Rebecca CairnsStaff member
Rebecca has been a lecturer in the Deakin School of Education since 2015 and currently teaches in the Humanities Education team, based in Geelong. Her curriculum inquiry research spans history education, studies of Asia, and education policy. It investigates how curriculum policy shapes, and is shaped by, discourses of race, culture, nation self and other in the past and present. Deimperialising and decolonising approaches are important to Rebecca’s work. Prior to commencing at Deakin, Rebecca spent 13 years teaching in primary and secondary schools in Victoria and Queensland, mostly as a secondary History and Humanities teacher. Before doing a PhD at Deakin she did a Master of Education in Studies of Asia at Flinders University. Rebecca’s interest in twentieth-century Chinese history led her to spend time studying in China.
Part of Rebecca’s research involves critically examining how Asia and Australia’s relations with Asia are constructed through curriculum. Her PhD thesis investigated the representation of Asia-related history in Victorian senior secondary history curriculum and she is currently co-authoring a book, titled Rethinking Asia-related Curriculum, for the Routledge Series on Schools and Schooling in Asia.
The other part of her research has a strong focus on contemporary history education. A recent study, Senior Secondary History: Thriving or Surviving? with Kerri Anne Garrard, analyses Australian senior secondary history enrolments from 2009 to 2018. It argues there is a distinct lack of growth and some declines in senior history enrolments nationally. Rebecca and Kerri Anne are currently expanding this project to explore the relevance of the past to young people in the present in order to consider how school history can be made more relevant. It aims to co-create digital learning resources with historians, teachers, students and digital designers.
In 2020, Rebecca and Kerri Anne Garrard received funding from the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet to develop the Vietnam War Learning Firsthand Teaching and Learning Resource. Fellow CHRG members Bart Ziino and Peter Edwards collaborated on its development.
(forthcoming) Rebecca Cairns and Kerri Anne Garrard, ‘Flatlining? National enrolment trends in senior secondary History’, Agora.
(forthcoming) Kerri Anne Garrard, Rebecca Cairns, and J. Moss, Vietnam War Learning Firsthand Teaching and Learning Resource. Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet.
2020. Rebecca Cairns, ‘Recognizing, reproducing and resisting West as method discourse: an analysis of senior secondary Asia-related history curriculum enactment‘, Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy.
2020. Rebecca Cairns, ‘Deimperialising Asia-related history: An Australian case study‘, Curriculum Inquiry, 50 (2) 126-148.
2019. Rebecca Cairns, ‘Tracing the unsteady relationship between Asia Education Policy Discourse and History Curriculum in Australia‘, Asian Studies Review, 44 (1), 258-277.
2018. C. Halse and Rebecca Cairns, ‘A systematized review of research into/on Asia literacy in schools’, in H. Soong and N. Cominos (eds), Asia literacy in a global world. An Australian perspective, Springer, Singapore, 9-23.
2018. Rebecca Cairns, ‘The many voices of senior history curriculum enactment’, Agora, 53 (2) 4-13.
2015. Rebecca Cairns, Chinese Revolution: Student Workbook. HTAV: Collingwood.
Rebecca currently teaches units relating to Humanities and sustainability education in the Bachelor of Primary Education. Prior to this she taught numerous units in the Master of Applied Learning (MALT) including units on curriculum and pedagogy for years 7-12 and teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Rebecca co-ordinates the Northern Territory Global Experience Program.
Rebecca currently is supervising an Education PhD student and has experience as a PhD examiner.
Rebecca is especially interested in supervising in these areas:
- curriculum inquiry
- history education
- critical policy analysis
- Asia education
- and curriculum history
Awards, fellowships, and honours
- 2018. Deakin Faculty of Arts and Education Teaching Excellence Award: The middle years teaching team that Rebecca led was recognised for innovative teaching and developing school partnerships.
- 2016. Philip Brown History Award: This award recognises research into Australian history entailing the use of primary sources and was awarded for archival research into Asia education policy as part of Rebecca’s PhD thesis.
- 2013. Hamer Scholarship, Victoria Government: This scholarship allowed Rebecca to study Chinese at Nanjing Normal University, China.
Media and public events
Rebecca has written about history education for The Conversation and been interviewed on local and ABC radio. She has presented for the History Council of Victoria’s History Roadshow in regional schools, presented for the Melbourne Chinese Museum, written digital content for the Alpha History website, and led study tours for teachers to China and Malaysia.