The project officially commenced in July 2016 and a Project Coordinator was appointed. The setting up phase of the project involved ethics submission and approval, initial literature review, and setting up project data management and communications processes.
The research team is currently undertaking data collection for the project. This includes:
- A national online survey of English teachers from all Australian states and territories and of all experience levels – now complete
- A longitudinal study of early career English teachers during years 1-4 of their English teaching. This will include interviews with these teachers about their emerging views of the relationship between literary knowledge and professional practice as these are mediated by social relationship in their school context
- Interviews with key stakeholders in the Literary Studies and English Education fields
- Consultation with experienced teachers
School English, Literature and the Knowledge-Base Question. By Lyn Yates, Larissa McLean Davies, Lucy Buzacott, Brenton Doecke, Philip Mead and Wayne Sawyer. The Curriculum Journal.
This article takes up questions about knowledge and the school curriculum with respect to literary studies within subject English. Its intention is to focus on literary studies in English from the context of current waves of curriculum reform, rather than as part of the conversations primarily within the field of English, to raise questions about the knowledge agenda, and the knowledge-base agenda for teaching and teacher education. The selection of texts and form of study of literature within the English curriculum has long been an area of controversy. Without assuming a particular position on knowledge in this area, this article shows that important questions of what knowledge-base teachers are expected to bring to their work are elided both in current regulations and debates, and in research on ‘good teaching’ in this area. If ‘literary studies’ (as a discipline or university major) is itself an unstable and changing field, what kind of knowledge does a good English teacher bring to their work? This paper takes up these questions in the context of the Australian Curriculum and standards for teacher registration, but it also points to the way these issues about knowledge are of broader relevance for researchers and teacher education.
Literary Sociability: A transnational perspective. By Brenton Doecke, Claudio Mello, Larissa McLean Davies and Lucy Buzacott.
This essay begins with vignettes showcasing the pedagogy of three teachers of literature in contrastive settings (one in Brazil, two in Australia). These act as prompts for a transnational dialogue between us that unfolds in our writing of this essay. The aim is not to assess or make judgements about the quality of the teaching presented but to identify and explore the assumptions we share about the value of literature teaching across the languages and national contexts that divide us. We argue the primacy of language as a social phenomenon, characterising the exchanges around literary texts in each classroom as forms of “literary sociability”.
(K)now you see it, (k) now you don’t: literary knowledge in the Australian Curriculum: English by Larissa McLean Davies and Wayne Sawyer
Australia has recently moved from having curricula developed within individual states to national curricula, including in English. This move in Australia has coincided with debate over Michael Young’s call for ‘bringing knowledge back in’. English has historically been epistemologically unstable with an ever-contestable knowledge base, and this is especially true of literary knowledge. The Australian Curriculum: English was nevertheless framed in early consultation papers as focused primarily on knowledge—a focus reflected in the main organizing elements moving from the ‘traditional’ language mode organizers ‘reading’, ‘writing’,’ listening’, ‘speaking’, etc., to the organizers ‘Language’, ‘Literature’ and ‘Literacy’. Here we investigate the specific uses of the words ‘knowledge’ and related terms such as ‘know’ and ‘knowing’ as one kind of analysis of how knowledge plays out in the Curriculum. We show that as the Curriculum itself developed, the constituent elements of the phrase ‘knowledge, understanding and skills’ came to align specifically to the constituent elements of the organizers ‘Language’, ‘Literature’ and ‘Literacy’, to the point where the term ‘knowledge’ came to be attached almost exclusively to ‘Language’, and then mainly in the Years Foundation—Year 6. This ‘Language knowledge’ then became continually positioned as underlying the ‘skills’ of ‘Literacy’, so that Literature is seen to be almost arbitrary to the fundamental imperatives of the Curriculum—a means through which the cultural intentions of the Curriculum might be serviced.
