Awarding Institution

University of Newcastle

Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Professor Sid Bourke

Second Advisor

Dr. Wing Au


This study investigated the use of computerised databases to enhance student learning in the secondary school classroom, and included student factors and classroom processes that influenced their success. Students worked through a course in which they used computers and database management software to solve problems requiring them to work with information. Based on a constructivist pedagogy the course aimed to help students construct knowledge, develop skills in information processing, develop higher order thinking skills, and develop positive attitudes to computers.

Data were collected from 541 students in 25 classrooms at 12 schools in New South wales using a series of tests, questionnaires and classroom variables. Multilevel regression analysis was used to test hypothesized causal model linking presage, process and product variables.

Students successfully learned to use databases during the course, acquiring content knowledge of the databases and increasing their information processing skills. Students reported positive attitudes to computers and these attitudes directly influenced their achievement. The latter served to emphasise the importance of developing appropriate attitudes in computer classroom learning activities.

A number of other factors were found to influence the success of database activities. Gender and student approaches to learning influenced both cognitive and attitudinal outcomes directly. Students' previous computer experiences were found to influence approaches to learning, information processing ability, and attitudes to computers.

Several classroom contextual variables were also found to be important, including peer interaction, time on task and the type of database software used. Other teaching methods were of interest because of their negative or lack of influence on learning outcomes. The use of a heuristic was found to have a negative effect, while direct instruction of strategies and teacher modelling of strategies failed to affect learning outcomes.

Overall, most students used databases to collect and analyse data successfully. Most teachers were pleasantly surprised at the level of work completed by their students during the database course.


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Thesis. The University of Newcastle

Used by permission: the author

Peter Beamish is affiliated with Avondale College

Staff and students of Avondale College may access a print copy of this thesis from Avondale College Library (025.04 B37)

Included in

Education Commons