2016 Academy Photography Fellowship

Awarded to Paul Owens – Principal, Kirrawee High School

The Academy Photography Fellowship provides funding to the amount of $4000 annually to be used for the purpose of educational research.

The aim of Paul’s research seeks to better understand the relationship between the core measures that variably help to inform effective teaching and learning: achievement, aptitude, self-efficacy, motivation and engagement, and the Schools Excellence Framework.

He writes …

There has been mounting evidence over recent years that, once factors beyond a school’s control are accounted for (e.g. parents’ level of education, SES), expectation and educational outcomes are neither dependent on, nor influenced by, the educational destination of students: Public, Catholic or Independent (Bonnor and Shepherd 2016, Cobbold 2015, Mulheron 2015). These findings reaffirm the efficacy of, and confidence in, public education and the very broad cross section of society that it represents. Indeed, there is little dispute that public education outcomes reflect the widest range of achievement standards, cultural diversity, learning challenges, and intrinsic motivations. The deeper question remains however, which of these factors, or even more likely, the interaction of these factors, would more readily buttress confidence in public education and therefore help predict student and school success within the public education system?

Despite such findings, the drift to private education within an increasingly more affluent Australia has been steady and inexorable (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1960-2015). It appears that for many, capacity to pay gives hesitation as to whether public education remains the sector of choice. Therefore, building a deeper understanding of factors that lead to quality outcomes not only reinforces confidence in public education, it also provides critical evidence of its effectiveness.

To this end the study outlined below seeks to better understand the relationship between the core measures that variably help to inform effective teaching and learning: achievement, aptitude, self-efficacy, motivation and engagement, and the Schools Excellence Framework.

Kirrawee High School is a large (1200) metropolitan comprehensive coeducational secondary school. A group of 30-50 Year 7 students will be chosen at random from a cohort of approximately 200. There are multiple reasons for selecting from this cohort:

  1. This number of students brings power to the study and further confidence to the inference from, and interpretation of, findings.
  2. Year 7 offers the prospect of results within twelve months, but also the tracking of students over time, i.e. giving the study a longitudinal perspective.
  3. Year 7 students study a common curriculum, therefore adding weight to the composite measure of achievement (see below).
  4. Year 7 parents still retain strong and recallable perceptions in relation to why they chose, and the level of value they place on, the school.

It is proposed that reliable measures will be taken of the five achievement dimensions:

  1. Academic achievement: a composite score will be developed of mid-year and/or end of year results across common courses. Course marks will be standardised, aggregated, and z scores generated.
  2. Aptitude: The ACER AGAT test will be administered at an appropriate age level and z scores generated. This is a nationally normed and reliable test, which will allow for outliers at both ends of the learning spectrum.
  3. Self-Efficacy: A 10-point subjective self-rating scale will be used to indicate a student’s perception of their level of achievement against a hypothetical cohort across NSW.
  4. Motivation and Engagement: Andrew Martin’s MES, a highly reliable and tested instrument, will be administered to generate measures of these dimensions.
  5. Schools Excellence Framework: A criteria-based rating scale will be completed by students and their parents against the Learning and Teaching elements of the SEF. Responses will be coded and quantified into a single measure of school effectiveness. There will be some qualitative responses allowed to help illustrate perceptions against SEF criteria.

The study will also partial data by gender and students local enrolment status. Students who identify as Aboriginal will also participate in the study (relatively small number within the school) and provide a related sub-study.

The results revolve around the relationships between measures. Consequently, a principal component analysis will be undertaken seeking to identify factors that strongly correlate and therefore predict achievement success, especially around perceptions of school (SEF). Post hoc analyses will also be undertaken and significance testing where applicable will be set at the 0.05 level. From a correlational matrix, strength of relationships will be categorised as effect sizes of small (0.1-0.3), medium (0.30-0.5) or large (>.50). Contrasts will be presented with confidence intervals.

Previous investigations within an academically homogenous group have revealed strong relationships between self-efficacy and achievement, but not aptitude and achievement. It is of interest in this study whether these effects extend to a more cross-representative group and how these factors interact with motivation and engagement. Of chief interest, is the relationship that may exist between students’ individual achievement and students and parents’ perception of a school’s effectiveness. In a final phase, the findings will be used to target remedial classroom strategies, which in turn will be applied over time. The effectiveness of these strategies will be analysed against pre/post measures.

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