Recent Past Projects

Projects closed in 2020


Practice Changing Practice: Leadership Development through Action Research (Phase 1)

Funding Body: Department of Education NSW - $55,000

Researchers

Synopsis

Western Sydney University, in collaboration with three networks (Bungarribee, Quakers Hill and The Ponds) has tailored a professional development program (Practice Changing Practice) to implement and evaluate long-term, on-going sustainable action research within Western Sydney schools with a focus on school leadership to improve teacher quality and student learning. The program supports a strategic approach to leadership by building the capacity of individuals through initial participation in the program and their subsequent role as coaches, ensuring the program’s longevity and sustainability.

Funding Period: May 2019 - February 2020

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Programming the Future: Harnessing the transformative potential of new and emerging technologies with children and young people

Funding Body: Save The Children Australia - $20,000

Researchers

Synopsis This research project seeks to investigate the potential utility of new and emerging technologies to achieve positive personal and social development goals with children and young people in informal education settings. It draws conceptually on the digital theory of change (Dellow, 2017), which seeks to take children and young people through a staged progression, from discovering new and emerging technologies, to creating and making, acting and accelerating. The central aim of the digital theory of change is to encourage young people to ‘use new and emerging technologies to resolve social issues that they have identified in their communities’ (Dellow, 2017).   Programming the Future (PtF) is supported by an Advisory Group consisting of researchers, educators and digital Education specialists, who inform the design and implementation of cutting-edge resources and training in the use of a range of new and emerging technologies, including:  Robotics, Micro controllers, 3D modelling and printing, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Wearables and Digital Music.  This research will primarily focus on PtF workshops in Bathurst and Dubbo and its findings are intended to inform the development of refined strategies to scale the project up to 5 other locations including Orange, Parkes / Forbes, Young, Cowra and Wellington.

Funding Period: 2018 – 2019

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Wilding Nature Play

Funding Body: Centennial Park Trust - $22,570

Researchers

Synopsis

This research will evaluate the impact of the Ian Potter Children’s Wild Play Garden (IPCWPG) at Centennial Park. It will:

  • investigate the ways that children and families from a range of cultural backgrounds engage with the IPCWPG and the benefits they derive from it
  • examine the involvement of children from special needs and disadvantaged backgrounds with the IPCWPG and elucidate any particular challenges and benefits for these groups
  • identify the ways specific features of the IPCWPG site encourage nature play and consider any associated developmental and/or learning outcomes
  • explore whether and how nature play at IPCWPG may be associated with increased environmental appreciation

Funding Period: 2018 – 2019

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Resilient Families: Engaging parents in a social-emotional learning curriculum for high school students in a community-based resilience program

Funding Body: Social Ventures Australia (SVA) - $83,000

Researchers

Synopsis

This project is funded by Social Ventures Australia (SVA). SVA manages “The Learning Impact Fund” which seeks to identify, fund and evaluate programs aiming to raise the academic achievement of children in Australia. In 2016, the School of Education was successfully appointed to their “expert panel of evaluators” via a competitive tenure process.

Researchers Barker, Tracey and Ullman were then successful in tendering to conduct an evaluation on the program “Resilient Families” developed and conducted by Deakin University Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development.

SVA funds randomised-controlled trials (RCT) in order to produce an evidence-base for the impact of school-based programs on student outcomes. As such, the current study involves 28 Victorian schools and utilies a 2 (intervention vs control) x 2 (pre-intervention vs post-intervention) repeated measures, between-participants design.

Funding Period: 2017 – 2020

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Understanding the experience and perceived impact of RAW – Ready Arrive Work

Funding Body: NSW Department of Education, Funding amount not to be disclosed

Researchers

Synopsis

Ready Arrive Work (RAW) is a work readiness program designed by Job Quest (Penrith) and the NSW Department of Education that targets high school students from refugee backgrounds. This study will examine the impact of RAW on schools, students, workplaces, and civic organisations. Interviews and focus groups with selected key stakeholders are the primary source of data. A ‘vertical slice’ involving stakeholders from all layers of participation in RAW will provide insight from those closest to and furthest from the delivery to expose each to the other’s perspective and create a comprehensive understanding of the perceived impacts of the program, and identified enablers and barriers that will improve future iterations of RAW.

This study represents the first inquiry into the perspectives of participating stakeholders. The findings will advance understanding about the aspects of the program that are most valued by the participants and areas for improvements – and thus improve practice for future iterations of RAW.

Funding Period: 2019

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The Collaborative research and development of EMI Pedagogy for Huaqiao University academics

Funding Body: Huaqiao University - $69,500

Researchers

Synopsis

This project will research the development and trialling of an EMI pedagogy for Huaqiao University academics in China. Currently there are half a million international students within the higher education sector in China, and half of these students are conducting subject/discipline learning, which drives the demand for well-trained Chinese academics to deliver EMI in a variety of subjects. This project will contribute to EMI research and practice in China, with long-term benefits both for teachers and students of EMI classrooms.

The WSU research team will collaborate with Huaqiao academics to establish a baseline of EMI theoretical and pedagogical understandings followed by research which will investigate the implementation, evaluation and dissemination of EMI. An action research methodology will be utilised throughout this project.

