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Stories for primary-aged Indonesian students and their potential to introduce children to the importance of effort toward challenges

Suprawati, Maria Magdalena Nimas Eki (2019) Stories for primary-aged Indonesian students and their potential to introduce children to the importance of effort toward challenges. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This research examined the potential of written stories as educational materials that can serve to introduce children to the importance of effort in the first years of formal education. It is grounded on well-established associations between children’s effort and academic success as well as literature indicating that stories can potentially modify children’s behaviour.

The empirical research, conducted in Indonesia, comprised three independent but related studies. Study 1 analysed a corpus of stories recommended for Year 1 and Year 2 Indonesian children, in order to identify the nature of effort toward challenge depicted in these texts. Using a combination of content and structural text-based analysis, it was found that self-initiated individual effort in the face of challenge was emphasised to a lesser extent than culturally valued behaviours such as accepting difficult situations without trying to change them, as a representation of accepting God’s will (Indonesian: nrimo), and aiding others who are affected by challenges.

Study 2 explored qualitatively how four Indonesian teachers acknowledged effort-related themes depicted in two stories they presented in class. Important differences were found among teachers, with one teacher simply reading the text without any discussion and three overtly addressing themes emerging from the stories. Effort-related themes and persevering in the face of challenges were not among the most important themes but rather, themes consistent with cultural expectations such as friendship and caring for others.

Finally, study 3 investigated children’s understanding of the stories their teachers (Study 2) told in class. The analysis of children’s responses to a story recall task showed that the hardest theme for children to recall was the main character’s effort while the easiest one was the story’s outcome. Children’s recall also differed across teacher groups, suggesting that the activation of cultural schema through teachers’ talk may be a variable associated with children’s understanding of the themes depicted in the stories.

Using not only literature in educational and developmental psychology but also embedding contextually sensitive information to interpret the findings, this research has provided evidence of the potential of stories available at school to introduce not only effort-related themes but also other themes that are consistent with curricular and broader societal expectations for young Indonesian children.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Education
United Nations SDGs: Goal 4: Quality Education
Supervisor(s): Pino-Pasternak, Deborah and Volet, Simone
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