Evaluation of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) project: supporting implementation of the Digital Technologies curriculum

The challenge

As in other nations, in Australia, socioeconomic, educational, cultural, and geographical factors collide with institutionalised curriculum and resourcing practices to create disadvantage in formal education participation and achievement in some schools. Unevenness of educational outcomes is strongly associated with poverty. Lower levels of attainment are found in poorer urban postcodes and in regional and Indigenous schools. The availability of resources and provision of teacher professional learning to support curricular innovation and change are among the many challenges faced by schools in these settings. These conditions compound the challenges schools face when attempting to implement the Digital Technologies curriculum. Disadvantaged schools often lack reliable infrastructure and equipment, and specialist curriculum knowledge.

This research investigated the impacts, outcomes and sustainability of a national curriculum implementation project designed specifically to support Australia’s most disadvantaged schools to implement the Digital Technologies curriculum.

Project overview

As a part of the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) was funded to promote the implementation of the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies in Australia’s most disadvantaged schools.

The project, Digital Technologies in Focus (DTiF): Supporting Implementation of Digital Technologies, was funded for three-years to provide professional learning for school leaders and teachers in 160 disadvantaged primary and secondary schools.

A team from Deakin University was commissioned to undertake a close-up case-study of six participating schools to investigate:

  • the impact of ACARA’s NISA project for school personnel including the potential for sustainability in each school and potential for transferring outcomes to other schools.
  • the project methodology in terms of its capacity to effect change and support implementation of the Digital Technologies curriculum in disadvantaged schools and whether the project methodology might be transferrable to other initiatives.

This research employed a case study design with the purpose of providing rich, in-depth information regarding:

  • the contexts and histories of participating schools with regards to Digital Technologies curricular practices, resourcing and teacher professional learning
  • schools’ level of participation in the DTiF project activities, including school leadership workshops, professional learning workshops
  • engagement with curriculum officers, engagement with professional learning and online support, and engagement in project reporting and evaluation processes
  • the outcomes of their participation at the school, teacher and student levels
  • evidence of impact and sustainability of new and developing practices.

Outcomes

Many benefits were identified for schools and teachers participating in the DTiF, including positive outcomes for student engagement and learning, and for teacher professional learning. Student learning outcomes extended beyond the Digital Technologies curriculum to include general capabilities (particularly Information and Communication Technology capability; critical and creative thinking; and literacy) and other curriculum domains. Within these very disadvantaged contexts, impacts on student engagement in school learning was noted at each school, as were positive impacts on inclusion with numerous accounts of positive experiences and growth for previously marginalised learners.

The research findings contribute to understandings about the challenges of implementing Digital Technologies curriculum in disadvantaged Australian schools. Factors promoting success included:

  • learning that made genuine connections with local knowledge
  • Digital Technologies pedagogies that complemented the general capabilities and engagement priorities
  • school-level strategic alignment of curriculum innovation
  • building teacher capability
  • establishing reliable infrastructure and inspiring equipment.

Several resources were created for stakeholders, including:

Project report

Project team

Associate Professor Julianne Lynch (Chief Investigator)

Dr Glenn Auld

Associate Professor Anne Cloonan

Associate Professor Joanne O’Mara

Christopher Speldewinde (Research Assistant)

Timeline

2017 – 2021

Funding

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)

$ 97,835

More information

ACARA DTiF website (with links to the Deakin project reports and resources): Digital Technologies in focus | The Australian Curriculum 

Keywords

digital technologies, NISA, science, curriculum, innovation