Funding Period: 2018 – 2019

Projects closed in 2019


Evaluating Inquiry Based Professional Development: Using Australia’s Largest Infrastructure Project to Engage Students in Authentic Inquiry Based Learning

Funding Body: NSW Sydney Metro - $58,917

Researcher

Synopsis

This research is situated within the Sydney Metro Education Program "Fast Tracking the Future". The following program of professional development and research includes the following activities:

  • Initiation of a community of practice interested in inquiry based learning
  • Development and promotion of inquiry based learning pedagogy
  • Support for participants in the design, implementation and evaluation of inquiry based units of work based on the Sydney Metro Southwest Infrastructure Project
  • Increase in the capacity of participating teachers to undertake action research projects for the implementation and evaluation of the designed units of work

The Units of Work and their implementation will be evaluated formally by through a research evaluation approach. Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected by the research team immediately following the program delivery. Data is being collected from the following sources:

  • Unit documentation
  • Teachers (interviews) and Students (surveys and focus groups)

Funding Period: 2017 – 2019

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Refugee Youth: Postcards to the Premier

Funding Bodies: Multicultural NSW, WSU REDI, $78,090

Researcher

Synopsis

Refugee Youth Voice: Postcards to the Premier will focus on the design of a youth voice engagement strategy with refugee and refugee like background 16-25year old young people in New South Wales. The project aims to capture and understand how to address the most pressing issues affecting a diverse range of refugee youth in this cohort. The project will build capacity and confidence in a range of research and job ready skills such as interview techniques, collecting and analysing data, communication and presentation skills. The project will do this by engaging 10 refugee youth leaders in training and the subsequent conduct of participatory action research methods to reach out to a diverse range of other 16-25 year old youth, from refugee backgrounds.

The data collected from the project will inform the work of the Joint Partnership Working Group (JPWG) Refugee Youth Sub-Group convened by the Coordinator General for Refugee Resettlement (CGRR), Chancellor Peter Shergold and Multicultural NSW, an action-oriented workshop, and a subsequent Policy Paper for the Premier of NSW addressing issues affecting refugee youth in NSW. The overarching aims of this project are to:

  • build capacity and support young people from a refugee and refugee like background to have their voices heard by people who can make change happen.
  • form an evidence base of concerns and opportunities facing young people from a refugee and refugee like background to inform the NSW Government and the broader service delivery sector in the design and delivery of policies

Funding Period: End Dec 2018 - August 2019

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Naming the World: Early years’ literacy and sustainability learning

Funding Body: Australian Research Council (ARC) – $278,038

Researcher

Synopsis

For children born in the 21st century, the enmeshing of natural and human forces in the survival of the planet requires conceptual and practical innovation. Early childhood education can be a fundamental driver in this process. This ambitious international study aims to integrate literacy and sustainability to produce powerful new learning for young children. It will theorise new forms of literacy emerging in sustainability education, articulate innovative pedagogies, and inform national and international policy and practice to address 21st century learning imperatives.

Funding Period: 2016 – 2018

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Middle Years Mathematics Project: Action Research Professional Learning Program

Funding Body: St Francis Catholic College, Catholic Diocese of Wollongong - $35,993

Researcher

Synopsis

This research project was initiated by the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong as a pilot study resulting from diocesan wide declines in student achievement in mathematics. The goal of this project is to research the effectiveness of implementing a range of teacher-led action research projects relating to the improvement of student engagement and academic outcomes with mathematics and numeracy through changes in pedagogical practice during the middle years of schooling (Years 5 to 8). The participating teachers have undergone professional development in contemporary mathematics pedagogy and action research methodology facilitated by the researcher over the course of 18 months. The research will specifically explore changes in the teachers’ pedagogies and perceptions of mathematics teaching and any resulting shifts in student perceptions of mathematics. Should this study find that the initiative is successful, it may provide a model that could be replicated in other schools across the Wollongong Diocese.

Funding Period: 2017 – 2019

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Projects closed in 2018

National Association for Prevention of Child abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) Respectful Relationship Program Northern Territory 2017-2018 Evaluation

Funding Body: National Association for Prevention of Child abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) - $33,300

Researcher

Synopsis

The aim of the project is to gather evidence of the work being undertaken by NAPCAN toward supporting Territory Families’ focus on reforming the Northern Territory youth sector, and to scope and inform further development of the project. Within the constraints of available time and funding, the evaluation strategy has been designed so as to gather data that is of specific relevance to the unique social, geographical and cultural context of the Northern Territory. It will thus focus on identifying the specific needs of the Northern Territory youth sector in relation to RRE and trauma-informed practice and investigating the effectiveness of specific training aimed at building capacity within the youth sector.

