Curriculum policy and the remaking of the professional teacher.

Year: 2012

Author: Farrell, Lesley, Gerrard, Jessica

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


In 2008 the Australian State and Federal governments agreed, in principle, to Australia's first national curriculum. The move to a national curriculum is a profoundly significant one for Australia, where primary responsibility for school education rests legislatively with the eight individual State and Territory governments.  It has provoked vigorous debate about what constitutes core knowledge, skills and capabilities and how teachers, schools, systems and jurisdictions should, individually and collectively, exercise their responsibilities in relation to the new curriculum. While the new curriculum policy is provoking a recalibration of systems-level relationships it is less obviously, but perhaps equally importantly, providing an opening for the renegotiation of the role of the teacher and teacher knowledge in relation to curriculum. In particular it provides the opportunity for a new articulation of what teacher professionalism - and teachers' work - entails, especially in relation to professional autonomy and discretion.  Teachers, in common with virtually all other professional groups, have struggled to define and promote new understandings of professionalism in the face of increased governmental, organisational and global regulatory and accountability regimes, which appear to increasingly constrain the autonomy and discretion they can exercise in the way they perform and organise their work. Curriculum policy reform of this significance interrupts established roles, practices and relationships precisely at the intersection of classroom, school, system and jurisdiction - the location teachers occupy.

In this presentation we consider how curriculum reform intersects with the recalibration of teacher professionalism through an examination of the ways in which the Australian Curriculum (AC) policy reform constructs teachers' work. We begin with a discussion of contemporary challenges to - and dimensions of - professionalism generally, and teacher professionalism particularly, provoked by managerialism and globalisation. We move to a consideration of recent shifts in the practices and governance of teachers' work, and the role of curricula in modern practices of teacher professionalism. We then analyse AC documentation, policy statements, and interviews with educational policy bureaucrats in order to identify and  understand the competing ways in which curriculum is used to define and regulate teachers' work within the AC reform process. We conclude by reflecting on the fundamental tensions that underlie these competing understandings, and on the openings (and closures) that the AC reform may bring for teacher professionalism.