation (Leithwood, Steinbach & Begley, 1989). Preliminary results suggest that course candidates' decisions to enrol in the program were influenced by a number of actors. These included the encouragement received from local principals and department of education personnel, financial support from the teachers' federation, the positive reputation of the programme as good leadership training, and the perception that certification would soon be a Territorial mandate. The candidates' increasing awareness and valuing of key skills and orientations (such as collaborative problem solving, goal setting and effective communications with a variety of stakeholder groups) were also recorded.

A survey of the practice of performance appraisal and professional development by some principals and early childhood educators in Western Australian primary schools

Eleanor I. Carney

The implementation of recommendations by Beazley Report (1984) for performance appraisal has changed the practice of staff evaluation in the Western Australian state school system. These changes give the principal the responsibility and budget to provide for staff professional development and career advancement. This new system of school based evaluation gives the principal responsibility for assessing staff competence, and a key role in teacher promotion.

The major objectives for the study were to gain some insight into how early childhood educators and administrators evaluate teacher performance and identify any discrepancies between their perceptions of appropriate practice. Also to note any career impediments encountered by the early childhood teacher.

The study described a survey of administrators and early childhood teachers in one Western Australian metropolitan school region. The research instrument was based on the WA Ministry's "Guidelines for Promotion by Merit" which indicated teacher performance which demonstrated suitability for promotion.

Nine questions were based on teaching, management, and professional attributes appropriate to the effective teacher, and one question addressed the practice of professional development. Further comment was sought from a representative of the State School Teacher's Union.

The findings suggest a discrepancy in the way teachers and administrators looked at evaluation. Teacher's use student behaviour and achievement, rather than self appraisal, as a bench mark and administrators gave subjective responses. Only one principal provided opportunities for staff career development, others believed it was the responsibility of the teacher.

It was concluded that there was no agreement concerning the criteria which should be used to evaluate the skills and classroom practice of the early childhood teacher. Therefore the design of an evaluative tool suited to the Western Australian School System was indicated.

Adolescents' and adults' facilitated and unfacilitated organisation of an everyday complex task

Denise Chalmers
WACAE Mt Lawley

This paper reports a comparison of adolescents' and adults' organisation of an everyday complex task in facilitated and unfacilitated planning conditions. The approach identifies planning as the cognitive organisation of tasks that require coordination and re-arrangement in order that both goals and task constraints can be fulfilled. The complex task involved simulated planning of an unexpected party for a teenager. Facilitative aids were built into the task that provided an organised way of arranging and scheduling chores, and assigning chores to four workers.

Aims were to determine if age-related differences would occur in adults' and adolescents' planning strategies and errors when task-dependent procedural facilitation of strategic organisation was provided; and whether planners could effectively evaluate their own plans.

Eighty-four working adults, retired adults and 14 year olds were randomly assigned to an experimental condition with procedural facilitation or a control condition in which organisational work was unassisted. Data were efficiency measures, errors, planning strategies and planners' retrospective ratings and verbal explanations of their own planning performances.

Procedural facilitation was effective for all age groups, with a marked difference in Year 9 students' facilitated and unfacilitated performance. Students' facilitated organisation of the individual chores and fulfilment of task constraints was as efficient as working adults' and more efficient than retired adults. Retired persons did not make use of facilitative aids and used ineffective strategies.

A number of planners from all groups failed to meet task specifications, and substituted personal re-arrangements of the chores. While different errors were made in given and personally transformed tasks, facilitated and age-related differences persisted.

Seventy percent of errors in adults' and adolescents' transformed plans could be explained by their experimental condition, use of strategies (ordering or list-following), and experimenters' ratings of subjects' verbal explanations of their planning performances. Planners did not accurately evaluate their own planning on rating scales, but could verbally explain their effective strategies.

Findings are related to the possibility of assisting older and younger planners to engage in effective organisation of everyday and academic complex tasks, and the type of assistance that can be built into the presentation of complex tasks.

The inception of microcomputers in Western Australian primary schools: A longitudinal case study

Kath Charmer, Judy Cousins, John Happs, Lorraine Kershaw and Adrianne Kinnear
MASTEC, WACAE Churchlands

A number of early initiatives in Western Australia ensured that the state implemented a centralised, coordinated plan to develop computer education in primary schools. Software was developed specifically for the Western Australian curriculum and equipment provided to meet demands which increased significantly between 1977 and today.

This investigation took the form of a case study which looked at a number of parameters likely to influence the ways in which planning was undertaken prior to the inception of computers in one Perth metropolitan primary school. Teachers and students were monitored over a period of 18 months before and during the time computers were introduced and used in the classroom. Changing perceptions, along with some specific outcomes were also documented.

