Empowered Curriculum Design

NZC pg 44

NZC pg 44

I sent this image out on twitter yesterday and provoked a large discussion which I felt I could no longer answer in less than 140 characters. So, here goes my interpretation of what this means:

The Learning Area descriptions, introduced on pg16 and in depth from pp18-33, set out the learning that is required to take place. These pages set out various concepts, contexts, skills and dispositions that are considered core to the development of understanding of the different Learning Areas. The Achievement Objectives at the back of the New Zealand Curriculum are set out to assist the development of those core concepts et al.

By saying that you may select achievement objectives in response to student interest and needs, it shows that you are not required to teach every single achievement objective on those pages. Therein lies the power of the New Zealand Curriculum. Yes, the achievement objectives exist and you CAN use them, you do not have to base all of your teaching on them or cram every one of them into courses of learning. For me, this is an incredibly empowering idea.

At Wellington High School, 5 or 6 years ago, our Social Sciences Faculty spent time with Andrea Milligan (from Victoria University) reframing the achievement objectives to suit the context of our school and students. This involved staff and students. Some of the achievement objectives remained as they were, but others were merged or rewritten to better reflect what we were trying to achieve in our faculty.

At present I am one of the Specialised Learning Leaders at Hobsonville Point Secondary School who have been deconstructing and reframing the New Zealand Curriculum to work out what learning will occur in our school when it opens next year. Di Cavallo pointed out to us this sentence from page 16 of the NZC:

“All learning should make use of the natural connections that exist between learning areas and that link learning areas to the values and key competencies.”

NZC pg 16

For us, we are basing these connections on the concepts (and possibly contexts) that arise on pages 17-33 of the Curriculum as this is what we are required to teach. Now that does not in any way mean that we will only teach these things, but it forms the core of our learning intentions. In this way, we feel that we are basing learning on authentic connections between learning areas whilst maintaining the specialist knowledge of the separate disciplines through their core concepts.

I genuinely feel that many schools overlooked the importance of pages 16-44 when the new Curriculum came out. There was intense focus on the “front end”, which for most was pages 8-13, covering the Vision, Principles, Values and Key Competencies. But then they focused on the Achievement Objectives for what to teach. This may be part of the reason that many of the same old topics still exist in Departments today that existed before this document came out. I wholeheartedly encourage schools to revisit the Curriculum and focus on really embracing the possibilities contained within pages 16 to 44.

December Update:

I have another passage that has joined the 2 quotes above as my favourite parts of the NZC:

“It also means that when curriculum coverage and student understanding are in competition, the teacher may decide to cover less but cover it in greater depth.”

NZC Effective Pedagogy p34

I wonder about the positive impact that could come if all teachers next year remembered this when students were struggling. Instead of just moving on to the next thing to be covered, thinking “hmm, lets focus on this and ensure everyone really understands it.” If it is really worth students covering it in class, surely it is worth making sure it is understood properly rather than trying to cover more?


7 thoughts on “Empowered Curriculum Design

  1. Thought provoking piece Steve. As I see it the curriculum offers expansive possibilities, but the tension arises when we try and marry it with an assessment system that remains fairly prescriptive (or at least is treated as if it is prescriptive). I’d love to see the development of a more robust discussion between NZQA and the teaching sector so we can unpack some ideas about what 21st C assessment practices could look like.

    • Thanks Gerard, I had seen Karen Poutasi’s speech but not the details in the 2nd document. This all definitely helps schools to reach the transformation of assessment that is needed to accompany the pedagogical transformations already occurring.

      Interesting to consider the changes behind the scene for this. Instead of hundreds of markers employed for 3 weeks each, does it mean a few markers employed year round? This would be much more preferable to assessments that could be marked by computers e.g. Closed question exams

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