Brad Gobby and Rebecca Walker are the authors of Powers of Curriculum, a teacher education textbook that was highly commended at the 2018 Educational Publishing Awards. They spoke with us recently about their book, including how it makes a difference for both students and lecturers.
Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Brad: I am senior lecturer in the School of Education at Curtin University. I taught in a number of secondary schools before moving into academia to research education policy and its effects on schools. I have a passion for encouraging service educators to see the bigger picture of education, like how it is shaped by forces beyond itself.
Rebecca: I am also a senior lecturer in the School of Education at Curtin University. Before commencing in academia, I taught in secondary schools in Australia, city and regional areas, and overseas. My areas of interest are assessment, professional experience and online education. Encompassing all of my work is the advocacy and promotion of learning and teaching approaches that support and meet individual learner needs. I relish being able to make a positive contribution to education and the opportunity to make a difference to individuals’ learning.
What is your book Powers of Curriculum about?
Brad: Powers of Curriculum takes a sociological perspective to understanding teaching and learning in educational settings. It starts from the premise that formal education does not occur in a vacuum, and therefore the book explores historical, cultural and political aspects of Australian society that impact on curriculum, learners and teachers.
How does this resource improve educational outcomes for students?
Brad: Pre-service educators must understand the wider context of forces that shape formal education, whether that be early childhood education or formal schooling. Educators cannot adequately understand or go about their work if they do not engage with the social, cultural and political relations impacting on the education system and the lives of learners.
Rebecca: So, instead of treating educators as mere technicians of curriculum, we encourage educators to view themselves as intellectual workers. This means being equipped with the concepts, perspectives and capacity to critically interpret, interrogate and respond productively to those wider forces so as to make a positive difference to the lives of learners.
Brad: The book encourages readers to explore issues that impact on the lives of educators and learners, such as government policy, neoliberalism, poverty, cultural diversity, Indigenous education, popular culture and technology, gender norms and diverse sexualities. We want readers to connect their professional practice to an understanding of these wider forces which are often at play in education but also often ignored.
What difference does your resource make to lecturers?
Brad: We have been university educators for a while now so we appreciate what makes a useful learning resource. We used our experiences teaching in classrooms and online to create a textbook that is accessible to all readers, that carefully guides the reader through key issues, and illustrates its concepts and ideas through case studies that can be explored individually or in groups.
What was one of the highlights of writing Powers of Curriculum?
Brad: We were lucky enough to work with leading and emerging leaders in their fields. In writing their chapter, each contributor has drawn upon their expertise and their knowledge of leading edge research.
How does this resource approach the course material in a different way to others in the market?
Rebecca: This resource positions theory in an accessible and relatable manner making clear its alignment to practice. Reflective prompts, case studies and further reading provide readers with an opportunity to explore in more depth the theories and concepts presented.
Powers of Curriculum: Sociological Perspectives on Education by Brad Gobby, Rebecca Walker is published by Oxford University Press.
Tony Hytch’s long career in the Queensland education industry has seen him in everything from classrooms to examination halls. His varied experiences have gifted him an intimate knowledge of what students need in an educational resource to succeed. That’s why, recently, he has co-authored one of them with Macmillan Education.
In collaboration with fellow educator Jo Bickerstaff, Tony has created Essential English QCE Units 1&2, a textbook designed to meet the needs of students studying under the new Queensland syllabus. With the new requirement that students satisfactorily complete a Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority English subject in order to be eligible for an ATAR, engaging and accessible English resources are more important than ever.
Tony was a clear choice to form part of the Essential English team led by Olive McRae from Macmillan Education. He is currently employed as a Senior Project Officer with Brisbane Catholic Education, and has worked as Chief Examiner for External Exams (English) since 2006, in addition to teaching in a variety of Queensland schools. Tony was also involved in the construction of the mock External Assessment for English and the Common Internal Assessment for Essential English, two crucial assessments for the new Queensland curriculum.
Tony says one of Essential English’s strengths is that it is so closely built around the new curriculum. “It clearly takes the Unit Objectives from the Syllabus and scaffolds a range of learning activities to help students develop their skills in these areas.” By doing this, it improves educational outcomes for students by giving them the opportunity to use language for a range of purposes in a range of contexts. Once students have the confidence to engage with language, they can creatively and imaginatively respond. Rote learning is immediately obvious to an English examiner, so students who can develop thoughtful and flexible English skills are in a much better position to succeed. Essential English encourages this by using relevant and engaging texts and activities to create a more student-friendly feel.
Writing Essential English was a positive experience for both Tony and Jo. Meeting editor and writer Anita Heiss at the launch of her book Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia (extracts from which appear in Essential English) was a particular highlight. Tony explains, “We were confident that [using extracts] would even further raise the profile of Anita’s book and spread the beautiful message she presents in it.”
Being given the opportunity to write a textbook allows Tony to draw on his passion for educating young people. “I love that we get to work with young people and see them grow and mature and develop their understanding and interests in English.”
We all have that one teacher we can still remember, the one that sparked a love for learning. Fewer of us have the opportunity to stay in contact with these teachers, but Tony was able to send the first advance copy of Essential English he received to his Year 11 English teacher Mr Butler, along with a note thanking him for inspiring a love of English. “Winning an award at this year’s Educational Publishing Awards would be a perfect acknowledgement of the hard work done by everyone who worked on Essential English, a resource that is an authentic and engaging interpretation of the Essential English syllabus.”
And it would make Mr Butler proud!