The Future of English Teaching Worldwide: Celebrating 50 Years from the Dartmouth Conference edited by Andrew Goodwyn, Cal Durrant, Wayne Sawyer, Lisa Scherff, and Don Zancanella
The Dartmouth Conference (1966) remains a remarkably influential moment in the history of English teaching. Bringing together leading voices in contemporary English education, this book celebrates the Conference and its legacy, drawing attention to what it has achieved, and the questions it has raised. Chapters by project team members in this collection are:
- Growth through English and The Uses of English: Literature, knowledge and experience by Wayne Sawyer
- Dartmouth and Personal Growth in Australia: The New South Wales and Western Australian curricula of the 1970s by Wayne Sawyer and Cal Durrant
- Growing the nation: The influence of Dartmouth on the teaching of literature in subject English in Australia by Larissa McLean Davies, Lucy Buzacott and Susan K. Martin
Sociabilidade Literaria: Uma Perspectiva Transnacional (E Translinguistica) by Claudio Mello, Brenton Doecke, Larissa McLean Davies and Lucy Buzacott
Blowing and Blundering in Space: English in the Australian Curriculum. By Brenton Doecke, Larissa McLean Davies and Wayne Sawyer.
The Australian Curriculum might be read as an antipodean response to Michael Young’s call to ‘bring knowledge back in’ (Young, 2008; cf. Doecke, 2017). In a series of influential publications, Young has advocated the need to restore disciplinary knowledge as the foundation of the school curriculum. Indeed, he redefines the purpose of schooling as being primarily about the provision to students of ‘powerful knowledge’ that will take them beyond the limitations of their experiences of their local communities, inducting them into modes of inquiry that are ‘specialised’ and ‘systematic’ and ‘differentiated from experience’, reflecting ‘the specialisation of knowledge’ evident in university disciplines (see Young et al., 2014, pp. 10, 28, 80). Yet those familiar with the history and practice of subject English will know that ‘the knowledge question’ (as Bill Green has put it recently: Green, 2016, p. 29) is neither new nor straightforward. The Bullock Report, A language for life, went so far as to maintain that English ‘does not hold together as a body of knowledge which can be identified, quantified, then transmitted’ (DES, 1975, p. 5). The difficulty of ‘fitting’ English neatly within a particular epistemological framework means that it has often been constructed as a problem, as ‘the deviant case’, in comparison with other school subjects (Medway, 1990, p. 1).
English and the Knowledge Question. By Brenton Doecke and Philip Mead. Published 2017.
This essay poses the question of the role that literary knowledge plays in subject English. It thus engages with current debates, largely prompted by Michael Young’s call to ‘bring knowledge back in’, about the need to restore academic knowledge as the basis of the school curriculum. We take issue with Young’s understanding of knowledge, arguing that it privileges propositional knowledge at the expense of the interpretive activities typically associated with literary studies, and thus fails to provide a valid framework for supporting students as they read and engage with literary texts. We focus on two moments in the history of subject English, namely the Newbolt Report (1921) and John Dixon’s Growth Through English (1967), showing how they embody understandings of the nature of ‘knowledge’ and ‘experience’ as they are mediated by language that provide a significant counterpoint to Young’s arguments.
What Kind of ‘Knowledge’ is English? (Re-reading the Newbolt Report). By Brenton Doecke. Published 2017.
This essay takes Michael Young’s 2007 call ‘to bring knowledge back in’ as an occasion to reflect on the relationship between subject English and
the disciplinary knowledge that provides its foundations. It focuses on a key text in the history of English teaching, namely The Teaching of English in England, published in 1921 (otherwise known as the Newbolt Report), arguing that it reflects a moment in the emergence of English as a cultural praxis that is still relevant to us, especially with respect to the claims it makes for literature as the core of subject English. The richness of subject English as it is embodied in its history cannot be comprehended by Young’s understanding of ‘knowledge’.
Required Reading: Literature in Australian Schools since 1945. Edited by Tim Dolin, Joanne Jones and Patricia Dowsett. Published 2017.
