What it is

Context refers to factors acting upon composers and responders that impinge on meaning. Context and text are in a symbiotic relationship in the production of meaning. To understand context we need to look beyond the text and consider the world in which it was produced and the worlds of its reception. This goes beyond historical and cultural background to a consideration of how the personal, situational, social, literary, cultural, and historical environments of the responder and composer as well as the mode of production pervade a text. Different contexts of the acts of composition and response can have an effect on the meanings and values of similar content.

However, even when all of these factors are taken into consideration, complete understanding of the effect of context on a text is impossible as we cannot tell where context ends and text begins. Our own knowledge and representation of the world is filtered through our own context, colouring all we see and all we say and do, impossible to escape. All we can do is recognise that it is there.

Why it is important

By considering the effects of context (their own, that of the composer and other contexts of response) on making meaning students recognise that

  • there can be no single reading of a text,
  • all meaning is contingent upon a range of factors not simply in the text but also outside it, the text/context relationship, and
  • values and attitudes may change over time and cultures.

These understandings open students to a range of readings and can make them receptive to different ways of thinking by making clear that not all ways of thinking are like their own. 

Stage 6

Students understand that context is critical to the variety of meanings that are made through texts.

They learn that

  • exposure to texts in different contexts extends and deepens their capacity for making meaning
  • context creates a dynamic relationship between responder, text and composer
  • social, cultural and historical contexts influence style, as do contexts of mode and medium
  • particular contexts privilege certain kinds of response and composition
  • recontextualisation may expose assumptions that have become naturalised
  • theoretical perspectives emerge from particular contexts to become paradigms, influencing the possible ways we see the world*
  • the very acts of composing and responding are contexts that produce the meanings made*. 

Stage 5

Students understand how the complexity of their own and of other contexts shape composition and response to texts.

Students learn that

  • their perceptions of the world are filtered through their own context
  • context shapes language, forms and features of texts
  • language, forms and features of texts inscribe values and attitudes in their representations of people, information and ideas
  • texts may be responded to and composed differently in different contexts.

Stage 4

Students understand that meaning changes with culture, time and technology.

Students learn that

  • they need to consider the context of composition as well as the context of response to a text
  • they exist in different cultures and subcultures
  • texts are composed in the context of other texts
  • culture is inscribed in texts through choice of language, forms, modes, media and other features of texts
  • different cultures and times may be associated with specific modes and media.

Stage 3

Students begin to recognise how context may be expressed in texts.

Students learn that

  • specific contexts require particular forms and language
  • their own context affects the way they respond to and compose texts
  • context includes clearly identifiable elements such as purpose, intended audience and medium as well as more complex and diffuse influences such as culture
  • culture, as a way of living, involves beliefs, customs, language and values and is reflected in texts
  • cultural context refers to the context of composition as well as to the context of response.

Stage 2

Students understand that texts can be responded to and composed differently in different personal, social and cultural contexts.

Students learn that

  • contexts to be considered should include the context of composition and the context of response
  • the context of composition includes such elements as the purpose of the text, its intended audience, its mode and its medium
  • language and forms of texts vary according to the context of composition
  • responses are framed by the immediate context of the actual responder.

Stage 1

Students understand that the communication of information and ideas varies according to purpose and audience and the mode and medium through which it is delivered.

Students learn that

  • the language and forms of text vary according to audience and purpose
  • the language and forms of text vary according to mode and medium.
  • that different groups and cultures are represented in texts


Students understand that language and action need to be appropriate to social situations.

Students learn that

  • different situations require different language and behaviour
  • texts reflect aspects of their own world
  • texts are composed for specified audiences and purposes.