PhD Projects Current Available

Australian Indigenous Engineering and Knowledge Systems as Exemplified in the Budj Bim National Heritage Area

Supervisors: Dr. Juliana Kaya Prpic and Professor Marcia Langton

This project seeks to identify and understand the engineering applied by the Gunditjmara peoples in the aquaculture and other environmental management systems evident in the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape area in south-west Victoria. It forms part of the MSE's acknowledgement that achieving Indigenous parity in engineering requires a recognition of both Indigenous engineering and the Indigenous knowledge systems that enabled that engineering to be applied over countless generations.

The significance of the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape as an expression of Australian Aboriginal knowledge, engineering and management of natural and social systems and the environment is only now beginning to be understood, in a context where most of the traditional methods for storing and transmitting or imparting knowledge have been lost, along with the knowledge itself.

Budj Bim provides examples of permanent buildings, hydraulic engineering, sustainable aquaculture and adaptation of natural materials and systems that date back more than 6000 years. However, while these artefacts and practices have been broadly recognised from an archaeological and anthropological perspective (1-4,7), documentation, decipherment and understanding of the engineering aspects is limited (5, 6).

This research project aims to document the examples of "engineering" at Budj Bim and to interpret them in terms of 'conventional' European engineering theory on the one hand and indigenous philosophy and values on the other, with the ultimate aim of contributing to the rebuilding of indigenous (and European) knowledge of sustainable aquaculture and resource management in the region.

References

  1. Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Kerrup Jmara Aboriginal Corporation. 1993. Lake Condah: Heritage Management Plan and Strategy. Melbourne: Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.
  2. Builth, H. 2002. The Archaeology and Socio-Economy of the Gunditjmara: a Landscape Approach. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis. Adelaide: Flinders University
  3. Clark, I.D. 1990a. The People of the Lake, Lake Condah, Victoria, Australia: an Information Manual. Unpublished Report by Koorie Tourism Unit, Victorian Tourism Commission
  4. Context Pty Ltd working closely with Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation and the Lake Condah Sustainable Development Project, 2009. Lake Condah Restoration Conservation Management Plan - Community Action Plan
  5. Coutts, P., Frank, R. and Hughes, P. 1978. Aboriginal Engineers of Western Victoria. Records of the Victorian Archaeological Survey, 7
  6. Lourandos, H. 1980. Change or stability?: hydraulics, hunter-gatherers and population in temperate Australia. World Archaeology, 11: 245-264
  7. Williams, E. 1988. Complex Hunter-Gatherer: A Late Holocene Example from Temperate Australia. British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 423

For further information please contact Dr. Prpic at jprpic@unimelb.edu.au

Assessing Learning of Safety Using Concept Maps

Supervisors : Professor David Shallcross and Dr Kaya Prpic

This project aims to identify whether concept maps may be used as an effective way of measuring cohort learning of particular topics in engineering safety. The use of concept maps offers a means of assessing student awareness and knowledge of key concepts of a particular domain. Concept mapping was developed by Novak and co-workers in the 1970's and 1980's as a means of evaluating the knowledge of students around particular domains. They have subsequently been demonstrated to be powerful instructional and assessment tools which allow students to diagrammatically represent the linkages between different concepts.

In a typical map the domain or central concept, is written first and then other concepts are written around it. These concepts are normally one or two words and are enclosed within a rectangle or circle. The concepts are linked to the domain and one another via connecting lines and short linking or connecting words or phrases. The link existing between two concepts made by the connecting words forms a proposition. Taken as a whole the map with its many concepts, connecting lines and propositions allow the map's author to organize their knowledge and demonstrate their understand of the topic or domain. The way in which the map is constructed along with the concepts and linking propositions the author has chosen to use reveals much about the thinking, maturity and knowledge of the author in that area.

As Ruiz-Primo in 1997 noted, concept maps allow the measurement of some aspects of student learning that conventional test do not measure well. A disadvantage of the scoring methods based upon those of Novak and co-workers, and Besterfield-Sacre et al. (2004) is that they provide no information on which particular aspects of a domain's scope the maps' authors have focussed on in preparing their maps. For a tool such as the concept map to be really useful in assessing the understanding of individual students as well as the class as a whole then it must be possible to identify gaps in the students awareness around the domain. Legrand (2000) proposed a method which classifies every concept in the map into a range of different categories. By examining the distribution of concepts across the proposed categories, gaps in the awareness of the class may be identified. Later Lourdel et al. (2007) and Segalàs et al. (2008) have applied this technique to evaluate student understanding of sustainable development.

