Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


This study examines the relationships between teacher preservice education. New South Wales Department of Education and Training policies and teacher practice regarding literacy education in a sample of New South Wales secondary school English classes.

The study constructs a grounded theory of these relationships and conceptualises them in a model which describes the disempowerment of secondary school English teachers as professionals within the NSW education system. The process of the model of disempowerment is presented as three distinct phases of disempowerment, the professional phase, institutional phase and personal phase. The phases of disempowerment consist of nine conditions leading to the overall state of professional disempowerment. Those nine conditions are: Political control; professional powerlessness; theory deficit; professional isolation; system overload; survival; visibility; system subversion and alienation.

The grounded theory indicates that the disempowerment of secondary English teachers regarding the teaching of literacy and language is cyclic in nature. It is also argued, through the use of matrices of influence, to work at multiple levels within the education system and to have been impacted on by federal government and international influences.

The model holds important implications for the delivery of teacher preservice education as well as the development of policies and professional development programs for schools in New South Wales. It is argued that the conditions of disempowerment prevent teachers from creating and accessing the professional structures, processes and resources necessary to fulfil criteria common to established professions. These criteria require that a profession be client-oriented, knowledge-based and self-regulated. The grounded theory suggests that teachers caught up in the cycle of disempowerment often corrupt modem literacy and language education theories and implement them in prescriptive, fragmented ways.

Furthermore, the grounded theory is argued to hold implications for the knowledge-base of the profession of teaching. In recent years the New South Wales Department of Education and Training has stipulated that teachers must adopt the Department's version of a Functional or Social View of Language as the approved method for teaching literacy and language in secondary English. [New South Wales Department of Education and Training, 1998 #181; New South Wales Department of Education and Training, 2000 #383] A critique of the theoretical framework of a Genre-based approach to literacy education, including the use of Proforma Text Type Scaffolds, in New South Wales schools is presented as an example of the inability of the profession to either 'own' or 'reject' the theories which might inform the profession. Despite teachers having little formal education in Functional Systemic Linguistics they have been directed to adopt the approach as the basis for all literacy education within their classrooms.

The critique presented herein shows that there are serious questions about the validity of the theoretical basis of a Genre-based approach to writing and the use of Proforma Text Types. The inability to professionally critique or challenge the systemic imposition of questionable, narrow professional practice is offered as an exemplar of the application of this grounded theory to a current situation. Finally, the study constructs a model which offers insights into the complex, everyday interactions which constitute the modem English high school classroom and examines some of the implications for learners, teachers, policy makers and teacher educators.