Affordances and challenges of the English Curriculum: teaching gender and sexuality diversity.

Year: 2017

Author: Van Leent, Lisa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Affordances and challenges of the English Curriculum: teaching gender and sexuality diversity.

A myriad of barriers including concepts such as heteronormativity (Britzman, 1995) and childhood innocence (Robinson, 2013), make policy development which supports curriculum and pedagogy work in primary schools in which teachers can include gender and sexuality diversity very complex. As a result, the visibility of gender and sexuality diversity continues to be narrow and pedagogical practices such as critical literacies are rendered heteronormative. However, with a queer eye, opportunities for including and embracing diversity regarding gender and sexuality are afforded within the Australian Curriculum: English (AC:E). The aim of this presentation is to discuss opportunities within the AC:E in which I take a queer critical literacies lens and work at the nexus of the English Curriculum and a gender and sexuality diversity social equity agenda.

The development of this work is a merging of my doctoral study and teaching experience. I teach English curriculum studies in initial teacher education courses. My doctoral study focussed on primary school teachers' conceptions of their pedagogical responses to diverse sexualities. A phenomenographic study revealed teachers' conceptions about the kinds of scenarios in which they encounter non-heteronormativity, and how they responded (described and defined by the teachers). An analytical framework conceptualising sexuality theories, including heteronormativity and queer theories, a history of cultural understanding about sexuality, and pedagogical practices guides the discussion of the data. The focus for this presentation is the influence of the teachers' conceptions of their practice and the relationship with curriculum to prompt further investigation of the AC:E.

Some of the teachers who were interviewed from Queensland, Australia indicated that if it (gender and sexuality diversity) was in the curriculum, then they would teach it. A lack of explicitness which affords teachers direction in teaching about gender and sexuality diversity is discouraging (van Leent, 2014), on the flip side, a lack of specificity provides an opportunity to make use of the affordances of the curriculum to teach about equity for gender and sexuality diversity. It is my hope to highlight the affordances for teaching about diversity more visible via the Australian Curriculum: English.

The implications of this work are about expanding teachers' repertoires of 'diversity' pedagogy, with a focus on critical literacies. More broadly the implications are a challenge to heteronormativity and hegemonic ideologies of childhood innocence which continue to shape the inequitable schooling experiences for LGBTIQ+ youth.