VCAA ACARA Consultation Forum For The Arts

On Wednesday, I attended the second of four consultation forums for arts teachers in Victoria to thrash out and discuss the current Draft Shape Paper for The Arts, recently published by the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (ACARA). The afternoon was hosted by the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) and special thanks go out to Drama Victoria for organising the beautiful venue for the afternoon at the historic Abbotsford Convent.

In attendance were about 100 educators representing all five of the published art forms for The Arts curriculum: Dance, Drama, Media Arts, Music and the Visual Arts, covering government, Catholic and independent schools, primary and secondary. Other interested parties included Visual Communication and Design teachers and arts industry educators.

It is important to note the Draft Shape Paper for The Arts is not a curriculum document, but rather a paper of which the final version will inform the actual writers of The Arts studies in the upcoming Australian Curriculum.

For interested arts educators, particularly Drama/Theatre teachers anywhere in Australia, below are my notes from the consultation forum.

In attendance:

– David Howes, General Manager, Curriculum, VCAA

– Helen Champion, Curriculum Manager, Performing Arts, VCAA

– Michele Davies, Curriculum Manager, Visual Arts, VCAA

Introduction – David Howes, General Manager, Curriculum, VCAA


•   Thursday 2 December – new Victorian Education Minister will be announced (now sworn in – Martin Dixon) who needs to accept (or not accept) new AC Phase 1 subjects

•   Phase 1 achievement standards need more work in 2011

•   They will be subject to some validation next year

•   State Education Ministers will vote on Wednesday 8 December in Canberra on the validation of Phase 1 achievement standards during 2011

•   VELS will be renewed, reviewed and revised as new AC subjects come on board

•   There will be a single web portal for all Victorian schools to find a single curriculum for each study/subject

•   Phase 1 subject trials will now most likely be occurring in 2012 and implementation of these subjects pushed out from 2012 to 2013 – this will be decided upon at the meeting on Wednesday 8 December in Canberra

•   If this becomes the case, the VCAA will issue a memorandum to all Victorian schools as soon as possible

•   Senior Victorian studies will not occur until at least 2014, possibly 2015

•   State Education Ministers will decide in 2011 whether we want an Australia-wide senior certificate in education?

•   No guarantee anything beyond Phase 1 subjects will extend to senior levels across Australia

•   First year of education (Prep in Victoria, Transition and other names in various states) will now be F for Foundation (foundation year) across the country, not K

•   Therefore, AC curriculum will be F–12.

•   Victoria will not mandate timelines of AC subjects in schools

•   ACARA also are making it increasingly clear there will be no national mandating of time allocation for various subjects

•   Individual schools will still have the autonomy to allocate times per subject in their schools

The Arts

•   Draft Shape Paper for The Arts is an agreement of concepts

•   AC Arts curriculum will not be written until late 2011 or early 2012, with trialing in 2012/13

•   The importance of The Arts curriculum content and the entitlement of all Australian students to study the arts is important to promote to Principals for time allocation in schools

•   Should Visual Communication and Design become a 6th art form in The AC Arts curriculum?

•   (This was also raised at the first Arts consultation forum on 11 November)

•   The Arts Draft Shape Paper content for all art forms is divided into K-2 and 3-8, yet it states the final curriculum will be divided into bands K–2, 3–4, 5–6, 7–8. Which is it?

•   Howes acknowledged this inconsistency, as The Arts Draft Shape Paper does not fully reflect all curriculum bands as they will be taught

•   Howes confirmed skills and content for The Arts will be in divisions K–2, 3–4, 5–6, 7–8.

General Criticism of The Arts Draft Shape Paper (Multi-Disciplined Focus Group)

•   a disconnectedness between different sections of the paper

•   language inconsistencies

•   obscure terminology used instead of plain language

•   Visual Communication and Design is not represented as a 6th art form in the AC Arts curriculum

•   “generalist” and “specialist” teachers of the arts are labeled in the document – fear this may alienate certain arts teachers – better to state the curriculum will cater for teachers who possess a range of skills

•   is there a need in F–2 to state and acknowledge the five art forms, but instead focus on skills such as exploring, creating imagining etc.?

