Posts Tagged ACARA

Storify – ACARA Senior English subject drafts #ozengchat

On 19th June I shared the role of leader/discussant with @vivimat in the 8.30-9.30pm Tuesday #ozengchat stream that takes place on Twitter.

The topic: the draft Senior English subjects proposed by ACARA.

You can check out the ‘Storify’ made by Vivian to see all of the tweets from the discussion that night collected in one place:

If you haven’t yet found where to download the draft curriculum documents from, here is the URL:

Consultation on these documents ends on 20th July, 2012 (THAT’S SOON!) You can contact your professional association to ask if you can add comments to their response, or lodge your own response at the ACARA consultation website: (you will need to register first).

Some interesting comments made during the #ozengchat were:

  • That an ‘English Literature’ (EL) course would flow nicely into university study
  • That the EL course did not look significantly more difficult than the ‘English’ (E) course
  • That the assumption is that in NSW, the current Standard course aligns with ‘English’ while the current Advanced course aligns with ‘English Literature’ – but this is not at all the case
  • That bridging the gap between Year 10 and Year 11 & 12 needs a stronger focus
  • That the proposal to organise Senior English into semester-long units seems to align with what currently happens in Western Australia…but we’re not sure where else (?)
  • That the local state/territory bodies would still be responsible for assessment and examination; i.e. many did not realise that the NSW BOS would still be responsible for setting the HSC reading list
  • That English Studies as exists in NSW (non-ATAR course) filled a big gap – the hope is that ‘Essential English’ (EE) turns out to be like English Studies (or English Communication, a similar course in QLD)
  • That English would likely remain mandatory in NSW, and people wondered why it was not so in other states/territories

There is so much more to talk about when it comes to the proposed Senior English subjects!

I hope to have a new post up soon with some of my personal thoughts about the drafts. In the meantime, if you’ve been thinking about (or wondering about) the curriculum ACARA has proposed, drop a comment here – let’s chat about it!

[View the story “#ozengchat for June 19th 2012” on Storify]

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Why it doesn’t matter that NSW keeps losing the State of Origin…


NSW deals national curriculum a blow

Adam Bennett (Sydney Morning Herald) August 9, 2011

[NSW Education Minister] Mr Piccoli on Tuesday announced the state government would postpone the implementation of the national curriculum by 12 months because of a lack of commonwealth funding and uncertainty about the content.

NSW will now introduce the Australian curriculum in English, Maths, Science and History in 2014, with the planning phase beginning in 2013.

Mr Piccoli said that while the NSW government remained committed to the reforms, schools couldn’t prepare for its introduction in 2013 with funding issues still unresolved and the curriculum’s content not known.

“Schools needed to know in June of this year precisely the content of the national curriculum and to know that there were funds available for professional development,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“The final document won’t be signed off until at least the ministerial council meeting in October, and that simply does not give the schools in NSW and the more than 100,000 teachers the opportunity to receive the professional development, and to be in a position to implement the national curriculum in 2013.”

Thank you New South Wales for Standing Up and Putting Your Foot Down, while the rest of the educrats and Ministers around this country smile and nod and agree to bring in a curriculum overnight when they Quite Frankly Should Know Better.

That’s MY State of Origin!

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The shape of the Arts curriculum

For those who have yet to check it out, the draft shape paper for the Australian Curriculum for the Arts is now available on the ACARA website.

Given that up here in Queensland the school subject ‘Media Arts’ is separate to the subject ‘English’, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to intervene in the text and see if I couldn’t just find the crossover between the two subjects.

It wasn’t hard.

2.3.3 Defining Media Arts

Media ArtsEnglish is the creative use of communications technologies to tell stories and explore concepts for diverse purposes and audiences. MediaLanguage artists represent personal, social and cultural realities using platforms such as prose fiction, poetry, dramatic performances, television, film, video, newspapers, magazines, radio,video games, the worldwide web and mobile media. Produced and received in diverse contexts, these communication forms are important sources of information, entertainment, persuasion and education and are significant cultural industries in Australian society. Digital technologies have expanded the role that mediatexts play in every Australian’s family, leisure, social, educational and working lives. Media ArtsEnglish explores the diverse artistic, creative, social and institutional factors that shape communication and contribute to the formation of identities. Through Media ArtsEnglish, individuals and groups participate in, experiment with and interpret the rich culture and communications practices that surround them.

