HTAA August 2011

Senior Course Drafts

The first consultation meeting on the revised Ancient and Modern History Senior Curriculums was held in Sydney on 2 August. Numerous HTAs sent delegates and there were also a number of HTA members who had been invited by their respective curriculum boards. Both HTAA and practicing teachers were well represented.

In the opening session Rob Randall outlined the amended timeline:  the senior curriculums will be open for national consultation in March – June 2012, with the final document published in October 2012. As each state has its own implementation timeline for curriculum change, the introduction of this new senior curriculum is at least three years away.

More importantly Rob Randall clarified that whilst what is being developed is an Australian Curriculum, the curriculum and assessment authorities in each state/territory will then develop their own courses and programs of learning. He confirmed that each state/territory can  determine if they will retain and/or develop senior secondary courses and pathways that do not have the same scope as a subject in the Senior Secondary Australian Curriculum e.g. Renaissance History in Victoria.

General Comments

The agenda for the day was ambitious, attempting the review of the subject rationale and aims as well as the descriptions/focus questions/content for each of the six units and the sample unit.Groups used their discretion and most jumped to the units that they believed were most problematic. For Modern History this was Unit 4 whilst for Ancient History the concern was about missing content and contexts.

Overall for both subjects it was felt that what was presented to them was better than the previous draft, with a broader range of content and contexts.  However there is still much work that needs to be done.

Modern History

The rationale raised much discussion with the general sense that the themes evident in the final paragraph were valid (e.g. nationalism, imperialism, decolonisation, development of human rights, conflict, the nature and influence of ideas) but they were not all well developed in the units.

The draft identifies six units, Units 1 and 4 offer a choice of contexts.  Unit 2a and 2b, 3a and 3b are designed with different themes and teachers select one of each. Some groups felt there was a lack of coherency between the units and this needs to be mapped more within the rationale.  Discussion was also focussed on whether some of the examples within the units reflected its focus e.g. the unit of Nationalism included India up to 1948 and the Civil Rights Movement was not included in the unit on Movements for Change.

The biggest issue was Unit 4, entitled The 20th Century.  The unit description focussed on the forces that had influenced the 21st Century such as globalisation, technological change, social change etc. All groups believed that in its present form the unit was less history, more political science and required a context in which to analyse the forces. General concerns with this unit included questions about the ability to develop a coherent program and to write an exam based on how it is presently written. Participants were divided as to whether to scrap the unit outright or whether it would be improved with the addition of contexts, i.e. Australia, USA, China in the late 20th Century.

Ancient History

The groups believed that a number of the issues identified in the previous draft had been resolved, particularly the over emphasis on archaeology which has now been reduced with greater contextualisation. Whilst there was agreement that the course offered greater breadth and scope and the cognitive development was on track there were still concerns over the balance between breadth and depth. This debate tended to reflect the existing differences between the states. Some participants desired greater flexibility with the number of contexts, personalities and/or societies that could be studied within each unit. Numerous teachers wished for more opportunity for historical narrative within each unit, this was reflected in the popularity of unit 3A with those present.

A universal concern was the placement of the different contexts (societies and their time periods), with many teachers of the opinion that the units could be taught in any context and they wished to make the decision rather than be confined to the options offered. Some teachers noted that the Central American and Indian ancient societies have disappeared from Year 11.

Specific concerns were raised in five of the six units. In Unit 1 there was a general perception that representations equalled movies, although this is not stated anywhere within the unit description or content. In Unit 2 (both A and B) the omission of political structures as an option was a concern with most groups. Unit 3B on ‘Writers in their time’ raised concerns regarding whether the conceptual focus of the unit was appropriate to the examples given, and fundamentally whether those teaching classics would wish to replace their existing courses with this unit. Unit 4 raised questions about the comparability between the sites and the sources offered (and even within the choice of sources).

Where to next

The feedback from the August session will be evaluated by ACARA and then forwarded to the writers and advisory groups for each subject.  Modifications, and the addition of more detailed content descriptors, will be presented to the same participants in November.

Louise Secker
Vice President, HTAA