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.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Daniel Aspinall and I am the Publishing and Editorial Manager for Secondary at Oxford University Press.
What Educational Publishing Award did you win in 2017?
In 2017, we were lucky enough to take home the Secondary Publisher of the Year award. This was a great honour for us – firstly because we had never won it before – but mainly because it is an award that is determined by the outcome of a survey conducted by the Australian Publishers Association of teachers, librarians and booksellers around the country. As these are the people we are here to help, it’s a lovely validation of all the hard work that goes into what we do.
What is it about your products that makes the quality so great?
At Oxford, we take our responsibilities to teachers and students really seriously, and ensuring great quality content is a large part of that. It’s really a team effort from start to finish. Our authors, publishers, editors, designers, production and permissions staff consults closely with partner schools at the start of each project to identify what they need. We then work hard to give it to them in a range of different formats that will suit their needs. In other words, we try to put our customers at the centre of everything we do.
Many of us have been teachers in our former lives, so we understand the importance of having resources that are designed to meet the demands of classrooms today. To do this, we trial content and digital resources with partner schools throughout development and work directly with teachers and students to ensure our books are appropriate for use in a range of different schools and classrooms.
How has winning awards at the EPAAs made a difference to your company?
As a company, I think winning the Secondary Publisher of the Year in 2017 helped us build credibility and trust with our customers. It’s a great award because the people who voted for us – teachers, librarians and booksellers – are the reason why we’re in business.
When it comes right down to it, though, I think the real value of the EPAAs lies in their ability to raise the profile of educational publishing in Australia as an industry. They make a difference for all of us by increasing awareness in the wider community about the importance of the work that we all do. It may not be terribly sexy, but developing high-quality, innovative print and digital resources that help improve learning outcomes for Australian teachers and students can be really rewarding. That’s the real difference we’re interested in making.
How do your resources improve educational outcomes for students?
That’s a really interesting question. On the one hand, it’s very simple and straightforward, but on the other hand it’s actually one of the most complex and pedagogically challenging questions going around at the moment – so, let me answer it in two parts.
At a local level, we do everything we can to ensure that our resources are accurate, appropriately levelled, aligned to curriculum and offer multiple entry points for students of all abilities. Many of the teachers using our products on a daily basis contact us to tell us about the positive impacts our resources are having with their students and also identify aspects of our resources that could be improved and refined. Teachers know their students better than anyone and are generally pretty happy to discuss their thoughts and feelings about what’s working and what’s not. To improve outcomes, you just have to be prepared to listen and act on this feedback.
On a global level, we are currently developing a consistent process for evaluating our educational products and services so that teachers, learners and parents can be sure that our resources make a positive difference. As a department of the University of Oxford, improving educational outcomes is fundamental to our mission as an organisation. By evaluating the impact of our products and services, we will be able to evidence the difference that our products and services make, and feed results into the product development process.
The prestigious Publisher of the Year Awards for Primary and Secondary are the most coveted awards at the EPAAs. Each year teachers, librarians and booksellers vote for their favourite publishers based on product quality, field services, company services, marketing and innovation.
This year’s survey is now open, and we are encouraging publishers to let their customers know about it. Click HERE to begin the survey.
The survey is completely anonymous, and should take no longer than ten minutes. Respondents will automatically go into the draw to win a $500 David Jones gift card.
The survey closes on Friday, 13 July at 11:59pm AEST, so get cracking!