As I spend more time in Queensland I find myself having to wrestle with my identity as an English teacher because of this overlap with Media Arts.  It’s not that media texts don’t still feature in the English curriculum – they do.  But the culture here is that, while student might study visual language and analyse some/increasingly visual/multimodal texts in English, it’s Media Arts you have to go to if you want to make anything serious.

On one hand, it’s like Media Arts teachers get to do a lot of the fun stuff, which kind of sucks if you’re an English teacher from New South Wales!

But on the other hand, I have to admit, compared the rigour in the Media Arts curriculum up here…well, I have to admit that as an English teacher I always seemed to run out of time to ‘do the fun stuff’ anyway (do you know how LONG it takes for students to rehearse and record their own 10 minute version of Act I of Romeo and Juliet? Fricken ages!)  And it would be nice, for just a short while, not to have to feel like I am dragging my English colleagues kicking and screaming toward increased multimodal study…now if I need to find a like minded media teacher, I can just go and, well, find one.

Leaving aside the ‘are knowledge silos good or bad’ debate, what thoughts do people have about the picture I’m painting here?  NSW people, if you came up to the sunshine state would you want to specialise in English, or Media Arts?

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I just went to post information about the latest ACARA update, including the video message from Prof. Barry McGaw, but it wasn’t working out.

In the meantime, I found this Youtube channel, which I highly recommend – it’s funny, if you like that sort of thing.  Guaranteed more interesting than the ACARA update imho…


I watched a few episodes, including this one, which I’m posting in light of my own soon to be 30-ness:

I am like so cool.

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Helping teachers to explore multimodal texts

This extract from a recent article in the journal Curriculum Leadership (Vol 8 Issue 16) would make an ideal addition to the Australian Curriculum for English, from K-12:

What are multimodal texts?

A text may be defined as multimodal when it combines two or more semiotic systems. There are five semiotic systems in total:

  1. Linguistic: comprising aspects such as vocabulary, generic structure and the grammar of oral and written language
  2. Visual: comprising aspects such as colour, vectors and viewpoint in still and moving images
  3. Audio: comprising aspects such as volume, pitch and rhythm of music and sound effects
  4. Gestural: comprising aspects such as movement, speed and stillness in facial expression and body language
  5. Spatial: comprising aspects such as proximity, direction, position of layout and organisation of objects in space.

Examples of multimodal texts are:

  • a picture book, in which the textual and visual elements are arranged on individual pages that contribute to an overall set of bound pages
  • a webpage, in which elements such as sound effects, oral language, written language, music and still or moving images are combined
  • a live ballet performance, in which gesture, music, and space are the main elements.

Multimodal texts can be delivered via different media or technologies. They may be live, paper, or digital electronic.

The article, by Michele Anstey and Geoff Bull, outlines ways to help support students’ facility with multimodal texts, and ideas for commencing a professional learning process to engage with multimodality in more sophisticated ways.

If ACARA were to adopt this framework for modality (including the terminology of the ‘technology’ of ‘delivery’, and the broad categories of live, paper and digital electronic production) I think the Curriculum would be headed in a much more generative (and logical!) direction.

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Defining ‘multimodal’

Reading the Draft Australian Curriculum for English (‘DACE’…?) I can see that confusion over the meaning of ‘multimodal’ text is about to cause English teachers some major problems.

My understanding is that when we say a text is ‘multimodal’, we mean that the audience participates in the text’s creation.  This is the definition I would say that academics and practitioners in the field of English curriculum would use; consider this explanation by Anastopoulou, Baber & Sharples:

Multimodality is based on the use of sensory modalities by which humans receive information. These modalities could be tactile, visual, auditory, etc. It also requests the use of at least two response modalities to present information (e.g. verbal, manual activity). So, for example, in a multimodal interaction a user may receive information by vision and sound and respond by voice and touch. Multimodality could be compared with ‘unimodality’, which would be based on the use of one modality only to receive or present information (e.g. watching a multimedia presentation and responding by pressing keys).

…but that’s not the definition that ACARA are going with.

The definitional confusion between terms like multimodal, multimedia and media has been around for a while, and speaks to the significant changes in what is considered core content in English brought about by the rise in visual and especially digital texts.  We are very familiar with the concept that language can be spoken, written or heard…but when it comes to texts that combine these modes, things are still a little muddled.

