Curriculum Perspectives

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 11–23 | Cite as

Secondary School Students’ Ideas of Learning and Schooling. A Case-Study of an Intensive, Experiential Middle-Years Program

Research Article


This article reports on an empirical study of a curriculum innovation at a Victorian government secondary school. The aim of the study was to explore students’ ideas of learning and the purposes of schooling, and how these were influenced by participation in an intensive, experiential middle-years program. Group interviews were held with students who were currently completing the program, recent graduates of the program, and senior students who had completed the program in past years. Photo-elicitation was used during interviews to encourage storytelling, multiple perspectives, and use of metaphor. Although somewhat predictable responses were initially given to abstract questions such as: “what is learning?” and “what is the purpose of school?”, student narratives supported by visual imagery and metaphor reveal more subtle, rich and diverse interpretations. These include deeper and more transformative conceptions of learning, a critical questioning of the purpose of schooling, as well as efforts to interpret and navigate the, at times dissonant, pedagogical environments they inhabit within schooling. Multiple layerings, ambivalences and incoherences in student narratives are explored with references to neoliberal discourses of education and notions of pedagogy arising from complexity theory.


Student conceptions of learning Purposes of schooling Experiential learning Middle-years pedagogy Disequilibrium 


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Copyright information

© Australian Curriculum Studies Association 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Melbourne Graduate School of EducationThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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