Much has been made recently of the importance of reinvigorating the middle years of school as a way of addressing ongoing problems in Australian education such as adolescent disaffection from schooling and differential outcomes from schooling between different socio-cultural groups. A number of reform projects-notably the productive pedagogies project (Hayes et al., 2006; Luke et al., 2002)-have sought to turn policy attention to pedagogy. The Beyond the Middle study (Luke et al., 2002, p.12) recommends that, 'there is a need to focus systemic activities on renewing mainstream pedagogy in middle years schooling', citing a need to build 'quality and diversity' in middle school teaching. However, we have found that teachers in disadvantaged middle schools we are working with experience difficulty engaging with the pedagogical foci of these reports and in this paper we explore the reasons why tackling issues of pedagogical reform in these terms can be problematic. We propose a supplementary framework for working with teachers on pedagogy, drawing on historical models and the work of Garth Boomer. This framework gives as much attention to what teachers must do with students-the pedagogical practices teachers employ-as it does to the kinds of learning outcomes being sought.