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Rethinking the Australian Curriculum through a Systems Thinking perspective

Spain, Stephen (2021) Rethinking the Australian Curriculum through a Systems Thinking perspective. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Whole Thesis
Embargoed until August 2023.


The key aim of this thesis was to explore a Systems Thinking approach to curriculum design and construct a Systems Thinking curriculum model informed by vertical curricula design as an alternative to the current Australian Curriculum (AC). The rationale for this was based on the contention that the current curriculum is reductionist and age-stratified and therefore no longer caters for the contemporary educative needs of all students. This research critically analysed the Australian Curriculum by applying a Systems Thinking framework and methodology with Qualitative Content Analysis as a research instrument. The key findings suggest a more integrated learning curriculum is required to replace the current knowledge based curriculum or syllabus as the AC was determined as being too convergent and homogenous posing a serious impediment to metacognitive learning and collaborative learning; compounded by assessment determinism. Finally, this research proposes an alternative curriculum model based on Systems Thinking (ST) to more effectively address the inadequacies of the current AC model. This new ST model proposes a shift in teacher/student relationships towards a more collaborative co-researcher learning focus, free from age stratification with greater emphasis upon student growth, metacognitive learning, critical thinking, student self-efficacy and an interconnected ecological world view.

This thesis asks two key questions: ‘what does Systems Thinking offer the Australian Curriculum (AC)’ and ‘what would the Australian Curriculum look like if it had been designed using Systems Thinking?’ The thesis conclusion contends that Systems Thinking more effectively promotes metacognitive learning, student agency and an authentic environment necessary for learner adaptation and learner autonomy. The conclusion also suggests that a ST approach to curriculum and pedagogy is less reductionist and is more sensitive to individual student learning and learner engagement as exemplified by the Vertical Cubic Curriculum informed by ST in Chapter six.

Key Words: Systems Thinking, Curriculum, Pedagogy, Holism, Reductionism, Ecosystem

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Education
Supervisor(s): Rappa, Natasha and Perry, Laura
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