Friday, October 10, 2008

New Zealand Curriculum 07

The framework for the decades ahead? A lot of things will have to change if its vision of 'confident, creative and connected students' is to be realized.

The New Zealand Curriculum is a confusing and repetitive read and very little in it contains anything new for creative teachers. For such teachers it is a little 'back to the future' but for secondary schools in particular it will be a foreign language.

But for all that the NZC provides an opportunity for teachers to develop their school as learning communities centred on inquiry. It is strongly based on a co-constructivist and personalised approach although it mentions neither.

Cliches abound but they are saying the right things. Students are to be 'confident, creative and connected' 'life long learners' equipped with the 'key competencies' - 'literate, numerate' - 'active seekers users and creators of their own knowledge'. The emphasis on values and the principles all say the right things.

The five 'Key Competencies' , or 'capabilities to become life long learners', are a central feature and are to be caught rather than taught; a 'means as well as an end'.

(1)Thinking is all about students being 'creative, critical', and 'meta cognitive' thinkers, able to 'make sense of their experiences'. 'Intellectual curiosity is at the heart of thinking'. Students need to actively seek and create knowledge' able to 'reflect on their own learning'.

Thinking should 'draw on their personal knowledge and intuition' and be based on 'their questions' and 'challenge their current assumptions'.

(2)Language is all about students 'making meaning' through reading and 'expressing meaning' to writing etc and able to interpret texts and images of all kinds.

(3)Managing Self is all about the importance of 'self motivation', developing 'a can do attitude' and able to set goals and plan their own projects.

(4)Relating to Others is all about developing empathy for others; able to listen to others and 'be open to ideas'.

(5)Participating and Contributing. The need 'to develop a sense of belonging' and be actively involved.

The Learning Areas.

Students are to gain the essence of each area; they are to be seen as ways to assist students 'interpret their world'.
Studies selected need to affirm New Zealand's unique diverse cultural identity. There is less emphasis on 'learning objectives' and these are to be 'selected to fit the needs of the students' and the learning context. Strands are to be covered over a period of time and not every year.

It is a shame that there is not a section on inquiry learning as composite statement as the need for such an approach is emphasized in all learning areas.

Learning is to be based on 'real life contexts' to engage and challenge students and that 'connections' between learning areas are to be encouraged.

1 English is about 'enjoying communicating' meaningfully, 'orally, visually and in writing, for a range of purposes'. Students need to 'be critical', able to 'interrogate texts'; able to 'receive, process, and present ideas or information' Able to receive meaning from reading and able to create meaning through all forms of communication.

Further into the curriculum document is states that for year 1-6 students that 'learning builds on the experiences students bring with them', as well as being exposed to the Learning Areas, with a focus on literacy and numeracy along with key competences etc. This is hardly a justification for the current time allowance for such areas.

2 The Arts.This area values children's experiences and are to be seen as powerful forms of expression. The arts provide an opportunities for students to 'use their imagination' and to 'create multiple interpretations'. The arts are all about 'developing students unique artistic expression' and visual arts 'begins with children's curiosity and delights in the senses and stories and develops visual literacy and aesthetic awareness'.

3 Health and PE is all about developing, in every student, a 'sense of wellness' ( Hau Ora) and developing 'resilience and a sense of personal and social responsibility'. PE develops 'positive attitudes towards physical activity'.

4 Mathematics and Statistics is about 'the exploration of patterns and relationships' and 'equips students with an effective means of investigating, interpreting, explaining, and making sense of the world'.

5 Science. is a way of 'investigating, understanding and explaining our natural, physical world and the wider universe'. It is about 'observations, carrying out investigations' and develops a 'respect for evidence'.

6 Social Sciences focuses on 'how societies work' and how people 'participate'. It is about 'people, places, cultures and historical contexts drawn from the past, present and future and from places within and beyond New Zealand'. This area helps students 'appreciate New Zealand's heritage' and develops students' identify as New Zealanders. It also is based on an inquiry approach based on 'students question's, the 'gathering of information', 'analyzing it' and 'reflecting' on findings.

7 Technology assists students develop 'practical skills as they develop models, products and systems'. Good advice is given to study 'fewer contexts in greater depth drawing on learning from other disciplines'. For primary classes it is more an aspect of science?

8 learning Languages to provide 'a means to communicate with people from other cultures'. This would seem to be another aspect of the Social Sciences?

Effective Pedagogy.

Although not mentioned in the NZC the pedagogy is underpinned by a co-constructivist approach to teaching and learning.

Teachers are to:

1 Create a supportive learning environment valuing the 'uniqueness of each learner'. The importance of 'acceptance' and positive 'relationships'.

2 Encourage reflective thought and action. This mirrors the thinking skills competence. Reflective learners are able to 'assimilate new learning, relate learning to what they already know' and 'translate into new actions' and in the process 'develop meta- cognitive ability' - 'the ability to think about their own thinking'.

3 Enhancing the relevance of new learning.Students need to know what, why, about their learning. Teachers are to 'stimulate curiosity, challenge students, and involve them in their own learning.'

4 Facilitate shared learning. To develop the classroom as a community of inquiry and to include in this 'the teacher as a learner'.'Teachers to challenge, support, and provide feedback'.

5 Making connections to prior learning. Children learn when it 'builds on what students already understand'. Teachers 'help students make connections'.

6 Providing sufficient opportunities to learn. Students need 'time to engage, practise and transfer new knowledge.' Teachers may decide to 'cover less' and to do what is selected to 'greater depth' Great advice.

7 Teachers as inquirers. Teachers need to continually 'inquire into the impact of their teaching on their students'.Teachers need to 'decide what is worth spending time on', decide 'what needs their students have', and 'what strategies are likely to help', and to 'evaluate what has resulted' from their teaching.

Assessment. An excellent section.

'The primary purpose of assessment in to improve students learning and teachers teaching.' Assessment is seen as 'ongoing process between teaching and learning. Much of which 'takes place in the mind of the teacher who uses insight' to assist their students. Schools need to be able to show evidence' of their programmes success through selective 'school wide data.'All too often assessment ends up by being the tail that wags the dog!Schools should assess what they value ( learning capabilities?) above and beyond 'basic' skills. Schools are asked 'to gather sufficiently comprehensive evaluation of student progress and achievement and to identify those at risk, and Maori students, to gain further attention.

The School Curriculum.

The New Zealand Curriculum is based on the premise 'all students can learn' and recognises that all students have idiosyncratic needs. The basis for personalisation?

'School have the scope and, flexibility and authority to design their curriculum in response to the needs, talents of individual and groups.'

'Schools may develop their curriculum's around central themes integrating values, key competencies, and skills across a number of learning areas.There is a need to address real life situations so that learning crosses apparent boundaries'.

A question was asked, under Teaching as Inquiry, about what is worth spending time on?. Schools need to look at how they distribute time at present and consider how to re-arrange their priorities to develop their school as communities of inquiry if they are to achieve the NZC Vision of developing 'confident , creative life long learners'.

I wait, in anticipation, to visit such creative 21st C schools. In the past I have been fortunate enough to visit very creative teachers but just imagine a creative school? Or groups of schools!


tracyo said...

I too look forward to schools that operate like this.
I think to do so requires a lot of teacher knowledge and I think dialogue happening in schools. Some of those key competencies are easy to quote, but the implications are huge for that learning to occur within schools in regard to teacher pedogodgy and basic understanding of learning.
The aspiration is great !

Bruce said...

Thanks Tracyo. Have you read the Claxton book I mention in my latest blog?

It will help develop the dialogue and assist teachers with the understanding of learning pedagogies you mention.

A must read.