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Key competencies at Weber School

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Staff at Weber School have been working with the key competencies since the draft curriculum document was released. They have realised these learning dispositions cannot be considered separately but are interwoven and look different according to different learning contexts.

Students’ reflections about the key competencies and sharing ideas with the teacher about how to improve or having discussions about how difficulties help them to develop the key competencies are powerful learning opportunities.


Chrissy Beetham (principal):

We started with the key competencies when we looked at AtoL, and AtoL was very much part of changing our practice, in fact. We started off looking at each competency individually and saying, "What does this look like for a five year-old?" and "What does this look like for a middle-school person?" and "What does this look like when they leave Weber School?" So the children and the staff and parents – because they were being involved with the three-way interview – had some understanding of what we were calling the key competencies. From there – this has taken five years, it hasn’t just happened – we did treat them all by themselves and then we decided, these overlap, they're just learning dispositions. So now we really talk about them as “learning dispositions” instead of the “key competencies”. But they're so inter-wound – and the children still talk about them as, "This is a key competency”, perhaps, but we're integrating it with our [inquiry] journeys and they are just coming out as normal learning dispositions as we talk about "How do we learn?" 

It's been really exciting for us too; and the parents, they say: "Well, the kids come home and start talking about them”. So that's what we want; we want children to be using these all the time: On the sports field, outside, inside, when they're at home, when they're at school. So, I think we're getting there. 


It just becomes the way you talk. It's the way – the way things work within your class. You can't separate it out. We struggled with, "Now we're doing 'managing self'”. What will I see when you're doing “managing self”? And yet, really what we wanted was them to know that managing self was in the playground, at home, in the classroom; and it needed to be much bigger than just putting your pens and pencils on the desk at the right time. 


In writing, I used to be very un-self-confident [sic]. So I always went up to Mrs Philips and asked her, "Is this right?" and "Should I do this?" and everything. Since then, I've gotten a lot better and now I can do it without having to come up and ask her. 


Which also meant that it was hard to assess, because you could say, "Well, they're very good at putting their pens and pencils on their desks when they're five year-olds." But as an eleven year-old, they're not very good at it. So does that mean they're not managing themselves anymore? So it needed to have a bigger picture and fit together with “relating to others”, and using their “thinking” skills.


A couple of years ago we did a creek study and we had to go on the computer to do PowerPoint presentations. I had a group of three, and then one of the people that was in my group had to go to Wales. So there was only two people left in my group. One of them was a year 3. I had to help her quite a lot and also manage myself at the same time.


Looking at the bigger picture, even to the point of what does “working in the community” mean? So that bigger stuff – it wasn't about just contributing within the classroom – it was contributing to make our creek healthier.

Last term, we were looking at the arts and had an integrated unit, so there was lots of key competencies happening. I realised, when I read the script that my nine year-olds were writing about Hinemoa and Tutanekai, that the key competencies had really become a part of who they are. I'll just share a line that Molly wrote in her play as the taniwha: "It's very brave of you; you have courage, perseverance, and initiative. In fact, you are using all the key competencies."

And it carries on. I just thought that was a classic example, for me, of how my children don't see the key competencies as something that “I assess”, that it's part of who they are and how they learn.

I remember one girl last year, very clearly in her diary: "I'm really working hard at not blurting out.” [or] “Getting on with others in the playground." "This is the sort of things that I've tried." And writing back to them and sharing ideas, or telling them, "Here's an example I saw of when you did do that very well."

So they can say things like, "Oh! I wish I didn't have to work with so-and-so in my group. But it's helping me learn how to relate to others." That's powerful stuff when you see those sorts of things.

Also, modelling in the class and doing role plays – fishbowl examples. Those sorts of things are effective ways of practicing, strengthening areas that are weaker or modelling good examples; because there’s always children you can rely on to do a good example for you. Other children can then see, that's what it looks like. Giving them a chance to sit outside doesn't really help them learn what's the right way to behave. You've got to give them concrete examples.

Having somebody like Chrissy as a principal, you are expected to read, and I do go to conferences in the holidays and those sorts of things. I do choose to go to the things that are saying, “What are we doing about key competencies?” The expectation was, that we needed to. But I guess it's also a personal philosophy that while it used to look like the curriculum had learning 'here' [above] and key competencies 'here' [below], my philosophy – and obviously that's why I work well in this school – is if you don't have the key competencies 'here' [above] right, then you're not going to get the learning anyway. You just learn so much more if you've got those skills also happening in your class environment.

It's not extra. That’s the whole thing about key competencies; they're not extra. They are making it easier.

Updated on: 25 Oct 2009