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Part A

This paper will firstly appraise the complexities of teacher professionalism, curriculum,
pedagogy and assessment in the daily work of teachers. These domains are hotly debated
subjects within education. Central to this debate has been government agendas and policies
that remain popular in the public through principals of transparency and choice.
Standardisation of basic skills and the development of national standards are having adverse
impacts on the teaching profession. There are pressures to teach towards a test and external
regulatory standards which can limit teacher autonomy.

Teacher professionalism has been historically defined by common overarching

characteristics. These include having specialised knowledge, common ethical standards,
shared technical culture, and being able to self-regulate. Recent government led agendas are
redefining the teacher profession in Australia. Central to this change is the increase in
government control, through policy and standards. This is evident by the impacts of National
Numeracy and Literacy Program (NAPLAN) has on the teaching profession. This policy was
introduced in 2008 by the Australian Federal government to improve literacy and numeracy
skills along with improved equity (Gillard, 2008). Results from basic testing are published on
the My School website allowing the public to evaluate schools’ test results. The public
scrutiny of test scores was justified through principles of transparency and choice (Mockler,
2012). Critics, however, have argued that schools are becoming similar to commercial
commodities, where parents are consumers making a choice to pick the best product (Apple,
2000, 2009).

Due to this marketisation of education, the teaching profession is changing with pressure on
teachers to have students score high in basic skills testing (Gorur, 2013; Savage, Sellar, &
Gorur, 2013). Further impacts of standardised testing of basic skills on the teacher profession
is the high levels of stress and anxiety experienced by teachers (Klenowski & Wyatt-Smith,
2012; Lingard, 2010; Lingard, Sellar, & Savage, 2014). This government led agenda also
impacts pre service teaching programs, as all teachers will be vetted with mandatory testing

in literacy and numeracy (ATSIL, 2016). Not only will teachers’ daily work be scrutinised by
the public and the government, the degree of control exercised by the government on the
teaching profession will also be increased (Klenowski & Wyatt-Smith, 2012; Lingard, 2010;
Mockler, 2012).

Further challenges faced by teachers in their line of work has been the establishment of new
government bureaucracy and standards. This is evident by the establishment of the Board of
Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) in January 2014. The new
regulating BOSTES accredits teachers according to the Australian Professional Standards for
Teachers (or APST) (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership [AITSL],
2016) Teachers’ work is required to be aligned with the APST. This ranges in three domains,
Professional Knowledge, Professional Practice, and Professional Engagement. Teachers are
graded according to graduate, proficient, highly accomplished and lead (ATSIL, 2016). These
standards add complexity to teachers’ work, as they are required to meet criteria in order to
ascend. This requires teachers to continually advance their skills to achieve a higher ranking.
Teachers will have to consider engaging in professional development courses in order to
update their skills (Clarke & Moore, 2013; Dinham, 2013). There have been many critiques
of the current professional standards. This includes having teachers under surveillance in
their daily practice across these standards which may not easily defined or achieved (Clarke
& Moore, 2013; Dinham, 2013; Gannon, 2012). Furthermore, having the teaching profession
accountable to external bodies can be undermining to teacher development and self-efficacy.
As teachers are not regulating their daily behaviours according to their professional
judgement, imagination or teaching experience, but are accountable by external criteria
(Clarke & Moore, 2013; Dinham, 2013; Gannon, 2012) .

Curriculum has a broad definition, this includes the syllabus, activities that are inclusive of
school practice, and the individual values and beliefs of the teacher (Parkay, Anctil, & Hass,
2014). In the broader sense curriculum includes all activities that are aimed to develop
students’ academic and social-emotional skills (Jones & Bouffard, 2012; Parkay et al., 2014).
The influence of government on curriculum furthermore adds complexity to the lives of

teachers and pre-service teacher. The senior secondary curriculum in Australia is set to four
units. This has been determined by Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting
Authority (ACARA). In NSW, BOSTES is responsible for integrating the national
curriculum into secondary courses. Teachers will be required to update their content
knowledge of the BOSTES new syllabus, a draft Syllabus was released in July 2016
(BOSTES, 2016).

