An investigation into how mainstream teachers interpret and enact the literacy capability of the Australian curriculum for students verified with a disability

Year: 2013

Author: Cottnam, Caitlin, Price, Deborah

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

For the first time in history, Australia is implementing a national curriculum that aspires to be world-class and accessible to all young Australians. Designing a national curriculum to fulfil the commendable goals of equity and excellence, that is accessible and inclusive of a diverse range of students including students verified with a disability (SWD), challenges curriculum writers. Furthermore, literacy achievement is seen as a top priority in education with the Australian Government renewing a national effort to improve outcomes for all students (COAG, 2012; DEEWR, 2011; MCEETYA, 2008; Parliament of Australia, 2013). A major challenge for national educational systems is to take into account issues of social justice and equity when developing curriculum design and practices for students who experience literacy difficulties to ensure all students have the opportunity to reach their potential (Reid, Soler & Wearmouth, 2003). SWD form a significant proportion (15-20%, DEEWR, 2013) of the Australian school population. With such a high representation of SWD in classrooms, coupled with a sudden and significant increase in diagnosis of disabilities in students in mainstream classes (Graham & Jahnukainen, 2010), recognition of SWD rights in accessing the Australian Curriculum have been raised. In advancing a national curriculum for all students, exploring how SWD are included is a necessity. As Australia's inaugural national curriculum rolls out, investigating how teachers interpret and enact the literacy capability inclusive of SWD provides a unique and timely research opportunity.
This study explored how mainstream teachers interpret and enact the Literacy Capability of the Australian Curriculum for SWD using qualitative case studies examined through the lens of Nussbaum's (2003) capabilities theory. The successful implementation of the Australian Curriculum for SWD is dependent on teachers' understanding of the curriculum documents and their engagement with them (ACARA, 2012). Teacher perspectives are crucial in discovering whether educators have a common interpretation of the intended curriculum as well as enacting effective strategies, to ensure that the Australian Curriculum documentation delivers its goals for SWD.  Focus on the enacted curriculum and the factors that shape practice implemented from policy informs future curriculum demands and design (Clarence & Comber, 2011). This insight is therefore of national and international significance in forming a comprehensible and inclusive national curriculum that improves educational outcomes and experiences for SWD.