The representing relation between subject content and outcome statements in the National Curriculum

Year: 1996

Author: Brown, Neil

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper examines the various ways in which subject matter has been represented as outcome statements, profiles and other corporate terms relating to competency in state curricula. The paper represents different ways in which six alternative systems of reference transport properties between subject domains and school outcomes. The paper goes on to nominate one system which, it believes exemplifies the currently preferred corporate approach to the representation of subject content in the curriculum and to analyse its implications for education. Outcome statements in curriculum, like paintings and artworks in general, are representational artifacts which qualify as representations because of the way they refer to something else. For this reason the representing relation between outcome statements and other agencies in the curriculum, such as subject content is bound to be asymmetrical. This paper argues, however that the asymmetry of outcomes as representational artifacts runs counter to their popular educational purpose which is to establish an identity between nominated areas of content and the production of guaranteed levels of student performance. The paper uses examples from the visual arts to illustrate how outcomes statements, however carefully they are defined, are thus dependent upon the interpretation and judgement of teachers since the meaning of outcomes and standards is opaque within the educational meta-narratives under which they were generated.