Deakin University
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Contextual factors that affect secondary school teachers' agency in noncore subjects

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conference contribution
posted on 2017-02-01, 00:00 authored by Gayle Jenkins
Adapting to and implementing curriculum change has become the norm for teachers across Australia. Yet there has been limited research regarding the contextual factors that affect teacher agency during curriculum change for teachers working in non-core subject areas. This research addressed that gap by conducting a qualitative case study over three years exploring teacher perceptions of their agency. Results show that teachers’ perceptions of their classroom agency to develop and introduce new curriculum was high. Fewer teachers however, described having agency at a department level and school curriculum level. Teacher influence in school level curriculum further decreased over the course of the study as a result of the introduction of the Australian Curriculum (AC), the impact of NAPLAN as well as changes to school curriculum and focus by state directives. The contextual factors that influenced agency included career stage of the teacher and the initial support they were provided in schools; individual teachers’ perceptions of their power and position in schools; as well as teacher motivation and their belief in the importance of their subject for student learning. A supportive school culture and good collegial relationships both within the school and the professional teaching community were also considered significant for effective teacher agency. Negative influences identified included job intensification, inadequate professional development opportunities and the changing focus of subject priorities and assessment requirements in schools. Added pressures affecting teacher agency included the changed organisational structures within subject departments in many schools. It became apparent over the course of the study that school Administrations had increased their control in all aspects of school curriculum. Overall, Home Economics teachers believed they had reduced teacher agency at a national, state and school level. They did however retain a strong sense of agency at a department and classroom level if they were provided with a supportive and collegial environment.



Australian Association for Research in Education. Conference (2016 : Melbourne, Vic.)


1 - 16




Melbourne, Victoria

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[Melbourne, Vic.]

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Publication classification

E1.1 Full written paper - refereed

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2017, The Author

Title of proceedings

AARE 2016 : SIG: Teachers’ Work and Lives : Proceedings of the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference

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