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"How do they do it?" An investigation into the practices of Australian teachers and principals working in low SES schools

Penn, Sarah (2019) "How do they do it?" An investigation into the practices of Australian teachers and principals working in low SES schools. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis examines the pedagogical strategies used by teachers and principals of high performing government schools that serve large numbers of students from low socio-economic backgrounds. Individual interviews were conducted with 16 teachers and 4 principals from four low socio-economic status (SES) primary schools in Victoria, Australia that have higher than expected scores on the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN). Participants were interviewed about the strategies that they use to promote learning in their classrooms and as a school. A secondary aim was to examine teachers’ perceptions of the efficacy of NAPLAN for informing learning and teaching. Three main themes were identified from the data and the strategies discussed were categorised as Teacher Pedagogy and Practice, Engagement and Leadership. To extrapolate, these themes identify what was deemed as most important by the participants when improving academic outcomes. The suite of strategies identified by the participants centre around identifying and overcoming the obstacles to students’ learning, using strategies to address and at times remove the obstacles, while fostering relationships and learning as a school community. All the schools considered themselves “student-centred”, underpinned by an ethos of accountability as educators, driven by the leadership of the schools. Participants believed that NAPLAN was useful for tracking performance gains over multiple years but it was unanimously viewed as an irrelevant tool for supporting learning or teaching. Teachers noted that they did not devote much time to preparing students for NAPLAN, nor did their school give it much emphasis either. Implications for practice suggest the importance of providing students from this cohort with a holistic educational experience coupled with strategic intervention in order to address the obstacles that are deemed prevalent for this student demographic.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Education
United Nations SDGs: Goal 4: Quality Education
Supervisor(s): Perry, Laura and Jacob, Lorraine
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