Profile image of Rebecca Cairns

Dr Rebecca Cairns



Lecturer in Education, Humanities


Faculty of Arts and Education


SoE Arts & Education


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus


Doctor of Philosophy, Deakin University, 2018
Master of Education, Flinders University, 2013

+61 3 522 78204


Rebecca began her teaching career as a Humanities and English secondary school teacher and has since taught in range of primary and secondary schools in Victoria and Queensland. As a researcher and teacher educator at Deakin she has further established her expertise in curriculum inquiry, history education and studies of Asia.

Read more on Rebecca's profile

Research interests

Rebecca investigates how particular social conditions shape curriculum. More specifically her curriculum inquiry examines how constructions of people, places and the past embedded in curriculum practices might be transformed. This includes considering these practices in relation to the way curriculum gets made and experienced by a range of curriculum policy actors in the context of secondary schools.

The purpose of this research is to better understand the complexities of these processes in order to consider how curriculum could be enriched by more relational understandings of people and places through multiple perspectives, narratives and knowledges. Her work contributes 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.

Since attaining a PhD in 2018, Rebecca’s research outputs have included multiple 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 is currently writing a book with Deakin colleague, Dr Michiko Weinmann, about the impossibilities of Asia-related curriculum, due to be published in the Routledge Schools and Schooling in Asia series in late 2021. 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 reviewed journal articles, examined a PhD thesis and is available to supervise Higher Degree Research students. Rebecca is a member of the Deakin Contemporary Histories Research Group and a co-convenor of the Deakin Australia-China Relations and Higher Education Research Network.

Research interests: curriculum inquiry, history education; studies of Asia; senior secondary curriculum; critical policy analysis; discourse analysis


Deakin Australia-China Relations in Higher Education Research Network

Deakin Contemporary Histories Research Group

History Teachers' Association of Victoria (HTAV)

Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA)

Units taught

EHI702 History Curriculum Inquiry

EEO101 Teaching Humanities in Primary Education

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

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

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


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

Rebecca Cairns, Michiko Weinmann

(2021), pp. 1-15, Asia Pacific journal of education, C1

journal article

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

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

Rebecca Cairns

(2020), pp. 1-24, Journal of curriculum and pedagogy, 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

  • 2020: $68,181


No completed student supervisions to report