Working the space: locating teachers’ voices in large-scale, mandated curriculum reform

PhD Thesis

Evans, Donna Leigh. 2016. Working the space: locating teachers’ voices in large-scale, mandated curriculum reform. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Working the space: locating teachers’ voices in large-scale, mandated curriculum reform

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorEvans, Donna Leigh
SupervisorHickey, Andrew
Maxwell, Jacinta
Mason, Robbie
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages285

The educational landscape is one of significant change. This thesis is concerned with the early responses of a group of teachers to large-scale, mandated curriculum reform at one independent P-12 school located in regional Queensland. The literature on curriculum reform and teacher agency suggests that teachers respond in wide-ranging ways to curriculum change. There is, however, a gap in the literature with regard to how teachers’ perceptions of their own capacities, which contribute to the formation of their dispositions, inform their engagement practices and, consequently, their responses to large-scale, mandated change. This study explored these relationships by focusing on the engagement, mediation and negotiation practices of six teachers as they made early preparations to implement Phase One of the Australian Curriculum, in 2012. This study sought to examine these practices in two ways. First, it drew on aspects of Bourdieu’s (1990; 1991; 1993) field theory and utilised the concept of habitus to describe the policy field of prescribed curriculum and the enacted field of teachers’ work in the classrooms where they practise.
Second, in focusing on this space between policy as text and policy as practice, this study examined how teachers’ dispositions influenced their perceptions of their capacity to engage with curriculum policy and undertake its implementation. The conceptual lens for the research focus used to analyse the operations of the space was shaped by Albert Bandura’s (1995; 2001; 2008) theory of cognition; particularly his concept of self-efficacy. Bandura’s work casts light on the way in which individual responses can move beyond the reactive to become agentive. By focusing attention on the way these teachers engaged with, mediated and contextualised curriculum change, the study aimed to provide insights into the complex nature of teachers’ work within their operational space, as they negotiated and interpreted the requirements of this large-scale, mandated reform. The findings of this research indicated that whilst an individual’s self-efficacy perceptions significantly influenced their professional actions and interactions, an understanding by leaders and managers of an individual’s self-efficacy dispositions could mediate negative and resistant behaviours towards change. These findings have resonance for discussions around the effective leadership and management of organisational change, particularly for those working in the areas of policy reform, most specifically large-scale, mandated education reform since it promotes achieving reform efficacy from the teachers’ perspective. Such an approach privileges teacher agency in education policy decision-making and implementation.

Keywordscurriculum reform; Queensland; teachers; engagement; mediation; negotiation practices; Australian curriculum; cognition; individual response; organisational change; teacher efficacy; self efficacy
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390199. Curriculum and pedagogy not elsewhere classified
529999. Other psychology not elsewhere classified
350709. Organisation and management theory
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Arts and Communication
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