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Monitoring the key competencies at Sylvia Park School

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Barbara Ala'alatoa, Glenis Hanline, and Ngamihi Masaga talk about the work they have done to grow their ability to make judgments about children’s development in the key competencies. Trying different strategies until they found one that fits has been part of their journey.

Professional learning conversations

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

Assessing key competencies

"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."

Dr Rosemary Hipkins, Assessing key competencies: Why would we? How could we? (PDF, 272 KB)

  • In what ways are you monitoring the key competencies? What else could you try?
  • How could you involve your students when assessing key competencies?
  • In what ways could you make school wide displays of key competency learning, to give a whole school focus and involve the school community?

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KCs wall example.

Creating a key competencies wall
A KC wall is not just a place to put up finished work but somewhere to support the development of learners' key competencies.


Barbara Ala'alatoa
A lot of the work that we've done has been about growing our ability to make judgments about children and their increasing ability within those competencies. That makes sure that we're really, you know, doing all those lovely things that the curriculum is designed to do, which is about creating these life-long learners. But if we do the 'same old', we'll never get that lovely graduate profile for the twenty-first century, which is what we want for all of our kids leaving this school.

The key competencies [are] a normal and natural and lived part of the school day. We don't confine them to literacy, or numeracy, or just inquiry – they're something that we think about our children developing even before they get to the school gate, actually. So we try to promote those through our conversations throughout the learning part of the day, and beyond the learning part of the day: during lunchtimes, before school and after school, and during anytime that they're not in a, sort of, more formal learning situation.

Ngamihi Masaga
When we're looking at our inquiry focus, we find an opportunity to plan for the KCs and how they're going to be assessed.

Barbara Ala'alatoa
Because I guess the thing that we don't want them to do is to, sort of, disappear if we're too generalist about it. So we do say when we're planning our inquiries, we do ask ourselves the question: "What would that competency look like and feel like for children at this particular level?" In this particular unit, where we were focusing on 'relating to others', and we said that we would be able to observe the children's ability by observing and taking photos of them while they were in their team building situations. Then what we do is we take the photographs, and we capture that, and we annotate those photographs and we, with the student, make a judgment about where that child is working on a scale.

Ngamihi Masaga
One of the things we've also decided to do is look at when we are planning, we focus on two key competencies that can be seen or can be assessed in our inquiry. So, as teachers, we want to be ready; we want to capture that when we are possibly doing the team building – that we have our cameras available, you know, that we're ready to capture that for our portfolios.

What we did last year, we created a wall space. We actually had teachers contribute pictures or graphs, or whatever the tangible outcomes was, of students demonstrating those key competencies. We actually put them up on this wall so that teachers were able to see evidence of how they were created – how the KCs were created across the year – and now we're in a position where each classroom has that wall. Also, where students are able to display the key competencies, or whatever they're focusing on, for that particular inquiry focus.

Glenis Hanline
We don't access everything all of the time, so there are some that we focus on to start with and then as the year progresses we build up more evidence on them all. 

Barbara Ala'alatoa
One of the things we challenged ourselves about with that wall was coming up with really interesting examples of children demonstrating those competencies. 

Glenis Hanline
I think what we're really good at is reviewing what we've done and where we're at, and looking at our next steps and what we want to achieve next, and how we're going to get there. I think through… it is through our reviews and assessing ourselves that we have got to where we are now. 

Barbara Ala'alatoa
It's been really trial and error, because we did try a kind-of blanket approach to people being able to collect evidence across the year. Then we tried focusing on two across the school, and then we trialled people choosing two and collecting their own evidence. But we've actually found we're better when we've got a more planned approach to it, and then when we're sharing ideas about what those competencies might look like.

Updated on: 28 Jul 2011