Discretionary Space: English Teachers Discuss Curriculum Agency

By Weaven, Mary; Clark, Tom | Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, October 2015 | Go to article overview

Discretionary Space: English Teachers Discuss Curriculum Agency


Weaven, Mary, Clark, Tom, Australian Journal of Language and Literacy


Introduction

This paper aims to engage with and comprehend what Alan Luke has called 'the complex local ecologies of [a] school where high-stakes policy produces idiosyncratic local blends of intended and collateral effects' (Luke, 2010, p. 186). What began as a project aimed at understanding why English teachers are avoiding the teaching of poetry in senior secondary English classes throughout one state in Australia, went on to reveal a series of complex and apparently contradictory attitudes towards teacher agency and curriculum more generally. While the findings from this study are not necessarily generalisable, this paper points to international trends that resonate with the findings from this project.

The impetus for this study arises from a widespread situation in the Australian state of Victoria, where English teachers have largely elected not to teach poetry texts in their senior secondary classes. The study of poetry has held such a strong central position in the teaching of English that it could be considered an integral component of the English curriculum. To some, it might almost define the subject area of English as it is taught in schools and universities throughout the world. However, recent research has acknowledged a resistance among teachers to the teaching of poetry in secondary schools that is rooted deeply in attitudes towards students' socio-cultural background and specific curriculum imperatives. This resonates strongly with Luke's observations on 'Social Class and School Knowledge' (2010) that in turn reflect on earlier work from the USA by Jean Anyon (1981), and has implications for teacher educators as well as for pre-service teachers and for in-service professional development programs.

Poetry is not an easy literary category to define. For Eagleton it is the performative and literary form in which language is at its most condensed (2007). Not only is poetry a body of literature and performance to observe and analyse but it also indexes a set of practices in using and understanding language, as well as an attitude towards the expressive capacities of language. cIn this paper we seek to draw attention to the ways in which the teaching of poetry constitutes the radically emergent discursive space that Bernstein would characterise as 'the possibility of an alternative order, an alternative society and an alternative power relation' (2000, p. 30). When students study a poem together with their fellow students in class, they consider and discuss the very 'alternative possibilities' that Bernstein mentions. If poetry is to retain a place in the teaching of English as Australia positions itself to introduce a National Curriculum, we may need the type of curricular reform that specifically supports pedagogic practices which allow for and encourage discussion and interpretation of that particular form of language use.

Briant and Doherty (2012) note:

   The limited literature related to teacher educators'
   roles in educational reform suggests that teacher educators
   have the opportunity and expertise to mediate
   curricular reform as it works its way through the
   field of teacher education, as well as through schools.
   (Emphasis added) (p. 55)

It is the work that is happening 'through schools' that is of interest here. The present article argues that poetry teaching itself constitutes an important 'opportunity ... to mediate curricular reform'--at least within the English Studies curriculum as currently implemented in the state of Victoria. This argument emerges from a qualitative research project we conducted with a small group of English teachers in one school in the outer western suburbs of Melbourne. These teachers focussed explicitly on curriculum choices and on pedagogic decisions.

Our study began as an inquiry into why secondary English teachers choose not to teach poetry to their students (Weaven & Clark, 2013). Previous studies (Weaven & Clark, 2009) have demonstrated that students who write on poetry in their university entrance exams consistently gain very high scores. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Discretionary Space: English Teachers Discuss Curriculum Agency
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.