Students as partners in learning

Schools that were more likely to see a great improvement in student outcomes included students as active partners in designing the plan to accelerate their progress. Raising Achievement in Primary Schools (ERO, 2014) discussed how this partnership with students gained their commitment to the plan’s success.

By including students as partners, teachers were able to include learning contexts that were based on student interests. Learning could happen in the ways students preferred, such as collaborative group tasks, oral work, and self and peer assessment. Students gave feedback to their teachers around what worked or did not work.

Student-centred literacy and mathematics progressions supported students to describe what they had learnt, what they needed to learn, and how they learnt. Students were able to use these progressions with examples of their work to explain their progress and achievement to their parents and teachers.

The Collection and Use of Assessment Information in Schools (ERO, 2007) explained how schools were most effective when students were given constructive reporting of their achievement. This meant that students were able to have useful conversations with parents and teachers about how they were doing and strategies for how they could improve.

Raising Student Achievement Through Targeted Action (ERO, 2015) gives an example of a school using specific strategies to raise achievement in writing for Māori students. Teachers used achievement data to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching, and identified where improvement was needed the most.

Teachers worked with local iwi to develop authentic mātauranga Māori experiences, designed to provide contexts for reading and writing. They also attended professional development sessions aimed at helping students to develop their comprehension, vocabulary and fluency skills.

Teachers learnt the importance of having a learning-centred relationship with whānau to support their students to succeed.

Wellbeing for Children’s Success at Primary School (ERO, 2015) outlines how students’ wellbeing and achievement are interrelated and interdependent. A student’s sense of achievement and success is enhanced when they feel safe and secure at school. This in turn affects their confidence to try new things and their resilience to persevere with new challenges.

In schools with an extensive approach to wellbeing students contributed to many daily decisions, such as what and how they learnt, who they interacted with and how they engaged. Students were expected to develop and use skills in leadership. They were seen as inherently capable, despite any barriers or challenges they faced. Students were in control of many of their school experiences.

Teachers provided opportunities for students to be aware of, and respond to, their own learning strengths and needs. The use of: 

  • assessment practices to improve learning ensured students had clarity about their personal learning, that is, they knew what they were learning and why, how they were going, and how they could improve 
  • inquiry-based learning ensured students had a voice in what was important to learn and how – that is, the classroom curriculum was based on student strengths, needs and interests 
  • studying local, social and environmental issues ensured students had opportunities to make change and develop clarity around personal values and respect for others.

Reading and writing in Years 1 and 2

This 2009 ERO report highlights that the expectations of both school leaders and teachers can influence the rates of children’s progress or actual success. Even when teachers are focused on children’s learning, inappropriate teacher expectations can undermine them, or impede progress. Teacher expectations have been found to vary according to student ethnicity, ability, gender and other characteristics unrelated to a student’s actual capability.

One critical element for success is that teachers’ expectations focus on a child’s potential rather than current or past performance. Reading and Writing in Years 1 and 2 discusses expectations in schools with good practice.

Students learn in an inclusive environment where they are respected as individuals and where teachers hold high expectations for their achievement and progress. Teachers show respect for and understanding of their students’ background. An example of appropriate expectations is from Partners in Learning: Good Practice.

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