Curriculum Conundrums – Module 4.3

Curriculum can be broadly defined as the academic content taught within the education system.  In Australia, the National curriculum is three dimensional and covers eight content areas, three cross curriculum priorities and seven skills sectors (ACARA, n.d.).  This national framework is broadly defined and whilst some states have set syllabi that clearly delineate what needs to be taught, others have more freedom in the manner in which the learning outcomes are addressed.  As this method of delivery is diverse, curriculum implementation falls down to state governance and individual schools to develop and create a plan that clearly outlines the teaching and learning, whilst respecting the values and ethics of the school and its community.

 The purpose of schooling is detailed within a curriculum and as a result its strength and veracity will directly affect student learning potential (VCAA, 2015, p.6). Meritorious curricula are cohesive and contain connected units of work that build upon a student learning.  It is not an ad hoc system of disconnected and repetitious units, as that leads to student disengagement and teacher angst. A teacher librarian is a witness to all that occurs within a school and from this centralised position, are able to see the teaching and learning from a whole school approach.

 The role of a TL can affect curriculum planning in a variety of ways but the four main ways are; facilitating multidisciplinary units of work; creating LibGuides for individual classes, year levels and or units of work; embedding information literacy within the curriculum and explicit instruction.  Lastly, ensuring that the school collection supports the teaching and learning practices of the school. In the first place, a TL can facilitate conversations between departments to broach a collaborative unit of work. An example would be, negotiating RE, HASS and Science to address a Sustainability unit from a triple prong approach for a deeper and more holistic learning experience, rather than just superficially addressing aspects in three separate subjects.  Real world scenarios are multidisciplinary and it is frustrating to pigeon hole learning into subject areas and be unable to fully experience the scope the unit. Secondly, a TL can use LibGuides as a method in which to curate and organise resources to specific classes, subjects and topic guides. By being involved in the planning stages, a TL can create these LibGuides in anticipation of the units and thus eliminate late and often disruptive requests for resourcing.

 TL are information experts as well as teaching practitioners.  Their mastery of information seeking behaviour allows them to embed information literacy skills within the curriculum with ease using their knowledge of pedagogy.  With the current information overload, students need to be fluent in information literacy and TL can work with classroom teachers to explicitly teach these essential skills.  Some schools and TL are working collaboratively to construct a ICT and CCT skill progression framework that will allow students to build upon their current knowledge in a logical manner.  Other TL and schools seek methods in which to assess these skills in various formative formats along the inquiry pathway so as to provide useful feedback. The national curriculum is explicit upon the needs to integrate the general capabilities and a TL’s expertise is definitely a benefit in the planning stage.  As practitioners, a TL is able to explicitly teach these skills in discrete lessons in a team teaching scenario and or in a consultant role. Finally, when a TL is involved with planning, they can ensure that the school collection is able to support the teaching and learning. Many school budgets are constrained and a TL present in the planning is aware of what the school has currently available and can suggest or recommend resources that are already part of the collection in order to buttress the curriculum judiciously.  This is even more important in a digital age when subscriptions and licencing becomes an issue should multiple e-book titles be necessary to support a differentiated learning.

 TLs have been emerging as co-creators and designers of inquiry learning within schools for a long time.  The somewhat recent inclusion of guided inquiry into the national curriculum has increased the importance of well designed inquiry units for teaching and learning.  In collaboration with classroom teachers, TL can assist with designing and resourcing these inquiry units across the school. As an essential phase of inquiry learning requires the student to immerse and explore their task.  This immersion and exploration can involved a variety of digital and authentic experiences, which include incursions, excursions, VR and widespread information collation. A TL is often the one that assists with this access to information by providing a few resources as a scaffold or explicitly teaching information literacy skills.  These skills are essential students then seek information to answer their question. Education NSW (2016) is explicit in their policy in that a TL is a member of the “teaching staff and as such is actively involved in collaborative teaching and learning, school curriculum planning and program development”. The policy also is clear that TL are required to assist with planning, implementing and evaluating the curriculum at a school.  Therefore, NSW public schools are required to have their TL part of their planning and programming. In this token, principals should be allocating planning time to teachers so that they can fulfill the parameters of their position. Whether this mandate is applicable across the states and territories is unknown but the NSW policy definitely sets a valid precedent. It now only is up to principals to ensure that planning and curriculum days during professional development week is actually for planning and not filled up with unnecessary meetings and emails.

 Schools that use a collaborative approach with planning have the expertise of an information teacher at the table.   Like other speciality teachers within a school, a TL is an information teacher and that title encompassess a wide scope of knowledge and mastery of information seeking behaviour.  It is this mastery and unconscious competence that allows the TL to see the unit of work beyond the content and place the skills on the learning continuum. Schools that promote collaborative curriculum planning harness this knowledge and use this collective strength to create units of work that extend the mind and build upon those important life long skills.   The absence of a TL within curriculum development is detrimental to student learning. TLs are essential to curriculum planning for multiple reasons, especially their skill in information literacy and wide curriculum knowledge. Their skills in information seeking behaviour are essential in this digital age of misinformation and their unconscious competence in this field means that they are able to create units of work that are beyond the scope of most classroom teachers.  Whilst these skills are important for all students, they are essential for students from lower socio-economic households where there is already a digital divide (DIIS, 2016).


