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The following list provides information on projects currently open to new research students. For more information on each project please contact the nominated supervisor within the project description.

This page will be updated as opportunities become available so please check back regularly.

Project Outline:

COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on educational organisations and educational leadership.
Leaders and educators have had to re-frame their work to ensure the education of students continues while managing the physical and mental wellbeing of staff, students and the wider community. Consequently, this project aims to explore how leaders and educators managed and responded to the COVID-19 crisis within their educational setting.

Project Area: Educational leadership

Supervisor(s): Dr Michelle Striepe

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: S2 2020

Project Outline:

Under normal circumstances, WA schools provide support for mental wellbeing and pastoral care through school counsellors, school psychologists and/or chaplains. The COVID-19 crisis has required schools to play a different role in maintaining and supporting physical and mental wellbeing of school community members. Consequently, this project aims to examine how school leaders, school administration staff, school psychologists, nurses and chaplains provided support for the school community’s physical health and mental wellbeing during the time of crisis.

Project Area: Educational leadership; student, staff community support

Supervisor(s): Dr Michelle Striepe

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: S2 2020

Project Outline:

Educational leadership is a key performance indicator in any effective school. Around the globe, and here in Australia, teachers are promoted into leadership positions that stretch their skill set into broad management duties over people and resources. Research into educational leadership can result in improved understandings of how to create communities of engaged, happy and healthy learners.
At ECU our team of educational leadership researchers are especially keen to critically and comparatively analyse data on educational leadership from all around the world in the following topics:

  • accountability, transparency and school governance
  • gender parity and education leadership roles
  • futurology, artificial intelligence and surveillance education
  • neo-liberalism, school improvement, assessment and curriculum design
  • citizenship education and student leadership.

Desired Skills: Mandarin (and/or Cantonese) and English language skills

Project Area: Educational Leadership and International Education

Supervisor(s): Dr Christine Cunningham

Project level: Masters, PhD

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

The issue of violence in schools has been raised in the press over a number of years with the prevalence of violence appearing to be increasing across all ages of schooling.
This research area includes violence against teachers by both students and parents. Violence against other school staff, and violence between students both on school grounds and online.
The extensive aspects of the issue enable prospective HDR candidates to choose an area of particular interest.
The current WA Government response is to suspend or expel students who are involved in violence and this strategy has been questioned (Armstrong, 2018) (https://theconversation.com/why-suspending-or-expelling-students-often-does-more-harm-than-good-93279)

Project Area: All forms (physical, emotional, psychological)

Supervisor(s): Dr Catherine Ferguson, A/Prof Geoff Lummis, A/Prof Trudi Cooper

Project level: Masters, PhD

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

Based on the Transformational Learning theory of Jack Mezirow, this research is endeavouring to understand the process of transformational learning in higher education students at both undergraduate and post graduate level.
This work also includes work within Transition Theory and how students make the transition to ‘being’ a university student.
This work has implications for how learning is delivered to students and what universities can do to assist in the transition to university.
Although considerable work has already been conducted in this area (particularly in relation to undergraduate students) across Australia and internationally, the rate of attrition from students ceasing their studies has not changed materially for a number of years. This cost to individuals, their families, the universities, the community and the nation is high and is worthy of more attention.

Project Area: First year experience (undergraduate) and returning to study (Postgraduate)

Supervisor(s): Dr Cath Ferguson, A/Prof Geoff Lummis, and others in the School of Education

Project level: Masters, PhD

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

This is a multifaceted project that focuses on cultural competence / multicultural competence/ intercultural competence (CC) within education (all levels, from early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary).
Considerable research in the area of CC has been undertaken in the area of health. However, models of CC and instruments to measure CC are often discipline specific and need modification for employment in educational contexts.
Several aspects of CC require further investigation including the development of a specific model for educational purposes, from which a suitable instrument for its measurement can be developed. CC is mentioned in several of the AITSL standards and therefore this research has important implications for the training of pre-service teachers and for in-service training of teachers.

Desired skills: Ability to work in both qualitative and quantitative research areas may be important, depending upon the research question that is open to development by the applicant with the support of the supervisors.