Components of the case study reported here will be presented by some of the investigators from the Western Australian College of Advanced Education. These components comprise a number of investigations which:

  1. Considered how decisions about computer use were reached by principals and teachers. Additionally, it considered how decision making was influenced when one principal was replaced by another with different experience and expectations concerning computer use in schools.

  2. Looked at how teachers' attitudes towards microcomputers impacted on their willingness to use them in the classroom and how some teachers organised their classroom to make the best use of available microcomputers.

  3. Considered the ways in which learners' expectations and attitudes towards computers changed before and after they had access to microcomputers in the classroom.

  4. Monitored the ways in which some cognitive and effective learning outcomes were influenced by lessons which used computer assisted learning with lower primary children.
Findings from the different areas of the overall case study will be discussed and some implications drawn.

Destructing educators, constricting education: Does deconstruction help educational research?

Laurence Chiang
The University of Western Australia

The two-decade-old but still fashionable French nouveaux critiques movement led by Jacques Derrida has finally found its way into educational discourse. At present, in the educational circle, it is still in its early stage, but I have a feeling that it will explode into a fad and a myth. The question I would like to raise with this forum is: "Given that deconstruction is both a critique of and a strategy for undoing traditional unconscious ways of thinking, how, if at all, does it help educational research?"

Discharge planning for elderly clients from Perth hospitals: Theory and practice

Margaret F. Davey
School of Nursing, Curtin University of Technology

Discharge planning as a deliberate and explicit aspect of health care services is on the increase. The potential discharge planning has for cost saving in terms of better use of resources is being acknowledged. Nurses in their development of their client assessment provide discharge planning as pan of the care. This study identified the extent to which the discharge planning process was implemented for elderly clients. The discharge planning policies in four Perth hospitals, the selection and implementation of the services required for discharge were evaluated. The elderly clients' perceptions of the process were examined after discharge by means of semi-structured interview schedule. The written policies on admission and discharge provide guidelines, however the implementation of the policies lacks substance. Previous research suggests that discharge planning is not seen as a priority by ward staff and this study reported similar findings.

A random selection of 54 subjects were interviewed aged between 65 and 89 years, who were discharged from general medical wards. Acceptance and overall satisfaction was the general finding with some discontent evident.

Organisational change and the leadership team

Graham Dellar
Curtin University of Technology

In late 1987 the Ministry of Education released the Better Schools Programme which aimed at creating fundamental change to the existing decision-making structures and procedures within the education system. A key strategy for the implementation of the Better Schools initiatives involved the creation of a School Based Decision-Making Group. This group was to comprise representatives from both the staff and the community and would, within the broad Ministry guidelines, participate in the formulation of educational policy and financial and resource management of the school.

For many schools, such a change would represent a fundamental shift in the traditional authority relationships within schools. The principal would be required to participate with others in a collaborative approach to school management.

Based on the findings of a two year research project, this paper focuses on the issues surrounding the formation on School-Based Decision-Making Groups in three government secondary school. Particular attention is given to the emergence of a new leadership configuration based on the "team" and the difficulties experienced by principals and other members of the school community in implementing this aspect of the Better Schools Programme.

Leadership and change in schools: The case of District High Schools in Western Australia

Chris Elliott
Northampton District High School

The focus of the research was on the manifestations of leadership that emerged in one district high school in Western Australia undergoing both imposed and self-determined change. Given the phenomena, which were deemed to evolve complex human behaviour, a recision was made to locate the research within the naturalistic paradigm. The research was established in the "bounded, case study" mode in which the school was regarded as an instance drawn from a class within which issues would be discovered the described and studies in order to achieve understanding. A second district high school was used as a reference point from which developments in the case study school might be judged.

Data were collected by formal and informal interviews, direct observations and weekly three day visits to the case study school and periodic visits to the reference school. The Principal of the latter school was used as an "external auditor" for the data analysis and interpretations.

Data were analysed using a data content analysis system based upon a single frame of reference - interventions - and a preliminary categorisation taxonomy developed as an initial conceptual framework. Data were "mapped" using two techniques based on chronologies of actions and events (interventions) and leadership approach.