Please take a moment to check out, for example, the preface for the Year 7 section of the DACE (click the image below and get ready for your head to spin):

Year 7 English Content Preface

See what I mean?

In this Preface to the curriculum content descriptors multimodal texts seem to be pitted against texts that are ‘literary’ (which creates even more confusion as the definition of literary appears to change with each new use).  I can appreciate that the ACARA curriculum writers have had to avoid using the word ‘text’ because of the political beat up the term has received in recent years from certain op-ed writers in certain newspapers.  That is why this new curriculum has reverted to the more traditional term Literature – and it is because of this change that we are now supposed to say, it seems, ‘literary text’.

But now check out the etymological shenanigans that take place in the content descriptors of the Literature strand:

Year 7 - Literature

Oh brother.  The constant reference to ‘literary texts’ is supposed to be a nod to the strand content being described as ‘Literature’.  But this is ultimately VERY confusing, as ‘literary’ texts are separated from ‘non-literary’, digital’ and ‘multimodal’ texts in the Preface.  There result is that there is no sense in this strand of multimodal texts being included.

The term ‘literary’ is also conflated with ‘fiction’, and what are really language elements are referred to as literary elements.  In ‘Discussing and responding’ the term ‘text’ makes it in unscathed – which just goes to show that the word does make sense and can be used.  The term ‘text’ is highly appropriate for collectively describing all works of language art, and recognises that the works we study can be written, spoken, aural, or a combination of these.  The term ‘literary texts’ is stupidly redundant, but I’d be happy to get on with using it to placate the punters, if only it were used consistently and provided scope for the study of a broad range of texts!  Which brings me back to multimodality…

In the NSW English syllabus, students engage in what we call a range of language modes.  These are: speaking, writing, representing, listening, reading and viewing.  So ‘multimodal’ could reasonably be taken to mean ‘using more than one language mode’.  This would make film, picture books and digital stories (which use a combination of visual and written language) and many other forms of text multimodal.  OK, I can work with that.

But another thing we do in NSW English 7-12 is differentiate between the activities of composing (which involves text ‘making’ or ‘creation’, not just ‘writing’) and responding (a broader term than ‘reading’ which encompasses the ‘reception’ of all kinds of text).  These activities are viewed as always interrelated in some way, but I would say that it is only when text explicitly invites the audience to participate in the text (e.g. in video games, virtual reality, and participatory narratives such as Inanimate Alice) that the term multimodal should really be applied.  If I’m going to give up the term ‘multimodal’ to the meaning of ‘using more than one language mode’, then I’m going to need a NEW WORD that I can use when I mean ‘texts that the audience helps to construct’.

Currently this recognition of interactivity, and of the interplay between responding and composing, is severely lacking in the DACE.

[ED: Angela Thomas has helped me to clarify my thinking around this, and suggests that students could refer to the ‘cline of interactivity‘ for texts that invite participation.  My thoughts on multimodality have been developed here.  June 2010]

If you are an English teacher and haven’t yet responded to the consultation on the Draft Australian Curriculum, I implore you to log on to the ACARA site and say something about these contradictory and frankly bizarre definitions.  I can’t be the only one who feels like the curriculum writers just didn’t use a glossary!

Faced with the prospect of a shiny new curriculum that is supposed to be clarifying professional meanings and terminology for all teachers, students and parents across the nation, these definitional conflicts are something that must be sorted out before we go any further.  Agreed?

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Don’t delay – get involved NSW

Without a strong response from English teachers about what they like and don’t like about the Draft Australian Curriculum, the chances of it changing are slim to none.

Here are the details of consultation and information meetings happening in NSW in the coming month.

Remember, consultation ends in May, so make sure you respond as an individual, as a faculty, as a school, or as part of the profession through these meetings to make sure your voice is heard.

Because come 2011, it’ll be too late to argue.

NSW English Teachers’ Association consultation meetings:
Saturday 20th March 9.30am – 3.30pm

  • Sydney: Seminar Rooms, DET Curriculum Directorate.
  • Armidale: Armidale High School
  • Border: Albury High School
  • Orange District: Canobolas High School
  • Peel Valley: Quirindi High School
  • Wagga: Wagga Wagga High School

NSW BOS consultation meetings:

  • 9 March – Campbelltown Golf Club
  • 16 March – Tara Anglican School
  • 11 March – UNE Tamworth Centre
  • 15 March – Trinity Catholic College Senior Campus Goulburn
  • 18 March – [VIDEOCONFERENCE] State Government Offices Wollongong

NSW DET online consultation forums:

Videoconferences held at various locations from 4pm-6pm

  • 15 March – English 7-10 (venues)
  • 30 March – English K-10 (venues)

ACARA will also be running a Public Information Session for New South Wales on:
Thursday 25 March 6pm – 7:30pm
Venue is TBA, but most likely will be in Sydney.



