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Chapter 1 December 3, 2009

Section 1

The purpose of this study is to investigate aspects of top-down curriculum implementation in secondary schools.  School leadership in Queensland secondary schools is typified by a hierarchical formal structure comprising Principal, several Deputy Principals and Heads of Department. Whilst the Principal and Deputy Principal are historically responsible for whole-of-school leadership, the role of Head of Department evolved from being a curriculum leader as the Head of Subject to become a significantly expanded leadership and managerial position across the whole school (Ed Qld Position description, 2010). In an increasingly complex educational environment, the capacity of formal school leaders including the Heads of Department, to undertake curriculum implementation themselves is now limited (Rosenfeld et al, 2008). A number of initiatives and directives  identify the importance of whole-staff involvement in curriculum planning and classroom leadership (Leadership Matters).  Hence, the role of teachers as actors in curriculum planning and syllabus interpretation through the formal and informal distribution of curriculum leadership roles will be examined and evaluated.

This research is of interest to contemporary school communities.  With increasing external pressure on schools through politicisation and globalisation of education and the rate of change in education in the 21st Century (qse 2010, OECD), developing school capacity to cope with and implement curriculum change is critical. The professionalism of teachers is acknowledged as essential in building the intellectual capital of schools ().  Ways in which schools can maximise this potential in curriculum planning to ensure contemporary and effective curriculum planning and structures is essential. However, there is little empirical data about the ways in which distribution of these leadership responsibilities to teachers is enacted, together with its effectiveness in interpretation of the syllabus and its intent ().

The research seeks to characterise the nature of distributed leadership in school curriculum planning. The most complete definition of distributed leadership is offered by Spillane et al (2004), who describe distributed leadership as “practice distributed over leaders, followers and their situation, and (which) incorporates the activities of multiple groups of individuals” (p20). This shifts the focus on leadership activity and tasks rather than description of leadership roles. Within the Distributed Leadership Framework of Spillane, Halvorsen and Diamond (2006), understanding the enactment of distributed leadership in schools should be based on a holistic understanding of:

  • The leadership tasks and functions – identification and analysis of tasks, within which learning and teaching is but a single task
  • Task enactment – to distinguish between what people say, and what is actually done
  • Task enactment – the social distribution of task enactment
  • The situational distribution of leadership practice – organization, policy, procedures and artefacts

Within this conceptual framework,  a number of core focus areas will be investigated.  This includes firstly the definition and characterisation of the syllabus interpretation and curriculum planning task within the syllabus (Essential Learnings) directive and informing papers (QSA + Framing paper).  Secondly, the enactment of the planning task in producing curriculum frameworks and unit plans will be investigated through analysis of the teaching planning documents .  Thirdly, the social distribution of the task enactment will be identified through social network mapping.  Finally, the situational distribution of leadership practice will be investigated through the analysis of support frameworks, including professional development and planning time for the individuals identified as being key actors in the curriculum planning process. The social and intellectual positioing of these leaders will be examined.  This will be achieved through focus group discussions and discourse analysis,  and individual interviews of individuals identified in the social network analysis.

Section 2

The Context – The nature and rate of Curriculum change (still under construction!!)

Education Queensland Research of educational change and initiatives in the US and Canada have produced little evidence of deep and lasting improvement in schools, in particular secondary schools (Fullan, 2003).

It has been identified in the research literature (look at the teacher facilitator stuff) that strategies bridging the curriculum policy documents and the classroom teaching context is essential to the implementation of new curriculum in the classroom.  The complexity of each situation (Grenfell and myths) requires individualistic approaches from school to school, and department to department. TEachers attempted to rationalise new policy and program by incorporating it into their everyday practice (Grenfell).

Queensland teachers have already undergone significant curriculum change with the implementation of the outcomes syllabuses and the P-10 curriculum framework in …………… (). The change to a new approach to curriculum planning at the school and classroom level,  impacted on the way teachers teach, the way students learn, and the way students are assessed (Proudford, 1999). The process of  curriculum planning, previously  guided by educational objectives formulated according to content (that is, knowledge, skills, values, attitudes) to be learned resulted in  a largely transmission teaching style with pen and paper tasks the predominant method for assessing student learning (Proudford, 1999)

The change to an outcomes-based approach to curriculum planning led to a  rethinking of traditional approaches to planning, teaching and assessment (Proudford, 1999).

The Context – Curriculum leadership in schools:  external regulation,school hierarchy and individual teacher roles

Beyond the late 1990s, in the North American context, a period of standardization and marketization emerged in a climate of commercialisation and globalisation in which accountability and performance-driven interactions are primary considerations (Hargreaves, 2003).   The final result was an escalation of performance requirements, increasing accountability and political and leadershp succession coupled with diminishing timelines to implementation of change (Hargreaves & Goodson, 2006). The standardization of curriculum that occurred in response to calls for accountability has resulted in limitations to innovation and  collaboration  because of short implementation timelines (Hargreaves & Goodson, 2006). This insistence on reporting, and ideology of managerialism and standardisation prevails in Australia despite the Rudd Labor Government’s promise of an education revolution. In the national  agenda, high quality education is equated with reporting, standardised curriculum and assessment metrics  with its associated polity and bureaucratic processes (Comber & Nixon, 2009).

