Volume 19 Number 2 February 10, 2018

“Content without Context is Noise” : Looking for Curriculum Harmony in Primary Arts Education in Western Australia

Sian Chapman
Murdoch University, Australia

Peter Wright
Murdoch University, Australia

Robin Pascoe
Murdoch University, Australia

Citation: Chapman, S., Wright, P. R., & Pascoe, R. (2017). “Content without context is noise: Looking for curriculum harmony in primary arts education in Western Australia. International Journal of Education & the Arts, 19(2). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.18113/P8ijea1902


Arts education in Western Australian primary schools consist of learning opportunities outlined by mandated curriculum. However, assumptions underlying this curriculum involving access, resources and support impact schools’ capacity to implement the curriculum without them being adequately addressed by the written curriculum. Drawing on the policy enactment theory of Ball, Maguire, and Braun (2012), four contextual variables (situated contexts, professional cultures, material contexts and external factors) are used to highlight the differences between the written published curriculum and the implemented, practised curriculum. Drawing on interviews with 24 participants across four schools issues of geographic location, use of arts specialists, appropriate learning spaces and the stresses associated with mandated literacy and numeracy testing are reported as contextual pressures by this study. This paper details the disruptive interference of these contextual pressures that we describe as ‘noise’. The provision of a better understanding of this contextual landscape brings schools and teachers away from the ‘noise’ of disruption and closer to curriculum harmony.

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