The Australian Curriculum for English

As we have already heard from our trusty newspapers (who magically had obtained copies prior to release) we have much to look forward to in the Australian Curriculum for English:

The curriculum takes a more traditional view of literature than has been apparent in some states in the past decade or so. – Justine Ferrari in The Australian 27 Feb

Senior educationists believe the new curriculum for students in kindergarten to Year 10, due to come into force next year, has been infiltrated by fringe lobby groups seeking to include issues such as multiculturalism, indigenous rights, ethical behaviour and sustainable living. – Joe Hildebrand & Bruce McDougall in Daily Tele 27 Feb

GRAMMAR will be front and centre of the federal government’s new national English curriculum.Stephanie Pealting in SMH 28 Feb

AUSTRALIA’s new national school curriculum is to be unveiled today in a long overdue recognition of the need to return the three Rs to the classroom. – Editorial in The Herald Sun 28 Feb

Though, we already knew all this earlier in the week from Julia Gillard’s address to the National Press Club.

ALL states and territories will be forced to follow a set program for teaching reading under the first national English curriculum, which stipulates the letters, sounds and words students must learn in each year of school. – Justine Ferrari in The Australian 25 Feb

Education Minister Julia Gillard told the National Press Club yesterday that, for the first time, grammar would be taught at all levels of school and parents would have a chance to comment directly on what their children would learn. – Scott Hannaford in The Canberra Times 25 Feb

Actually, we have known that this was coming ever since the release of the National Curriculum Shaping Paper [PDF link] back in May 2009.  The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: English paper proposed that K-10 curriculum in English be organised around three interrelated strands:

  1. Language: The Language strand involves the development of a coherent, dynamic and evolving body of knowledge about the English language and how it works.
  2. Literature: Students learn to interpret, appreciate, evaluate and create literary texts such as narrative, poetry, prose, plays, film and multimodal texts, in spoken, print and digital/online contexts.
  3. Literacy: Students apply their English skills and knowledge to read, view, speak, listen to, write and create a growing repertoire of texts.

The separation of these strands sure is nice and neat.  Cute even…the alliteration could appeal to some English teachers.

But while these separate strands might be neat, they have resulted in precisely what English teachers feared: a regression to a 100 year old teaching approach that divorces the learning of the mechanics of ‘language’ from the learning of the feelings, values and ideas it represents.  We’re trying to teach communicators, not copy-typists!  But, predictably, here are some of the content descriptors for what students must learn from the Language strand of the 7-10 curriculum for English:

  • Resources for creating cohesive texts including identifying reference items, the use of substitution and ellipsis, relationships between vocabulary items, and the role of text connectives (Year 7)
  • Understanding spelling rules including origins, word endings, Greek and Latin roots, base words, suffixes, prefixes, spelling patterns and generalisations (Year 7)
  • Sentences can consist of a number of independent and dependent clauses combined in a variety of ways (Year 8 )
  • Purpose of  devices used by authors  including symbolism, analogy and allusion (Year 8 )
  • Language can be multi-layered, resulting in varying interpretations (Year 9) (…a bit late to learn this?)
  • Information can be condensed by collapsing a clause into a noun phrase (nominalisation) (Year 9)
  • Different perspectives can be introduced by citing the words and views of others
  • Construction of multimodal and digital texts involves knowledge of visual grammar (Year 10) (visual literacy…finally!)

Developing skills in reading and writing is something that I value, that English teachers universally value.  But skills such as spelling, grammar and syntax should be taught as means of building a student’s own representational world, rather than as ends in themselves.

Without a clear pedagogical direction that guides teachers to embed language learning within quality literacy and literature teaching, as well as differentiate language learning for students reading at different levels, the Australian English Curriculum will doom countless future students to exercises in disconnected rote learning and grammar drills. Will your child be one of them?

Visit the ACARA website for information on how to submit your views. Have your say about the experience you want your children and students to have by responding during the consultation period from 1 March 2010 to the end of May 2010.

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