Publication Details

Ireland, J., O'Sullivan, K. -A. & Duchesne, S. (2017). English Syllabus interpretation: The relationship between literary theories and teacher beliefs. English in Australia, 52 (2), 55-64.


This paper examines the relationship between the literary theories underpinning an English syllabus and teachers' personal epistemologies and pedagogical beliefs. The study discussed here used semi-structured interviews and an online survey to investigate 50 New South Wales teachers' views of the theoretical basis of a senior English syllabus that came into force in 2000, and represented a substantial change of emphasis for the subject. Participants described the extent of alignment between literary theories they saw as influencing the Syllabus and their preferred literary theories, and linked this to their epistemological beliefs and their teaching practices at senior secondary level. Where there was a mismatch between the perceived theoretical basis of the Syllabus and teachers' own preferred literary theories, this fuelled participants' perceptions that the Syllabus was unduly influenced by unstable and contradictory literary theories which were seen as undermining their existing conceptions of English as a school subject. The study's findings suggest the importance of considering teachers' beliefs in developing and implementing a new syllabus.

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