Date of Submission

3-2014

Abstract

This qualitative research study aimed to investigate, through focus group action research, teachers’ experience of applying Community Action Projects (hereafter, CAP) in the discipline of Humanities in a Victorian Catholic secondary school. In the context of this study, emanating from the philosophies of a social reconstructionist curriculum framework, teachers facilitated CAP with students born between the years 1995 and 2002. In this study, this group of students are referred to as the ‘current learners’ while much of the recent discourse on generations most commonly refer to them as Generation Z.

Located within the constructivist epistemology, and taking its theoretical perspective from interpretivism, this qualitative study took its theoretical impetus from symbolic interactionism as a way of examining and reflecting upon the interview transcripts from the focus group of five secondary school teachers in the discipline of Humanities. This perspective also aided the ability of the researcher to gain insight into the strengths and weakness’ of CAP and to understand the teachers’ perspective and experience of applying CAP into the Humanities curriculum. The researcher met with the focus group on three major occasions.

The reflection upon the texts of this present study identified five key themes - experience and engagement for the learners; reflections of curriculum leading to action; perceptions about the current learners; challenges integrating CAP into the current school; and integrating CAP into the current curriculum. In addition, three issues were found that appeared to encroach on the integration of CAP: the current learners are not socially active; the structure of the curriculum; and the structure of secondary schools. First, the key issues were analysed against the existing theories about the current learners, and four key themes were discussed: the current learners as digitally literate; socially active; enjoy excitement and entertainment; and appear to have power and dynamism. Second, the issues were analysed against contemporary Catholic Church documents in relation to education and the responsibilities of teachers and the current learners. Third, the issues were analysed against the literature about the current curriculum ideologies, primarily based on Schiro’s (2008) four visions of education, more specifically, the social reconstruction curriculum ideology. Based on this ideology, the researcher put forward a curriculum construct in an attempt to represent the process of the social reconstructionist ideology. This process was employed by the focus group participants in their Humanities classroom with the current learners.

The key issues were found to inhibit the successful integration of CAP in secondary schools. As a result of this investigation, the researcher put forward some recommendations to create positive experiences and practice for teachers responsible for integrating the project. These included compulsory community outreach for all students from Years 7 to 10 within the curriculum and across several subject areas. A further recommendation was that a substantial budget be set aside for the integration of CAP in secondary schools. It was also highly recommended that a leadership position be created to oversee the integration of CAP across several year levels. Finally, continued opportunities for professional development in social reconstructionist education, social justice, and community outreach were recommended in order to preserve the momentum of CAP.

School/Institute

School of Education

Document Type

Thesis

Access Rights

Open Access

Extent

202 pages

Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

Faculty

Faculty of Education

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