Research fellows in the Faculty of Education

The Creative Turn: An Australia wide Study of Creativity and Innovation in Secondary Schools

Dr Anne Harris is only one of two people in the Faculty to be awarded a prestigious ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA).

The Melbourne Declaration's Educational Goals for Young Australians advocate that all young Australians should become 'confident and creative individuals' for whom 'critical and creative thinking are fundamental to becoming successful'. Her three-year project (2014-2016) will address how creativity and innovativethinking can be nurtured in Australian secondary schools, to help learners better meet the needs of emerging twenty-first century creative economies, particularly as they are developing in the Asia-Pacific region. This project will address this imperative by seeking to define, measure and cultivatecreativity in Australian schools and, ultimately, to develop a new theoretical framework with which to compare these findings internationally.

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Can Educators Make a Difference: Experiencing Democracy in Education

Dr David Zyngier was the Faculty's first recipient of an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA).

Teacher beliefs are critical in the formation of their teaching approach. His research into how educators comprehend and implement democracy in the classroom, as research in Australia has found many young adults are "lukewarm about the merits of democracy" as democracy is too often taken for granted as a "given" in our society. International research has shown that this may be due to teachers understanding democracy superficially in a thin or shallow way as an obligation to vote and obey laws. As such, this research has implications for how education can encourages and engage with a thicker and deeper democracy in classrooms.

The three-year study (2013-2015) will be completed across a representative sample of primary and secondary government schools and teachers from across Victoria, with the findings able to be compared with previous research in the USA, Canada, Latin America, Africa and Asia undertaken by Dr Zyngier as part of the Global Doing Democracy Research Project which he co-founded to examine the perspectives and perceptions of democracy in education to develop a robust and critical democratic education. Evaluation of policy, institutional culture, teaching, curriculum, knowledge in relation education for democracy within Australian education will benefit the development of appropriate school civics and citizenship programs to promote and strengthen Australia's democratic society.

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Participation in mathematics and science careers: longitudinal study of motivational and contextual predictors

Professor Helen Watt was awarded a prestigious Australian Research Fellowship (ARF) by the Australian Research Council for her five-year STEPS study (2011-2015) into the decline of youth studying advanced mathematics and sciences and the direct impact on growing shortages in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics occupations. This research investigates the motivational decline for STEM areas with more than 2,000 young people in 3 complementary longitudinal studies, with participants' ages spanning from Year 7 to their early 30s.

The study aims to address three specific questions: How do motivations towards mathematics and science relate to the development of competing motivations, aspirations and social contexts?; how do motivational and contextual factors combine to predict mathematics and science career aspirations?; and, how do these translate into actual occupational outcomes?

This project will enhance Australia's reputation in the field of STEM career choices and the internationalisation of research in this area, as well as promote the Australian Government's key objectives of improved student outcomes, creating a healthy workforce, reducing the shortages in these fields, and motivating and sustaining participation in STEM fields during education and into the workforce.

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Elite independent schools in globalising circumstances: a multi-sited global ethnography

The Australian Research Council awarded Professor Jane Kenway with an Australian Professorial Fellowship (APF) for her work studying elite schools – those seen as providing the gold standard for education looking at how changing elite formations over time, with focus on colonial and post colonial settings that have influenced these lands, and comparing the educational, social practices and roles of elite schools in these nations. Studies include schools in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Barbados, South Africa, Cyprus, Argentina & England. Winning the Fellowship has allowed Jane to work in the countries that she and her team are researching, as well as presenting the findings to those affected by the findings.

The five-year study traces the educational and social paths of ten students in each school in their final years of school through to their second year out of school to provide a comparative insight into the influential experiences and values of the privileged individuals whom have experienced the elite school system. This research is identifying the values that the elite schools in these nations promote to their alumni, and the implications that these values have on the graduates of these institutions, many of whom become leaders in society. The aim of this research is to show how students in different parts of the world are being prepared through such schools for their future leadership roles, and powerful positions that these current students will occupy.

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