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Teachers as learners

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Mangere Bridge School staff reflect on their teacher only day, which involved exploring current practice/thinking and stepping into the shoes of the learner.

Professional learning conversations

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

Thinking about the key competencies

The New Zealand Curriculum states (p 38): 

"When designing and reviewing their curriculum schools will need to:

  • consider how to encourage and monitor the development of the key competencies
  • clarify their meaning for their students
  • clarify the conditions that will help or hinder the development of the competencies, the extent to which they are being demonstrated, and how the school will evaluate the effectiveness of approaches intended to strengthen them."
  • What aspects of your inquiry learning program have you adapted to accommodate the key competencies?
  • In what ways do your students show that they understand the meaning of the key competencies?
  • How have you modelled being a learner by sharing examples of things that are new or challenging for you?

Have you seen ...

Self-audit framework
This framework provides nine deceptively simple questions that could underpin teachers’ inquiries into how well the key competencies are being embedded into learning.


Jan Bills, Deputy principal

We came to having our teacher only day to, kind of, explore where we were at, and reflect, and try seeing what it would be like to be a learner.

Elizabeth Crisp

The powerful thing about teacher only day for me was that it placed me firmly into the shoes of being a learner myself. What that did for me was help me understand and empathise with what it is like for children in the class. I experienced the frustration where learning isn’t learning, and we pose questions that children already know the answer to. Most powerfully, I think, for me, learnt the importance of a great question.

Jan Bills

So the thinking behind teacher only day was to put the teacher in the position of the learner.

Abigail Ng

As a beginning teacher it was really interesting to be a part of an inquiry learning experience.

Jan Bills

Nobody else, on that day, knew what they were going to do. That was an interesting experience for a lot of teachers because often they are in the role of the ‘teacher’ and so are very clear on what they are going to do.

Abigail Ng

I had never done anything like that before and it was just really nice to be put into the space of the learner and to see how it feels, and to actually experience… because it’s different being on that side; whereas you are looking at the end product when you are a teacher.

Jan Bills

They had to group themselves, and the grouping was random, so it was important that they didn’t choose who they worked with because that was about ‘relating to others’. Sometimes you have to work with people you may not know, so that was beginning to explore one of those key competencies. 

The grouping was around a photo of something in the community. I live in this community and so I know it quite well. So I’d gone out and photographed various things – it’s a very rich community for learning experiences. The reason why I did that was because it’s important that teachers know the community that the children come from. So all the children in this community could have easily engaged in any of these learning experiences. Then they had to form some wonder questions from that. 

Once they got that they got a second photo and then, subsequently, a third photo, and each of those photos gave more information about the particular spot. Once they had formed their questions, then they had their tasks, the rest of the day was theirs, so they had to manage their own time. So that was bringing in the other key competency. 

They had to give a presentation the following day as a group; it was a two-day teacher development. Their presentation was entirely of their own choosing. They could use any kind of technology to report back; they could do it any way they wanted, and it didn’t have to be a ‘finished’ product. So it could have been reporting back about the process; about their thinking - another key competency; about how they might have organised themselves, or it could have been a finished product.

Rosina Prasad

The teacher only day really showed me that inquiry learning is a real process - that it’s not about starting at the bottom and getting straight to the top. It’s about…you might start at the bottom and stay there and ‘the bottom’ for us is opposing questions. I think we all got stuck in, we were given tasks to do, and we just started thinking of questions and realised that we actually had to get out there and go and make a start with a question and see how we went, and then redefine it later. 

That was most valuable for me, as a teacher, I had always been… ‘we are doing the questions, and now we are going to find the answer, and now you have to share it’, without really realising that it just doesn’t work that way, it has to come naturally, the learning.

Elizabeth Crisp

In the same way that the learning is natural around the young children in my class, the opportunity for developing the key competencies exists every moment of the day in a classroom – in me and in the children. And that’s a clear link from my experience as a learner on teacher only day and in my classroom.

Updated on: 28 Jul 2010