Fully implementing key competencies requires a deliberate approach

Learning and wellbeing are strongly linked and are not easily separated in practice. This is evident in literature about the key competencies, and from ERO’s previous findings. For this report, learning/wellbeing will be the form used to emphasise this link, and reflect ERO’s earlier findings:

"Wellbeing is vital for student success and is strongly linked to learning.1 New Zealand and international research shows that many school factors influence student success. Although there is no single measure for student wellbeing, the factors that contribute to it are interrelated and interdependent. For example, a student’s sense of achievement and success is enhanced when they feel safe and secure at school. This in turn lifts their confidence to try new challenges, strengthening their resilience." (ERO, 2016: p. 4)

The New Zealand Curriculum outlines what school leaders and teachers need to consider to successfully implement key competencies:

"When designing and reviewing their curriculum, schools will need to consider how to encourage and monitor the development of the key competencies. They will need to clarify their meaning for their students. They will also need to clarify the conditions that will help or hinder the development of the competencies, the extent to which they are being demonstrated, and how the school will evaluate the effectiveness of approaches intended to strengthen them." (NZC, 2007, p. 38)

The themes of this quotation provide significant guidance for successful implementation of key competencies that will be referenced throughout this report:

  • localising the curriculum to make learning relevant for students
  • setting conditions to enable students to use the key competencies in their learning/wellbeing
  • evaluating the effectiveness of approaches used to strengthen student use of the KCs.

Figure 2, below, is adapted from a 2018 New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) paper prepared for the Ministry of Education.1 That paper outlines four phases of development in thinking about the key competencies, as reported by research projects with a focus on the purpose and place of key competencies since their introduction in the NZC (2007).

These four phases provide a means of understanding how the guidance in the NZC can be applied successfully in local curricula, and a basis for gauging where schools are situated in developing their use of key competencies (see Figure 3, next page.)

Figure 2: Moving to student use of key competencies (based on NZCER's discussion paper)

Phase 1:
Learning about the nature of KCs

  • KCs are referred to by teachers in planning, and in discussions with students.

Phase 2:
KCs and learning to learn

  • Relationships between KCs, ideas about learning to learn, and lifelong learning are emphasised in planning and teaching.

Phase 3
Integrating KCs into learning areas

  • KCs are seen as multifaceted and support students to make meaning of content from various curriculum areas.
  • Each learning area is viewed as having its own set of ‘capabilities’. These capabilities show what students can do with their learning, drawing on all the KCs in the process.

Phase 4
KCs and action competence

  • Students engage in critical inquiries that require problem solving, creativity, critical thinking, and collaborative ways of working.
  • They actively engage in open-ended explorations, such as how sustainability for the planet can be achieved.
  • Teachers support students by using their deep disciplinary knowledge and understandings of the KCs.
  • Teachers capably support students to draw on and combine different parts of the curriculum in new ways.