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Student views

How do our students view learning? How do they see their future, and define success? Is school meeting their expectations? Which subjects do they like or dislike – and why? What helps them to learn? What makes a good teacher?

The responses students have given to these questions add a valuable dimension to the discussions around the review of the New Zealand curriculum and te marautanga o Aotearoa.

The findings

The students' responses have been summarised in sections linked from the headings listed below. Significantly, two groups out of the ten commented that this was the first chance they had ever had to comment on their learning, and welcomed the opportunity.

The future

Technology featured strongly in students' perceptions of the future. "Computers, there will be all computers, no books," said one girl.


The students recognised that different people have different measures of success. They also agreed that these indicators of success could be separated into tangible and intangible factors.

The learning areas


While some students clearly enjoyed English – "Literature – beautiful, get a world to play in," and "Interesting, exciting, learn new things," many students experienced it as complex or boring, or felt there was too much writing. "It couldn't possibly be interesting," said a student in a year 9 to 11 group. "Bad," declared another.

Health and physical education

PE attracted a number of strongly negative comments. Clearly this is not everyone's favourite activity. "It's a waste of time. You spend more time writing (forging) notes to get out of it than actually doing it," complained a girl from a year 11 to 13 group. There were several positive comments though.

Learning languages

Many comments related to language learning as a key to communication, and understanding cultural differences. Other students felt languages were important for travel and career options. However, some students didn't enjoy learning another language and didn't consider it useful.


Maths attracted many negative comments; clearly, some students didn't like it, or see its relevance in their lives. "Pointless – who really cares if X=3 or X=5, unless you want a maths-focused career?" said one student. "Utterly confusing," said another.


Many strong opinions were expressed on what science is and its importance in life. These ranged from "the only reason I want to go to school," and "how to make sense of the little things, and the world" (from a group of year 11 to 13 students), to "boring, weird" (a student from a year 7 to 8 group). However, most comments were enthusiastic.

Social science

Social science drew many positive comments. "It should be the biggest subject in schools," said one student. "It helps you learn what you want," said another. The teacher's attitude and approach to the subject appeared to be significant in students' enjoyment – or otherwise – of social science.


Comments on the significance of technology ranged from "It's the future", and "It's stuff you need to know for life" to "Not terribly important in the working world (a student from a year 11 to 13 group). Most students, however, felt that technology was an increasing necessity in life – but one with dangers.

The arts: music, dance, drama, visual arts

Comments about students' experience of learning arts were mostly positive. "I feel alive," said one student (about visual art). "I love the people," commented another.

What helps me to learn?

This question generated a range of pertinent responses, some relating to the immediate learning environment, and some to motivational factors. "I think the classroom lacks the 'voice' of students. Ideas are often given to us, and we don't get to discuss complications or talk about issues," said one student in a year 11 to 13 group. "[I learn] if I can clearly see how the ideas expressed are relevant to my life/my world," answered another.


Having warm, positive relationships with students, showing respect, being passionate and knowledgeable about their subject, and recognising different speeds and styles of learning all featured strongly in responses to how teachers could help learning. "Teachers who support their students, give them confidence, and are responsive," said one student. "Teachers who care and are patient," said another. "Teachers who are passionate about their subjects," said another, a sentiment echoed by many students.

Published on: 04 Nov 2011