Funding Period: 2018

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Learning Links: Mitchell High School Action Research Professional Learning Program

Mitchell High School – $21,431

Researcher

Synopsis

This consultancy involved a whole school approach to action research at Mitchell High School, Blacktown. The project consisted of a series of professional development sessions that explored action research methodology. The entire school staff attended each of the sessions run by Professor Wayne Sawyer and Associate Professor Catherine Attard and were grouped according to aspects of teaching they were interested in investigating rather than grouped by discipline or faculty. With the support of a number of academics from the School of Education each group developed a research question to investigate, undertook action research, collected and analysed evidence, and presented their work in a showcase day held at Western Sydney University, Penrith campus.


Evaluating the Impact of Online Tutoring

Funding Body: Your Tutor - $32,153

Researchers

Synopsis

As part of the trend towards providing students with on-demand access to instructional assistance, has been the proliferation of online-tutoring services. Tutoring is a well-established, and effective, instructional method (Graesser, D’Mello, & Cade, 2011; King, Staffieri & Adelgais, 1998). However, there is a need for more empirical research to be directed toward investigating users’ experiences with online tutoring services, impacts on academic confidence (self-efficacy), and learning.

This study focussed on evaluating the tutoring service YourTutor, which provides on-demand online-tutoring to university students in domains such as writing, maths, and science. A theoretical model of interrelationships between students’ experiences with YourTutor, their academic confidence, and learning was tested. The theoretical model make reference to three highly influential theoretical frameworks: i) Technology Acceptance Model (TAM); ii) Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB); and iii) Social Cognitive Theory (SCT).


Fostering a Culture of Evaluation to Understand and Increase the Social Benefit of Community First Steps Initiatives

Funding Body: Community First Step - $17,689

Researcher

Synopsis

Community First Step is a not-for-profit community organisation in Sydney’s South West, established in 1973, working with the local community to promote diversity and encourage unity. Its vision is “to support and empower people to overcome disadvantage and barriers to personal, social and economic growth by delivering inclusive and innovative services.” Its key services can be characterised as Community Services, Disability Services, and Children’s Services. Community First Step is committed to understanding the impact of its programs upon the community to inform its future direction and services.

This 12-month project sought to address two specific research aims:

1. Improve the processes and tools embedded within the organisation to systematically and sustainably evaluate the impact of two nominated programs.

2. Apply the new processes and tools to report on the observed changes for clients as they participated in two nominated programs.

Results of the mixed-method study provided the organisation with evaluation tools and procedures, founded on the construction of program logics, to use into the future in order to evaluate outcomes and therefore shape the direction of services. Additionally, a comparison of pre and post survey responses for clients demonstrated which program outcomes were currently being achieved, and most importantly, which program outcomes remained unchanged and thus required further development.


The Impact of Royal Botanic Gardens’ Community Greening Program on Perceived Health, Wellbeing, and Social Benefits in Social Housing Communities in NSW

Funding Body: Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust - $25,000

Researchers

Synopsis

This study, funded by the NSW Department of Family and Community Services and the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, tracked six new garden sites in 2017 in NSW, in order to investigate the impact of participation in the Community Greening program on intra- and interpersonal outcomes, as well as community members’ perspectives of participation with community gardening. A mixed-method design with six new Community Greening gardens underpinned the study. Data collection included a pre and post questionnaire over a period of seven months, conducting post focus group interviews with community garden participants, and open-ended questionnaires with staff working at the community sites.

This research contributes towards advancing understanding about the impact of community gardening, particularly for enhancing the wellbeing of Australians living in social housing communities. Trends towards urbanisation and loss of green space have sparked concerns regarding population health and wellbeing, leading to a growing body of research on the impact of community gardens on adults and children. This is the first time a formal study has been conducted on the impact of the Community Greening program. The results from this study contribute to the growing body of scholarly literature supporting the benefits of participation in community gardening to health and wellbeing. The findings revealed participants’ self-reported impact on health and wellbeing was wide-ranging. While benefits varied within and across each community and are based on a small sample size, the findings suggest that community gardens contribute towards the provision of good quality housing and enhance social cohesion and sense of community. The significance of the study is also demonstrated through the recommendations stemming from the analysis, which provide directions for the future development of the program.


EUCLID: Improving Student Engagement in the Middle Years

Funding Body: NSW Department of Education, Queanbeyan - $53,404

Researcher

Synopsis

The Euclid Project was conducted in the Queanbeyan Network of NSW Department of Education schools. This project was initiated by the Network Director, Matthew Brown, against a backdrop of falling standards in mathematics at local, state and national levels (Dinham, 2013; Masters, 2016). The project was the result of the Director’s vision and a series of conversations and meetings with colleagues and the lead researcher, a specialist in student engagement with mathematics. The philosophy underpinning the project was the shared belief that improved student engagement leading to long term academic improvement is ultimately driven by changes in teacher practice. Although the duration of the formal project activities was planned to span one school year, this was considered as a way to develop a culture of action research that would be ongoing, rather than simply the implementation of a finite project. In other words, promoting action research within the network as a ‘practice changing practice’ (Kemmis, McTaggart, & Nixon, 2014).

This research project also included an evaluation component which was commissioned to document and explore the implementation of the Euclid Project within and amongst the participating primary and secondary schools aimed at improving the students’ experiences of mathematics teaching and learning during the middle years with the view of improving the transition from secondary to primary school and, in time, overall mathematics achievement.


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