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Assessing key competencies: Why would we? How could we? (archived)

Written by Dr Rosemary Hipkins, one of the many New Zealand educationalists who have been involved in the development of The New Zealand Curriculum.

Download – PDF icon. Assessing key competencies: Why would we? How could we? (PDF, 272 KB)


As schools begin exploring the key competencies, one question that teachers frequently ask is: 'What about assessment?'. Assessing Key Competencies may help you to start the conversation in your school, framing both assessment and the key competencies within wider questions about the purposes and the outcomes of schooling and education.

When thinking about assessing key competencies, we need to consider all these questions:

  • What sorts of learning outcomes have schools traditionally fostered?
  • How have these outcomes been assessed?
  • Why was the assessment carried out that way?
  • What uses were intended for the assessment information gathered? What uses were actually made of it?

These are still important review questions, but the key competencies add new critical layers to assessment conversations:

  • Might key competencies represent different sorts of learning outcomes?
  • If so, do the key competencies introduce different types of assessment challenges, and how should we respond to these challenges?
  • Do we want assessment information about key competencies for the purposes we already know, or might there be new purposes here as well?
  • Do we actually need to assess key competencies, or will they do their curriculum work through the ways in which we refocus other outcomes?

It's important to address these questions because the key competencies challenge school leaders and teachers to rethink learning and schooling in some important ways. When thinking about whether to assess key competencies, we need to consider which aspects of existing practice remain appropriate and which need to be rethought, reshaped and/or replaced. It's also very important to consider what we might want to achieve by assessing key competencies. That question creates a useful 'frame' for all the other considerations.

Next – Why assess key competencies?

Published on: 17 Mar 2008