Completed Higher Degree Research Projects

Subhashni Appanna

Understanding student emotion to enhance science inquiry teaching practices

Science inquiry is one approach used to engage students, develop their knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, improve scientific literacy, and model how scientists explore phenomena. Existing research has found that students’ emotions present obstacles and opportunities for learning science, however there is scant research into students’ emotions in science inquiry, which negates the opportunity for developing science inquiry teaching practices that consider emotionally receptive learning environment. This study addresses the need for exploring social interactions and emotional experiences of Year 10 Chemistry students during science inquiry to inform teaching practice. New understandings about students’ emotional experiences during science inquiry will be developed through a post-paradigmatic study design that combines interpretive and the participatory paradigms through a methodology informed by ethnomethodology and microsociology. Read Subhashni’s PhD thesis here.

Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Alberto Bellocci

Associate Supervisor: Dr James Davis


Jo Bell

Following the Actors in Gifted Education Policy and Practice: An Australian Ethnographic Multi-Site Case Study

Gifted and talented students are entitled to appropriate educational opportunities. However, the literature demonstrates a disparity between gifted education policy and practice. In Australia, gifted education policy implementation varies amongst the states and territories. This multi-site case study investigated gifted education policy and practice within Queensland regional schools. Employing Actor-Network Theory (ANT) blended with enthnographic methods, this study was conducted over two phases. This investigation focused on four state primary schools, and analysed the diverse human and non-human networks connected to gifted education policy and practice. Findings from this study aim to illuminate the dynamic relationships between the policy actors, and how they shape gifted education policy and practice within some Queensland state primary schools.

Principal supervisor: Dr Carly Lassig

Associate supervisors: Associate Professor Deborah Henderson and Dr Mallihai Tambyah

Tshering Dolkar

Because happiness matters: Exploring 13-year-old children’s lived experience of happiness in a rural Bhutanese context

Positioned within the social constructionist research paradigm, this study explores 13-year-old children’s lived experience of happiness in a rural context in Bhutan through a collective case study design. The study is situated within Bhutan’s emphasis on Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a development philosophy and Educating for GNH as an education policy. Despite this emphasis on happiness, there is limited knowledge about Bhutanese children’s experience of happiness and their participation in conversations about what matters for their happiness. This study will provide insights for GNH from children’s perspectives. It will further contribute to children’s perspectives of the phenomenon of happiness, which has been receiving increasing global attention but dominated by western perspectives, quantitative measurements, and adult views.

Principal Supervisor: Dr Jenna Gillett-Swan

Associate Supervisor: Associate Professor Deborah Henderson

Jeanine Gallagher

Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD): An institutional ethnography of student funding

There is an expectation students with disability will attend their local school, on the same basis with similarly aged peers (Commonwealth of Australia, 2005). Teachers are expected to plan learning for students with disability that ensures full access to, and participation in, the mandated curriculum. Inevitably the issue of additional resources that may (or may not) be needed to meet the educational needs of students with disability is raised. The new national policy, the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD), collects information about the number of students with disability, their location, and the level of educational adjustments they receive. This data will be used to inform Commonwealth Government planning and funding for school students with disability. In seeking to understand how teachers enact this policy, it is anticipated the outcomes of this research will provide important insights for school leaders, and education authorities, as they develop and implement structures to support teachers in this work. Read Jeanine’s PhD thesis here.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Jill Willis

Associate supervisors: Dr Nerida Spina and Professor Gordon Tait


Cicilia Evi

Mothers’ perceptions of their own smartphone use in the family setting

This research explores the way mothers use their smartphones within Australian family contexts. The findings suggest that the use of smartphones by mothers has both affordances and challenges. Smartphone use is perceived as mediating parent-child interactions, supporting mothers in managing work and personal life, and supporting children’s learning process. These affordances challenge the prevailing negative connotations of parental smartphone use portrayed by the media. Challenges in relation to smartphone use by mothers were also acknowledged, including continuous use of smartphones by mothers and how such usage sets the example for children’s smartphone use. Read Cicilia’s MPhil thesis here.

Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Jenna Gillett-Swan

Associate Supervisor: Associate Professor Kate Williams


Tshewang Namgyel

Exploring emotional engagement during explicit nature of science instruction among pre-service science teachers

The Nature of Science (NOS) is a concept developed by science education researchers to understand and explain scientific epistemologies, and the ways science may be considered a process for generating knowledge, as a human endeavour. Science education research illustrates the benefits of NOS instruction in teaching scientific literacy. Existing research on NOS instruction fails to address student emotions and their role in learning about NOS. This is despite more than a decade of research in science education which has investigated and established the role of emotions in learning science. My study explores the interplay between pre-service science teachers’ emotional engagement during explicit NOS instruction in the context of science inquiry.

Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Alberto Bellocchi

Associate Supervisor: Dr James Davis



Tanya Taylor

Teacher attitudes towards the inclusion of students with ASD in primary mainstream settings

The prevalence of students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) within educational settings has continued to rise during the past decade. There is very little research conducted into how Australian teachers’ attitudes influence the inclusion of these students in mainstream primary educational settings. Using a mixed methods research design, this study will examine the barriers teachers experience within a mainstream classroom setting when catering to the academic and social needs of students on the autism spectrum within a primary school setting. Furthermore, this study aims to investigate possible solutions to assist educators to overcome perceived barriers when providing inclusive curriculum drawing on attitude theory and social constructionism.

Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Beth Saggers

Associate Supervisor: Professor Suzanne Carrington