Project Area: Cultural competence/ multicultural competence/ intercultural competence

Supervisor(s): Dr Cath Ferguson, A/Prof Geoff Lummis, and others in the School of Education

Project level: Masters, PhD

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

The Australian Curriculum, of recent note, has explicitly incorporated more open-ended independent and group student research opportunities in science. The current main locations in the curriculum where student research is available include “Depth Studies” in the Australian Curriculum, the International Baccaleureate “Extended Essay” and notably in NSW, the “Science Extension” course in Stage 6. In this PhD project, the student outcomes from such extended projects will be explored. What outcomes and what projects will be discussed in the early stages of the PhD but could involve, but are not limited to, student attitudes towards science, self efficacy in science, career intentions and content knowledge understanding. The projects could be limited to a single science content area or comparisons made across multiple areas.

Project Area: Science Education, STEM Education

Supervisor(s): Dr. Michael Fitzgerald, Dr. Eileen Slater, Dr. Christa Norris

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

Over the past decade, discipline-based research and research-informed practice in astronomy and space sciences has taken off dramatically. New journals, such as the Journal of Astronomy and Earth Science Education and the International Journal of Astronomy Education, new regular conferences such as the IAU AstroEDU biennial conference and the Robotic Telescopes, Student Research and Education annual conference and new international offices, such as the International Astronomical Union Office of Astronomy Education, have blossomed. Particularly in Western Australia, with the impending Square Kilometer Array as well as Australia in general with the newly established Australian Space Agency, interest is high.

However, people have been undertaking Astronomy and Space Sciences Research for quite some time with early articles identified in the late 1800s and publication in the field being continuous since 1970. The istardb.org project has identified nearly 2000 journal articles, theses and conference proceedings over the last century with this number expected to dramatically increase with the incorporation of new literature searches, particularly from Japan, South America and various parts of Europe. Previous reviews of the literature in 2010 and 2011 included only 103 journal articles and 283 conference proceedings respectively in comparison. This research topic will explore the current state of astronomy education research, what has been done, what has been overdone, what still needs to be done and plot new directions for the future of the field.

Project Area: Science Education, STEM Education, Astronomy Education Research

Supervisor(s): Dr. Michael Fitzgerald, Dr. Urban Eriksson (Lund University, Sweden), Prof. Paulo Bretones (University of São Carlos, Brazil)

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

A key role of any contemporary school leadership is to enhance its school culture and organisational sustainability by facilitating staff wellbeing and student engagement.
Positive staff wellbeing creates a school culture that empowers staff and improves student educational outcomes.
This Collaborative Participatory Action Research employs mixed methods research data collection. The focus is to analyse a school’s organisational health and staff morale, as well as assist the school leadership group and staff, to develop an intervention that will promote professional growth, professional interactions and role clarity.

Project Area: Participatory Action Research: Organisational health and staff morale.

Supervisor(s): A/Prof Geoff Lummis & Dr Cath Ferguson

Project level: Honours, Masters, PhD

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

Research has repeatedly highlighted the marginal positioning of Health Education (HE) in schools and that teachers’ level of preparedness to deliver essential health learning differs based on qualifications, training and experience.  Research also shows, however, that HE is heralded globally as a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of young people.

To be effective as a conduit to support and strengthen safe, healthier and more physically active living, teachers who are competent, confident and who feel comfortable is key to quality HE.

This research project will administer a survey to practicing teachers to investigate their level of qualification to teach HE and their experiences delivering HE in secondary schools and the presence of HE on the school timetable.

Research questions:

  • Who is delivering Health Education in secondary schools in Western Australia?
  • How is Health Education timetabled in lower secondary schools in Western Australia?
  • What are some of the challenges that impact the delivery of Health Education in lower secondary schools in Western Australia?
  • What experiences support quality Health Education in lower secondary schools in Western Australia?

Desired skills: Quantitative research skills.

