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Green Island School – Exploring the principles

"How do we make this document (The New Zealand Curriculum) alive in our school? How do we reflect the front elements in our units and in our teaching?"

Green Island School.

The staff at Green Island School in Dunedin are looking at the New Zealand Curriculum principles from the perspective of their beliefs about learning. Jan Burn, Deputy Principal, takes us through their process.

The exploration of the principles began with ‘Learning to Learn’. The staff recorded their beliefs about learning individually and then presented their beliefs to the whole group. The beliefs were spread out on a continuum and discussions were held about what beliefs were most significant. This was a valuable exercise and respected the importance of everyone’s views. As a staff they agreed on the key common beliefs for Green Island School.

Beliefs about learning

As a result of this exploration they compiled the following chart:

Belief about learning Values Indicators Principle
Learning creates well rounded people who can live in the world and relate positively to people and the environment Kindness
Safe kids
Leadership programme
Positive caring environment
Family group
Buddy reading
Including others in games
Future focus
Learning should be motivating, engaging, and fun Respect
Children engaging in learning
Different approaches to teaching
High expectations
Future focus
Learning is varied and purposeful, and proceeds at different rates for different people Consideration
Cooperative group work
Show consideration
Helping peers support turn taking
Sharing listening
High expectations
Future focus
Learning to learn
Treaty of Waitangi
Learning is socially constructed   Safe pals
Helping others
All contribute to sports teams
Willingness to participate
Cultural diversity
Community engagement

We looked at our beliefs about learning, unpacked them, then linked the other parts of the curriculum back to them. That actually made us revise our vision a little bit because looking at what we believed about learning further clarified what we wanted for the school.

The staff developed a diagram to explain their understanding of principles - that they are core beliefs that reflect the school values, and is an internalised process that drives what they do, act, and how they teach.

Explanation of principles

After considering the ‘Learning to learn’ principle the staff looked at the other principles using Lester Flockton’s ‘Connected Principles’. They came up with statements about what they felt each one might look like at Green Island School.

These statements about principles have been applied to classroom unit planning, using one belief about learning to drive the whole planning. The concept of split screen thinking (link out) is used to ensure principles are considered alongside learning experiences.

The following is an example of planning at Green Island School:

Word icon. Green Island Disasters Planning 2010 (Word, 105 KB)

This is our first time of planning in this way. It is making the curriculum come alive and is making it a living document rather than one where we are ticking boxes. I also think it is showing teachers that the work we have done around principles has a purpose in their teaching. It is not just sitting there as an umbrella but actually comes through into your teaching. You have to constantly reflect on your beliefs. Using the learning to learn principle as the driving force is powerful, because if you don’t actually believe in this and reflect it in what we’re doing should we be doing it?"

The whole school focus has been on how to make all elements of the curriculum interconnect.

Where to next?

Jan explains the next step is to put the school’s thoughts about the principles into pictorial form to make it easily accessible and understandable by all. She would also like to look at which principles need to be made more explicit in the classroom. Jan sees this process as complementary to her role as a deputy principal as it is really pulling the whole school together.

‘People are doing quite different things. When we sat and talked about our beliefs, they are there, but this is making people accountable for those beliefs.’

This process is helping staff to align their beliefs with their actions, helping the school as a whole to align and develop a common language.

‘That’s what’s happening. It is tweaking people’s practice. It helps you view it through a different lens and that changes your practice.’


Updated on: 26 Jun 2010