This research projects aims to determine whether the technique developed by Legrand may be applied to domains centred around safety case studies to identify student learning and appreciation of the importance of safety. Undergraduate students will be asked to complete concepts maps around the domain of "Process Safety" and the maps will be then analysed using a range of different techniques.

References

Besterfield-Sacre, M., Gerchak, J., Lyons, M., Shuman, L.J. and Wolfe, H., 2004. Scoring concept maps: an integrated rubric for assessing engineering education. J. Eng. Educ. 93, 105-115.

Legrande E., 2000. Utilisation pragmatique de cartes mentals comme outil d' evaluation en education relative à l'environnement. Éducation Relative À L'Environnement, 2, 75-95

Lourdel, N., Gondran, N., Laforest, V., Debray, B., Brodhag, C. 2007. Sustainable development cognitive map: a new method of evaluating student understanding. Int. J. Sust. High. Educ., 8, 170-182.

Segalàs, J., Ferrer-Balas, D., Mulder, K.F., 2008. Conceptual maps: measuring learning processes of engineering students concerning sustainable development. Euro. J. Eng. Educ. 33, 297-306.

Assessing Learning of Sustainable Development Using Concept Maps

Supervisors : Professor David Shallcross and Dr Kaya Prpic

This project aims to identify whether concept maps may be used as an effective way of measuring cohort learning of particular topics in sustainable development. The use of concept maps offers a means of assessing student awareness and knowledge of key concepts of a particular domain. Concept mapping was developed by Novak and co-workers in the 1970's and 1980's as a means of evaluating the knowledge of students around particular domains. They have subsequently been demonstrated to be powerful instructional and assessment tools which allow students to diagrammatically represent the linkages between different concepts.

In a typical map the domain or central concept, is written first and then other concepts are written around it. These concepts are normally one or two words and are enclosed within a rectangle or circle. The concepts are linked to the domain and one another via connecting lines and short linking or connecting words or phrases. The link existing between two concepts made by the connecting words forms a proposition. Taken as a whole the map with its many concepts, connecting lines and propositions allow the map's author to organize their knowledge and demonstrate their understand of the topic or domain. The way in which the map is constructed along with the concepts and linking propositions the author has chosen to use reveals much about the thinking, maturity and knowledge of the author in that area.

As Ruiz-Primo in 1997 noted, concept maps allow the measurement of some aspects of student learning that conventional test do not measure well. A disadvantage of the scoring methods based upon those of Novak and co-workers, and Besterfield-Sacre et al. (2004) is that they provide no information on which particular aspects of a domain's scope the maps' authors have focussed on in preparing their maps. For a tool such as the concept map to be really useful in assessing the understanding of individual students as well as the class as a whole then it must be possible to identify gaps in the students awareness around the domain. Legrand (2000) proposed a method which classifies every concept in the map into a range of different categories. By examining the distribution of concepts across the proposed categories, gaps in the awareness of the class may be identified. Later Lourdel et al. (2007) and Segalàs et al. (2008) have applied this technique to evaluate student understanding of sustainable development.

This research projects aims to determine whether the technique developed by Legrand may be applied to domains centred around sustainable development to identify student learning and appreciation of the importance of the topic. Undergraduate students from across several disciplines and at different year levels will be asked to complete concepts maps around the domain of "Sustainable Development" and the maps will be then analysed using a range of different techniques.

References

Besterfield-Sacre, M., Gerchak, J., Lyons, M., Shuman, L.J. and Wolfe, H., 2004. Scoring concept maps: an integrated rubric for assessing engineering education. J. Eng. Educ. 93, 105-115.

Legrande E., 2000. Utilisation pragmatique de cartes mentals comme outil d' evaluation en education relative à l'environnement. Éducation Relative À L'Environnement, 2, 75-95

Lourdel, N., Gondran, N., Laforest, V., Debray, B., Brodhag, C. 2007. Sustainable development cognitive map: a new method of evaluating student understanding. Int. J. Sust. High. Educ., 8, 170-182.

Segalàs, J., Ferrer-Balas, D., Mulder, K.F., 2008. Conceptual maps: measuring learning processes of engineering students concerning sustainable development. Euro. J. Eng. Educ. 33, 297-306.