Working the Interstices: Adult basic education teachers respond to the audit culture

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Stephen Black


This paper provides the perspectives of adult basic education (ABE) teachers on how they are responding to curriculum changes which form part of the regulatory regime referred to as the audit culture. The focus is on ABE programs conducted in the vocational education and training (VET) sector in Australia where most accredited ABE courses are delivered. The paper indicates the many tensions ABE teachers experience between the compliance requirements of audits and their professional judgements as experienced ABE teachers. While responses vary, many teachers adopt an approach where they can comply with the prescriptive demands of audits, though often in a minimal fashion, and at the same time teach in a way that fits within their philosophy and practices as ABE teachers. In the classroom these teachers are seen to be ‘working the interstices’ (the small ‘spaces’) in the official curriculum. Concern was expressed, however, that future ABE teachers may not adopt such an approach.

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Author Biography

Stephen Black, University of Technology Sydney

Stephen Black is a researcher in the Centre for Research in Learning and Change at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. He is currently working on a national project with Keiko Yasukawa on integrated literacy and numeracy in vocational education and training. He worked in TAFE NSW for more than 20 years as a head teacher of basic education, and he has been an active researcher in the adult literacy field since the 1980s. His email is