Project Area: Secondary Health Education

Supervisor(s): Dr Donna Barwood, Dr Joe Scott

Project level: Masters

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

The Common Worlds Research Collective is an interdisciplinary network of researchers concerned with our relations with the more-than-human world. In following children and young people’s place relations, our research takes us beyond exclusively human, cultural or social framings. It draws upon frameworks and methodologies that acknowledge place as lively and generative and acknowledges children and young people’s place relations as mutually formative and significant to a sense of belonging. These include Indigenous cosmologies of place, or geo-ontologies; more than human geographies of place; place as an assemblage of heterogeneous human and nonhuman actors, entities and forces; place as an inherently pedagogical contact zone; and the affect of place. Much of this research is conducted with the legacies of colonisation and anthropogenic environmental damage in mind. It seeks new ways of exploring the co-constitutive nature of children and young people’s place relations and of promoting an ethics of place relations.

Desired skills: An interest in conducting creative and interdisciplinary qualitative and ‘post-qualitative’ research. A desire to contribute and participate in The Ediths, a supportive research network.

Project Area: Society & Culture, Natural & Built Environments

Supervisor(s): Professor Mindy Blaise, Dr Jane Merewether, Dr Jo Pollitt

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

The Common Worlds Research Collective is an interdisciplinary network of researchers concerned with our relations with the more-than-human world. In following children and young people’s relations with other species, our research works against the premises of exclusive human agency and paramount human interests. Instead it draws upon frameworks and methodologies that re-focus upon child/plant/animal interactions, entanglements and co-shapings. These include multispecies ethnographies, multi-sensory and affect-focused methods, and textual methods that examine the role of child/animal/plant narratives and deconstruct their discursive formations and effects. Much of this research responds to colonial and ecological legacies, such as the anthropogenic escalation of species extinctions, which provide context to contemporary children and young people’s relations with other species. It seeks news ways of fostering ethical, recuperative and flourishing multispecies futures.

Desired skills: An interest in conducting creative and interdisciplinary qualitative and ‘post-qualitative’ research. A desire to contribute and participate in The Ediths, a supportive research network.

Project Area: Society & Culture, Natural & Built Environments

Supervisor(s): Professor Mindy Blaise, Dr Jane Merewether, Dr Jo Pollitt

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

The Common Worlds Research Collective is an interdisciplinary network of researchers concerned with our relations with the more-than-human world. In following children and young people’s relations with materials, our research challenges the deeply rooted cultural oppositions such as animate versus inanimate and active versus passive that lead us to think of humans as animate agents who act upon passive, inanimate materials. It draws upon frameworks and methodologies that acknowledge that our lives are inextricably entangled with materials. These include new material feminisms, visual and sensory ethnographies, and Deleuze-inspired art-based methodologies that open up new modes of thinking and being in the world. Much of this research responds to the legacies of capitalism, the rampant accumulation of materials as well as massive amounts of trashed materials that are poisoning the planet. It seeks new ways of developing sustainable caring relations that acknowledge nonhuman entities as co-actors and co-shapers of the world.

Desired skills: An interest in conducting creative and interdisciplinary qualitative and ‘post-qualitative’ research. A desire to contribute and participate in The Ediths, a supportive research network.

Project Area: Society & Culture, Natural & Built Environments

Supervisor(s): Professor Mindy Blaise, Dr Jane Merewether, Dr Jo Pollitt

Project level: Masters, PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Ongoing

Project Outline:

A recent report from the UK suggests that writer visits at schools could exert a positive influence on student reading engagement. This mixed methods PhD project would involve exploring the impact (if any) of writer visits at schools in Australian contexts on student reading engagement, in order to determine if writer visits constitute a good investment for schools seeking to enhance student reading engagement. Close attention will be paid to unique elements of author approaches, such as delivery differences between writers, and how they appear to impact upon audience response.

Desired skills: Research and academic writing skills are desirable. The thesis will incorporate academic publications, so applicants need to be willing to write early and often during candidature.

Project Area: Literacy and Literature

Supervisor(s): Dr Margaret Merga

Project level: PhD

Funding: Applicant should apply for ECUHDR or RTP Scholarship

Start date: Ongoing

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