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Understanding, interpreting and enacting arts curriculum: A kaleidoscopic view of teacher experience in Western Australian primary schools

Chapman, Sian (2019) Understanding, interpreting and enacting arts curriculum: A kaleidoscopic view of teacher experience in Western Australian primary schools. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Arts education in Western Australian primary schools consists of learning opportunities outlined by mandated curriculum and implemented by classroom and specialist arts teachers in schools. This study considered how, and in what ways, do teachers understand, interpret and enact arts curriculum in Western Australian primary schools? Conducted across three phases of inquiry, this qualitative study used key theoretical constructs from curriculum theory and policy enactment theory to understand the impact of contextual variables on teachers and schools.

In phase one, the perspectives of 11 arts curriculum leaders were drawn from in-depth semi-structured interviews. Marginalisation of the arts, the disconnection of schools and teachers to the arts, and the limited impact of professional learning were found to have influenced arts teaching and learning in unintended ways. Findings influenced phase two of the research.

In phase two, interviews with 24 participants across four schools revealed the importance of purpose, value and practice as three key concepts in better understanding curriculum implementation in arts education. A purpose, value and practice framework was developed to mitigate the effects of curriculum misalignment, and suggestions for increasing teachers’ criticality and connoisseurship were explored as important pathways for improving arts learning for young people.

In phase three, the trajectory of one teacher’s experience was documented in order to consider the creation of professional agency in an increasingly challenging school environment. As one possible model of successful arts curriculum implementation, the conditions and challenges this teacher experienced were explored. Issues relating to relationships, time, purpose and constraints, work-related identity, experiences, and work communities, as well as isolation, ongoing support and the development of community were uncovered as a result.

The study concludes by considering the practical findings through complexity theory, suggesting the nested nature of systems are an insightful way to better understand the complexity of curriculum implementation in our schools.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Education
United Nations SDGs: Goal 4: Quality Education
Supervisor(s): Wright, Peter and Pascoe, Robin
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