In April 1989, the State, Territory and Commonwealth Ministers of Education endorsed the Common and Agreed National Goals for Schooling. In the following years, the Australian Education Council directed the National Curriculum Project, culminating in 1994 in the publication of a Statement and Profile in eight areas of learning, including Health and Physical Education. This thesis provides a contemporary history of curriculum change in the Health and Physical Education (HPE) area during the National Curriculum Project. It tackles the question of how the HPE Statement and Profile came to have its particular form and content, with a view to gaining a better understanding of curriculum change, educational reform, and changes in HPE more specifically.
This thesis aims to provide a contemporary history of curriculum change in Health and Physical Education. In doing so, it allows us to examine how new ideas emerge in a field, and to better understand the epistemological and pedagogical assumptions upon which the Health and Physical Education Statement and Profile are based. This research explores the politics and processes by which the Statement and Profile were put together and how these influenced the selection and arrangement of knowledge and learning in the published documents. This helps us to have a better understanding of how the official written curriculum texts relay power relations and the possible implications for children and young people, teachers' work and identities, and the organisation of learning in schools.
I was a principal writer of the Statement and Profile, and my work in the National Curriculum Project spanned eighteen months. I bring an insider perspective to this research drawing on my own experiences from 'inside' the development processes. The thesis is presented as a narrative, and consists of a temporal unfolding of the HPE curriculum project, linking events to historical, political, organisational, social, national and global contexts. This story is supported by oral accounts from key informants, analysis of documents including correspondence that circulated within the project, and my own notes and experience while working in the field. It is about people in an official recontextualising field (Bernstein 1990) engaged in making official curriculum texts.
This thesis not only contributes to our understanding of what constitutes an official recontextualising field but also provides insights into the circulation of power within, and the highly political nature of, the official recontextualising field. The workings of the state were embedded in the official recontextualising field and mediated through the Australian Education Council's Curriculum and Assessment Committee (CURASS) and its secretariat, through Federal-State institutional arrangements, and within a framework of corporate federalism (Lingard, 1993b). The analysis of the circulation of power (Clegg, 1989a) within the official recontextualising field exposed the importance of the institutional practices within CURASS and its secretariat in framing the thinkable and the permissible. The analysis reveals the subtle maneuverings that created an uncertain, ambiguous and shifting terrain in which the writers were to be creative and productive, as well as monitored, sanctioned and disciplined. CURASS and its secretariat regulated these unstable rules and, over time, tightened the frame of reference within which writers were able to work in constructing a pedagogic discourse of HPE.
Basil Bernstein's work on the social construction of pedagogic discourse provides rich conceptual tools with which to trace, examine and analyse discourses and how these are rearticulated and transformed into official written curriculum texts. I show how outcome-based education, public health discourses, past and current practices, cross-curricular perspectives, equity discourses, 'subject' and 'public' interests, were repositioned within a framework of corporate federalism to construct the Design Brief, Statement and Profile. This gave rise to contestation, struggles and compromises, within and between States and Territories, within and between subject communities, and within and between agents in the field. The result of this was an arrangement of learning outcomes, knowledge, skills and competencies in a conceptual framework using strands that has changed and challenged the boundaries between 'traditional' subjects in the Health and Physical Education learning area.
The study highlights the significance of agency in negotiating meanings, creating options and the entrance of new ideas into the field, and challenges research that attributes interests to particular individuals and their institutional bases. I show the multiple positions and interests agents held, and that it is the availability of discursive resources together with the rules and arrangements circulating within the official recontextualising field that enable and constrain certain constructions of valid knowledge, valid transmission of knowledge, and valid realisation of knowledge on the part of the learner. The thesis concludes by offering ways by which we might enhance the processes of curriculum development in official recontextualising fields, and poses some considerations for thinking about implications of the Statement and Profile for the organisation of learning in schools.