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Developing collective understanding

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After having a term to reflect, teachers from Mangere Bridge School talk about their progress with integrating the key competencies. They discuss their next steps and some strategies that they are trialling to take the learning further.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Why do key competencies matter?

Key competencies matter because they support the lifelong learning emphasis in the New Zealand Curriculum:

  • A vision about students as "lifelong learners"
  • Principles of 'learning to learn' 'coherence' and 'future focus' to underpin curriculum
  • The value 'innovation, inquiry, and curiosity'
  • Learning areas that emphasise participation beyond school

About the key competencies

  • In what ways does your school curriculum show that key competencies matter?
  • In what contexts does your classroom programme enable students to demonstrate their competencies in? Are there other contexts that could be used?
  • What information could be used to indicate students' current competencies?


Jan Bills

I think over the term a lot of the challenges for the staff have been in trying to sustain it. I think things start with a rush and a roar, and I think a lot of the staff grasped the ideas and wanted to try it. As it became difficult to implement it in the class they had to stop and reflect more. I think that for us as a school it’s important to give that reflection time. 

I think that what’s worked quite well over the term for teachers is the fact that they have been openly discussing it with each other. I think that going and seeing children in each other’s class and having those conversations at syndicate meetings, and all being on that same pathway has helped those things to become more natural.

Elizabeth Crisp

Probably the thing that I found out about the children and key competencies the most is that they use them but they still find it difficult to talk about them, and to recognise without me prompting that they are doing them. There have been little moments of promise, where they will just pop out with ‘I’m doing this’ or ‘I need to do’ [or] ‘You need to contribute then, you’re not contributing’ they’ll say, but they are not prevalent enough for what I would like yet. So that’s what I want to do.

Rosina Prasad

With key competencies this term it’s been interesting to see the children start to take it more on board with subjects and topics that they really relate too. For example, last week we had the Life Education van here, with Harold, teaching the children about being friends and how nice friends… They went away to do an independent activity and had to label one more box on ‘how you could be a good friend’, and a lot of them, on their own, with no guidance from me, came back and showed me their pictures and they had used the key competency terms. They had used ‘relating to others’ and ‘I’m managing myself’ – they knew that those things made a good friend and it just surprised me because all term I’ve really been pushing it and then suddenly we are coming to the end of the term and they are finally taking it onboard and owning it themselves.

I think the challenge now is to link it to their inquiry learning, which is why it is just so important to have those inquiry topics that they really respond to and own.

Elizabeth and student

E: When we asked those questions, what did we do?

S: Access information.

E: How?

S: By talking to someone.

E: Quite right. We related to each other. People had different opinions didn’t they?

Elizabeth Crisp

What I found as I looked at children’s results from their final task was that they were clear about the different parts of the process. What they weren’t clear about was linking the parts of the process together. So they see the things they do as separate little entities, both in the key competencies and in inquiry.

They can manage themselves but they don’t see that as linking with the other key competencies. They can work with someone, but they don’t see it as managing themselves in that context. The same for inquiry – they can pose questions but when they recorded their learning process, quite often they posed a different question to the one they accessed information for; and so the next steps would be to help them make those links together and realise it’s a seamless process.

Tanya Watts

We are trialling these cards that have given pictures to the key competencies – this for instance is ‘thinking’ [pic of lightbulb], so the children get used to seeing a symbol rather than the word thinking. So they know they are using thinking when they go off to do a task. They should be able to decide what key competencies they are using themselves – eg ‘using language, symbols and text’ because they will be doing that at some any of the day. So we are just trialling them in my class to see how they work, to see if we can integrate them into our daily programme.

Student 2

Managing self – because I need to keep reminding myself to read because last year I didn’t read that much.

Student 3

Normally I just think in my brain, I don’t talk to anyone, so I can use this to talk to my friends about how to solve this problem.

Tanya Watts

So one way I can use them in my class, they cards, is to link them in with the evaluation questions that the kids do at the end of the day before they go home – just to put the pictures on the evaluation questions so that they learn just by looking at it which one it is representing. 

Another way I thought about using them is if I had a child that was struggling with ‘managing self’, I could have one in my pocket and just quietly drop it on the desk beside them, just to remind them about how to use the key competencies in class. 

Another way is to get a set of them, and when children are going off to do independent activities, to get them to work out which key competencies they are using while doing that and they take them with them and put them on the desk. So they remember that they are ‘thinking’, ‘managing self’ and ‘relating to others’. So those are some of the ways I’ve thought about using them next term.

Rosina Prasad

So the teacher only day also allowed us as a staff to brainstorm words about how we thought children learn best. It was interesting that a lot of us thought that a lot of us thought that children need to be engaged and motivated and own their own learning, and see a reason for what they are learning. I’ve realised now that you can translate that into key competencies – if children are engaged then they are ‘thinking’; if they are owning their learning they are thinking again or managing themselves and setting goals. I think that’s been a really successful thing to see how you can develop the understandings that we collectively agreed upon as a staff.

Elizabeth Crisp

So even with these young children, it was just so obvious to me, while there are natural things that some of us learn just through our environment, they do need to be explicitly taught in the classroom. So that’s what I tried to throughout the term.

Looking back on it now as we are at the end of our topic ‘wonder’; thinking about how it unfolded, I think that some things like ‘managing self’ and ‘relating to others’ are uppermost in the children’s mind. They know they did that; they can articulate that, but there are others of the key competencies that are still unfolding for them. They are still very early readers and mathematicians.  As they gain greater skill in that area it will impact their learning and interface with the other competencies too. 

Judy Hanna, Principal

In terms of a whole school picture, the key competencies sit very neatly and tidily inside everything we do. For us the new revised curriculum made a lot of sense and the key competencies, I think, made a really big difference to how we think about things. What we have done is look at the key competencies informally, and we’ve moved up to making more formal use of them. And as other people have said, we’re embedding them into what we do. I think the fact that because they teach us and they teach our children about how to behave in their learning makes a lot of sense to our teachers and a lot of sense to our children. 

Jan Bills, Deputy

I think as far as the children are concerned, what is really important for them is to start to own the process. I think they have grasped it but they need to actually internalise it so it’s more a part of what they do, and that it’s natural to them. I think the challenge is to make it not an imposed learning situation but an internalised, natural learning that works within that context of inquiry.

Judy Hanna

What I’m really excited about is everybody here has taken it fully onboard. We haven’t had to persuade anybody that it’s a good idea. What we have is a team of teachers who are supporting each other and their children in terms of getting the key competencies to be part of what happens everyday at school.

Updated on: 03 Aug 2010