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Dr Rebecca Cairns



Lecturer in Education, Humanities


Faculty of Arts and Education


School of Education


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus


Doctor of Philosophy, Deakin University, 2018

+61 3 522 78204


Dr Rebecca Cairns is a lecturer in Humanities Education at Deakin University, Geelong. Her curriculum inquiry research focuses on history education and studies of Asia. Prior to this she was a teacher of Humanities and English in secondary schools in Victoria and Queensland.

At Deakin, she co-convenes the Transforming Curriculum, Assessment and Pedagogy Research Program and the Australia-China Relations and Higher Education Research Network, and is a member of the Contemporary Histories Research Group. Rebecca is also on the Council for the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) and is an associate editor for the journal Curriculum Perspectives.

Read more on Rebecca's profile

Research interests

Rebecca investigates how contemporary and historical socio-political conditions shape curriculum. This includes examining how curriculum gets made and mediated by a range of curriculum policy actors across contexts.

Her research contributes to understanding the ways curriculum practices can be enriched by more relational representations of people, places and the past through multiple perspectives, narratives and knowledges–particularly in relation to Asia-related history and decoloniality. This work brings much needed socio-historical understandings of curriculum policy practices to the often highly politicised debates around the relationship between curriculum policy, public policy, historical narratives and socio-cultural change.

The Asia literacy dilemma: A curriculum perspective (Cairns & Weinmann, 2023) is a co-authored book in the Routledge series on Schools and Schooling in Asia. It examines the dilemma of Asia literacy as an education goal by bringing into focus Asia as a curriculum dimension using curriculum inquiry as the central lens. In doing so it interrogates current curricular imaginations of Asia and aims to move towards a more multifaceted discussion of Asia-related curriculum beyond utilitarian conceptualisations. The book seeks to amplify the voices of students and teachers as key curriculum actors.

Rebecca and Deakin colleague, Kerri Garrard, are currently undertaking the Senior Secondary School History Health Check project, which is an ongoing national study that investigates the status and relevance of senior secondary school History from the perspective of students.

She is also interested in the potential of Open Educational Resources (OER) for initial teacher education and teacher professional learning. Rebecca and Phillip O'Brien edited the open book, Historical Thinking for Senior Secondary Students: A collection of teaching and learning activties 2022, which was co-authored by 44 pre-service History teachers and two librarians.

Much of her work takes a poststructuralist approach to discourse analysis and draws on decolonising and deimperialising theoretical frameworks, as well as critical policy analysis and interview methods.

She has experience reviewing journal articles, examining PhD theses and is available to supervise Higher Degree Research students.

Research interests: curriculum inquiry; curriculum enactment; History curriculum; decolonising history education; studies of Asia; Asia as method; senior secondary curriculum; critical policy analysis; discourse analysis; modern Chinese history


Transforming Curriculum, Assessment and Pedagogy Research Program, Deakin

Australia-China Relations in Higher Education Research Network, Deakin

Contemporary Histories Research Group, Deakin

History Teachers' Association of Victoria (HTAV)

Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA)

Australian Historical Association

Units taught

Current units:

EHI702 History Curriculum Inquiry

EEO101 Humanities through Experiential Pedagogy

Previous units:

EEG402 Teaching in a Global World

EEO301 Sustainability, Inquiry and Action: A Humanities Perspective

EEO211 Humanities Education in the Primary 3-6 Levels

ECN720 Youth Cultures and Learning Pathways

ECN730 Introduction to Teaching: Later Years

ECN724 Later Years Teaching Strategies

ECN723 Middle Years Teaching Strategies

ECN728 Indigenous Students and Cultural Diversity

Knowledge areas

curriculum inquiry; history education; studies of Asia; Asia as method; senior secondary schooling; critical policy analysis; discourse analysis;


Cairns et al. (2022). Symposium - Curriculum intentions and curriculum realities: Exploring assumptions and possibilities for curriculum transformation. Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference, University of South Australia.

Cairns, R. (2021). Curricular Responsiveness to Crisis Panel. Comparative and International Education Society’ International Conference, May, Seattle, USA [online].

Cairns, R. (2018). Deimperialising Constructions of Asia in Senior Secondary History Curriculum. World Curriculum Studies Conference, Melbourne University, December 9-12.

