The Australian Educational Researcher

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 349-361

First online:

Prevailing pedagogies for classes in low SES contexts and the implications for standards-based reform in Australia

  • Lisl FenwickAffiliated withVictorian School of Education, Australian Catholic University Email author 
  • , Maxine CooperAffiliated withUniversity of Ballarat

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Current curriculum and assessment reform for schooling in Australia is based on ideas and practices associated with the setting of standards. Detailed descriptions of levels of achievement for each year of schooling are being ascribed the dual role of measuring the effectiveness of school systems and helping teachers to ensure all students are supported to gain common outcomes. The use of standards to inform teaching and learning has developed from research on differentiation practices and is associated with specific pedagogies designed to support students at risk of not succeeding in schooling. This project aimed to investigate the extent to which the ideas and practices associated with standards-based curriculum reform are currently influencing teachers’ thinking and practice in three Victorian primary schools situated in low socio-economic status contexts. Teachers’ beliefs and practices associated with supporting students from backgrounds traditionally linked with low achievement were collected before and after trialling units of work designed by pre-service teachers. The results reveal that the ideas and strategies currently used by teachers in three schools largely conflict with the pedagogies associated with standards-based reform and the findings question the extent to which current national agendas in Australia will influence classroom practices and student outcomes.


At risk students Achievement gap Curriculum design Pedagogy