Curriculum planning ideally should be a collaborative effort and include all teachers and their disciplines.  The intentional exclusion of the TL seems foolhardy as there is ample evidence illustrating their positive effect on learning outcomes.  But unless a TL is willing to advocate their place at the table then it is unlikely an invitation will be issued.




ACARA (n.d.) Structure of Australian Curriculum; F-10. Retrieved from

 ACARA (n.d.b) History Inquiry. Retrieved from

 DET Victoria (n.d. ) Curriculum Planning. Retrieved from

 Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (2016). Australia’s digital economy update. Retrieved from

 Education NSW (2016) School library policy. Retrieved from

 Lutheran Education Queensland (n.d) Approaches to learning. Inquiry based learning.  Retrieved from

 Softlink International (n.d.) The ongoing importance of school libraries.  Retrieved from

VCAA (2015) Victorian Curriculum; Foundation – Year 10; Revised curriculum planning and reporting guidelines. Retrieved from


Analysis of Lupton (2014) paper – Module 5.3a

Edwin01 / Pixabay
Late to the ball


We live in an information rich society.  Our world is quickly adapting from industrial to one based upon the creation and dissemination of information.  This economic revolution needs a society that is fluent in information literacy.  Unfortunately, the education sector is resembling Cinderella with their late arrival to the information literacy ball.  Even though the national curriculum was designed with the goal of active and informed citizens, it has failed to meet the task at hand.

Lupton (2014) points out succinctly that there is no information literacy embedded within the Australian curriculum in her analysis.   It does seem fairly obvious that inquiry skill strands are the place to look for the elements that then link back to IL. A teacher librarian is ideally the perfect person to identify these elements and create the links due to their knowledge of the curriculum and holistic view of the learning and teaching within a school.  Unfortunately, we also know that there are many schools that there is no teacher librarian and thus there is no one to make these links in an effective manner. Consequently, teachers and students are often unable to have a planned learning sequence that builds upon prior knowledge. This inability to construct new knowledge upon prior knowledge, is a direct contradiction to the constructivist theory of guided inquiry.

As Lupton (2014) surmises, there is an inquiry focus within the national curriculum in three KLAs; science, history and geography.  Each of these areas addresses inquiry skills with slightly different applications. These mannerisms illustrate the strength and weaknesses of the curriculum to address IL.  Unfortunately, these subjects are not equally structured with respect to IL and thus, the embedding of these skills are inconsistent.

geralt / Pixabay

This variance between KLA’s has lead to science being the weakest of the three in regards to information literacy.  Whilst the research process is vigorous, the data is just gathered with the role of interpretation insufficient. The inquiry skills aspect is aligned only to the experimental procedure and there is limited correlation between the strands.  There is also a lack of consideration of the social, cultural, economic context of the investigation. This lack of social context means that the investigation is often difficult for students to apply newly gained information to real world applications which in turn defeats the ‘action’ part of the process.

Free-Photos / Pixabay

History KLA has strong IL embedded into its curriculum.  The nature of the strands mean that both the questioning and information seeking behaviour are important.  The strong dependence on primary and secondary sources means that students are constantly utilising skills in information seeking and using.  There is appropriate scaffolding within the curriculum that promotes independent learners. Geography, according to Lupton (2014) has the strongest in IL because; the questioning is stronger and varied, action is required in some form and lastly, it promotes personal and social growth and that the tasks are multidisciplinary.  As questioning is the cornerstone of inquiry, the Geography KLA allows for different perspectives of the same question as well as it forces the student to consider the views of the audience. It is clearly the most sophisticated and comprehensive inquiry skills based subject within the curriculum.

The problem with the Australian curriculum is that IL is not embedded within and across the curriculum in all KLAs.  Information literacy is cumulative. To have an IL education, sustainable development is required across all years and areas of study.  It is should be part of the content, structure and sequence of learning; and definitely not the outcome of a single subject.


Bundy, A. (Ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy.

Lupton, M.(2014)  Inquiry skills in the Australian Curriculum v6, Access, November


The insanity of NAPLAN

eslfuntaiwan / Pixabay


Eleven years ago the Government of Australia decided they had two main goals for the upcoming decade.  The first being that education provided across Australia is excellent and that there is equity between a regional school at the back of Bourke and one in ritzy Rose Bay.  The second ambitious goal was that the young people of Australia would be successful in their learning, be confident and creative in their endeavours; and personally my favourite, active and informed citizens.  It was also around this time that the politicians decided that standardised testing would show clearly which schools were producing excellent learners and which schools were not. NAPLAN’s birth occurred during this maelstrom.  