Analysis of data indicated that:

The frequency, cause and effects of back pain in nursing, mining and teaching

Nikki Errington
School of Nursing, Curtin University of Technology

Surveillance data indicates that certain occupational groups are at risk to back pain. In response to this finding, work related morbidity (specifically back pain) is being investigated in three nominated occupational groups, nursing, teaching and mining. A cross sectional study is being used to examine the frequency and pattern of back pain in these occupational groups. The cumulative incidence of back pain sufficiently severe to cause absence from work or change in duties is being ascertained by the administration of a 55 item questionnaire to a random sample of 6000 workers, 2000 from each occupational group. Preliminary data analysis from nurses shows that nurses are at much greater risk than the population at large with 62% of the sample population experiencing back pain in the last year and nearly 50% of them experiencing back pain in the last month. The self reported distribution of back pain indicated that most of the pain occurs in the lumbo-saccral and cervical regions. Lifting, bending and previous injury are the most commonly attributed reasons/causes for this back pain. Analyses of the prevalence of back pain in occupational groups at risk is an essential pre-requisite to tackling back pain in industry. [ Keywords: low back pain, epidemiology, education, occupation ]

Development of students' problem solving skills in a laboratory context

Mark W. Hackling and Patrick J. Garnett
WACAE Nedlands

One of the main goals of science education is the development of scientific investigation skills (Bryce & Robertson, 1985; Woolnough & Allsop, 1985). A practical test instrument was developed to assess students' attainment of skills associated with problem analysis, planning experiments, collecting information, organising information, interpreting information and concluding. Students' verbalised their thoughts as they worked on the task and their performance was videotaped for analysis. Preliminary results revealed significant areas of student weakness and recommendations are made for curriculum reform.

An agenda for the new principal: Negotiating the culture of the school

Michael Harvey
WACAE Mt Lawley

The first year of the appointment of a beginning principal is a critical moment, not only for the career of a promising educator, but also for the continuity of school operations. Recognition of the culture of the school enables conceptualisation of a strategy for the way in which the new principal enters a fully operational school and attempts to exercise influence. The negotiated order of the school consists of contested meanings as well as customised patterns of decision making. This paper examines aspects of the process whereby the new principal can locate and discover the culture of the school, participate in culture formation and authorise culture. As an outsider the new principal experiences difficulties in 'reading' the culture of the school and in developing a vision of the future of the school. The development of a network of influence for the receipt and the transmission of meanings is an important aspect of positioning for leadership. The way in which the new principal negotiates the culture of the school influences the credibility of the principal in the micropolitics of the school.

Leadership: Alternative settings

Vera Irurita
Curtin University of Technology

The problem examined in this study was the discovery of how nurses in leadership positions in Western Australia act, or fail to act, to exert influence on the delivery of health care, and the identification of the major stumbling blocks to the achievement of this influence and to the advancement of the nursing profession. The problem was examined through the grounded theory method, used to generate a substantive theory which explained the complex social-psychological processes inherent in this leadership situation, and which identified the core variable or process which formed its central focus. This paper will address the qualitative research approach used and how this enabled the sociological and cultural dimensions of the context to be identified, as well as the processes in which the leaders engaged in order to achieve influence.

The method used in this study has been widely used in sociology and anthropology, as well as in the field of education. It was not found to have been used in studies of management and leadership, these more commonly being quantitative studies Nevertheless, there is evidence of an in creasing tendency to use qualitative research in this field, in an endeavour to move away from the emphasis on verifying existing theories which have not adequately explained this phenomenon

Who cares for the carers? A study on stress in the nursing profession

Sybe Jongeling
WACAE Churchlands

Stress is particularly prevalent in the human service professions. It appears that responsibility for people always causes more stress than responsibility for material objects. Therefore, people involved in teaching, counselling and all of the major health professions are particularly susceptible to occupational stress and burnout. Evidence of stress within the teaching profession is well documented and studies within Western Australia have indicated considerable levels of stress among teachers and administrators in Government

Factors which contribute to stress may be classified in terms of individual stressors, societal stressors and organisational stressors. To some extent workers have control over the individual, personal stressors. However, they have less influence on work-related and societal stressors. Essentially unrealistic worker expectations, bureaucratic constraints and public misperceptions of the role of human service professionals combine to produce stressful conditions.

Within Western Australia organisational changes in the Ministry of Education and at the school level, together with curriculum changes and the ever-increasing expectations of parents and society for teachers to provide instruction in all of society's needs, from counsellor, pastoral care giver and health educator to driver training and sex education, have increased the stressful situations encountered by teachers in their daily tasks.

Organisational changes and new require meets for promotional advancement in the Nursing Profession, together with the greater emphasis on tertiary qualifications, rapid advances in medical technological, ethical concerns and problems in patient care have placed greater stress on nurses. The similarities between the nursing and teaching are clear. Therefore, this study examines the extent of stress among registered nurses engaged in tertiary studies in Western Australia. The study explores the perceived work related factors responsible for stressful situations in the nursing profession.

Small group cooperative learning: Developing a category system

Len King, Collette Tayler and Carmel Maloney
WACAE Churchlands

The study of small group cooperative learning which is in progress focuses on investigating the nature of student involvement during lessons consisting primarily of small group cooperative learning strategies. Similar to the work conducted at the Center for Research in Social Behaviour, University of Missouri, Columbia, the study is attempting to gather within-group process data of small groups at work as a means of describing patterns of student participation, quality of student contribution, kinds of interpersonal interactions among students, and patterns of student cooperation. Such a focus on the interpersonal dynamics prevailing among students within a group should provide some insight into those processes which influence the intended quality of learning.

