Education & Capacity Building Projects

    Our goal is to build the capacity of current and future citizens to thoughtfully and productively participate in the creation of sustainable and just tropical communities and societies.

    Education research projects

    ARC Linkage Project (LP130100344)

    Gauging the value of flexible learning options for disenfranchised youth and the Australian community

    Indicative funding: $309,000

    Investment in flexible learning options (FLOs) for young people who have disengaged from schooling requires understanding of how they work and evidence about their economic and social value. This project will provide both through innovative and integrated methods, analysing FLO sites across three Australian states and the Northern Territory.

    Chief Investigators:
     Sue McGinty, Riccardo Welters, Brian Lewthwaite, Katarina Te Riele, Valda Wallace, Hurriyet Babacan, Dale Murray, David Murray, Eva Lawler, Mary Retel, George Myconos, Anthony McMahon

    Collaborating Schools/Institutions:
    The Cairns institute; School of Indigenous Australian Studies; Edmund Rice Education Australia; Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development; NT Department of Education and Children's Services; Catholic Education Office, Western Australia; Brotherhood of St Laurence; Centacare Townsville


    Palladium International Pty Ltd

    Training for development of teaching and learning at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (TL-UNITECH)

    Indicative funding: $210,970

    The purpose of this program is to provide training to PNG UNITECH staff in teaching and learning and establish the Teaching and Learning Methods Unit (TLMU) as a functional unit driving improvements in contemporary curriculum design, blended learning, student-centred teaching, active learning, and assessment.

    Chief Investigators: Stewart Lockie, The Cairns Institute

    Office for Learning & Teaching (OLT)

    Design thinking frameworks as transformative cross-disciplinary pedagogy

    Indicative funding: $49,000

    Innovation, creativity and problem solving are ranked highly in the list of generic graduate attributes. Design thinking principles and frameworks are considered to be excellent scaffolds for supporting the development of creative and innovative mind sets but there is little empirical research to support this. This project will explore design thinking models as transformative cross-disciplinary pedagogy to develop desired graduate attributes.

    Chief Investigators: Neil Anderson, Ton Otto

    Collaborating Schools/Institutions: School of Education; The Cairns Institute


    Australian Government - Attorney-Generals Department - Consultancy

    Development of mid-career Native Title anthropologists

    Indicative funding: $47,240 over 2 years

    The grant is to fund four workshops to be held over 5 consecutive days (with a field trip on the third day) aimed specifically at mid-career anthropologists who are concerned with the increasing shift in Native Title practice, from preparing native title claims to concluding them. The workshops (6 hours each of face-to-face contact) will also provide technical training in establishing and running post-determination institutions and incorporated groups. The workshops will provide targeted training for mid-career anthropologists and mentoring opportunities with senior anthropologists. Workshops 2, 3 and 4 will be run collaboratively in conjunction with the Centre for Native Title Anthropology (CNTA), ANU.

    Chief Investigators: Jennifer Gabriel, Rosita Henry and Michael Wood (The Cairns Institute, College of Arts, Society & Education)

    JCU New Professor Grant

    Indicative funding: $25,000

    Chief Investigator: Bob Stevenson

    Sustainable education collaborative projects [Suite of projects]
    Collaborating School: School of Education

    Embedding sustainability in teacher education project
    As part of Curriculum Refresh, School of Education staff identified education for sustainability (EfS) as a core theme for the school and its teacher education programs. As a result of this, Prof Stevenson led three workshops with staff to begin to develop a collective vision or shared program orientation to EfS and to construct a conceptual framework for guiding curriculum decisions as well as resources to support the integration of sustainability concepts in various classes. This project has been expanded beyond a curriculum development initiative to also be a research project using action research methodology to document, monitor and study individual and collective efforts in embedding sustainability concepts and values within, initially, BEd classes. The intent is to identify the issues and enabling and constraining factors in this process as many universities around the world are beginning to recognise the need to integrate sustainability education into their teacher education programs.

