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Key competencies and inquiry

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Staff from Mangere Bridge School discuss teacher-only day, where they explored the school inquiry process by being students themselves. This day gave them all insight into their students' learning, how they could be more effective facilitators of inquiry, as well as how the key competencies could be integrated into inquiry in meaningful way.

Professional learning conversations

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

Developing key competencies

The New Zealand Curriculum (p12) states that:

"The development of the competencies is both an end in itself (a goal) and the means by which other ends are achieved. Successful learners make use of the competencies in combination with all the other resources available to them. These include personal goals, other people, community knowledge and values, cultural tools (language, symbols, and texts), and the knowledge and skills found in different learning areas. As they develop the competencies, successful learners are also motivated to use them, recognising when and how to do so and why."

  • Mangere Bridge School encouraged their teachers to be learners in order to be able to inquire into their own teaching. Discuss how well this strategy could work in your school context.
  • In what ways do you look at the skills needed to develop key competencies in your planning?
  • In what ways do you assess where your students are at with the key competencies and what they are already bringing into your class?

Have you seen ...

Teacher Rosina Prasad created the following PowerPoint from pictures of students demonstrating key competencies in everyday activities.

PowerPoint icon. I Wonder ppt from Mangere Bridge (PowerPoint, 613 KB)


Jan Bills

On the day we also explored our inquiry process. We have one that we’d devised and wanted to move it to a different level and simplify it. We also have in the school (from charter and from consultation with the community) PAL: Partnership, Achievement and Learning. We decided that what we would try to do is link that with the inquiry process, so we call it now [PALS]: Posing questions; Accessing information; Linking ideas; Sharing with others. ‘PALS take action’ is what we want our children to start to think about.

So on the day we talked about that and essentially what the teachers were doing was working through that PAL process. So in what they were doing, by having an immersion with the photographs, they then worked through each of those stages and thought about them as they were doing them. By being the learners the intent was that they would try to understand something about how they could impact with their children.

Don Bitcliff

Jan was very explicit through the process of how the key competencies linked to what we were doing, and I found that it really focused how I was going to then take it back into the classroom. All day I was making notes constantly about… ‘this is what it looks like for me here’, ‘now I’ve got an idea and I’m going to need to teach my kids this and this’, because I can do this as an adult and these are the skills that they are going to need teaching. So it was just invaluable to help me get my head around what were the key things that needed to happen in the classroom in the first few weeks.

Elizabeth Crisp

It made me realise that I had to bring some skills along to that teacher only day – some were well developed, some of them weren’t, and they were around the key competencies, which when I started to think about those and think about them in my own class, I realised that some children have some of them and they are developed well and some aren’t. So how could I place the children in the position where they’d explore those explicitly? The starting point was realising what they did have – even at 5 or 6 – and where we could go with that. 

So, some little groups could work together. So for them, moving through the process was about posing questions, quickly accessing information, being able to link ideas and share, but for some of them it was way back - can I talk to the people around me, can I manage myself enough to interrelate with other people, relate, cooperate, those sorts of things.

Don Bitcliff

One thing, as a team, we came up with was using the key competencies to frame a class treaty or a class charter. That involved all my children looking at the key competencies and what they were. From the planning, came four terms, which were: knowledge seeker; a responsible information user; a group contributor; a self-directed learner. I felt that it was really important that the children understood what these terms mean. I used ‘why?’ charts, which had the children looking a how people think, feel and act, as each of those four terms.

Rosina Prasad

For me as well it was about setting up my class at the beginning of the year, as it was an ideal time to really explore the key competencies. I was just taking photos of the kids in class and realised that they are already showing all the key competencies just through the little things that they’re doing – they are managing themselves, they are thinking. Just to really point it out to them: ‘this is what you are doing and this is what part of what learning is, and we do it everyday’.

So I created a PowerPoint that was just pictures of the children doing daily activities. Just going around the class you could see that they were clearly doing each key competency, and I wanted to make that explicit to them: ‘look here are a group of people who are relating to each other - how are they relating to each other? What does it mean?’ Or looking at children ‘thinking’, so maybe thinking is a time when they are on their own thinking quietly, and it’s a quiet time. So we are also setting up: if we are thinking, how do we do that?

Elizabeth Crisp

Something else that impacted me on teacher only day was that the learning that we were presented with was all around us. It was our community, it was places I had driven past, but the most powerful link has come down to a little acorn seed when a child absolutely authentically produced an acorn and said ‘I wonder what that is’? So in that moment there was a journey to go on and that has unfolded for a whole lot of learning at different levels for different children.

Updated on: 25 Jul 2010