Data were obtained by observers script taping small groups from a single class engaged in cooperative learning tasks across a sequence of lessons. Additional student perception data were obtained from interviews conducted with the students following the series of lessons.

Using inductive approaches a category system was developed for coding the script tapes. The category system features task-oriented type interactions and group dynamics type interactions. Analysis of the data is expected to yield patterns of student participation, contribution, cooperation, and interpersonal dynamics which prevailed among small groups. The category system developed should serve as an instrument for coding process data in subsequent larger scale studies, especially those which are designed to research the effectiveness of small group cooperative learning techniques with regard to the quality of academic learning outcomes.

Technology education: The hidden curriculum - some preliminary findings

Monica Leggett
WACAE Mt Lawley

This study investigated the hidden curriculum within the school, concerning technology and its link with the environment. It was considered important that a holistic approach was taken and that a picture was gained of all the educational input to the student's day. Two observers shadowed a small group of students for two complete weeks, one at the beginning of the term and the other half way through, in addition students were interviewed, kept diaries and completed questionnaires on their TV viewing.

An interesting picture emerged with the day being dominated by organisational constraints and implied values associated with the pressure to complete the syllabuses specified in the unit curriculum. When asked to say what they understood by "technology" students had for the most part a very hazy notion yet they all had a working understanding of the term technology and the environment. There appears to be a correlation between these views and their TV viewing. The details and generality of these findings will be discussed.

Stress management: What do the experts say?

Graeme Lock
Hale School and WACAE

The presentation will comprise three main sections. First, definitions and theories of stress, and the associated concept of burnout, will be discussed. Second, stress management will be defined and a distinction made between individual and organisational stress management. Third, organisational stress management policies will be examined.

The main theme of the presentation will be the administrative implications of adopting effective organisational stress management techniques. Various techniques, as discussed in the literature, will be reviewed, and conclusions elicited from this review. Essentially, the presentation will be a qualitative analysis of the main ideas contained in the literature on organisational stress management.

Teachers' reasoning and moral judgement in the context of school discipline situations

Judy MacCallum
Murdoch University

Issues related to authority, rules and the quality of interpersonal relationships, constitute an important component of what students learn at school. These issues involve moral concerns, in that they relate to how teachers, administrators and students determine rights and responsibilities in their social interactions, how they arrange the terms of cooperation and the terms of their mutual welfare, (Rest, 1983). A recent case study (Johnston & Lubomudrov, 1987) identified two different approaches to discipline and ways of understanding the teachers' role that were related to the teachers' moral reasoning levels but did not address distinctions between moral and social-conventional concerns.

Building on the findings of Johnston and Lubomudrov, this paper reports the results of an investigation of 24 secondary school teachers' understandings of particular student transgression incidents and relates these to the teachers' moral judgment levels (as assessed by the Defining Issues Test). The teachers in the high moral reasoning group (DIT-%P score over 46) responded to the student transgressions with more perspective coordination, and provided more information in the form of domain appropriate rationales, than teachers in the low moral reasoning group (DIT-%P score below 38). The differences reached significance for the social-conventional transgressions. An unexpected finding was that the relationship between understanding of the teachers' role and moral reasoning was much stronger for female teachers than for male teachers suggesting that women make greater use of their moral understandings in school relationship issues than do men.

This investigation of teachers' moral judgement revolved around an intervention programme. The teachers were interviewed before and after the Managing Student Behaviour: A Whole School Approach inservice course. Teachers' understandings of the teachers' role were remarkably stable and most teachers interpreted the inservice course in terms corresponding to their moral reasoning levels. Only a small number of teachers thought the inservice course presented a new Approach: those initially in the low moral reasoning group considered the inservice presented the importance of teachers and students being involved in the decision making process, whereas those in the high moral reasoning group considered the inservice stressed tightening of regulations and school procedures.

The findings of the investigation point to the importance of teachers' individual moral reasoning levels in explaining variations in teachers' understandings of the teachers' role in school discipline situations and teachers' interpretations of educational methods.

Research into curriculum dissemination in TAFE

Clare McBeath
Curtin University of Technology

Curriculum development within the Technical and Further Education (TAFE) sector exceeds that of any other sector of education in Australia. Up to 30,000 different subjects are being constantly updated according to rapidly changing industrial, technological and political demand. The development and implementation of curricula is virtually a continuous process and all TAFE teachers are affected by it. During the past decade it has become a sophisticated process. Amongst this array of development activities, however, dissemination as a formal procedure appears to have been neglected.

