Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) - was lost but now is found.

We now have a new government in New Zealand led by the dynamic Jacinda Ardern. Chris Hipkins
Chris Hipkins -reviewing education
s now the new Educational Minister
and, as promised, the National Standards have gone and there is to be a review of education signalling the biggest change since Tomorrows Schools (1986).
Schools now have a great opportunity to add their voice to the educational debate – a voice that had been side-lined by the previous government.

For those schools that seem unsure about what to do now that National Standards (and all the associated testing and accountability demands) this is the time to search out and dust off the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum and put it into practice. The focus the past years on literacy and numeracy has solved nothing. In the 70s New Zealand was at the top of the international tables in literacy and doing well in mathematics. Now we are 32nd in the international reading tables.
2007 and  earlier 93 Curriculum

The 2007 NZC provides a new direction – one encouraging creativity, diversity and imagination. An opportunity to return to the holistic education introduced  post WW2 by the then Director of Education Dr Clarence Beeby best represented by Elwyn Richardson inhis book In The Early World 1964 ( thankfully reprinted by the NZCER 2012). The forward is worth the read.

Possibly the best book to get an insight into the development of create teaching in New Zealand is Elwyn Richardson and the Early World of Creative Teaching in New Zealand Margaret MacDonald NZCER 2016
Available NZCER
The 2007 NZC replaced the 1993 New Zealand Curriculum Framework which was the beginning of the end of creative teaching with its countless learning objectives to be assessed and reported on. As on commentator said a ‘mile wide and an inch deep’. National Standards were a politically inspired  attempt to focus on what the Ministry technocrats thought most important.  This emphasis on standardisation was enforced by the toxic surveillance of the Education Review Office.

Which brings us back to the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum.

A graphic metaphor, a nautilus shell, illustrates the document. This spiral image represents intellectual and spiritual growth; ‘one’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions’, Oliver Wendell Holmes physician, writer and poet.

nautilus visual metaphor
The curriculum takes as its starting point ‘a vision of young people as lifelong learners who are confident and creative, connected and actively involved’ (p 4). The curriculum expands on this vision outlining the values, key competencies, learning area and principles (p 7/8/9).

There are key phrases that provide the direction schools should take to develop young people as creative and enterprising lifelong learners but one that stands out for me  is for students to be ‘active seekers, users, and creators of knowledge’ – a phrase that is repeated in various forms in all the learning areas.

Putting this phrase into action would change the programmes of many classrooms where the current programme is determined by teachers by an overuse of such formulaic ‘best practices’ as WALTS (we are learning to) success criteria , teaching intentions and heavy handed use of feedback and feedforward. These practices have resulted in conformist standardised learning even in such an
Quality work well displayed
open ended subject as art.

The curriculum’s principles (p9) pits ‘students at the centre of teaching and learning’ one of ‘high expectations’ and ‘personal excellence

. A curriculum that ‘ensures that the students’ identities, languages, abilities, and talents are recognised and affirmed’ and requires a ‘curriculum that has meaning for them’ one that ‘connects with their wider lives’ and ‘opens up pathways for further learning.’

Although not mentioned explicitly the curriculum (and recent research) by being ‘non-discriminatory’ it questions ability grouping. The National Standards encouraged the use of ability grouping, narrowed the curriculum and, in particular the creative arts.

The Values (p10) - to be ‘encouraged, modelled and explored’.

Republished by NZCER 2016
Every decision a school makes ‘reflects the values’ held individually and collectively and are expressed in the ‘everyday actions within the school’.  Once again not mentioned explicitly would be the use of ability grouping, streaming or fragmented timetables. Important values the document encourages are ‘innovation, inquiry, and curiosity, by thinking critically, creatively, and reflectively’. Ecological sustainability, empathy and respect for themselves, each other and the environment are included.

Key Competencies (p12) – ‘capabilities for Living and Lifelong Learning’.

The competencies listed are the key to lifelong learning and their development are seen as both an end and a means and are to be developed in authentic contexts; ‘they develop over time, shaped by interactions with people places, ideas, and things’.

The ‘Thinking Competency’ is about making sense of experiences, constructing their own
knowledge. ‘Intellectual curiosity is at the heart of this competency. Students as ‘problem solvers actively (able) to seek, use, and create knowledge. They reflect on their own learning, draw on personal knowledge and intuitions, ask questions, and challenge the basis of assumptions and perceptions.’

