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Teacher support provisions in the implementation of P-10 curriculum changes: Implications of recent studies*

Richard Dunlop
* The following article is a condensed version of a report written by Richard Dunlop in late 1989.
(Richard Dunlop is an Education Officer (Special Duties) in Research Services, Department of Education. Queensland.)


The changes which are serving the ideal of the P-10 Curriculum Framework have the potential to overwhelm teachers.

In a period of accelerated change, it can be expected that individuals will be attracted to arguments and solutions which involve lower levels of ambiguity. Presently, changes are being demanded of administrators and teachers in Queensland which are not individually complex, but are considerable in volume and demand complex responses. This report seeks to identify and discuss various aspects of a matter which are crucial to the implementation of P-10 purposes, principles and priorities in Queensland schools - teacher support.

Officers of Research Services have conducted a number of studies since 1987 which address the issues embraced by the term 'teacher support provisions'. These may be found in the references accompanying this article.

By extracting recurring findings within these reports and integrating them with educational literature on implementation in the text of this article, the synthesis will reveal a number of implications for teacher support provisions in the implementation of the P-10 Curriculum Framework.

The task of implementing change successfully, by whatever criteria one wishes to use to describe success, relies upon the effort of thousands of people employed by the Queensland Department of Education as well as many others in each school community. Real change involves a partnership between teachers, principals, consultants, curriculum developers, parents, students, senior Departmental personnel and others. There are costs to be borne on all sides, and benefits to be enjoyed when an equilibrium is attained within the complex relationship involving all of these people.

The present article concerns itself more specifically with the forms of change in schools promoted by documents published by Curriculum Services Branch. These changes will be referred to throughout this report as 'curriculum changes'.

The main questions addressed by this study are:

  1. What teacher support provisions need to be made to enhance the possibility of a faithful and effective implementation of P-10 curriculum changes?

  2. What teacher support provisions need to be made to minimise the expected disruptive effects on students and the system in general in order to reach an equilibrium in the relationships between all people with a stake in the changes in P-10?


Shared images of the educated person form the fundamental consideration in the justification of P-10 curriculum changes. In a pluralistic society such as ours, educational ends will constantly be debated (Leithwood, 1986). Teachers, curriculum developers and other change agents hold implicit theories about schooling which influence their implementation of P-10 initiatives. Teachers and others hold beliefs about how students learn, appropriate teaching strategies, the role of the teacher, and so on, which combine to form a certain 'field of vision'. Change in the P-10 years, therefore, will occur as a result of collaborative efforts. Change is a process, not an event (Marsh, 1988). The implementation of P-10 curriculum changes must take place upon the foundation of existing patterns of behaviour.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Factors influencing the implementation of P-10 curriculum changes by an individual teacher

The model represents a visual summary of recurring findings in a number of recent reports dealing with issues relevant to the implementation of P-10 curriculum changes. The left-hand frame indicates the stakeholders involved in the P-10 curriculum change process, and that interactions will be fashioned by the particular 'fields of vision' held by each stakeholder. The right-hand frame contains the 12 aspects of teacher support which recur through these recent studies, either conducted by Research Services or reported in other educational literature. Each of these 12 aspects is discussed in tum.


In the original report, for each aspect of teacher support provision described below, references were made to the studies in which the data were reported. The available space does not permit this here. These aspects stem from the reports and are not necessarily discrete categories of conditions. There is considerable overlap.

Consistent and Clear Communication of Systemic Expectations

The expectations of each stakeholder in the change process need to be communicated unambiguously. Difficulties in the role definition are likely to result from a lack of consistency in messages that are conveyed.

A report of a major study conducted in 1988 revealed that the staff of secondary schools considered many recent changes to be 'poorly thought out, or implemented in hasty or disorganised ways.' (Hobbs, 1989, p.17).

Curriculum consultants represent a link between various agents in the curriculum change process (Havelock, 1973; Coulter & Ingvarson, 1984). The close contact between consultants and curriculum designers can contribute to the co-ordinated flow of consistent information (Thurlow, Dungan & Guse, 1988; Dunlop, 1990). For example, the intensive and systematic preparation provided for the Early Literacy Inservice Course (ELIC) tutors may have contributed to the high level of integrity of the final messages to teachers participating in the course.

Systematic, clear and consistent information needs to be available to all stakeholders in curriculum change. TSN-11 facilities may present one potential means of doing this. Curriculum changes are often accompanied by a proliferation of textbooks and other material which may or may not contribute to a common direction in change.

Communication by Means of Exemplary Practices

The significance of communicating by means of exemplary practices lies in the need to translate the abstract concepts of documents into observable concrete practices (Hobbs, 1989, p. 16). It appears necessary as a means of permitting teachers to visualise the expectations of a curriculum change. Technological advances such as TSN-11 telecasts and the replaying of videotapes of these telecasts presently permit the communication of practices consistent with the intentions of curriculum changes (Gant, 1989).

Particular structures may be set in place to permit communication by means of exemplary practices between teachers. Examples of such structures or organisational procedures would include:

Moral Support

While there are other sources of motivation, moral support from administrators can assist in providing reassurance in a climate of uncertainty and instability which may accompany curriculum change and bolster the effort of teachers, particularly in the initial stages of implementation (Hobbs, 1989, p. 19). Some of the forms of moral support identified by Hobbs (1989, p. 20) included: A prerequisite for such types of support is knowledge of the complexities of the change process.

