"Adopt and Adapt" Exploring curriculum implementation from the perspective of Western Australian arts curriculum leaders

Year: 2015

Author: Chapman, Sian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The development and implementation of the Australian Curriculum has heralded the latest change in education across the nation. In 2014, Western Australia made the decision to “adopt and adapt” phase two and three Australian Curriculum subjects thereby delaying their implementation. The impact of this delay on the Arts, as one of the delayed phase two learning areas, forms the focus of this paper.
The Arts sit at the periphery of the primary curriculum as a result of a crowded curriculum and an increased focus on standardized testing in literacy and numeracy. This tenuous location not only reflects a crowded curriculum but also deficits in teacher content knowledge and confidence. Current research has highlighted some of the reasons why teachers struggle to engage with the Arts but this focus has mainly concentrated on teacher attributes, knowledge of Arts practice, and classroom pedagogy particularly. However, the depth and breadth of Arts subjects taught also depends on factors outside the classroom itself. Understanding these factors from the perspective of the curriculum leader, who has a significant role to play in curriculum implementation, in light of the “adopt and adapt” mantra was the focus of phase one of this research.
This focus was also pursued from a policy enactment theory perspective as this reveals an understanding of the impact the variety of individual settings and teachers in those settings provides. Utilising the work of Ball, Maguire, and Braun (2012), policy enactment theory in this context has involved interpreting, translating and reconstructing policy through four contextual dimensions: situated contexts, professional cultures, material contexts, and external contexts. How these components are coded and decoded by individual schools, teachers and curriculum leaders profoundly impacts on how curriculum is implemented or not. This paper reports on Arts curriculum leader perspectives across all education jurisdictions in Western Australia highlighting the tensions faced, and negotiation undertaken across the four contextual dimensions, by Western Australian primary schools implementing and teaching the Arts in this era of “adopt and adapt”.