The New Zealand Curriculum for English-medium teaching and learning in years 1-13 (The NZC) is the guiding document for schools and teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is a “statement of what we deem important in education”, and a framework for teaching and learning that ensures “all young New Zealanders are equipped with the knowledge, competencies, and values they will need to be successful citizens in the twenty-first century”.
The New Zealand Curriculum: transitions and pathways
The NZC outlines the importance of schools designing and implementing the curriculum “so that students find transitions positive and have a clear sense of continuity and direction”. Practices that contribute to this include:
- using information well to plan teaching and learning programmes that meet students’ identified needs
- evaluating these programmes in terms of outcomes for students
- providing learning experiences that are relevant to students
- ensuring that there are effective systems for sharing information amongst key personnel about the progress and achievement of students
- tracking the progress of individual students, identifying learning priorities and planning to achieve these over time
- designing and evaluating course structures so that students experience a variety of learning approaches
- ensuring that students have access to a range of subject areas and that their learning builds progressively over their time at school
- linking students’ curriculum to career pathways.
By the time students leave secondary school they should be well underway with developing the Key Competencies (thinking; using language, symbols, and texts; managing self; relating to others; participating and contributing) that will equip them to “live, learn, work and contribute as active members of their communities”. In order to promote successful transitions through school, and pathways into employment or further learning, teachers should foster the Key Competencies at all year levels in a student’s education.
The New Zealand Curriculum: student achievement, progress, and setting goals and targets
Processes for knowing about achievement and progress
Teachers are expected to gather information in a timely and focused manner so they are able to know how well students are achieving and progressing. In order for teachers to know how well students are achieving and progressing they, guided by school leaders, need to:
- undertake a planned programme of assessment that includes gathering, analysing, interpreting and using student data
- using a range of assessment sources, draw together valid and reliable evidence of students’ achievement and progress
- regularly monitor students’ learning so that teachers can know how well they are achieving and progressing, and use this information to adjust the programme to meet their identified learning needs and strengths.
Setting improvement goals and targets
Improvement goals and targets help schools to focus on what is important in terms of lifting students’ achievement. These goals and targets are recorded in the school’s charter. They should be developed to ensure that the school is making continuous improvement in learning and teaching. Assessment information, and other information gathered through school self review, is used to establish goals and targets.
Through goals and target setting processes, schools identify and document:
- which students are the priority group(s) (using current and historical school achievement and progress data)
- the achievement outcomes that are desired (using, as a reference point, expected achievement levels and/or information about normed achievement levels)
- what planning and practice needs to happen to bring about these outcomes (at a school level and a classroom level)
- who needs to be involved in achieving the outcomes
- the human and material resources that will be allocated to students and teachers
- the points in time when the goals and targets will be reviewed (preferably at multiple intermediary points and at an end point)
- who will need to know about the outcomes of this review and the expectations with respect to how the information will be used.
The New Zealand Curriculum: using assessment information to plan, implement and review actions to improve students’ achievement
Teachers should plan programmes in literacy and mathematics that clearly state what it is that they want students to learn and how they will achieve this. Planning should:
- address students’ identified needs, strengths and interests
- help students to build on, and make links to, existing learning
- provide high quality learning experiences and opportunities for all students to be engage as learners
- focus on providing all students with chances to enjoy success and challenge them as learners
- foster the principles, values, Key Competencies and learning areas described in The NZC.
The NZC describes seven teaching approaches that have extensive evidence of effectiveness in terms of their positive impact on students’ learning. These are:
- creating a supportive (caring, inclusive, non-discriminatory, and cohesive) learning environment
- encouraging students to critically reflect on their learning
- making it clear to students what they are learning, why they are learning it and how they will be using new learning
- facilitating students’ learning from, and with other people, including learning from their teachers, peers, parents and the wider community
- students having opportunities to connect and integrate new learning with what they already know
- students having sufficient opportunity to learn, including multiple chances to re-engage with ideas previously encountered
- teachers inquiring, in a systematic and rigorous manner, into the impact of their teaching on outcomes for students.
Each of these approaches applies to teaching and learning in literacy and mathematics. Where these approaches are used, teachers will be contributing well to the vision of supporting students to become “confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners”.
Reviewing learning and teaching
Effective teachers will routinely use teaching as inquiry to know about the impact of their practice on students’ learning. “Teaching as inquiry is a cyclical process that goes on moment by moment (as teaching takes place), day by day, and over the longer term.”  As teachers engage in inquiry they are guided by three important questions:
- What is important (and therefore worth spending time on), given where my students are at?
- What evidence-based strategies are most likely to help my students learn this?
- What happened as a result of the teaching, and what are the implications for future teaching?
An important feature of inquiry is a teacher’s disposition and skill at using assessment information to improve students’ learning and their own teaching. Effective assessment practice:
- involves making use of well analysed data for the purpose of teaching and learning
- is substantially focused on clarifying for students what they know and can do, and what they still need to learn.
- equips students with knowledge about the outcomes required and the criteria for success, coupled with specific feedback from teachers in relation to performance towards achieving the outcomes
- provides students with opportunities for self direction such as reflection on their learning, goal setting, and self and peer assessment
- informs students about how and why they are being assessed.
School leaders should use collated and analysed achievement information to know about the impact that programmes are having on students’ learning. Information can be used to make decisions about changes to programmes or initiatives, practices in the classroom, and polices that relate to literacy and mathematics.
The board of trustees should have timely access to good quality literacy and mathematics information that helps them to make decisions about how to resource appropriately literacy and mathematics programmes and initiatives. Through well managed curriculum review processes, trustees should also be kept well informed about the overall performance of students, and of groups of priority students whose progress and achievement is of particular interest. This means that trustees will need to know how well students are achieving and progressing relative to their year level within the school, and to students nationally. On the basis of this information, leaders and boards of trustees will be able to set appropriate targets for students whose achievement needs to be accelerated.