Factors affecting the selection of novels for study in Western Australian secondary english classrooms: Understanding teacher choices

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education

First Supervisor

Brian Moon

Second Supervisor

Christine Ormond


The study of novels is a core component of the Secondary English curriculum in Western Australia. Apart from the Year 11 and Year 12 Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) Literature courses of study, there are, however, no officially mandated reading lists in Western Australian Secondary English courses. English teachers are free to choose novels that they feel best suit the needs of students and the demands of the curriculum. Despite this freedom, there is concern that the range of novels selected for study is increasingly narrow. Anecdotal reports, informal surveys and media commentaries suggest that teachers frequently choose books with challenging themes, confronting levels of realism and bleak depictions of the future.

This mixed methods research sought to examine the novel selections made by Secondary English teachers, and to understand the factors that influence their selections. The project employed survey methods, semi-structured interviews and an experimental component testing responsiveness to anonymised novel descriptors. Participants were 39 practising Secondary English teachers. The teachers were asked to identify novel selections and reflect upon possible influential factors in their novel selection decisions. The results indicate that teachers attempt to make considered decisions about novel selections, weighing text characteristics, curricular factors, contextual limitations, and practical matters, as well as student interests, but that it may be challenging to integrate these often-conflicting demands. The results suggest that despite the challenges, the novel remains an important text type in Secondary English in Western Australia and one which Secondary English teachers see as beneficial in contributing to the rhetorical, aesthetic, and ethical development of students.



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