Australian Journal of Education

Article Title

Building a knowledge structure for English : Reflections on the challenges of coherence, cumulative learning, portability and face validity


A curriculum is a knowledge structure outlining what is to be learned in what order. The Australian curriculum for English emphasises creation of a ‘coherent’ and ‘cumulative’ ‘body of knowledge about how the English language works’, with learning that is ‘portable and applicable to new settings across the school years and beyond’ (National Curriculum Board, 2009, p. 9, emphasis added). But what happens when those charged with implementing curriculum cannot agree on ‘what counts’? This article reflects on key differences between stakeholders about disciplinarity in English, drawing on sociological categories of Bernstein and Maton. The fourth challenge facing implementation is ‘face validity’. The creation of a viable knowledge structure for English makes it crucial that teachers and professional bodies find it acceptable. The article concludes with a heuristic figure for representing key parameters of knowledge structure in English and a proposal for interrelating these so as to optimize implementation of the curriculum in Australian classrooms.