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


Kirsten Baird-Bate

Conceptualisations of wellbeing: Through the eyes of primary carers of children with autism

Primary carers play a pivotal role in the lives of children with autism across their lifespan. Current understandings of wellbeing within autism spectrum literature tend to be limited within a negative, dyadic, reductionist narrative, yet wellbeing, autism, and caregiving are multidimensional, complex constructs that shift according to context and time. Strength perspectives on autism and caregiving present a more balanced view with individual perceptions linked to wellbeing outcomes. More complete understandings are thus essential to better support primary carers and those they care for. This research proposes a new holistic conceptual framework and an innovative combination of survey and visual narrative methods to deliver more comprehensive perspectives on autism, caregiving, and wellbeing.

Principal Supervisor: Dr Lyndal O’Gorman

Associate Supervisor: Associate Professor Beth Saggers

Associate Supervisor: Dr Julie Dillon-Wallace

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

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


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


Jo Kingsman

The making of men: Investigating adolescent boys’ experiences of school-based rites of passage programs

My research, which is to be completed as a series of publications, draws on feminist post-structuralism, and employs narrative research methodologies. The project seeks to understand adolescent boys’ lived experiences of a school-based rites of passage (ROP) program and the perceived meanings for masculine identity construction and emerging adulthood. The Rite Journey, a year-long ROP program implemented in over 100 schools, will serve as a case study, with field research being conducted in a Brisbane secondary school currently implementing the program. Longitudinal in nature, the project will investigate boys’ experiential narratives at various points throughout the duration of the program.

Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Michael Flood

Associate Supervisor: Professor Martin Mills

Associate Supervisor: Dr Ian Davis


Ulfah Muhayani

Examining Educational Inclusion of Minority Children in Indonesia

Children from minority groups are children who have highest potential of being excluded from education. There are a considerable number of minority children in Indonesia such as children with disability, children from ethnic and religion minorities, and LGBTQ children. This present study aims to investigate the state of educational inclusion of minority children in Indonesia by examining government policy and strategies on education, listening to the voices of teachers and administrative leaders of schools about their experiences with children from minority groups, and also by exploring minority students’ experiences directly from the perspective of the children themselves and their classmates. To this end, data will be gathered through document analysis, interviews, focus group discussion and ‘photo-voice’ interviews. Understanding how different levels of society experience exclusion in education allows for sustainable and pro-active policy development to put inclusion for all into practice. Finding out how these children experience exclusion is also a crucial step for developing strategies and actions to address exclusion in education especially in the Indonesia context.

Principal Supervisor: Professor Marilyn Campbell

Associate Supervisor: Dr Jenna Gillett-Swan

Deborah Munro

How are women with unpaid caring responsibilities making decisions about higher education study?

Unpaid care work is primarily undertaken by women. While much has been learned about the ways in which persistent gender inequities hinder women’s career opportunities and thus economic advancement, less is understood about the ways in which the unequal distribution of care work limits women’s choices with regard to furthering their education. Carer responsibilities frequently impact on educational decision-making processes in ways which are little understood. This qualitative study will explore how unpaid female carers are making decisions about whether or not to engage in higher education. The results could lead to better understandings of the factors which effect women’s higher education decision-making processes and may influence the way in which higher education institutions and policy makers encourage women with unpaid caring responsibilities to participate in university study. It may also inform strategies through which women can more effectively prepare to engage in non-traditional ways of tackling the challenges that might prevent them from achieving their educational aspirations.

Principal supervisor: Associate Professor Jill Willis

Associate Supervisors: Dr Andrew Gibson

Associate Supervisors: Dr Melinda Laundon

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


Priscila Rebollo de Campos

Investigating social bonding dynamics across three levels of social reality in a Brazilian science classroom

Students report being disengaged with school science in numerous countries, including Brazil. Social bonds (social and emotional connections) between classroom members help to promote such engagement. This research explores how structures of macro-level of social reality, such as education policies, ingrained in hegemonic classroom practices of a specific school (meso-level), may impact social bonding dynamics that unfold during science lessons (micro-level).  Studies of social bonds analysing multiple social levels are scarce. A novel combination of ethnomethodology oriented by micro-sociology of emotion and Fairclough’s approach to Critical Discourse Analysis (methodological contribution) will guide data analysis. This research has the potential to advance the knowledge of social bonds, benefiting those concerned with promoting student engagement with school science (e.g., teachers and policymakers).

Principal Supervisor: Associate Professor Alberto Bellocchi

Associate Supervisor: Dr James Davis

Irina Silva

Young children on the autism spectrum: Using digital technology in daily living

Digital technology is a common aspect of 21st century living and generally part of an individual on the autism spectrum daily living. Little is known about the influence of digital technology on the daily lives of children on the spectrum. To understand this phenomenon, four families with at least one child on the spectrum aged between three and six years will be invited to participate in this digital ethnographic study. The interactions involving the focus child with digital technology and family members will be video recorded over a 3-month period. Understandings will inform the use of digital technology by children on the autism spectrum in family contexts and has implications for early years education and care.

Principal Supervisor: Professor Susan Danby

Associate Supervisor: Associate Professor Beth Saggers

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