Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

A Practical Approach to Developing the General Capabilities in Middle-Years English

Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

A Practical Approach to Developing the General Capabilities in Middle-Years English

Article excerpt

In outlining the three-dimensional nature of the Australian Curriculum (AC), the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2011) explains that: 'in a world where knowledge itself is constantly growing and evolving, students need to develop a set of knowledge skills, behaviours and dispositions, or general capabilities that apply across subject-based content and equip them to be lifelong learners able to operate with confidence in a complex, information-rich, globalised world' (p. 20). The concept of planning with general capabilities however, is still relatively new for many educators, indicating the need for professional development to effectively incorporate these capabilities in school curriculum and pedagogy (Social Educators' Association of Queensland, 2012). This article presents snapshots of how middle-years educators may link ideas, strategies, activities and resources to develop Ethical Understanding and Personal and Social Capability in their students through Years 6 and 9 of the AC--English.

Developing Ethical Understanding in Year 6 English

During adolescence, young people begin to question the attitudes of authority figures such as parents and teachers as part of the process of developing their own set of values (Bahr, 2007; White & Wyn, 2013, ACARA (2013a) particularly acknowledge this characteristic through the general capability of Ethical Understanding, which focuses on students building 'a strong personal and socially oriented ethical outlook that helps them to manage context, conflict and uncertainty, [as well as developing] an awareness of the influence that their values and behaviour have on others' (p. 100). Key to this process is a study of 'the issues and dilemmas present in a range of texts and [an exploration of] how ethical principles affect the behaviour and judgment of characters and those involved in issues and events' (ACARA, 2013a, p. 100).

A relevant and often controversial issue is Refugees and Migration. Table 1 shows how an exploration of this topic can link strategies, activities and resources suitable for developing Ethical Understanding when teaching the AC--English to Year 6 students.

Developing Personal and Social Capability in Year 9 English

Rice and Dolgin (2005) assert that: 'The central development goal of adolescence ... is the formation of a coherent self identity' (p. 174). The presence or otherwise of a coherent identity is strongly linked to resilience and positive wellbeing not only during adolescence but also throughout an individual's adult life (Bahr, 2007; White & Wyn, 2013). It is therefore vital that educators offer students every opportunity to enhance and celebrate their sense of self. Although all the general capabilities interconnect and overlap, identity formation is a particular focus of Personal and Social Capability. Overt teaching of this capability enables students to: 'learn to understand themselves and others, and manage their relationships, lives, work and learning more effectively' (ACARA, 2013a, p. 82). Table 2 illustrates how exploring identity can address relevant Year 9 AC--English priorities, achieve the relevant requirements of the Personal and Social Capability continuum, and also afford students opportunities to explore aspects of their own identities in a supportive classroom environment.

The above examples represent two snapshots of how the general capabilities may be utilised not only to enhance the study of middle-years English but also overall student development. The methodology outlined is easily applicable to other topics and general capabilities, enabling educators to develop a holistic approach to their planning and pedagogy and allowing students opportunities to further develop the knowledge and skills necessary to become successful, creative and confident global citizens.


ACARA. (2011). The shape of the Australian curriculum: Version 3. …

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