Curriculum developers in TAFE believe that more attention should be given to dissemination, but for various reasons little is being done. Furthermore, it appears that no serious study of the dissemination process has been undertaken in the TAFE sector in Australia. This paper describes a proposal for research aimed at filling these gaps.

The study will be in three parts, reflecting the following three questions.

The first part has been completed. Two significant points which came out of this pan of the research were, firstly, that more attention should be given to improving the processes of curriculum dissemination and secondly, that dissemination was identified with communication mechanisms within the development process.

The second part of the research, to establish which factors are important in ensuring effective curriculum dissemination in TAFE, will entail a further survey of teachers, writers and disseminators, selected from a wider range of projects. The issues identified in the first survey will be examined again to establish the importance of each to the success or failure of the dissemination process.

The third part of the research will occur after the data have been analysed. The factors which emerge as most important will be drawn up into a dissemination model which can be tested on a real curriculum project.

The role of school assessed subjects on Year 12 Mathematics enrolments in Australia

John Malone
SMEC, Curtin University of Technology

In 1970, enrolments in Public Examination mathematics subjects in Australia represented 61% of the total Year 12 cohort. By 1980, they represented 87%, and with the introduction of School Assessed Subjects in mathematics in the first half of the 1980's, total mathematics enrolments have peaked at an amazing rate.

This session will review enrolment trends in both Public Examination mathematics and School Assessed mathematics in each State; describe the current situation both nationally and State-by-State; and facilitate discussion on the role and impact being made by the School Assessed Subjects on upper secondary school mathematics throughout the nation.

Development of student inquiry skills in a computerised classroom environment

Dorit Maor
SMEC, Curtin University of Technology

Increasing emphasis is being given to a Science - Technology - Society (STS) approach to learning in order to develop students' higher order thinking skills, and their creative and technological abilities to cope in a modern information society.

This presentation will discuss a research study in progress that adopts an STS approach which involves the use of a computerised research science database (Birds of the Antarctica), and specially designed curriculum materials. The purpose of the study is to investigate the extent to which this approach can facilitate the development of students' inquiry skills. Much effort is given in the program to developing both students' inquiry skills and subject matter knowledge.

A 'constructivist' view of learning is being employed to interpret students' knowledge and skills development as they interact with the computerised database and the curriculum materials in Year 11 and 12 classes in two Perth secondary schools. The researcher and teachers are engaged in a collaborative approach; the teachers are facilitators of students' learning, and the researcher observes and interacts with students.

This presentation will elaborate on an inquiry skills instrument and a Computer Classroom Environment Inventory (CCEI) specially designed for the study. Preliminary findings about students' initial abilities and perceptions will be discussed.

Self-efficacy and learning environments: Aspects of a recent study

Beverley Moriarty
The University of Western Australia

This paper describes the Class Description Observation Schedule (CDOS). The schedule is applied to the analysis of videotapes of lessons given under cooperation, competition and individualisation. The purpose of the analysis is to verify the implementation of each environment, to determine the similarity between teachers in the ways that they operate the same environment and to identify any additional elements which may contribute to differences in measures on specified dependent variables.

The construction of the CDOS has a theoretical basis associated with environmental definition. The behaviour categories relating to the goals, tasks and rewards are represented in the rows of the matrix, while their classification as cooperative, competitive or individualistic appears in the columns. Vertical analysis of the composite frequencies within each cell allows comparison of the emphasis of teachers or groups of teachers in relation to the nature of the learning environment. A horizontal analysis permits a comparison of the relative percentages of time spent on different pans of lessons.

Information coded on the CDOS can also be used in a sequential analysis, to determine the incidence of particular behaviours over a series of lessons. Some behaviours, for example, may become more or less prevalent the longer students are exposed to a particular environment.

Results of the analysis are presented in tabular form and as three-dimensional graphs. These graphs have been constructed using the Wingz computer program produced by Apple in 1988.

Student evaluation of clinical and classroom teaching in nursing

Tonia Naylor
Curtin University of Technology, School of Nursing

In order to provide a more reliable and valid 'Student Rating Form' for evaluation of classroom and clinical teaching in nursing the author is currently researching the applicability of a form which has been designed to provide summative student evaluation of teaching both areas.

The form is based on a Scriveners definition of teaching and incorporates criteria of merit as the basis for evaluation. Assumptions are made regarding student evaluation of teaching effectiveness and the ability of students to evaluate both clinical and classroom teaching.