This accountability agenda is evident in Queensland State schools.  More than two decades of educational change in Queensland has led to the belief that the school is the key unit of change. From the 1990s onward, Queensland schools became self-managed with the devolution of budgets in 1989, and ongoing devolution of decision making to schools as closely as possible to the point of service throughout 1995 and 1996 (Education Queensland, 2009a). The Destination 2010 report (Education Queensland, 1999 check) identified a vision for Queensland Schools by 2010.  By 2009, the School Improvement and Accountability Framework (SIAF) provided the “integrated framework for Education Queensland schools to achieve and sustain the vision of QSE – 2010, and the outcomes and targets of Destination 2010”.

By 2008,  the Destination 2010 Action Plan provided implementation guidelines, policies and procedures for schools, examples of which included initiatives such as the Inclusive Education Statement, the Educational Adjustment program, the Framework for Gifted Education, Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in Schools, the Rural and Remote Education Framework for Action, Educational Support Plans, the Senior Education training plans, QCE, Queensland Certificate of Individual Achievement, the Code of School Behaviour, the National Safe Schools Framework, Smart Choices, Smart Moves, the School Improvement and Accountability Framework, certification requirements of the Commonwealth Schools Assistance Act (2004), Smart Classrooms Framework, Professional Development Pathways Program, the Developing Performance Framework and the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Action Plan.  Added to this was the P-12 Curriculum Framework and the Queensland Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Framework.

Thus, the managerial role of the principal has grown and has become quite prescriptive in its accountability requirements (, OECD report). The result has been a devolution of the responsibilities of leadership to Deputies, Heads of Department and teachers themselves.

The role of Head of Department has developed from responsiblitity for his own department  to a responsibility (Education Queensland 2001) beyond curriculum and pedagogical leadership, for greater leadership and management across the whole school, together with community liaison.   The role has been described as a turmoil of systemic, and as a consequence, situational and cultural change (Rosenfeld et al, 2008 ). Principals, with a managerialist perspective,  were found to view the role of Head of Department as increasingly involved with developmental change and leadership at a whole school level, with diminishing responsibility for instructional leadership.  The responsiblity for instructional leadership is increasingly being delegated to teachers with the experience and skill to undertake the role (Rosenfeld et al, 2008).

The Queensland School Reform Longitudinal Study () identified clearly that despite the move to school-based leadership, teaching and learning in schools did not show significant improvement. Amongst the recommendations, was the enhancement of teacher professionalism in the development of a learning community through financial and emotional investment by leadership. A particular focus was the improvement of alignment between pedagogic and assessment practices in schools. Where space was provided by management for teacher leadership, improved student outcomes resulted. It is a clear indication that in identifying the teachers responsible for leadership of curriculum developments in schools that a greater understanding of productive ways for schools to respond to curriculum change can be developed.

In examining teacher responses to  current top-down, managerialist and accountability-focussed policy in South Australia, it has been found that tehy identify a “more with less” culture, where the focus is often on relationships, policy and procedure (Comber & Nixon, 2009) than on curriculum, pedagogy and learning .  When teacher discourse around planning and teaching was analysed, it emerged that planning is still linear and focussed on content progression was still the main mode of teaching (Comber & Nixon, 2009). The departmental structure of High schools can lead to fragmentation and a lack of collaboration.  Faculty meetings are often dedicated to managerial priorities, leaving little time for a focus on curriculum and student learning (Feeney, 2009), however individuals have been identified who are powerful initiators of conversations about curriculum (deLima, 2008). The role and effectiveness of individuals within High School subject departments to lead curriculum change within an era of ongoing reform is vital to understanding how interpretation of the full intent of top-down curriculum structures is enacted.

The Context – Distributed Leadership as a research framework

Focus of the study

Bounding of the study, the focus of this study is curriculum change in Years 8 and 9, the first two years of secondary schooling in Queensland, and acknowledge to be the final two years of four years of Middle Phase schooling.

Whilst the role of the principal is not to be underestimated in establishing and maintaining a distributed model of leadership in the school, the actual leadership role of the principal is not a focus of this study.

Justification of the focus

Research Questions and purpose. Include here anticipated methodology to answer the questions.

Need to mention the role of boundary spanners in initiating conversations between otherwise isolated planning groups of teachers – can cite Helen Timperley, also Peter Miller, 2008.

To be moved (IGnore this!!!!) way too detailed, belongs in the lit review body.

Research of educational change and initiatives in the US and Canada have produced little evidence of deep and lasting improvement in schools, in particular secondary schools (Fullan, 2003 Fullan, M. (2003). Change forces with a vengeance. London: Routledge/Falmer.), (Stein et al, 2004). Longitudinal studies conducted by Hargreaves &Goodson (2006) across three decades in  in a sample of schools identified three waves of change, periods of optimism and innovation fuelled by individualism and creativity; periods of complexity and contraction responding to postmodern uncertainty (Hargreaves 1994Hargreaves, A. (1994). Changing teachers, changing times: Teachers’ work and culture in the
postmodern age. London and New York: Cassell and Teachers College Press.) and characterized by contradictory change; finally ending with a period of standardization and marketization from the 1990s in a climate of commercialisation and globalisation in which accountability and performance-driven interactions are primary considerations (Hargreaves, 2003Hargreaves, A. (2003). Teaching in the knowledge society. New York: Teachers College Press.). The final result has been an escalation of pe rformance requirements, increasing accountability and political and leadershp succession coupled with diminishing timelines to implementation of change (Hargreaves & Goodson, 2006). Standardization of curriculum has been found to limit innovation and  community collaboration around pedagogy as timelines and dictates are met (Hargreaves & Goodson, 2006). Yet it is recognised by QSA and others (moderation and collaborative planning, find reference) that collaboration is ciritical to developing a shared understanding of curriclum and standards.


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