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Using learning stories to recognise and respond to learning

Why use learning stories to support learning to learn?

Learning stories integrate learning dispositions into a story framework and include an analysis of the learning. They frequently include possible pathways or 'what next?' suggestions."

ECE Education

This holistic approach to assessment enables teachers to notice student's progress and invites others to contribute perspectives on their learning. The learning stories can be written for individuals, for groups, or to capture whole class teaching and learning experiences. They can be for one audience, for example, the student, or to share with multiple audiences, for example, the student, teacher/s, and wider family and whānau.

The following examples could be used as a starting point to:

  • consider how you could develop the use of learning stories in your classroom/school
  • show and encourage the development of self regulated learning
  • build on key competency development
  • include family and whānau perspectives.

Learning stories and mathematics

Use the following examples to consider how:

  • the insights gained from these examples support learning for the teacher, student, and parents and whānau
  • the examples effectively support students to develop their mathematics capability at school, at home, and in other contexts.

Isabel's learning story

In this learning story Isabel describes how she is learning to recognise numbers to 20.


Raven's learning story

This learning story describes the strategies Raven uses to support her learning.


Phoebe's learning story

This learning story describes the competencies and strategies Phoebe has used to learn her times tables.

Learning stories for learners with special education needs

Learning stories are widely used within early childhood settings to record learning experiences. It is a valuable way to record teaching and learning, particularly for students with special education needs.

Learning stories give parents an insight into what's happening at school. This supports the home-school partnership and involves parents as they contribute as writers of learning stories.

This example shows how David, a year 8 student, develops key competencies and progresses in mathematics. It incorporates multiple perspectives about his learning.

  • Which key competences are exemplified in this learning story?
  • This story draws on a number of different voices, who might you invite to provide different perspectives in your classroom?
  • How has David been supported to recognise that learning to learn strategies can be transferred from one context to another?
David's a numeracy star.


David's a numeracy star!

Number and algebra L3:

  • use a range of additive and simple multiplicative strategies with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percentages
  • know fractions in every day use.

The background

In David's last IEP meeting, two of his goals were to complete tasks to the best of his ability and actively participate in all class programmes.

Numeracy time was an area where David really needed to focus his attention. We were all keen to support David with his goals and celebrate his successes in the classroom.

The Wow moment

Using language, symbols, and texts, and managing self.

David has shown a real improvement in his achievement level in fractions, decimals, and percentages this term. His pretest score was 4/20 and his post test score was an impressive 18/20. These test results confirmed observations of his increased knowledge and strategy development in these areas.

"I have been trying to focus on my work in numeracy. I have been choosing to sit beside the teacher aide and away from people who annoy me. I use counters, blocks, pictagraphs and I draw circles in my book to help me solve the problems. When I sat the test I tried to do the easy ones first - this gave me the motivation to keep trying" (David).

"David has been working much better in numeracy this term. He works well when he has support around him and has equipment to use" (Mr X).

"There was one day when David managed his own learning and chose to move himself during the lesson in order to be able to focus on his learning. David now has a real attitude where he wants to do well" (teacher aide).

The next step

"I would like to focus on my writing next when I am in my homeroom. I give up in the classroom when I can't keep up with the writing and everyone moves onto the next thing and I am not ready" (David).

We brainstormed some possible solutions - talking with my teacher about having more time, a separate work area, a work buddy, smaller and more simple pieces of work, bringing work to Nikki in literacy time, help from the teacher aide when available (Learning support teacher).

A series of short clips from Through Different Eyes explain learning stories from the perspective of teachers and parents. Use these clips as a discussion starter to consider learning stories within the context of your own classroom or school.

Getting started with learning stories

Some suggestions:

  • write some group or whole class learning stories
  • focus on one story at a time
  • keep it jargon free
  • capture learning with photos
  • use photos as prompts for students to talk/write about their learning.

Learning stories work well because, in the reflective process, we are designing curriculum that meets the needs of the individual rather than focusing on little bits of skills that link to curriculum.

Page 10 Narrative assessment: A guide for teachers

For information about using this approach (including exemplars) download the PDF Narrative assessment: A guide for teachers (PDF 2.3MB).

Published on: 15 Aug 2012