NAPLAN is Australia’s reaction to a standardised national testing scheme.  The ideology of standardised testing is that data provided would illustrate to educators the efficacy of policies and practices implemented within schools.  This practice is used internationally to determine education trends across the world and promote conversation to improve best practice (Jackson et al., 2017).  An example is the PISA test, that is used around the world to identify shifts in education. As assessments are evidence of learning, a standardised test identifies what is taught and learned in a classroom across the nation (Jackson et al., 2017). The results are to be used as a tool to direct teaching policies.  What it is not supposed to occur, are the results being used to marginalise and discriminate against poor performing schools and their struggling teachers. Unfortunately, the reality of standardised testing has blown up in everyone’s face.


NAPLAN – also affectionately known as the Devil’s tool by some disgruntled teachers of my acquaintance, was the brainchild of the Howard and enacted by the Rudd government.  Following closely on the heels of the new national curriculum, its inception was based on determining which schools were successful in addressing literacy and numeracy outcomes; and which schools needed more assistance.  After all, whilst ideally we would all like our students to come to school from homes where books and breakfast are the norm, the reality is definitely not Utopian. Therefore if education is to be based in equity then there needs to be a measurement of some sorts to determine which schools fall short of this prescribed ‘line in the sand’ so extra funding and assistance can be provided to those schools that require it.  This funding system, is unlike the US of A. The schools within the USA have their funding linked to local property taxes and thus more affluent areas receive MORE money than lower socio-economic areas. For a country that insists it does not have a class system, it is doing rather well to perpetuate one.

ACARA flexed its new muscle back in 2008 and assured the eager masses that NAPLAN would place all students in Australia on a single scale of measurement, and thus map their skills and understandings across their schooling years (Fachinetti, 2015).  Testing was already occurring across the nation within states so a national testing system seemed appropriate. With seven different education systems and proportionally a small population, it seems logical to have the one system to determine which states and electorates were performing well in addressing a new national curriculum and which states, and more specifically schools needed additional funding.   Instead the advent of NAPLAN only sought to increase the competitive streak between students and between schools. Schools with low NAPLAN results were often demonised by the media and that often lead to many of them losing student numbers, resources and becoming institutions of failure (Zyngier, 2011). 

The arrival of the MySchool site only further exacerbated an already tense situation.  Instead of the promised transparency for parents, it instead just proved to be controversial and and downright destructive to many schools already struggling with teaching and learning practices (Fachinetti, 2015).  The league tables over simplified learning outcomes and allocated them as red or black. It did not indicate schools where great improvement occurred. It only highlighted who won. Quite frankly, the whole idea is contraindicated to the tenets of the 2008 Melbourne Declaration, whose first primary goal is to provide excellent and equity in schooling.  

Educationally NAPLAN is supposed to be low stakes, in that test scores are to be used for identifying and improving teaching and learning practices rather than being used as a method for reward and punishment.  Facinetti (2015) describes the nation wide testing program having evolved into a high stake test in which students are coerced to perform by often well meaning parents and teachers. Teachers are often railroaded into teaching explicitly for the test rather than holistic learning to maintain or improve school scores.  Parents are intimidated by MySchool results and or societal pressures and send their precious moppets for NAPLAN tutoring.  The surfeit of preparation booklets in the supermarkets are just a snapshot into general society’s view of this test.  Sadly, there are numerous high schools across the country that request for NAPLAN scores as part of the application process.  

NAPLAN has completely failed in achieving its target.  Ideally, the data could be used to improve teaching practice, but as the results were not out till four months later, it was often too late to implement changes.  Granted the new online system will enable results appear quicker but online testing comes with its own baggage. But the single most infuriating aspect of NAPLAN is that it is not connected to the curriculum.  It truly boggles the mind how a NATIONAL standardised testing scheme does not actually look to see if the NATIONAL curriculum is being implemented properly across the stages.  So why on Earth do we force our kids and our schools to complete this test?  Ah yes. For funding. ACARA has a lot to answer for.

MahuaSarkar / Pixabay



ACARA (2008) National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy. Retrieved from

Biddle, B., and Berliner, D., (2002) A research synthesis. Unequal school funding in the United states.  Educational Leadership. 59: 8 pp48-59.  Retrieved from

Fachinetti, A., (2015) A short personal and political history of NAPLAN. Education Today. 4. Pp.20-22.  Retrieved from

Jackson, J., Adams, R., and Turner, R., (2017) Evidence based education needs standardised assessment.  The Conversation. Retrieved from

MCEETYA (20019) MCEETYA four-year plan 2009 – 2012. Retrieved from

Munro, J., (2017) Support for standardised tests boils down to beliefs about who benefits from it. Retrieved from

Zyngier, D., (2011) Unfair funding is turning public schools into ‘sinks of disadvantage’. The Conversation. Retrieved from