This post refers to Scenario 1 in which Wayne, an inner city public high school teacher, feels frustration in not engaging his motivated students on a deeper level of learning and in failing to engage the less motivated students in any learning. Wayne resides and attended university in the area. He is enthusiastic about teaching and his subject matter. Indeed, he spends a great deal of time “ensuring he has the depth of content covered”. (Unit outline notes).

In analysing this scenario, several points for consideration emerged: firstly, the physical learning environment, second, the students and teacher in relation to the course provocations and finally, the application of historical context to the current educational paradigm.

Learning Environment

The school is situated in the inner city, thus several conclusions might be drawn. For example, the school was probably constructed in the early to mid Twentieth Century  when schools resembled institutions (even prisons) where control and moral fortitude were the most valued educational goals. (Roberts, 2011, Ed. Foundation Online lecture notes).   Furthermore, as with most inner city areas in Australia, the area has likely undergone a ‘gentrification process’ so that the class consists of diverse socio-economic groups (which may also include Indigenous and migrant students). There is likely a distinct wealth divide. Churchill refers to the emergent “stakeholders” in education, including “governments, business, families, students and teachers”. (2011, pp.35-36). Amongst this group, history demonstrates that the “most successful in capitalising…for social and economic advancement of their children were urban, middle-class parents” and the most marginalised were “Indigenous families and parents of low socio-economic status ”. (Churchill, 2011, p.38.)

Understanding this historical context identifies some causal factors that might direct Wayne to adopt an individual approach to learning. This approach is suggested in a study  regarding rural education, “teaching and learning for children as individuals”. (HREOC, 2000, p.4). Yet its methodology is no less pertinent to a city classroom. Perhaps the motivated students are focused on gaining university acceptance, rather than revelling in the subject content. For them and their parents, education is a means to an end.  The less motivated student might not be focused on academic tertiary study; hence the relevance of the content does not apply to their future goals. However, I would caution against generalising that this particular group of students does not want to learn or that their socio-economic class prevents them from doing so. Since World War Two, the importance of further education has greatly increased amongst working class families. (Connell, 2009, p.215). Yet, it should be acknowledged that some of the students’ familial education history might have been shaped by the fact that prior to 1970, “Indigenous and non-British immigrant children were deliberately assimilated into Anglo-Australian culture”. (Churchill, 2011, p.37.) Therefore, parental attitudes based on their own learning experiences shape the students’ scholarly attitudes before they even arrive in a classroom.

Teacher and Students

For the motivated student, Prov. 7  ‘Should we teach students or subjects?’ applies. Currently, I am most interested in this provocation and if I can answer it succinctly by course end, all other provocations will stem from it. As educators, our job mandate is to teach the student to the current standards as deduced by the governing body. There is not the scope here to examine this as fully as I might like.  Understanding how ‘standards’ and ‘best practices’ historically evolved, sheds light on the positive and negative consequences of such standards, thus guiding our pedagogical knowledge to better facilitate student learning. (Churchill, 2011, pp.32-46, Connell, 2009, p.219 ,). Yet we cannot escape the job mandate or the fact that our students have future needs based on those requirements. But to what end do we teach subjects? Wayne is very focused on his subject but this approach is failing to engage the students. How do we balance the dichotomy between teaching our students and our subjects, noting the required outcomes? Connell warns against a teacher’s focus on outcomes, in “an auditable culture that focuses on marks rather than learning”. (2011, p.218). Nevertheless, those outcomes exist in our current framework. Should Wayne acknowledge that at least some of his students are achieving those standards? Can we follow the philosophy of Isocrates  who recognised that individuality governs learning and that ultimately “only two or three turn out to be real champions”. (Murik, 2009, p2) To what standard must we attain? If education is truly a right for all, then we must recognise different learning abilities and different levels of achievement as having equal merit.

Prov 2 ‘Will I be allowed to be the teacher I want to be?’ and Prov 6 ‘What will my students want and need from me?’ also emerge in this scenario. The less motivated students require Wayne to improve his “pedagogical content knowledge”  (PCK) in order to better meet their needs. He has the knowledge of content, but how extensive is his pedagogical knowledge? (Churchill, 2011, p.17). This also combines with our ELPCG1 studies – in widening his skills set, Wayne might adopt a “ framework encompassing a technical pedagogical content knowledge.”  (Churchill, 2011, p.309)  Incorporating ICT might spark some interest amongst those who are currently disengaged.

Historical Context

It is part of our “tool bag” as educators to understand the philosophy and history of education in Australia. It should be considered integral to forming our PCK. The ability to critically analyse how societal and governmental influences helped to shape our current educational framework not only serves to highlight that which should be retained or discarded. It reminds us that the philosophy and pedagogy of education is a continuously evolving platform to which there is no ‘end state’. As the current “stakeholders” we must now critically analyse how we contribute to and shape the future of education in our country.


Churchill et al.  (2011). Teaching Making a Difference. John Wiley & Sons, Australia.

Connell, R. (2009) Good Teachers on Dangerous Ground : towards a new view of teacher quality and professionalism. Critical Studies in Education, 50 : 3, 213-229.

HREOC (2000) ‘Education Access: National Inquiry into rural and remote education.’ Commonwealth of Australia; Canberra. pp. 1-4.

Murik, J. 2009. Philosophical Perspectives.

Roberts, P. 2011, Education Foundations Module 1 Lecture Notes,