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How do Educators of Students With Disabilities in Specialist Settings Understand and Apply the Australian Curriculum Framework?

  • Peter M. Walker (a1), Karyn L. Carson (a1), Jane M. Jarvis (a1), Julie M. McMillan (a1), Anna G. Noble (a1), David J. Armstrong (a1), Kerry A. Bissaker (a1) and Carolyn D. Palmer (a1)...


Despite aspirations to be a world-class national curriculum, the Australian Curriculum (AC) has been criticised as ‘manifestly deficient’ (Australian Government Department of Education and Training, 2014 p. 5) as an inclusive curriculum, failing to meet the needs of all students with disabilities (SWD) and their teachers. There is a need for research into the daily attempts of educators to navigate the tension between a ‘top-down’ system-wide curriculum and a ‘bottom-up’ regard for individual student needs, with a view to informing both policy and practice. This article is the first of two research papers in which we report the findings from a national online Research in Special Education (RISE) Australian Curriculum Survey of special educators in special schools, classes, and units regarding their experience using the AC to plan for and teach SWD. Survey results indicated (a) inconsistent use of the AC as the primary basis for developing learning objectives and designing learning experiences, (b) infrequent use of the achievement standards to support assessment and reporting, and (c) considerable supplementation of the AC from other resources when educating SWD. Overall, participants expressed a lack of confidence in translating the AC framework into a meaningful curriculum for SWD. Implications for policy, practice, and future research are discussed.


Corresponding author

Correspondence: Julie McMillan, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia. Email:


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*This manuscript was accepted under the Editorship of Umesh Sharma.



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