    Team members: Michelle Lasen (coordinator), Helen Boon, Snowy Evans, Cliff Jackson, Max Lenoy, Reesa Sorin, Bob Stevenson, Louisa Tomas, Komla Tsey, Hilary Whitehouse

    Collaborating School: School of Education

    Student engagement and achievement in environmental challenge projects
    The purpose of this research project is to investigate the impact of high school students’ participation in environmental challenge projects on their engagement and academic achievement in science and sustainability education. Specifically, the intent is to examine to what extent these student projects reflect scientific rigour and represent authentic academic achievement. One example that will be studied is student submissions to the FNQ regional Ports North sponsored Environmental Awards competition on the issue of water quality. Individual student reports on projects from Year 12 classes in multi-strand science (Science 21), biology and geography that were submitted since the beginning of this regional environmental challenge competition will be analysed. In addition, interviews will be conducted with the educator and environmental scientist panelists who judge the awards and a sample of teachers who have involved students in conducting projects that were submitted. This study is intended to serve as a pilot for an ARC Linkage proposal with Deakin University to investigate the processes and outcomes of a collaborative and community-based competition, Search for Young Scientists Congress, organised by the Regional Educational Centre for Science and Mathematics (RECSAM) in Malaysia.  At this congress high school student teams from 11 south-east Asian and Indo-China countries present and defend accounts of their projects to an international audience of peers in a process akin to critical peer review in the scientific community. Case studies of the work of these teams will be compared to both cases of similar environmental inquiry and action projects in Australia (such as the FNQ Environmental Award program) and contemporary science education classrooms on measures of scientific rigour and student engagement, understanding of local and global sustainability and socio-scientific issues, and higher order thinking. This comparison would lead to recommendations for improving science and sustainability education in Australian schools.

    Team members: Cliff Jackson, Kathryn Meldrum, Bob Stevenson, Louisa Tomas

    Collaborating School: School of Education

    Teachers’ environmental, educational and epistemological ideologies and beliefs
    Teachers’ involvement in sustainability education is dependent in part on their own environmental and educational ideologies.  This raises the research question of how these ideologies, as well as epistemological beliefs (given the complexities and uncertainties of sustainability issues), shape teachers’ understanding and acceptance of EfS and their curriculum and pedagogical approach to EfS. This third project involves theoretical development (i.e., building epistemic and ideological theories) and mixed empirical methods of quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis of pre-service and in-service teachers’ (and possibly school leaders’) worldviews and their relationship to their educational responses to sustainability issues. Analytical frameworks of epistemic identity and environmental and educational ideologies will be piloted with pre-service teachers using some innovative measures involving analysis of dialogue and expressions of positions in relation to vignettes of environmental conflicts.  This project will produce a series of publications with the later potential for scaled up grant application.

    Team members: Raoul Adam, Helen Boon, Philemon Chigeza, Bob Stevenson

    Collaborating School: School of Education

    Education for climate change adaptation
    Preparing individuals and communities, especially those in vulnerable areas of the world, to be resilient and adaptable to the consequences of climate change is an emerging policy priority for governments at all levels, especially in regions such as the tropics and the sub-Arctic which have been identified as likely to experience the first serious consequences of climate change.  Much attention has been focused on education about the science of climate change, but far less has been devoted to understanding how individuals and communities can learn to live with change and uncertainty and develop adaptive capacity and resilience to the consequences of climate change. This project is concerned with conceptualising education for climate change adaptation in theory and practice by examining such questions as: What is an appropriate role of school and community education in climate change adaptation? How can educators respond to this educational challenge without creating despair or engendering false hope among children, youth and adults? What other issues do educators face in taking on this role? What research is needed in education for climate change adaptation?

