Systems Approach to Families research group

The Systems Approach to Families (SsAF) is a Faculty Research Group that focuses on systems perspectives to understand the interactions within and across families. Our focus reflects our understanding that families play an important role in the shaping children's outcomes, including their academic, social,  health and well-being, and beliefs. These outcomes can be studied using existing research paradigms that are based on systems approaches. In turn, families are part of a larger system that helps to shape the potentials of the family. Hence, our unit of study includes the individual, their family and  the institutions where families are involved.

Research methodologies

SsAF is an interdisciplinary research group that draws upon a range of methodologies including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methodologies. We situate our research in the broad theory of systems approach within a socio-cultural-ecological framework that enables a focus on the multiple layers of families and society, and how these contribute to child development, learning and achievement. Our research group has extensive knowledge and expertise in numerous methods including phenomenological and epistemological approaches that are evident in our group publications. We also have expertise in measurement and advance statistical skills including Rasch and structural equation modelling that we constantly use in our research projects that link with the academic and practitioner communities.

Collaborations and projects

Although we base our research agenda on research paradigms that are at the cutting edge of research, our intent is to conduct research that makes a difference in the community. Accordingly, we will build on the community links that we have already established, some of whom are affiliates to this research group.

Systems Approach to Families: A context for Australian children

This is a book project that is situated within the Family Series of Routledge. The project is a culmination of our work as a research group in conjunction with Dr Carl Dunst's recent visit to Monash Education and his close collaborative work with our group.

Numeracy@Home (2014)

Articulated as a Linkage project application in conjunction with DEECD, Catholic Education Melbourne, Doveton College and colleagues Prof Peter Sullivan and Dr Ann Gervasoni (ACU), this project has begun with the writing of a research-based book on how to engage parents in early numeracy.

Early Childhood Mentors: Navigating change (2013)

This pilot study investigated existing perceptions and practices of mentor teachers in the Early Childhood setting. The study is framed around the key question: 'How do mentors experience quality through their relationships with Early Childhood pre-service teachers?'.

The pilot provided opportunities to:

  1. Develop strong working partnerships with major industry providers
  2. Enhance the capacity for interactions between tertiary providers and practicing EC teachers.
  3. Engage in shared professional development of the Early Childhood professional body in the South-eastern growth corridor.

Exploring students at-risk: Parent-professional collaboration and students' academic outcomes (2013)

This study with the Oakwood School characterized the salient parent-child-school involvement patterns that affect student engagement to

  • improve parent-home-school cooperation and
  • engage parents in their children's schooling more effectively.

Community of Practice (2013)

This project assisted OzChild practitioners in understanding authentic screening and structured observations – enabling staff to grasp what they are looking for when they watch a child play, or interact with others through play.

Group members

Who to contact

Associate Professor Shane Phillipson
Associate Dean Peninsula
Phone: +61 3 990 44087

Or visit our Systems Approach To Families website.