Teacher-pupil interactions in a primary school classroom

Gary Partington and Vince McCudden
WACAE Churchlands

This study is the first stage of a detailed analysis by Gary Partington and Vince McCudden of the interactions that occur in classrooms with small numbers of Aboriginal pupils. Analysis of the interactions which occur between teacher and pupils suggests that interactions vary with the kind of lesson, teachers interact significantly more with some pupils than others, and that some pupils are more competent than others in managing interactions in the class. Preliminary analysis of prosodic and non-verbal data suggests that data from the verbal interaction analysis coding does not provide an accurate picture of the quality of interactions. Rather, some children who may interact with the teacher as frequently as others, experience a different quality of interaction. It appears that reciprocity of interaction may be a crucial variable in the quality of teacher-pupil interaction.

Literacy: What does it mean at the tertiary level?

Alex Radloff and Joanne Samson
Curtin University of Technology

In 1989 we developed a five-session writing programme to address writing skills in the context of a first year Educational Psychology Unit. This action research which was carried out during our regular teaching sessions was reported at the 1989 WAIER conference.

A revised version of the 1989 programme based on 1989 student feed-back, we again presented during regular teaching sessions in 1990. We were particularly concerned to include more actual composing practice as this was identified by ourselves and students as the most difficult aspect of writing. We wished to compare this new programme with the original one in terms of student acceptance and student quality of writing.

Students in the 1990 study were approximately 120 first years enrolled in ECE, Primary and Secondary programmes and included both school leavers and mature-aged. We used six intact tutorial groups. Three groups were presented with the 1989 programme (Format group N=60) and three with the 1990 programme (Composing group N=60).

Three writing assignments (project reports) which students were required to complete as part of unit assessment were used as the material for the intervention programme.

This programme was taught during regular workshops across the Semester. The intervention component occupied approximately 30 minutes of a two-hour workshop.

Data from the post-intervention questionnaire indicated that students took a more positive view of the intervention in 1990 than in 1989. There were also clear differences between the Format and Composing with the latter evaluating the intervention as more relevant and helpful. Possible reasons for these differences are discussed.

Both groups improved their grades on the assignments following intervention, with the Composing group showing a statistically significant difference from the Format group (p=.03) in improvement between projects one and three. The limitations of using such crude measures as assigned grades and our role as both teachers and assessors of student writing is recognised.

We have found it possible to help students develop better writing skills within the context of teaching regular courses; a result which we believe has relevance for teachers of all disciplines.

Literacy skills of first year teacher trainees

Joanne Samson
Curtin University of Technology

Writing is an essential component of learning at the tertiary level and the kinds of writing skills practised at school are likely to be different from those required at university.

Many first year students (school leavers) seem to feel that they are prepared for the demands of tertiary life and for any writing required of them. They have obtained a TEE, achieved a pass in English and gained a place in a tertiary institution. The experiences of teaching staff often do not match such youthful confidence. On the other hand, mature age students often do not feel confident despite the fact that many have writing skills superior to those who have left school recently.

The Faculty, because of its concern with perceived low literacy levels, introduced in 1988 a testing programme for incoming students enrolled in Early Childhood, Primary and Secondary Education programmes. Students were tested on spelling, punctuation and capitalisation (CER English Skills Assessment, Part 1) and essay writing. The reason for choosing an objective test for the mechanical skills was to obtain data which could be compared with Australian norms. The essay component was to evaluate students' ability to harness knowledge, arrange ideas and transform knowledge to support a position taken, that is, to be able to write an essay which required "analytic and speculative reasoning" (Clanchy, 1985, p3); tasks similar to those needed for expository writing.

Preliminary results from the testing programme will be presented. These suggest that entering first year teacher trainees in the Curtin Faculty do not have adequate mechanical skills (spelling, punctuation etc.) In addition many students do not realise that when writing an essay their "task is not so much to present facts, ideas and opinions, but to interpret, criticise and analyse them... (as well as to) ... think critically and independently". (Bate and Sharpe, 1990, p.x).

Brief mention will also be made of initiatives to deal with students' literacy problems.

Bate, D. & Sharpe, P. (1990). Students Writers' Handbook. Sydney: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Clanchy, J. (1985). Improving student writing. HERDSA News, 7(3).

An alternative method of scaling Tertiary Entrance Scores using latent trait theory

Peter Stuckey
Secondary Education Authority; Postgraduate student, Murdoch University

Use of the Rasch Extended Logistic Model to rank students who have achieved examination scores in different sets of subjects, as in the TEE, was investigated using teachers' course assessments of a small group of students from a Senior High School. The problem of reporting results to teachers and gaining their acceptance for the use of the Rasch ELM is looked at.

Current procedures which use scores in the Tertiary Entrance Examinations to compute Tertiary Entrance Scores are briefly mentioned and the method of equating scores in different subjects through the use of the ASAT examination is described.

