Profile image of Rebecca Cairns

Dr Rebecca Cairns



Lecturer in Education, Humanities


Faculty of Arts and Education


School of Education


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus

+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 has recently become 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 in secondary schools and policy 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.

Current projects include a national study on the status and relevance of senior secondary school History from the perspective of students and another on decolonising History Education. She is also interested in the potential of Open Educational Resources (OER), having published an open book with the pre-service History teachers.

Rebecca’s other research outputs have included articles in high-ranking journals, a chapter in an edited book, national and international conference presentations and a commissioned educational resource on the Vietnam War, which was co-authored with Deakin colleagues. She also contributes to The Conversation and has multiple publications to support the teaching of modern Chinese history in secondary schools.

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 reviews journal articles, examines PhD theses and is available to supervise Higher Degree Research students.

Research interests: curriculum inquiry, history education; studies of Asia; 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)

Units taught

EHI702 History Curriculum Inquiry

EEO101 Teaching Humanities in Primary Education

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, 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.

Cairns, R. (2016). Asia as Method: a tool for curriculum analysis. Paper presented at Education Hong Kong University and Hong Kong University, Hong Kong, 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


Philip Brown History Award 2016

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


Filter by


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

Rebecca Cairns, Julianne Moss, Kerri Garrard

(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