The impact of outcomes-driven curriculum reform on teacher perspectives of professional practice

Hughes, Clair Patricia (1999) The impact of outcomes-driven curriculum reform on teacher perspectives of professional practice. Professional Doctorate thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This thesis is the result of an investigation of a Queensland example of curriculum reform based on outcomes, a type of reform common to many parts of the world during the last decade. The purpose of the investigation was to determine the impact of outcomes on teacher perspectives of professional practice. The focus was chosen to permit investigation not only of changes in behaviour resulting from the reform but also of teachers' attitudes and beliefs developed during implementation. The study is based on qualitative methodology, chosen because of its suitability for the investigation of attitudes and perspectives. The study exploits the researcher's opportunities for prolonged, direct contact with groups of teachers through the selection of an over-arching ethnography approach, an approach designed to capture the holistic nature of the reform and to contextualise the data within a broad perspective. The selection of grounded theory as a basis for data analysis reflects the open nature of this inquiry and demonstrates the study's constructivist assumptions about the production of knowledge. The study also constitutes a multi-site case study by virtue of the choice of three individual school sites as objects to be studied and to form the basis of the report. Three primary school sites administered by Brisbane Catholic Education were chosen as the focus of data collection. Data were collected from three school sites as teachers engaged in the first year of implementation of Student Performance Standards, the Queensland version of English outcomes based on the current English syllabus. Teachers' experience of outcomes-driven curriculum reform was studied by means of group interviews conducted at individual school sites over a period of fourteen months, researcher observations and the collection of artefacts such as report cards. Analysis of data followed grounded theory guidelines based on a system of coding. Though classification systems were not generated prior to data analysis, the labelling of categories called on standard, non-idiosyncratic terminology and analytic frames and concepts from existing literature wherever practicable in order to permit possible comparisons with other related research. Data from school sites were examined individually and then combined to determine teacher understandings of the reform, changes that have been made to practice and teacher responses to these changes in terms of their perspectives of professionalism. Teachers in the study understood the reform as primarily an accountability mechanism. Though teachers demonstrated some acceptance of the intentions of the reform, their responses to its conceptualisation, supporting documentation and implications for changing work practices were generally characterised by reduced confidence, anger and frustration. Though the impact of outcomes-based curriculum reform must be interpreted through the inter-relationships of a broad range of elements which comprise teachers' work and their attitudes towards their work, it is proposed that the substantive findings of the study can be understood in terms of four broad themes. First, when the conceptual design of outcomes did not serve teachers' accountability requirements and outcomes were perceived to be expressed in unfamiliar technical language, most teachers in the study lost faith in the value of the reform and lost confidence in their own abilities to understand or implement it. Second, this reduction of confidence was intensified when the scope of outcomes was outside the scope of the teachers' existing curriculum and assessment planning and teachers were confronted with the necessity to include aspects of syllabuses or school programs which they had previously omitted because of a lack of understanding or appreciation. The corollary was that outcomes promoted greater syllabus fidelity when frameworks were closely aligned. Third, other benefits the teachers associated with outcomes included the development of whole school curriculum resources and greater opportunity for teacher collaboration, particularly among schools. The teachers, however, considered a wide range of factors when determining the overall impact of the reform, and perceived a number of them in terms of the costs of implementation. These included the emergence of ethical dilemmas concerning relationships with students, colleagues and parents, reduced individual autonomy, particularly with regard to the selection of valued curriculum content and intensification of workload with the capacity to erode the relationships with students which teachers strongly associated with the rewards of their profession. Finally, in banding together at the school level to resist aspects of implementation, some teachers showed growing awareness of a collective authority capable of being exercised in response to top-down reform. These findings imply that Student Performance Standards require review and, additional implementation resourcing to support teachers through times of reduced confidence in their own abilities. Outcomes prove an effective means of high-fidelity syllabus implementation, and, provided they are expressed in an accessible way and aligned with syllabus frameworks and terminology, should be considered for inclusion in future syllabuses across a range of learning areas. The study also identifies a range of unintended consequences of outcomes-based curriculum and acknowledges the complexity of relationships among all the aspects of teachers' work. It also notes that the impact of reform on teacher perspectives of professional practice may alter teacher-teacher and school-system relationships in ways that have the potential to influence the effectiveness of future curriculum reform.

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ID Code: 36612
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Supervisor: Elliott, Robert G. & Aspland, Tania
Additional Information: Presented to the Centre for Professional Practice in Education And Training, School of Professional Studies, Queensland University of Technology.
Keywords: Teachers Queensland, Teaching Queensland, Curriculum change Queensland, assessment, autonomy, curriculum, reform, English, national profiles, national statements, professional knowledge, outcomes, Queensland, student performance standards, teacher confidence, teacher accountability, teacher professionalism, thesis, doctoral
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Clair Patricia Hughes
Deposited On: 22 Sep 2010 13:05
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2016 23:44

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