A brief outline of the Rasch Extended Logistic Model is presented, including notes on the model's important aspects of: independence between the qualities of the items and of the students providing the data for calibration, the sufficiency of students' raw scores for ability estimation, and the analysis of fit of the data to the model.

Fifteen items, represented by teachers' course assessments in fifteen different subjects, were calibrated using the ELM, and the ability estimates were calculated for the 127 students who attempted items. Students were ranked according to their estimated abilities, and the scale of difficulties and abilities was adjusted to present familiar looking person and item parameters to teachers. The results were presented to teachers who accepted them with a minimum amount of questioning.

The use of student ability estimates to determine the optimum three, four or five subject combination for calculating a student's Tertiary Entrance Score is explored.

Politics and the right to privacy in an evaluation study

Andrew Thompson
WACAE Churchlands

The presentation examines the political and ethical implications of an evaluation study. The Challenge Affirmation and Support in Education programme (CHASE) is currently being implemented in a high school and six of its feeder primary schools in a district south of the Perth metropolitan area. The programme involves schools in a cooperative effort with community members and, as such, provides schools and the community with a possible means of meeting the needs of students who have been identified as being "at risk" because of their poor self-images, unused potential in their academic studies and the likelihood that they will display antisocial behaviour in their future years.

In this context, the problem the study is examining centres around implementation of the CHASE programme. The implementation of the programme is being analysed in order to identify factors contributing to successful implementation and/or problems that occur during implementation. A fundamental task of the study is also to detail and analyse implementation procedures so that a model of l the events and relationships occurring during implementation can be developed. This should allow "Stakeholders" in the programme a better understanding of the process of change in which they are participating. Stakeholders are defined as individuals or organisations with the potential to influence and implementation of the programme. Thus, examination the role stakeholders play in the implementation of CHASE is crucial to the evaluation study. Examination of these roles is, however, causing problems for the evaluator.

Administration of the programme at the community level is concerned as much with the exercise of political power as it is with ensuring successful implementation of CHASE. Members of the programme's steering committee, as well as expressing genuine concern that the programme should be a success, also have a range of vested interests in the programme. As implementation has progressed, it has become evident to the researcher that these vested interests are jeopardising the success of the programme. But, the dilemma lies in the reporting of these vested interests and their effect on the programme. It has been indicated to the researcher by the chairperson of the steering committee that data relating to the personal or political ambitions of stakeholders should not be included in the evaluation report. Thus, the presentation seeks to promote discussion on the ethical implications of this problem and to examine possible solutions.

Attitudes of student teachers toward the emotionally disturbed and their community integration

Tina Tse
School of Nursing, Curtin University of Technology

The purpose of this study was to compare the attitudes toward the mentally ill of first and third year tertiary Nursing, Education and Medical Technology students. The assumption underlying this study is that relevant professional groups would demonstrate humanistic attitudes toward the mentally ill if they are to be cared for effectively and be more accepted by the community.

The questionnaire comprised a 6-item magnitude scale, and a 46 six-point Likert type items, derived from Cohen and Struening's Opinions about Mental Illness (OMI). The OMI scale was partially analysed and conformed to Rasch's binomial logistic model. MANOVA was used to analyse hypotheses 1 through 3 as the inter-relations among the dependent variables are likely to be substantial. A post hoc multiple comparison of means was performed by using Scheffe's method.

Results indicated that 1) third year students were more willing to accept the mentally ill back into the community than first year students, 2) specific education programmes have significant effects on changing attitudes toward the mentally ill, and 3) social climate of the education setting plays an important role in developing caring and accepting attitudes toward the mentally ill.

Male teacher, female teacher - Same stresses? Same satisfactions?

Elizabeth Tuettemann
The University of Western Australia

We all know that teachers experience joys and lows in their profession, and that the stresses sometimes seem to outweigh the satisfactions. But little has been done to investigate the differences between male and female responses to the potential frustrations and the possible satisfactions of their work.

In this study, completed in 1988, the extents to which 574 full-time WA government secondary teachers perceived themselves to be satisfied with aspects of their profession and the extents to which they were experiencing psychological distress were investigated. Although the overall levels of stress among teachers were comparable among both sexes, there were some striking differences between male and female teachers in the factors that were associated with distress.

This paper explores the male/female differences in: the values placed upon factors considered important to job satisfaction; the school factors most likely to be stressful; the levels of vulnerability to these factors; and the stress-ameliorating effects of factors such as collegial support praise and recognition. Since male and female teachers frequently respond so differently to these school factors, it may well be inappropriate to talk about teachers in this context without qualifying the statement by mention of the teacher's sex.

The findings have implications for the education system as a whole, and particularly for school administrators. They also lead to the posing of a number of further research questions related to the differential socialising of males and females from an early age.