The Language Competency is about representing and communicating ideas in all forms.  Managing Self is associated with ‘self-motivation, a “can- do” attitude, and with students seeing themselves as capable learners’ – about having ‘strategies’ for learning. Relating to Others is ‘about interacting effectively with others’. Participating and Contributing is about students having ‘a sense of belonging and the confidence to participate within new contexts’.

The Learning Areas (p 16/34) that are important for a broad general education.

 Guide lines for each level of the Learning Area are expanded in the fold out appendix.

Eight learning areas are identified, all laying ‘a foundation for later specialisation’. Like the Key Competencies they are ‘both end and means’.  Although presented as distinct ‘all learning should make use of the natural connections that exist between learning areas, values and key competencies.

Each Learning Areas has its own special contribution and the essence of each if clearly defined on page 17.  English (p20) is about ‘making meaning’ and ‘creating meaning’. The Arts (p20/21) are a means to ‘transform people’s creative ideas into expressive works’. Arts are seen as an important means to encourage students to ‘take risks’; to ‘creators, presenters, viewers, and listener, able to participate in ,interpret, value, and enjoy the arts’. Dance, Drama, Music and
the Visual Arts are included. They are all about appreciating, making and creating. The Visual Arts begin with children’s curiosity and delight in their senses’ – about ’aesthetic awareness’ – experimenting, exploring and creating, bringing their own experiences, sharing their re4sonses, and generation multiple interpretations.

The above couldn’t be further away from the current standardisation seen in many schools.

The other Learning areas are Health and Physical Education (p22.23) which includes Home Economics. Learning Languages (p24/25) Mathematics and Statistics. Mathematics emphasizes the ‘exploration and use of patterns and relationships – about thinking and solving problems through investigating, interpreting, explaining and making sense.’ Implicit is the need to develop a positive
attitude towards maths. Science once again emphasizes the need to ‘investigate, understand and explain. It involves ‘generating and testing ideas, gathering evidence’ and communicating ideas.  Several strands are identifies including the important How Scientists work; the Living World, Planet Earth and Beyond; and the Physical and Material World.

The Social Sciences is about developing a feeling for other societies from the past, present within and beyond New Zealand. Once again the inquiry /creative approach is emphasized - asking questions, exploring, considering and reflecting. The final learning Area is Technology – is a practical form of design science. Information Technology needs a new inclusion and this might be part of any proposed review but ideally information technology is ideally integrated to assist inquiry across the curriculum E-learning (p36) (ICT) ‘assists  the making of connections of connections by enabling students to enter and explore new learning environments, overcoming barriers of distance and time.’

In a post National Standards classroom the class inquiry studies take central place with the foundation skills of literacy and numeracy integrated where possible. Over a two year programme Learning Area Strands ought to be covered – with the proviso that many studies will integrate several strands.

Effective Pedagogy (p34) – teacher actions promoting student learning.

Effective pedagogy occurs in a ‘supportive learning environment’ ; ‘one that encourages reflective thought and action’; ‘makes connection to prior learning’ ; and provides ‘opportunities to learn’. ‘Students learn best when they feel accepted, when they enjoy positive relationship with their fellow students and teachers, and when they are active, visible members of the learning community’. Such environments are ‘non –discriminatory’ – once again questioning the use of ability grouping.

Reflective thought and action is to be encouraged when students are able to ‘relate learning to what they already know’ (their prior ideas) and where they are able ‘to think about their own thinking’. Learning has to be relevant. ‘Students learn most effectively when they understand what they are learning, why they are learning it, and how they will be able to use their new learning.’  Students need opportunity to transfer new learning’ - in reality it is only when students can transfer learning that knowledge has been gained. This is about ‘ownership’ or, in a more recent term, ‘student agency’.

Students - true scientists
One phrase that stands out for me is the ‘need to cover less but cover it in greater depth.

Teachers are to be encouraged to inquire into their own teaching (Teaching as Inquiry p35) best visualised as a cyclical process that goes on moment by moment (as teaching takes place) day by day and over a longer term. My own phrase for this is teacher artistry – teachers continually observing students to provide assistance as and when necessary.

The School Curriculum: Design and Review (p37/43)

The Curriculum requires schools to develop curriculum to suit the needs of their community. The curriculum provides the framework and gives schools the scope, flexibility and authority to design
A rich curriculum
and shape their curriculum’ to suit their community with the proviso that’ all students should experience a rich and balanced education’ something that has been lost with the emphasis on the now abandoned National Standards.