Pedagogy is commonly defined as the method and practice of teaching, curriculum and
pedagogy work in conjunction in the classroom (Nagda, Gurin, & Lopez, 2003). Effective
teaching requires curriculum and pedagogy to be implemented in the classroom by teachers
that have a degree of control of how content is delivered (Fensham, 2016). In the current
climate of testing of basic skills, with emphasis placed on standards can create a
disequilibrium between pedagogy and curriculum (Polesel, Rice, & Dulfer, 2014; Popkewitz,
2014), as teachers are required to teach towards a test in order to meet a ranking criterion
(Klenowski & Wyatt-Smith, 2012; Lingard, 2010; Lingard et al., 2014). Teachers may draw
on the curriculum and specifically syllabus dot points to teach content. However, such an
approach to pedagogy may not be consistent with the best practice amongst high achieving
teachers (Fensham, 2016) . Studies indicate that teachers that develop higher order thinking
and classroom discussion can enhance student performance (Minner, Levy, & Century,
2010). Research has demonstrated that good teachers are able to accommodate to a diverse
level of learners through a pedagogical approach which accommodates to a wide range of
learning needs (Mitchell, 2014).

Assessment is a process of collecting information in order to evaluate the state of students

learning. It is connected to content, learning outcomes, learning activities and pedagogy
(Bosco & Ferns, 2014). Assessment has the goal of assisting learners and teachers to assess
where students are in reference to their learning. It has the purpose to assist teachers, help
student success, and provide accurate reports on students’ learning (S. Brookhart, Moss, &
Long, 2008). Assessment can be formative, aimed to monitor student learning through the use
of meaningful feedback (S. Brookhart et al., 2008). In contrast, summative assessment is
done at the end of learning unit, in order to compare students’ results against a set standard

(S. M. Brookhart, 2013; Herppich, Wittwer, Nückles, & Renkl, 2014). Assessment is linked
with pedagogy, for example, the current environment of high-stakes testing for basic skills,
and HSC examination have resulted in teachers changing their pedagogical approach towards
preparing students to sit a test, rather than develop meaningful knowledge and skills
(Mockler, 2012; Polesel et al., 2014). The NSW Quality Teaching Model (QTM)
recommends assessment that is authentic. This requires a pedagogical style with emphasis on
the development of higher order cognitive skills in students as opposed to rote learning.

Part B

This paper will now look at the specific learning needs of Indigenous students, and will
demonstrate how these needs can be accommodated through culturally meaningful
curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment. The personal beliefs and attitudes of educators can
impact Indigenous academic performance. This can be a barrier to culturally meaningful
educational experiences for Indigenous students. There is evidence to indicate that teachers
have been indoctrinated to have lower expectations for Indigenous students (O’Rourke,
Gilbert, Daley, & Roffey, 2014). Being mindful of this perspective, it will be imperative for
teachers to be a reflective practitioner, in order to meet the learning needs of Indigenous

Case studies can demonstrate some of the social and cultural barriers Indigenous students’
experience, and can help identify the learning needs of Indigenous students (Keddie, 2011).
The attitudes and beliefs of individuals in power, including principals, can often be a
hindrance to Indigenous education (Dobia & O’Rourke, 2011). One specific belief is having
low expectations; Indigenous students can underperform by living up to the low expectation
standards. Indigenous students do well when they have their Indigenous community involved
in their education (O’Rourke et al., 2014). Being mindful of the adverse impacts of low
expectation. It will be imperative to the teacher’s role to set reasonable performance
standards for Indigenous students. It will be necessary for teaches to adopt the role of
reflecting on their own beliefs and attitudes towards Indigenous students in order to provide
culturally meaningful educational outcomes. Moreover, involving the community provides

social and emotional support for Indigenous students. In connecting with the Indigenous
community, it will be important for teachers to adapt a collaborative role to successfully
connect with the Indigenous community (Haswell, Blignault, Fitzpatrick, & Pulver, 2013).

