Large scale research: Doing research with five year olds, three state departments and national curriculum bodies.

Year: 2012

Author: Dixon, Mary, Taylor, Anthony

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Chair Julianne Moss

The difficulties faced by participants at all levels of curriculum implementation have highlighted the complex nature of such processes.  Failures to successfully implement and sustain curriculum innovations in education have been well documented . The Australian History curriculum initiative raises two major change issues: professional learning/identity for teachers and the transnational scope of the process. It also provides an opportunity for curriculum developers to undertake large scale research which works at both the macro level of national curriculum development and implementation and the micro work of teachers and earners inside classrooms. Our work in this project has challenged us to find ways to do research where the macro and the micro are not only addressed and analysed but are also seen to inform each other.

This ARC funded project uses a mixed method approach including surveys and interviews of stakeholders and longitudinal case studies to examine the following research questions:

(Q.1) How do education departments, government bodies, pre-service teacher education providers and subject associations support or facilitate professional learning, teacher identity and practice in this new curriculum area? How does this reconfigure curriculum theorising on an Australian level?

(Q.2) How do primary teachers effectively teach the knowledge, skills and values of

History? What can be identified as successful pedagogical content knowledge for History in these settings?

(Q.3) How do primary students productively engage with the knowledge, skills and

values of History?

(Q.4)  How is the discipline of History reconstructed by the Australian curriculum initiative?

Data has been collected across disparate sites: offices of government curriculum authorities and professional associations, school staff rooms and primary classrooms. Case studies in 22 schools across Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales are being carried out over fifteen months in 2012 and 2013.   These case studies are providing a significant data base of the dialectical interrelationships of History content, students, teachers and environments. By utilizing a research design that works between the specificities of case study and large-scale macro curriculum analysis, the power of curriculum to position and reposition teachers, students and knowledge is evident. The challenge to maintain substantial and informed analysis across disparate data sets has largely been met in this work but raises questions for large scale research and for up scaling case study research.