•   lack of detail in the document about students with different learning styles studying the arts

•   no focus on the multiple levels of thinking needed for practicing artists

•   no mention of links between the arts and health and well being

•   general criticism of the letter “z” in the term “realizing” both throughout the Draft Shape Paper and in the glossary

•   in the glossary, the change of letter from “s” to “z” changes the word’s definition, which was news to everyone present, who believed the context of the word’s use determines its definition, not the change from the international spelling (s) to American spelling (z) of the word

Drama Specific Criticism of The Arts Draft Shape Paper (Drama Focus Group)

•   is the term “process drama” an issue? – will all Drama teachers know how to teach it?

•   the term “applied theatre” in the document should be deleted. What does it mean? No definition offered. Will teachers be familiar with it?

•   confusing and inconsistent uses of the terms “drama” and “theatre” – definitions needs to be in the glossary and these terms need to be used consistently throughout the document

•   general feeling the Draft Shape Paper uses too much complex terminology, which will alienate graduate and non-specialist arts teachers

•   more plain language needs to be used

•   latter sections of the Draft Shape Paper, in particular, read more like a cross between a Masters thesis and a policy document for a political party

•   general dislike of the term “apprehending” (and to a lesser extent “comprehending”) as part of the “responding” strand

•   if the ACARA definition in the glossary defines “apprehending” as “experiencing” and “comprehending” as “understanding”, then why not simply use the terms “experiencing” and “understanding”?

•   heading for 4.7 “Arts and cross curricular priorities” is misleading as this section deals more with the arts’ connections with how students become good citizens than the arts’ connections with other curricular and disciplines in schools

•   the terms “generating” and “realizing” (strands) are confusing and used inconsistently throughout the document – is “generating” the process and “realizing” the product?

•   The above is implied in these terms’ definitions, but the paper implies otherwise elsewhere

•   the table in the draft shape paper states that in Drama rehearsing and performing are both part of “generating”

•   Drama teachers present at the consultation forum believed rehearsing is part of generating and performing is part of realizing

•   When does “generating” the art form end and “realizing” the art form begin?

•   the table itself is confusing and looks like it was a rushed inclusion in the draft Shape Paper at the last minute (??)

•   It didn’t appear anyone at the consultation forum approved of the table in the Draft Shape Paper, at least not in its current form

•   the question was raised as to who exactly is this document satisfying? – teachers? parents? students? politicians?

2 Responses

  1. Justin Cash says:

    Thanks Michael. Theatre Studies is an interesting beast for Victorian teachers in the upcoming Australian Curriculum, because, as you pointed out, Victoria is the only state to have two senior studies in Drama (for interstate readers, Victoria has two sister subjects in Years 11 and 12 – Drama and Theatre Studies). Firstly, it is important to note the VCAA are stating from the lessons learned in the development of Phase 1, there is no guarantee anything beyond Phase 1 subjects (English, Mathematics, Science and History) will ever appear in the national curriculum at the senior levels across Australia. My guess is Victoria will continue to offer both Drama and Theatre Studies at Years 11 and 12 if Phase 2 AC subjects are not implemented at the senior years. If ACARA does implement a senior years AC Drama subject, potential overlap will likely mean one current Victorian subject will be replaced by the AC subject (eg. VCE Drama) and the other will continue to be offered as a state based subject (eg. VCE Theatre Studies). Either way, I can’t see how Victoria will lose, whatever the equation. Although it could be that our current VCE Theatre Studies gets replaced by an AC subject, but only if the AC subject is very similar, so it shouldn’t be too bad. However, all this will be while off … likely 2015 at this stage. On another note, the big news from last week’s consultation was for Phase 1 teachers, as it is increasingly likely state education ministers will vote in Canberra this Wednesday (8/12) to allow ACARA to officially release Phase 1 curriculum, but in the process spending 2011 on improving Phase 1 achievement standards (which in turn may ultimately change curriculum content), resulting in 2012 now being the official trial year and Phase 1 implementation being pushed out from 2012 to 2013. We’ll have to wait and see Wednesday’s outcome.

  2. Michael (micoke) says:

    Great notes Justin and good to see some people speaking common sense.

    What about Theatre Studies? Any comments made about this? I know we are the only state that does it…. but where will it fit?

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