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Completed research projects


Literacy is widely recognised as a foundational capability for participation in modern society. In Tasmania, there is a state-wide groundswell of support for efforts to improve literacy outcomes for all students. As part of such efforts, in 2016 the Tasmanian Government announced a suite of initiatives to support literacy and numeracy.

In this context, the Peter Underwood Centre was commissioned to undertake a 'Review of Literacy Teaching, Training, and Practice in Government Schools'. The review uses the nationally-agreed definition provided by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which includes comprehending and composing written, oral, and visual texts.

The project has led to five reports across four phases of work:

As part of the review, the Peter Underwood Centre also produced eleven fact sheets:

  1. What is Literacy (PDF 295.2 KB)
  2. Enablers of Literacy Teaching and Learning (PDF 420.0 KB)
  3. Whole School Approaches to Literacy (PDF 414.3 KB)
  4. Monitoring Literacy Teaching and Learning (PDF 410.7 KB)
  5. Initial Teacher Education for Teaching Literacy (PDF 369.2 KB)
  6. Literacy Teaching in the Early Years of Schooling - Fact Sheet for Teachers (PDF 292.4 KB)
  7. Literacy Learning in the Early Years of School - Fact Sheet for Parents and Carers (PDF 261.7 KB)
  8. Literacy Teaching in the Upper Primary Years - Fact Sheet for Teachers (PDF 374.7 KB)
  9. Literacy Learning in the Upper Primary Years - Fact Sheet for Parents and Carers (PDF 241.0 KB)
  10. Literacy Teaching in the Secondary Years - Fact Sheet for Teachers (PDF 362.7 KB)
  11. Literacy Learning in the Secondary Years - Fact Sheet for Parents and Carers (PDF 265.1 KB)

The review identified current literacy practices used in schools and in pre-service teacher education in Tasmania. Findings have informed the development of the 2019-2022 Department of Education Literacy Framework and Action Plan.

Project team: Professor Kitty te Riele, Professor Elaine Stratford, Dr Sarah Stewart


In 2016 the Tasmanian Government Department of Education established the Launceston Big Picture School (LBPS) as a stand-alone Big Picture Demonstration School with a dedicated principal. The Big Picture Education model aims to support students, many of whom have been previously disengaged at school, with a personalised curriculum and real world workplace experiences based on individual interests.

The Peter Underwood Centre has undertaken an evaluation of the LBPS with a focus on the implementation of distinguishing characteristics of the Big Picture Education model and on outcomes for students. The findings will be used to inform practice at the school level and policy development in the Tasmanian Government Department of Education.

The Final Report can be downloaded here: An Evaluation of the Launceston Big Picture School: Executive Summary and Report.

Project team: Dr Becky Shelley, Professor Elaine Stratford, Professor Kitty te Riele, Dr Sherridan Emery, Melody West, Oliver Grant

2019-2020 plus update in 2021

Supporting Expectant and Parenting Teens (SEPT) is a national early intervention project funded through the federal Department of Social Services Try Test and Learn scheme. It aims to provide support to expecting and parenting young people and connect them with relevant services prior to and alongside ParentsNext.

The Brave Foundation has commissioned the Peter Underwood Centre to examine its SEPT trial, focused on providing qualitative analysis of the core features and processes of the SEPT program specifically. The purpose of this project-specific evaluation for SEPT is:

  • To examine what can be learnt from the implementation of SEPT to inform future decisions, for SEPT and other social initiatives, especially by the Brave Foundation.

The primary focus of the research is on processes, to determine how the SEPT approach has worked. As part of this, a secondary focus is on outcomes, to determine whether SEPT met its broad aims.

In March 2021 the Brave Foundation requested additional analysis, including SEPT participant data to the end of February 2021, and broken down by region. The final report including appendices with findings from the additional analyses can be downloaded here: Supporting Expecting and Parenting Teens (SEPT) Trial—Independent Evaluation. Final Report.

Project team: Professor Kitty te Riele, Dr Aishah Bakhtiar, Georgia Sutton


The Teacher Internship Placement Program (TIPP) allows final year pre-service teacher education students at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) to spend a whole calendar year in a Tasmanian government school where they will gain a permanent position the following year, after graduation.

The Tasmanian Department of Education (DoE) have commissioned the Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment to evaluate the impact of the Teacher Internship Placement Program (TIPP) in preparing pre-service teachers for the profession. The research examined:

  • transitions to teaching after graduation,
  • program features of TIPP that are useful, and
  • outcomes of participation in TIPP.

The focus of the research was on the TIPP cohorts from 2016 and 2017, and a sample of beginning teachers from the same graduating cohorts who did not complete the TIPP.

As part of the impact evaluation, the Peter Underwood Centre produced a fact sheet: Supporting New Teachers.