Access to Support Materials and Equipment

Resistance to curriculum change in P- 10 can be expected to occur when there is an intensified demand on support materials and equipment. A disruption to equilibrium will arise over the appropriate allocation of limited support materials and equipment leading to implementation with a lack of fidelity to the original intentions of the P-10 curriculum changes.

The educational literature and Research Services studies suggest that in the end, teachers will prevail as the active arbiters in the implementation of curriculum changes in P-10, but the provision of sourcebooks represents a potent influence that curriculum developers can exercise.

On the basis of minimal evidence, teachers judge the 'practicality' of a curriculum document (Doyle and Ponder, 1978, p. 6). which may have had as much to do with the formatting of the text as with the quality of the learning activities presented (Dunlop, 1989(i)).


For individual teachers, the costs of implementing P-10 curriculum changes will be high in terms of time and energy. The level of a teacher's competence, for instance, is more likely to be perceived as decreasing during early attempts at trying something afresh (Fullan, 1982, p. 274).

The assumptions underlying the 'ripple effect' pattern of in-service or the practices following it in schools may have major flaws (Thurlow, Dungan and Guse, 1988). One of these is a lack of incentives for teachers who attend seminars away from their schools.

Recognition in public forums could be used to provide non-financial rewards to willing participants in the change process.

Other forms of incentives such as those involving financial reimbursement, or promotion are important in the context of teacher support. Industrial concerns and capacity to pay considerations are factors which operate here. Nevertheless, financial rewards alone may not promote change in teaching patterns.


Two aspects of time may be considered in terms of the implementation of P-10:
  1. time available; and
  2. time off regular duties.
Because of pressures of time in the first sense, many curriculum changes may be superficially implemented. Principals of schools may only 'verbally' implement curriculum changes and be equally well rewarded politically and bureaucratically by the unclear nature of schooling goals and difficulties in measuring teacher and student performance (Fullan, 1982, p. 22; Papagiannis et al. 1982, p. 264). Substantial time is needed to foster the appropriate teacher qualities which accompany the implementation of curriculum changes and to manage some of the deleterious personal effects that attend rapid change (Hobbs, 1989). The timelines for the implementation of various stages of a project are usually aligned, however, with the time needed to publish curriculum documents and may not be realistic in terms of the elapsed time needed for personal adjustments in thinking and behaviour to occur. The provision of time promotes the level of a teacher's acceptance of a curriculum change.


Expertise does not come cheaply, and must be cultivated. Dungan and Thurlow (1987, p. 13) imply that a lack of consultant's expertise can result in widespread misconceptions about a model for the implementation of a curriculum change.

Certain structures can be established within schools to permit teachers to benefit from the 'professional insight, ingenuity, creativity and first-hand experience' of other teachers (Hobbs, 1989, p. 19).


The major functions of consultants with regard to implementation of P10 curriculum changes are arguably to provide a necessary link between the origination of a curriculum change and teachers, and to act as a means of drawing attention to a curriculum change because of their existence in the field.

Teachers believe that there is insufficient consultancy input on practical matters present, such as teaching procedures, the place of the sourcebooks in a program and the like.

Contemporary literature and recent studies would tend to support a form of consultancy which addresses the concerns of teachers in an action research mode.


It is important to demonstrate the company that a curriculum change keeps.

In launching a series of school-based in-service sessions on a curriculum change, a consultant could also benefit from capitalising on the authority of Inspectors of Schools, the Regional Director and the administration team of a school. Although power-coercive and traditional forms of authority may also be necessary, the strength of the authority would preferably derive from its rationality.

Promotion of Teacher Qualities

Hobbs (1989, p. 18) identified six key attributes which characterise individuals who are able to cope with change, including curriculum changes.
  1. Flexibility
  2. Willingness to share problems and pool resources
  3. Ability to muster support
  4. Mental attitude of survival
  5. A positive approach
  6. Skills in self-management
Administrators can act as a buffer zone between some curriculum changes and staff.

Public Relations

Public relations efforts need to be directed towards the accurate and realistic communication of information and expectations. Curriculum products need to be publicised in terms of what they are realistically intended to achieve within the educational system. Raising the public support and public understanding of P-10 is likely to enhance teacher morale, reduce disruption to the schooling system, and contribute to a pattern of implementation more faithfully aligned with P- 10 principles, purposes and priorities.


As in any program, evaluation is a key component in the implementation of curriculum change.

As an essential teacher support provision, it is not only within the domain of central systemic and systematic evaluation approaches. Teachers can be encouraged to engage in a reflective dialogue with their practice (Schon, 1987).


The aspects of teacher support provisions stemming from recent studies are not exhaustive, but provide a point of departure for discussions about the implementation of P-10 curriculum changes.

There are many stakeholders in the process of P-10 implementation. Each of these individuals has particular contributions to make to achieving an equilibrium in the schooling system. The clear identification of the individuals, their roles and responsibilities, is the worthy subject of a future study.

Several tentative suggestions can be made in accordance with the aspects of teacher support provisions discussed in this article. They are offered at the level of educated speculation. They are suggestions which may assist the implementation of curriculum changes in the early days of P- 10 initiatives. It is recognised that a number of regional and Head Office personnel are already implementing some of them.

Consistent and clear communication of systemic expectations

Communication by means of exemplary practices

Access to support materials and resources






Promotion of teacher qualities

Public relations



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Please cite as: Dunlop, R. (1990). Teacher support provisions in the implementation of P-10 curriculum changes: Implications of recent studies. Queensland Researcher, 6(2), 21-38. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr6/dunlop.html

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Created 1 Oct 2006. Last revision: 1 Oct 2006.
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