Abstract||'Changing mindsets' is about how teachers are engaging with ‘visual literacy’ — the practices involved in understanding and creating visual texts. The concept of ‘visual literacy’, like other ‘new’ literacies, has arisen in response to changing communication practices in developed, capitalist societies like Australia. This study addresses the ways in which teachers in primary schools are engaging with the visual literacy initiative in the context of the new arts syllabus (Years 1-10) in Queensland.
Using a broadly poststructural approach, this thesis explored the changing mindsets implied by this curriculum initiative from three perspectives. The concept of ‘preservation of self’ (Nias, 1987, 1993) was used to examine the personal dimension of change; the concept of ‘trendy theory’ (Goodson, 1988, 1994, 1997) addressed the social and political agendas that drive curriculum reform; while the concept of ‘multimodality’ (Kress, 2000a, 2000b, 2003a, 2003b) drew attention to the cultural values ascribed to different modes of communication. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 26 primary teachers from 11 government schools in a regional centre in 2002. The discourse analysis method was used to analyse the data resulting from these interviews.
The data showed that the official discourses featured in the new arts syllabus did not match the discourses used by practising teachers. Although there was some recognition of the significance of the visual mode, most teachers in this study were not aware of ‘visual literacy’. Significantly, the agency exercised by teachers in curriculum reform was shaped not only by their personal identities, but also by the levels of support that they experienced in their working environments. These findings have crucial implications for policy-makers in implementing curriculum change, particularly in the context of the new arts syllabus.