Date of Submission

25-7-2019

Abstract

Over the past two decades, case studies internationally have identified the effectiveness of high-performing school systems and the systemic school improvement and accountability strategies that influence student achievement. However, there has been little research on the effect of systemic school improvement on student achievement in the context of Australian Catholic educational sectors. The essence of this study is to add to the existing body of educational knowledge on a school system’s influence on student achievement. The metropolitan Catholic School system that is the subject of this study is regarded as a well-performing school system (Benjamin, 2014; Canavan, 2006, 2007c; Gamble, Stannard, Benjamin, & Burke, 2004) where student achievement has been shown to be continuously improving in national and state external testing. The school system has developed a systemic school improvement approach that puts student learning at the centre. To address the prime purpose of this study—to explore the influence of systemic school improvement on student achievement—the major research question was: How does a school system influence student achievement? The following four sub-questions were employed to guide the methodology, data collection and analysis: SQ1. How do principals, assistant principals, coordinators, and classroom teachers perceive the awareness, usefulness, and effectiveness of a systemic school improvement approach? SQ2. How do principals, assistant principals, coordinators, and classroom teachers perceive systemic school improvement providing direction and purpose, building capacity, and adapting for sustainable improvement? SQ3. How have High Learning Gains (HLG) schools and Low Learning Gains (LLG) schools adopted a systemic school improvement approach? SQ4. How do principals of schools in either HLG or LLG schools perceive a systemic school improvement approach influencing student achievement? This study is governed by the perception of school and system personnel as the primary means of exploring the relationship between a systemic school improvement approach and student achievement; therefore, it is positioned within a pragmatic paradigm focused on the “what and how” (Creswell, 2003a, p. 11) of the research problem. The method for the exploration of the research questions is a case study of a systemic school improvement approach, adopted by a metropolitan Catholic school system that influenced student achievement. The study utilised a mixed-methods methodology for data collection and analysis. Data were collected through a questionnaire, document analysis, and semi-structured interviews. The focus of this study is on secondary schools in two regions of the metropolitan Catholic school system. Perceptions were gathered from school system personnel with significant and direct involvement in, and accountability for, the implementation of a systemic school improvement approach. The participants were the principals, assistant principals, coordinators, and classroom teachers, as well as key metropolitan Catholic school system personnel. The researcher is a senior metropolitan Catholic school system staff member and so measures were taken to avoid bias and ensure methodological reliability. Recognising that a case study has limits on its generalisability, the study nonetheless is significant in its ability to provide a detailed insight into the dynamics of school system improvement, which can be situated within the current state of understanding from other research and scholarship in the field. It is significant in so far as it can add to existing educational knowledge on school systems in other contexts, and lay the foundation for policy and practice implications, as well as future research.

School/Institute

School of Education

Document Type

Thesis

Access Rights

Open Access

Extent

310 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

Included in

Education Commons

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