Priorities and challenges for teaching literature in secondary subject English

Year: 2019

Author: McLean, Davies, Larissa, Buzacott, Lucy, Doecke, Brenton, Mead, Philip, Sawyer, Wayne, Yates, Lyn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports on data collected as part of the four-year Australian Research Council project Investigating Literary Knowledge in the Making of English Teachers. The project aims to produce a new knowledge base for future discussions and decisions about what is important in literary studies in the school curriculum, within tertiary disciplinary contexts and in teacher education. The research design for the project includes a longitudinal study of early career English teachers in three States (Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia), interviews with key stakeholders in the literary and education fields, focus groups with experienced teachers and a national online survey of English teachers of any experience level.

Presenters will report on a large-scale national survey of secondary English teachers and focuses on two key questions from the survey which reveal Australian teachers’ key priorities and challenges for teaching literature in their English classrooms.

The work of this paper builds on previous publications arising from the project team including those considering the role of knowledge in the Australian Curriculum: English(McLean Davies & Sawyer 2018) and debates around knowledge and literature in secondary and tertiary contexts (Yates et al. 2019). This paper considers how teachers’ level of experience impacts on their priorities as a teacher of literature and on the challenges they face and how text selection impacts on these issues for English teachers.

The findings from this data reveal new insights into the relationship between experience and changing challenges and priorities and the contexts and conditions that impact on these for teachers. These new insights reveal the need for teachers to continue to engage with digital media to teach literature and consider different literacy levels in order to give students equal opportunities to understand and enjoy literature, and foster communication in the literature class for meaningful interaction.


McLean Davies, L. & Sawyer, W. (2018). (K)now you see it, (k) now you don’t: literary knowledge in the Australian Curriculum: English. Journal of Curriculum Studies. []

Yates, L., McLean Davies, L., Buzacott., L., Doecke, B., Mead, P., Sawyer, W. (2019). School English, Literature and the Knowledge-Base Question. The Curriculum Journal. []