Policy 'partnerships'? Power dynamics in curriculum reform

Lesley Vidovich, Anne Chapman, J.L. Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In curriculum policy, discourses of ‘policy partnerships’ and ‘communities ofpractice’ have become increasingly prevalent and were reflected in WesternAustralian curriculum policy processes from the mid-1990s to the late 2000s – aperiod of significant, highly contested change. This paper presents the findings ofan empirical study into the impact of curriculum reform on the changing dynamicswithin and between the government and non-government education sectors,drawing on critical theory and post-structuralist approaches to policy analysiswithin a broader framework of policy network theory. This approach is used tohighlight power issues at all levels of the policy trajectory. This research foundthat despite policy discourses of collaborative and consultative processes to createa ‘shared’ curriculum, the government and non-government education sectorsremain largely distinct due to significant power differentials, as well as structuraland cultural differences. The analysis reveals three closely connected emergentthemes – limited collaboration, regulated consultation and enhanced state controlof curriculum policy agendas. It is argued here that although discourses of ‘policypartnerships’ and ‘community of practice’ are increasingly evidenced incontemporary curriculum policy, they do not take sufficient account of embeddedhierarchical power relationships. Further, such discourses can be used aslegitimisation strategies to promulgate policy changes which enhance the steeragecapacity of the state. Deeply entrenched power differentials operatesimultaneously to distort policy partnerships and communities of practice, by bothincluding and excluding particular sets of policy actors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-208
JournalJournal of Educational Administration and History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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