Project team: Professor Natalie Brown, Professor Kitty te Riele, Dr Becky Shelley, Dr Megan Lang, Dr Emily Rudling


The Department of Education in Tasmania (DoE) has developed a program called ‘Packages of Learning’ (POL) that offers students and teachers a suite of curriculum resources with an applied and integrated approach to teaching most core subjects of the Australian Curriculum. The POL was piloted in 2019 with small groups of Year 9 and 10 students in five DoE schools. It aimed to create pathways for a diverse range of future study and employment options for Tasmania’s young people. Four packages were developed for the pilot program, aligned to growth industry areas in Tasmania: Advanced Manufacturing; Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Architecture and Construction; and Hospitality and Tourism.

The Department of Education engaged the Peter Underwood Centre to conduct an independent evaluation. The research focused on:

  • student engagement,
  • coverage of curriculum,
  • student diversity, and
  • collaboration between schools and industry.

The research is informing the expansion of POL in 2020 to 13 schools across the state, including the original five that took part in the trial.

Project team: Professor Kitty te Riele, Tess Crellin


Children and young people within the criminal justice system, especially those who have been sentenced or remanded into custody, face particular challenges in relation to accessing education. The Victorian Department of Education and Training commissioned the research team to examine how young people leaving custody in Victoria’s youth justice system can be supported to successfully re-connect with education. The overarching research question guiding the study was:

How can young Victorians be assisted by the Department of Education and Training (DET) to maximise the likelihood of successful educational transition after their release from custody?

Specifically, the study focused on:

  • An investigation of national and international successful transition practices;
  • Current support offered within the DET for educational transition during and following custody;
  • Proposed changes to DET processes and practices to enhance support of educational transition during and following custody;
  • Monitoring of educational planning and transition for young Victorians during and following custody.

Educational Transition from Custody: Final Report

Project team: Associate Professor Julie White (VU), Professor Kitty te Riele, Dr Fiona MacDonald (VU), Dr Tim Corcoran (Deakin) and Dr Alison Baker (VU)


Education in youth detention is commonly identified as a significant part of the solution to the problem of how young people involved in the criminal youth justice system can successfully re-join society. This project was funded by Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, a Melbourne-based philanthropic organisation.

The purpose of this study was to investigate education within youth custodial settings, for young people charged with or convicted of criminal offences. The project focused on how education works for these young people. Three research questions guided all aspects of the study:

  1. What enables and constrains participation in education in custody?
  2. How could educational connection for the longer-term be strengthened for young people in custody?
  3. How may education work as a protective factor for young people in the youth justice system?

The project addresses the enablers and constraints to educational connection and achievement for young people within the Victorian custodial youth justice context.

Improving educational connection for young people in custody (PDF).

Project team: Associate Professor Julie White (VU), Professor Kitty te Riele (UTAS), Dr Tim Corcoran (Deakin) and Dr Alison Baker (VU)


Funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, Curtin University National Grant.

There has been a growing interest in challenges faced by students from regional and remote Australia as their higher education access, participation, retention, success and attainment indicators persistently remain below those of their metropolitan counterparts. However, many students from regional and remote communities do perform well on the indicators, and there are communities across Australia that stand out on the basis of higher education performance.

This study adopted a strengths-based approach to identify and explore these higher performing communities’ characteristics, attitudes and expectations; programs, partnerships and interventions; and social capital and infrastructure in order to uncover key influencers that support their residents to embark upon, and succeed in, higher education.

Regional communities' influences on equity participation in higher education (PDF 1.7 MB)

Project Team: Professor Sue Kilpatrick, Dr Robin Barnes, Dr Nicole Crawford,Dr Jess Woodroffe, Professor Margaret Noble, Dr Sherridan Emery and Gemma Burns


Between 2016-2018 The Peter Underwood Centre was associated with three projects that focus on supporting the connection between parents/carers and schools:

  • Facilitating School-Parent-Community Partnerships Throughout Tasmania to Help Children Realise Their Educational Potential (Funded by the Ian Potter Foundation)
  • Parents Matter: Raising Children's Post-Year 10 Educational Aspiration (Funded by the Tasmanian Community Fund)
  • Equipping Parents to Support Their Children's Aspirations: What Works? (Funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training)

For further information visit the project pages

Project team: Professor Sue Kilpatrick, Dr Robin Barnes, Professor Elaine Stratford, Marcel Kerrison


Flexible Learning Programs (or Flexis) provide school level education for young people for whom conventional schooling has not worked well. these programs are often small and driven by immediate need, leading to a risk of reinventing the wheel on how to establish such a program. In order to address this concern, Youth+ (part of Edmund Rice Education Australia) commissioned UTAS to examine the establishment of ten of its Flexis around Australia.