A number of the Chief Investigators of the Literary Knowledge project have chapters included in Required Reading: Literature in the Australian Schools since 1945. The chapters are:
- “Literature at school in NSW: Some Recent History” by Professor Wayne Sawyer
- “Changing the Subject: Text selection and curriculum development in VCE English 1990” by Associate Professor Larissa McLean Davies and Professor Benton Doecke with Prue G
ill and Terry Hayes
- “What the Dickens?: Exploring the role of canonical texts in mediating subject English in Australia” by Professor Susan K. Martin and Associate Professor Larissa McLean Davies
Teaching Australian Literature: From Classroom Conversations to National Imaginings. Edited by Brenton Doecke, Larissa McLean Davies and Philip Mead. Published 2011.
This volume, edited by project CI’s Brenton Doecke, Larissa McLean Davies and Philip Mead brings together teachers, teacher educators, creative writers and literary scholars in a joint inquiry that takes a fresh look at what it means to teach Australian literature. The immediate occasion for the publication of these essays is the implementation of The Australian Curriculum: English, which several contributors subject to critical scrutiny. In doing so, they question the way that literature teaching is currently being constructed by standards-based reforms, not only in Australia but elsewhere.
The essays assembled in this volume transcend the divisions that have sometimes marred debates about the place of Australian literature in the school curriculum. They all recognise the complexity of what secondary English teachers do in their efforts to engage young people in a rich and meaningful curriculum. They also highlight the need for both secondary and tertiary educators to cultivate an awareness of the cultural and intellectual traditions that mediate their professional practice and to encourage a critically responsive pedagogy.
December 2018: World Curriculum Studies Conference, Melbourne. Symposium: Literary Knowledge and the Making of English Teachers: Curricula and Disciplinary Interfaces. Presenters: Lyn Yates, Brenton Doecke, Larissa McLean Davies, Philip Mead, Wayne Sawyer, Lucy Buzacott
September 2018: European Educational Research Association Conference (ECER). Symposium: Literary Education and Reading Publics. Presenters: Larissa McLean Davies, Wayne Sawyer, Lyn Yates
July 2018: Literary Interface Conference, Canberra. Symposium: An assumed interface: literary studies and the making of English teachers. Presenters: Lyn Yates, Brenton Doecke, Larissa McLean Davies, Philip Mead, Wayne Sawyer, Lucy Buzacott
July 2018: Australian Association for the Teaching of English National Conference. Perth, Australia. Keynote: Life beyond NAPLAN: Reclaiming art and knowledge in English. Presenter: Larissa McLean Davies
June 2018: British Educational Research Association (BERA) SIG English in Education. Keynote: Teaching Justly: Literature and Social Change. Presenters: Larissa McLean Davies, Wayne Sawyer
June 2018: The International Federation for the Teaching of English (IFTE) conference. Birmingham, United Kingdom. Keynote: Making English: Voicing the relationships between literature and knowledge. Presenters: Larissa McLean Davies, Wayne Sawyer
November 2017: Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE). Symposium: What forces shape us? Exploring teachers’ literary knowledge and implications for practice – an international perspective. Presenters: Larissa McLean Davies, Wayne Sawyer, Philip Mead, Lyn Yates, Brenton Doecke
August 2017: Queensland English Teachers’ Association annual conference, Brisbane. Keynote: Making English teachers – what knowledge counts? Presenter: Larissa McLean Davies
June 2017: 3rd European Curriculum Studies Conference. Keynote: Knowledge and Social Interests. Presenter: Lyn Yates
June 2017: ARLE Conference, Tallinn Estonia. Symposium: Reading a literary education: sociability and disciplinary knowledge in subject English. Presenters: Larissa McLean Davies, Wayne Sawyer, Lyn Yates, Brenton Doecke, Philip Mead
December 2016: Victorian Association for the Teaching of English State conference. Workshop: What knowledge counts? Using literary knowledge to enhance the
teaching of texts. Presenters: Larissa McLean Davies, Lucy Buzacott
November 2016: Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE). Symposium: Reading a literary education: sociability and disciplinary knowledge in subject English. Presenters: Lyn Yates, Brenton Doecke, Larissa McLean Davies, Philip Mead, Wayne Sawyer