Professional development needs of principals in Tonga

Vili Vete
WACAE Mt Lawley

Systematic reform of education in Tonga has caused many changes to the structure of the school organisations. Consequently, the roles of many education practitioners have either become obsolete or very different. The study describes the perceptions held by educators and principals towards the professional development needs of principals in relation to the new administrative arrangements of the Tonga education system.

The information source including review of the related literature, interview of ten primary principals, ten secondary principals and ten educators, and questionnaire completed by the same principals.

The results of the study suggest that generally the identified professional development and training needs of principals are consistent within the broad educational reforms introduced by the Tonga Government. These reforms are characterised by four contextual features that bear upon the roles of principals and their training and development needs.

Helping principals to understand the mathematics curriculum: A Singapore experience

Khoon Yoong Wong
SMEC, Curtin University of Technology

In recent years most prospective vice-principals and some principals in Singapore have to have undertaken a one-year full time programme called the Diploma in Educational Administration so that they can function effectively in their new roles in primary or secondary schools. The programme is supported by the Singapore Ministry of Education and is conducted by the Institute of Education, Singapore.

The programme consists of four main components of study: Management Studies, Curriculum Studies, Specialised Studies, and the Practicum. As part of the Curriculum Studies component, the participants learn about curricula practices, issues and trends in mathematics education at local and international levels. Given this basic knowledge, they are able to understand the goals of the school mathematics programmes (beyond just passing examinations) and to provide feedback to the mathematics teachers about these programmes from a more holistic perspective. This unit is conducted over five two hour sessions.

This paper describes the experience of working with the class of 1989 consisting of 12 male and 8 female participants who were trained as vice-principals in secondary schools. Only one was a mathematics teacher, two were science teachers and the rest were from the humanities. Their perceptions about the mathematics curriculum were obtained through a questionnaire. About 75% of them believed strongly that "Mathematics requires logic and not intuition", "Maths games and equipment should be used in lessons" and "Teachers must be encouraged to learn more about maths". Most of them disagreed that "Chalk and talk is the most effective way of teaching maths" and during the sessions, they constantly asked for demonstrations of alternative ways to teach mathematics. They were most concerned about motivating the weak students to learn mathematics and explored school-based projects targeted to make mathematics more interesting and relevant to every day life and through changes in the teaching methods.

Forum participants are encouraged to draw their own conclusions about having a similar programme for vice-principals and principals in Western Australia.

Teaching styles and learning styles: How to find out what your students prefer

John Woods
WACAE Mt Lawley

With the changes made to the education system in Western Australia in recent times (Beazley, 1984; Better Schools Report, 1987) many teachers of lower secondary students are finding that they are spending limited time with any one class. As students exercise their right to choose different units of study new class groupings are being organised throughout the school year, normally at the commencement of each school term. This means that many teachers may have little more than ten weeks to get to know the students with whom they are interacting. While some continuity may apply for some students and teachers, the fact that the groups are constantly being restructured means that a new set of classroom dynamics comes into play each time this restructuring process occurs.

For some time now the nature of the classroom environment has been seen to have a significant impact upon the quantity and quality of learning likely to take place. In particular, the relationship between the teaching style adopted by the teacher and the learning styles preferred by the students has been identified as a crucial factor influencing perceptions of the classroom environment. In the past teachers have had a reasonable period of time, normally a full school year, in which to develop appropriate environments. Now that the opportunity to do so may be restricted to as little as ten weeks teachers must be provided with more systematic means to identify factors influencing their classroom environment.

In the research being reported in this presentation, an attempt is being made to provide teachers with practical and economical means to identify important aspects of their teaching style and also to monitor the learning style preferences of their students. This has involved the development of an observational category system to analyse teaching performance and a related set of questionnaires to measure students' perceptions of the instructional strategies upon which the observation system is based. Using these techniques, the teacher should be able to ascertain the type of learning environment preferred by the class, monitor and evaluate teaching performance with respect to the variables being investigated and make whatever adjustments are necessary to move in the direction of the desired environment.

The investigation of school effects on student achievement in science: A multilevel analysis of educational data

Deidra Young
Curtin University of Technology

The Second International Science Study provided this study with a large Australian data base for the purpose of large scale secondary analyses. The data base consisted of a large number of student and school level variables which were examined with reference to the students nested within the schools. MULTI-LEVEL analysis involved the use of the hierarchical linear model to compensate adequately for variability between-schools, as well as within-schools. The role of the school organisation and effects such as the average student ability (verbal and mathematical) and average social factors was found to substantially influence student achievement in science. These school effects were also found to influence boys and girls differently with respect to their science achievement as measured by the tests in this study.

Please cite as: WAIER (1991). Presentation Abstracts, 1990 WAIER Research Forum. Issues In Educational Research, 2(1), 47-67.

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