Published: Monday 18th August 2014
Five Australian Catholic University (ACU) PhD students had their three minutes of fame when they battled it out at the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) finals in Melbourne on Wednesday 6 August.
This year's winner was Lynette Riley for her presentation Conditions of Success for Aboriginal Students. Ms Riley also won the People's Choice Award, as voted by members of the audience.
Ms Riley is a PhD student at the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education (IPPE) at ACU.
A Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi woman from Dubbo and Moree, Ms Riley has over 30 years' experience working as a teacher and in Aboriginal education and administration at schools, universities, TAFEs and state education offices across New South Wales.
Her thesis aims to provide an overview of the conditions which support successful educational outcomes for Aboriginal students.
"Research has shown that Aboriginal students are up to 36 months behind their non-Aboriginal peers in learning. We need to close this gap," says Ms Riley.
"To date, there has been an over emphasis on the problems of Aboriginal students. My research focuses on examining academically successful Aboriginal students to determine what contributes to their success to see how we can replicate these conditions to support all Aboriginal students to excel."
Ms Riley's qualitative research focused on high-achieving Aboriginal students who had been placed in the top 10 - 25 per cent in their NAPLAN Year Five tests.
She undertook a total of 123 interviews, speaking to students, their parents, teachers and Aboriginal staff in three metropolitan and four regional schools in New South Wales.
Ms Riley said that her research found that academic success for Aboriginal students depends on several key elements.
"Successful students need supportive parents who understand how the education system works.
"Schools need culturally competent principals to lead by example. I found that successful students were taught by long term teachers who are competent in their craft or where they were new teachers, they had greater world experience and were competent in teaching diverse groups of kids and understood cultural difference."
Ms Riley said she is delighted with her double win at 3MT and is looking forward to representing ACU at the Trans-Tasman finals in Perth in November.
"It has been a great opportunity to refine my thinking and helped me to explain succinctly about my research. I am very pleased to receive both awards - I feel speechless and honoured."
Second place was awarded to Kristyen Tomcik, School of Exercise Science, with his thesis Effects of Creatine Availability on Skeletal Muscle Metabolism.
Third place was awarded to Katherine Owen, also from the IPPE, for her thesis Active engagement? Physical activity and school engagement.
Evelyn Parr, also from the School of Exercise Science, competed with her thesis Exercise and nutrient interactions on the regulation and maintenance of skeletal muscles mass.
Pam Pilkington, School of Psychology, took part with her thesis Why do women cry more following childbirth?
3MT is a research communications competition, held at universities around the world. Students have just three minutes to present a compelling oration on their thesis and its significance in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.
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