Development of a set of principles to guide a P–12 syllabus framework

Luke, Allan, Weir, Katie, & Woods, Annette F. (2008) Development of a set of principles to guide a P–12 syllabus framework. Queensland Studies Authority.


The aim of this project is the development of a new design template for P-12 syllabi for Queensland schools. The project consists of an international literature review, a series of commissioned expert papers, and a review of recent developments in Queensland curriculum. The project reviews international and national literature on curriculum, school reform and improvement, and comparative policy contexts. The focus of this review is on the technical features of syllabus documents that contribute to "high quality/high equity" outcomes. It does not comment on ongoing debates over curriculum content in specific subject areas. Key issues discussed in this report include: • The technical form of the curriculum – the formal definitions, categories and taxonomies of the syllabus – have direct and indirect impacts upon teacher professionalism and student outcomes. • The syllabus offers a 'map' of the curriculum, but cannot prescribe the sum total of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment in the school or classroom. • School subjects are distinctive purpose-built and targeted units of study, constructed in response to different demands and challenges and towards educative ends. School subjects are the operational units for syllabi. • School subjects can have different and variable relationships to disciplinary knowledge and applied fields, depending on their aims, contents and developmental phases. • High quality/high equity education systems are characterised by a balance of "informed prescription" and "informed professionalism". • Informed prescription entails an economical syllabus that maps out essential knowledges, competences, skills, processes and experiences, parsimonious and appropriate testing systems for diagnostic and developmental purposes and systems’ accountability, and a strong systemic equity focus on the potential of all learners to meet high expectations and standards. Informed professionalism involves teacher autonomy to interpret the syllabus, with opportunities for local curriculum planning, rich professional resources and development activities, school and classroom-based assessment capacity, and professional capacity to adopt curriculum for teaching and learning of identified equity groups. • Each syllabus for a school subject can span the early, middle or senior learning phase, and thus be aligned with the distinctive educational philosophy of each phase. • Each syllabus would have guiding statements of philosophy, aims, recognition of distinctive learner cohorts and their needs, brief statements of essential expected learnings, related standards, and some details of approaches to assessment. It would be in language accessible to teachers, and it would be as brief and to the point as is possible and appropriate. • Essentials could be stated as blends of knowledge, behaviours, skills, competences, capacities, processes and experiences, depending on the subject, phase and field orientation that they relate to. • Standards, using a common nomenclature, would provide a vocabulary for teachers, students and parents to describe and discuss student achievement and results. • Syllabuses can include brief notes of assessment practices and strategies, appropriate to the subject and phase, to guide the development of systemic, school and classroom assessment and moderation (where appropriate). They indicate where systemic standardised testing programs and mandated moderated assessment are linked to essential learnings. • Foundational discipline and field knowledges, specific pedagogic strategies, curriculum and instructional adaptations for specific cohorts of students would be provided in adjunct, on-line resources - and not be part of the publicly accessible syllabus. A key axiom in all studies of policy, curriculum and instruction is that the official syllabus document cannot in itself change classroom practices and student achievement. The success and effectiveness of the proposed design in improving quality and equity will depend upon other settings of policy and practice at the system and school level. The proposed syllabus design will require various specific 'delivery standards' to effectively improve quality and equity of outcomes. These policy alignments will include: an inclusive, consultative and research-based syllabus development process; alignment with curriculum methods subjects in preservice education; teacher and administrative professional development in curriculum; rich and quality assured professional resources, available from multiple sources, as a way to support teachers in interpreting and developing local curriculum in relation to the syllabus.

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ID Code: 14023
Item Type: Report
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: The contents of this report can be freely accessed online via the publisher's web page (see hypertext link).
Additional URLs:
Keywords: curriculum, policy, school reform, syllabus development
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2008 Queensland Studies Authority
Deposited On: 10 Jul 2008 00:00
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2009 08:22

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