Various ways are suggested about how to organise the curriculum around values, learning areas or competencies or around central themes integrating all aspects. The latter is my preference and the curriculum does say that ‘schools should design their curriculum so that learning crosses apparent boundaries’; a challenge for traditional secondary schools but ideal for Modern Learning Environments.

Achievement objectives are found in the appendix and the various levels represent progress to deeper learning. Schools are expected to show what it is they want their students to learn and how their curriculum is designed to achieve it but it NZC says (p39) that ‘each student’s ultimate learning success is more important than the covering of particular achievement objectives’.

The curriculum is based on ‘the premise that all students can learn and succeed and should recognise that, as all students are individuals, their learning may call for different approaches.’ This could well be a good description of personalised learning?


‘The primary purpose of assessment is to improve learning and teacher’s teaching’.  It is ‘best seen as an ongoing process that arises out of the interaction between teaching and learning’. ‘Much of this evidence is “of the moment”. Analyses of and interpretation often takes place in the mind of the teacher, who then uses the insights gained to shape their actions’. In my terms the artistry of the teacher.

Effective assessment should benefit students; should involve students and support further learning/teaching. The idea that outcomes ought to be known in advance of any learning (WALTs
etc.) can, if overdone, lead to limiting student creativity. What is missing is evaluating students work, their personal growth through portfolios etc. might be the best way.

Learning in Years 1-6 (p41)

Teaching and learning programmes are developed through a wide range of experiences across all learning areas, with a focus on literacy and numeracy along with the development of values and key competencies. I would prefer seeing literacy and numeracy and ‘foundation skills’ integral to inquiry learning. Too often, today, literacy and numeracy take up a disproportionate amount of time in contrast to inquiry learning across the curriculum (authentic learning experiences – rich, real and relevant)

Learning in Years 7-10 (p41)

‘During these years, students have opportunities to achieve to the best of their abilities across the breadth and depth of the New Zealand Curriculum’ through authentic learning experiences’ associated with ‘ongoing development of literacy and numeracy skills’. ‘These continue to need focussed teaching’ (but not ability grouping or streaming!)

Learning in Years 11-13.

Enuf of formulaic teaching WALTs etc
‘The curriculum allows for greater choice and specialisation as students end their school years’.

Board of Trustees (p44)

The BOT, through the principal and staff are required to develop a curriculum consistent with the vision, values, principals competencies, learning areas as outlined in the NZC. Each BOT is required to gather information that is sufficiently comprehensive to enable evaluation of student progress and achievement, and to identify students at risk or have special needs.

The new Minister of Education Chris Hipkins has stated that he wants school to avoid over assessment (resulting from narrow targets set by National Standards of NZCEA).

Sign of Growth

I am aware of a number interesting current developments that are heading in a creative/holistic
direction. Such things as ‘play based education ‘, ‘project based learning’, ‘passion based learning’ and ‘personalised learning’ that link back to earlier ‘developmental teaching’ and ‘holistic learning’. Approaches such as ‘related arts’ and ‘language experience teaching’, ‘centres of interests’, and ‘whole language’. I would be happy to rename ‘literacy time’ with ‘language arts’ blocks.

Final thoughts.

One quote comes to mind for me is from Jerome Bruner who said that, ‘teaching is the canny art of intellectual temptation’. Students’ have a genetic need to learn and make sense of their
Jerome Bruner
experiences. Nothing a school does should dent this need to learn – 'all students can learn', the NZC states, so it up to teachers to create learning environments that ‘tempt’ all learners.

Students’ altitudes to the learning experiences provided are all important rather than achieving doubtful standards. The emphasis ought to be on personal growth – personal best.

Finally the message about what is important is how the day is organised - -this link will provide ideas. The current emphasis on literacy and numeracy (and ability grouping) needs to be replaced by a focus on the studies being undertaken – integrating literacy and numeracy where possible.

I envisage classrooms as true learning communities of scientists and artists exploring their concerns, the local environment and the wider world past and present. Such classrooms I see as mini Te Papas ( or perpetual science, art, maths technology fair  type exhibits) with every available space covered with displays/exhibitions of quality research, art and language based on the themes, studies, topics and investigations.

Art work based on research into the lives of people in Medieval times Year5/6

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