    Team members: Hilary Whitehouse, Helen Boon, Philemon Chigeza, Jen Nicholls, Bob Stevenson

    Collaborating School: School of Education

    Ninti One Limited 

    Enhancing training advantage for remote Indigenous learners

    Indicative funding: $16,500

    This research project seeks to provide answers to the longstanding questions about how post school training enhances the employability of remote adult learners. In particular, the project will examine programs in remote parts of Australia where rates of retention and completion are relatively high compared to the average for remote Australia. The research aims to achieve this through a series of five case studies. Each case study will examine retention and completion towards employability with individual cases considering aspects of funding models, pedagogy, cultural relevance, pre-vocational literacy, on-the-job training, and block release training (away from communities) compared to on community training.

    Chief Investigators: Anne Stephens, John Guenther, Bob Boughton, Sandra Wooltorton, Janet Skewes, Melodie Bat

    Collaborating Institutions: The Cairns Institute; Ninti One Ltd; The University of New England; University of Notre Dame; Charles Darwin University; Batchelor College

    JCU Collaboration Across Boundaries Grant

    Preparedness of schools for climate change contingencies

    Indicative funding: $9,450

    Chief Investigators: Helen Boon, Rick Speare, Komla Tsey, Paul Pagliano, Lawrence Brown, Kim Usher

    Collaborating Schools: School of Education; School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine & Rehabilitation Sciences; School of Nursing, Midwifery and Nutrition; The Cairns Institute

    JCU FAESS Capacity Building Grants 2012

    Investigating the potential for design thinking for higher education

    Indicative funding: $7,000

    The outcome of this research will be the development of a model for the broad-based integration of design thinking in the higher education curriculum. This will foster students’ creative skills critical for 21st century living including their well-being and capacity to make a strong contribution to innovation in future workplaces and community development. It will involve extensive document research regarding the current use of design thinking in higher education; investigate the use of design thinking skills in higher education subjects at James Cook University and the perceptions of staff and students, and how it might strengthen tertiary students’ creative skills and innovative mindsets.

    Chief Investigators: Neil Anderson, Ton Otto with the help of Snowy Evans, Theresa Petray, Victoria Kuttainen, Raoul Adam, Kelsey Halbert

    Collaborating Schools: School of Education; School of Arts & Social Sciences; The Cairns Institute

    JCU Centres Research Project Funding

    Educational response to climate change project

    Indicative funding: $3,397

    Chief Investigators: Hilary Whitehouse, Philemon Chigeza, Bob Stevenson, Helen Boon, Jennifer Nicholls

    Collaborating Schools/Institutions: School of Education; The Cairns Institute

    JCU Centres Research Project Funding

    Student engagement and achievement in environmental challenge projects

    Indicative funding: $3,320

    Chief Investigators: Clifford Jackson, Bob Stevenson, Louisa Tomas, Kathryn Meldrum

    Collaborating Schools/Institutions: School of Education; The Cairns Institute

    JCU Centres Research Project Funding

    Developing a conceptual framework for wicked problems in sustainability

    Indicative funding: $2,230

    Chief Investigators: Komla Tsey, Raoul Adam, Philemon Chigeza, Bob Stevenson, Samantha Morgan, Helen Boon, Jennifer A Nicholls

    Collaborating Schools/Institutions: The Cairns Institute; School of Education

    JCU ARC Linkage Assistance Grant

    Articulating the value-addedness of Australian flexible learning options

    Indicative funding: $5,000

    Flexible learning options support young people who have disengaged from school to re-engage with education and training. The intention of this project is to showcase the economic benefits of re-engagement, in both a literal dollar sense as this relates to specific measures if improvement in lifetime outcomes as well as in a productivity sense that values young people's potential future input into the community and nation. A matching estimator model will be developed that will demonstrate the link between financial input and outcomes resulting in explication of the benefit of educational intervention to both funding bodies and the wider community.

    Chief Investigators: Sue McGinty, Riccardo Welters, Hurriyet Babacan

    Collaborating Schools/Institutions: School of Indigenous Australian Studies; School of Business; The Cairns Institute


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