Cairns, R. & Weinmann, M. (2018). ‘Successful participation’? Exploring the gap between intended and experienced Asia curriculum in senior secondary schooling, Where’s your Asia? Symposium, University of Western Australia, November.

Cairns, R. (2018). Beyond borders: methodological nationalism, mobilities and history curriculum. Re-positioning Asia literacy: Beyond Binaries and Boundaries, Deakin, Melbourne, May.

Cairns, R. (2016). The Shrinking VCE History Curriculum and a History of the Curricular Present. Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference, Melbourne, November.

Cairns, R. (2016). Analysing the discursive construction of Asia in senior secondary History curriculum in Australia. Asia Pacific Education Research Association (APERA) Conference, Kaohsuing Taiwan, November.

Media appearances

Cairns, R. (2022). The national history curriculum should not be used and abused as an election issue. The Conversation.

Cairns, R. (2018). ‘Western civilisation’? History teaching has moved on, and so should those who champion it. The Conversation.

Cairns, R. (June 7, 2018). The Politics of History Education. Breakfast. ABC Radio Perth.

Cairns, R. (July 15, 2018). Whose Civilisation? Morning Juice. Radio Adelaide.

Research groups

Transforming Curriculum, Assessment and Pedagogy Research Program

Contemporary Histories Research Group

Australia-China Relations and Higher Education Research Network


Deakin School of Education Innovative Pedagogue Award 2022

Arts and Education Teaching Excellence Award (Middle Years Teaching Strategies Team) 2018

Philip Brown History Award 2016


Filter by


'Learning from history is something that is important for the future': Why Australian students think history matters

Rebecca Cairns, Kerri Garrard

(2023), pp. 1-14, Policy Futures in Education, London, Eng., C1

journal article

Anticipating Controversy: What's the Problem Represented to Be in Australian Policies for the Selection of Learning Resources?

Rebecca Cairns, Rebecca Cairns

(2023), pp. 1-13, Australian Journal of Education, London, Eng., C1

journal article

The Asia Literacy Dilemma: A Curriculum Perspective

Rebecca Cairns, Michiko Weinmann

(2022), London, Eng., A1


Recognizing, reproducing and resisting West as method discourse: an analysis of senior secondary Asia-related history curriculum enactment

Rebecca Cairns

(2021), Vol. 18, pp. 21-44, Journal of curriculum and pedagogy, Abingdon, Eng., C1

journal article

Towards Asia "curriculum-as-lived": Amplifying student voice in the Asia literacy curricular landscape

R Cairns, M Weinmann

(2021), Asia Pacific Journal of Education, C1

journal article

Learning Firsthand: Vietnam War Digital Teaching Resource

Kerri Garrard, Rebecca Cairns, Julianne Moss

(2021), Geelong, Vic., A6

research report/technical paper

Tracing the unsteady relationship between Asia Education Policy Discourse and History Curriculum in Australia

Rebecca Cairns

(2020), Vol. 44, pp. 258-277, Asian Studies Review, Abingdon, Eng., C1

journal article

Deimperialising Asia-related history: an Australian case study

Rebecca Cairns

(2020), Vol. 50, pp. 126-148, Curriculum Inquiry, Abingdon, Eng., C1

journal article

Exams tested by Covid-19: An opportunity to rethink standardized senior secondary examinations

Rebecca Cairns

(2020), Prospects, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, C1

journal article

Flatlining? National Enrolment trends in senior secondary History

Rebecca Cairns, Kerri Garrard

(2020), Vol. 50, pp. 1-9, Agora, Collingwood, Vic., C1

journal article

A systematized review of research into/on Asia literacy in schools

R Cairns, Christine Halse

(2018), Vol. 45, pp. 9-23, Asia literacy in a global world an Australian perspective, Singapore, B1

book chapter

The many voices of senior history curriculum enactment

R Cairns

(2018), Vol. 53, pp. 4-13, Agora, Collingwood, Vic., C1

journal article

Funded Projects at Deakin

Other Public Sector Funding

Learning first Hand: Vietnam War teaching and learning resources.

Prof Julianne Moss, Dr Kerri Garrard, Dr Rebecca Cairns

DPCGV Grant - Research - Department of Premier and Cabinet, Government of Victoria

  • 2020: $68,181


No completed student supervisions to report