Raroa Normal Intermediate School

Key points

Many different types of spaces, utilisation driven by student needs and staff capabilities

Design Production Engineering (DPE) supports development of student agency and self-efficacy

Just-in-time learning for students to support engaging and relevant projects.


A particular strength of Raroa Normal Intermediate’s curriculum is the development of student agency through its design production education (DPE) programme. This approach, now also integrated across other curriculum areas, exemplifies the school’s ‘aspire2achieve’ vision and values.

System changes

The school has a range of different learning spaces. Some were originally single-cell classrooms that are now linked via transparent, soundproof doors. Newer classrooms are modular, extendible and transportable. The fit-out of new buildings aligns closely to the learning needs of students and to teacher capabilities and resources.

A common area, the ‘learning street’, links the different technology classrooms. Students move fluidly between classroom and learning street, working individually or in groups. There is much activity but students are focused and on task. Teachers are mobile and able therefore to provide advice and explicit teaching as required.

This is a photo of students and teacher focusing on tasks

School leaders find that the flexible learning spaces (FLSs) promote open teacher practice and require closer collaboration around planning and pedagogy. The school experimented with team teaching (four teachers across four classrooms) but found that teaching in pairs worked better. Leaders note that teachers are more reflective when working collaboratively. As they become aware of learning needs they target the students concerned and run focused teaching clinics.

Curriculum and pedagogy

Teachers plan collaboratively and assume collective responsibility for the larger group of students.

You work as a team so you work at work and home is home.

Work is intense – but in a good way. It’s full on and it’s fun.

We are more affirming of each other.

- Teachers

Students are given carefully planned frameworks and clear expectations; they are also given the flexibility to decide how they will meet those expectations, and space to manage their own time.

I can set my timetable on my own. We set and organise our own priorities. We usually plan for the whole week and relook at it each morning. You have your goals for writing, maths, and reading. You look for a workshop at your level – you opt into that. Everyone plans this way – some get extra support.

- Student

This is a photo of a students goals in table form

Teachers keep a careful eye on students’ progress and guide them in their goal setting. As necessary, they direct students to workshops or clinics that will fill gaps or strengthen skills.

Rubrics help students identify progress and areas in need of improvement. Students are given opportunities to exercise choice and make decisions about their learning.

Students have access to a variety of devices to support their learning. They choose tools with discernment and are confident with their choice.

Sometimes pen and paper are the best to use.

We use lots of devices – do our work on devices. Some are school owned and some are BYOD.23 Laptops, iPads, computers – all have their own benefits and drawbacks. We use them a lot – everyone gets a fair turn.

- Students

Design production education

The DPE process is designed to engage students in areas that are relevant to them, and as they develop a product, boost their skills. Students are expected to follow an entrepreneurial pathway, complete with rapid prototyping.

Students are given a broad title for their DPE work and it is for them to choose a specific focus based on what interests them. For example, given a design project called ‘Changing behaviours’, one group decided their focus would be ‘Changing behaviours using fun theories’.

Students pace themselves through the life of a project. They put their names on a wall chart of the DPE process and move them along as they move from one stage to the next. They can easily see if they are falling behind their peers and this helps them manage their work rate. The teacher monitors the display, touches base with students to ensure that they are making appropriate progress, and provides support as needed.

This is a photo of a student using a wall display

At the start of a DPE project students brainstorm ideas. This stretches their thinking about what to explore and what to include.

The students choose the level they want to work at: anywhere from ‘apprentice’ to ‘expert’. After nine weeks they share their findings with their parents. This opportunity adds value to their learning and motivates them to produce work they are justifiably proud of.

We have a timeline for DPE and use a DPE Google doc to record our progress by using photos. You don’t speed but take your time because you want to do it well. The teacher conferences you at each stage.

- Student