A number of studies demonstrate the highest incidence of suicide and poor mental health
amongst Indigenous students (Atkinson, 2013; Newton, Day, Gillies, & Fernandez, 2015).
Studies have documented the importance of social and emotional support for Indigenous
students (Dobia & O’Rourke, 2011; Haswell et al., 2013). The high prevalence of mental
health problems amongst Indigenous students can result in psychological distress. This can be
detrimental to student learning by reducing working capacity and impacting negatively on
academic outcomes (Atkinson, 2013; Reifels et al., 2015). Given the high levels of mental
health problems experienced by Indigenous students, it will be important for teachers to
collaborate with school counsellors and psychologists in addressing, and supporting the
mental health needs of Indigenous students (Dobia & O’Rourke, 2011; Haswell et al., 2013).

Authentic and culturally meaningful educational experiences have shown to improve

Indigenous educational outcomes (Woods-McConney, Oliver, McConney, Maor, & Schibeci,
2013). Differentiating content for Indigenous students will be important in attaining positive
educational outcomes. Specific characteristics of differentiation for Indigenous students is
introducing multiple means of testing and presenting information (Terwel, 2005). Indigenous
students can often be marginalised by the traditional education experiences (Dobia &
O’Rourke, 2011). Culturally meaningful content in the curriculum can be achieved, for
example, by using the Indigenous people’s knowledge of astronomy into the curriculum.
Indigenous knowledge was demonstrated in Dreamtime storytelling (Green, Billy, & Tapim,
2010). The stars in Orion's belt is represented in the Dreamtime story of Djulpan.
Furthermore, the Kuwema tribe in the Northern territory had knowledge of the seasons,
through the observation of Orion’s belt (Green et al., 2010). Including Indigenous content
into the curriculum also encourages reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous
people. This is also consistent with ATPS 2.4, which states;

“Understand and respect Aboriginal Islander people to promote reconciliation between
Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians” (ATSIL, 2016)

In contrast to the message of reconciliation within standard 2.4, the current context of
standardisations of basic skills, evidence has emerged that Indigenous students are being
disadvantaged by basic skills testing (Klenowski, 2009; Klenowski & Wyatt-Smith, 2012).
Trends have appeared that schools are attempting to increase their scores by encouraging
minority students not to sit the test (Elliott, Davies, & Kettler, 2012; Klenowski, 2009;
Klenowski & Wyatt-Smith, 2012). This can be perceived as an act of exclusion, which is
consistent with the Indigenous feelings of isolation. This concept of parents being consumers
within a competitive marketplace (Gorur, 2013), can further alienate indigenous students by
creating a platform for social stigmas and labels.

The learning needs of Indigenous students can be accommodated by using culturally

significant pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. This cross curriculum theme is evident in
the BOSTES stage 5 syllabus which states;

“Students will investigate examples of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’
understanding of the environment and the ways that traditional knowledge and western
scientific knowledge can be complementary” (BOSTES, 2016)

This can be implemented in the classroom by including Indigenous people’s knowledge of

medical plants, Australian mammals and ecosystems (Burbidge, Johnson, Fuller, &
Southgate, 1988; Green et al., 2010; Prober, O’Connor, & Walsh, 2011) into classroom
content and assessment. More significantly, the Indigenous theme in the curriculum aims to
equip all students with an authentic learning experience, which is aimed to engage students
through contemporary issues (Bosco & Ferns, 2014). This is evident by cross-curriculum
themes that are humanistic and socially responsible. With the attention on Indigenous
histories and culture, sustainability, and Australia engagements with Asia (ATSIL, 2016)
This contrasts with earlier curriculum, particular in Sciences, which focused on facts and rote

learning (Fensham, 2016). The cross-curriculum themes require the teachers to adopt
instructional strategies that foster higher order thinking skills amongst students, whilst
concurrently developing social and humanistic perspectives.

In conclusion, teacher professionalism, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment is linked to

closer government control and public transparency. This can have the negative outcome of
teaching towards a test. These changes have impacted the working lives of teachers, by
bringing them under surveillance and taking away autonomy with the need to meet imposed
standards. In respect to the Indigenous context, traditional education fails to provide
culturally meaningful and significant educational experiences to Indigenous students. The
curriculum has been based on western perspectives of knowledge, and Indigenous students
have not been provided with a culturally sensitive environment to express their knowledge.
Teachers can meet the needs of Indigenous students by providing culturally meaningful,
curriculum, content, and assessment. This requires the need for a reflective teacher who is
aware of their own beliefs and attitudes, as often adverse characterisation can have negative
consequences on Indigenous students.


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