Investigating literary knowledge in the making of English teachers

Project Coordinator

Dr Lucy Buzacott

Project Details

English education is mandated in schooling for all Australian children and young people. While the value of English is agreed, the subject content, the knowledge English teachers should have, and the pedagogical approaches used are highly contested.

This project explores the literary education of Early Career English Teachers (ECETs) in order to understand the role that literary knowledge plays in their teaching.

The project aims to understand how ECETs' literary knowledge develops and changes across the three stages of undergraduate study of English, pre-service education, and early career English teaching.

The key research questions ask:

  1. What role does literary knowledge have within secondary English curriculum and pedagogy?
  2. How do institutional and social contexts, such as tertiary study and teaching experience, shape ECETs’ literary knowledge?

Significantly, this project brings together the disciplines of education and literary studies to explore these key research questions and consequently, this project will impact on understandings of discipline and subject, and have pragmatic outcomes for policy development and for tertiary undergraduate and pre-service curricula.

Project details

This project aims to produce a new empirical study of the role of literary knowledge in the making of English teachers, focusing specifically on understanding the experiences and approaches of Early Career English Teachers (ECETs) as they make the transition, via teacher education programs, from university student to school teacher.

It will explore:

  • key institutional settings
  • practices and policies in an investigation of ECETs’ experiences of literary education at tertiary level
  • the knowledge and values they bring to their work as English teachers
  • the professional learning they undergo in their first years of teaching.

Using a nation-wide survey, documentary analysis, symposia and a longitudinal study of ECETs in different states over their first three years of teaching, the project will provide foundational evidence and insights for a more coherent and productive approach to the diverse field of Literary Studies, and will produce knowledge that is important to curriculum policy and to the education of English teachers.

More broadly, this project is framed within, and will make a new contribution to:

  • understanding Literary Studies as a field
  • debates over disciplinarity and knowledge
  • research on literary studies in the context of schooling
  • current curriculum studies debates about schooling in the 21st century.

This project proposes a multi-faceted but integrated investigation of literary knowledge that will enable a better understanding of the meanings, practices, relationships and influences currently at work in the making of English teachers nationally and internationally. It aims to produce a new knowledge base for future discussions and decisions about what is important in literary studies in the school curriculum, within tertiary disciplinary contexts and in teacher education.


English teachers in their first year of teaching in New South Wales, Victoria or Western Australia are also sought to be interviewed for the project. The commitment is an interview once each year for the next three years.

Potential interviewees do not need to be in the same school for three years, though we would prefer any teachers with ‘temporary’ status to have the intention of at least seeking longer-term block periods in a few schools, as opposed to day-to-day casual relief in many different schools. Ultimately, we would like to interview a mix of teachers with permanent positions and those who have experience in more than one context through long-term block periods in schools.

To be involved please email




  • Larissa McLean Davies Project Chief Investigator, University of Melbourne
  • Wayne Sawyer Professor of Education, Western Sydney University
  • Lyn Yates Foundation Professor of Curriculum, University of Melbourne
  • Brenton Doecke Emeritus Professor, Deakin University
  • Philip Mead Chair of Australian Literature and Director of the Westerly Centre, University of Western Australia
  • Lucy Buzacott Project Coordinator and Researcher, University of Melbourne


University of Western Australia
Deakin University
Western Sydney University
Australian Research Council


The project is funded for three years by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant (DP160101084).

Research Outcomes

Project establishment and management

The project officially commenced in July 2016 and a project coordinator was appointed. The setting up phase of the project involved ethics submission and approval, initial literature review, and setting up project data management and communications processes.

Data collection

Following ethics approval, the project team will begin the collection of data. Data collection includes:

  1. A national online survey of English teachers from all Australian states and territories in their first 5 years of teaching.
  2. A longitudinal study of early career English teachers during years 1-4 of their English teaching. This will include interviews with these teachers in their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year of teaching about their emerging views of the relationship between literary knowledge and professional practice as these are mediated by social relationship in their school context.
  3. Interviews with key stakeholders in the Literary Studies and English Education fields.


The project’s lead Chief Investigator (CI) Larissa McLean Davies, CI Wayne Sawyer and CI Brenton Doecke contributed to the 2016 AATE/ALEA National Conference held in Adelaide from 7-10 July 2016.


John Yandell and Andy Goodwyn presentations

On 12 July 2016 the Victorian Association for the Teaching of English and the Melbourne Graduate School of Education hosted presentations from two world leading experts in English education:

  • John Yandell (University College London)
  • Andy Goodwyn (University of Reading).

Professor Yandell presented a paper titled “Dead for 400 Years… But Still ‘Living': Teaching Shakespeare in the 21st Century.”

Professor Goodwyn presented “Not what it says in any National Curriculum for English: a new paradigm for teaching literature to adolescents in secondary schools - examining literary reading from a Darwinian perspective.”

Both Professor Yandell and Professor Goodwyn are working on the Investigating Literary Knowledge Pilot Project.

For more information view the event flyer (PDF, 284 KB).