Project team: Dr Jeff Thomas (UTAS – Faculty of Education), Professor Kitty te Riele


What challenges face young Tasmanians aged 15 to 25 transitioning from education to employment in this State? This study used a comprehensive literature review and a two-round Delphi process to engage over 50 key thought leaders from the Tasmanian community in this topic of increasing importance for young Tasmanians' futures. The question addressed one of 50 action items highlighted in the Tasmanian Government's State Population Growth Strategy, which aims to increase Tasmania's population to 650,000 people by the year 2050. The findings will inform future education-to- employment initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining young people and improving their post-qualification outcomes.

Project team: Professor Elaine Stratford, Ms Marisa Field


The Kentish Community Learning Plan is a collaborative project between the Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment, the Centre for Rural Health and the Kentish Council and community. Adopting a community development approach, the project resulted in a community development plan for the municipality. Adopting the Australian Centre for Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) learning community framework model, the project engaged local stakeholders in the development of strategies aimed at creating greater learning opportunities across the lifespan for residents in the municipality. The plan has the potential to benefit other Tasmanian rural communities seeking to enhance opportunities for life- long learning within their region.

Project team: Professor Sue Kilpatrick, Dr Jess Woodroffe, Erin Jackson, Stuart Auckland, Karen Eyles, Professor Elaine Stratford


Working it Out Inc has been engaged by the Department of Education to provide training to equip school staff with the skills and knowledge to provide a safe and inclusive school community for all students. It will build on and complement the State’s Respectful Schools and Workplaces Framework.

The project team will provide support in the capacity of a Critical Friend to assist Working it Out Inc. to meet its obligations. It will work in consultation with Working it Out Inc. develop and establish protocols and templates for data gathering, analysis and reporting that allow reasoned judgments about its impact informed by results-based accountability (how much, how well and what impact).

Project team: Professor Kitty te Riele, Dr Sarah Stewart


The Tasmanian Department of Education in Tasmania (DoE) has undertaken a two-year project to identify and address successes, barriers and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian School-based Apprentices. The Aboriginal Student Engagement – Australian School-based Apprenticeships (ASE-ASbA) Project is a joint initiative between Aboriginal Education Services (AES) and Vocational Learning and Career Education (VLCE).

The Tasmanian Department of Education has engaged the Peter Underwood Centre to support the project through an independent evaluation. The focus of this study is to:

  • generate evidence needed to inform the work carried out within the Department of Education to improve the provision of Australian School-based Apprenticeships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Tasmania.

The research team works collaboratively with colleagues from AES and VLCE in order to enhance synergies between the evaluation and the project. A major function of the research team is as a critical friend for the ASE-ASbA team, supporting project activity and the development of templates. In addition, the research team is undertaking independent data collection, analysis an reporting.

Project team: Professor Kitty te Riele, Tess Crellin


The Tasmanian Department of Education (DoE) and the University of Tasmania (UTAS) are collaborating on the Teacher Development Initiative (TDI) to enable staff in the Department to gain additional qualifications. One of these qualifications is the Graduate Certificate of Inclusive Education (GCIE). The GCIE was adapted by UTAS to suit this cohort. Beginning in 2017, DoE have annually sponsored up to 30 permanent staff (teachers and departmental staff) to undertake the GCIE.

The Department commissioned the Peter Underwood Centre to undertake an independent evaluation. The aim of this project is to gain insight into the impact of the Graduate Certificate on Department staff who have completed the course through the Teacher Development Initiative. The key questions informing this study are:

  • What were the most important things learnt from the Graduate Certificate?
  • How has this learning changed GCIE graduates’ individual practice?
  • What impact have these changed had on their students?
  • Has their professional learning had an impact more broadly in the school or in the program of learning for individual students (i.e., beyond their own teaching practice)?

The research team works collaboratively with colleagues from the Department of Education and the University of Tasmania Faculty of Education.

Project team: Professor Kitty te Riele, Dr Megan Lang, Dr Emily Rudling


University of Tasmania: Internal Funding (Hothouse)


The aim of this study is to access the discourses being used by Regional, Rural and Remote (RRR) people to speak about themselves, their lives and their education. The intent is to compare these ‘insider’ ways of ‘knowing’ with those from the publicly available documents which speak about RRR people and education from an ‘outsider’ perspective (this research is currently being undertaken).

An exploration of how these discourses might be used to support and/or disrupt current practice around community and educational issues will then be completed.

In particular, the study aims to challenge the thinking, process and structures that create disadvantage in RRR communities and work to develop ways in which this disadvantage can be addressed.

Project Team: Dr Nici Barnes, Professor Sue Kilpatrick and Dr Jess Woodroffe