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Growing the key competencies through the arts

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Louise Field from Somerville Intermediate highlights the importance of the arts curriculum area for growing the key competencies.

Professional learning conversations

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

Things we need to know about key competencies

  • Key competencies are complex and changing – they will look different in different contexts, and will be developed through opportunities to use them in increasingly wide-ranging and complex contexts.
  • Key competencies are demonstrated in performance – they require action.
  • Key competencies require teachers to notice not just what students are learning, but how they are learning and their capacity to continue learning.

Key competencies

  • In what ways do you ensure that the key competencies look different in different contexts?
  • Do you have school wide agreement on what key competencies look like in different learning areas? How is that shown in planning and assesment?
  • How do students and teachers monitor their development and demonstration of the key competencies?


My name’s Louise Field and I’m the director of music and the leader of the arts curriculum at Somerville Intermediate.

The arts are a tremendous opportunity for children to express themselves, to develop a sense of self worth. The arts are really important in developing key competencies in young minds. Further to developing the key competencies, well that’s absolutely going to aid students in their achievement in other areas at school.

Through activities in the classroom, through music advancement programmes, through the art advancement programmes, you see evidence of kids participating and contributing. Certainly developing of their thinking skills. Particularly with respect to literacy - to be able to learn to read guitar charts, ukulele charts, learn to read music - they’re developing a sense of literacy that can then be translated into a school literacy programme.

Say, the key competency of thinking could be evidenced in a music lesson. If I have one of my year eight students, may be composing music, creating a guitar song, they need to stop and listen which chords work well here? This chord progression works, this chord progression doesn’t, so what do I need to do to change that? How can I change that? Who do I need to speak to to help me change that? 

Bringing a blend of the key competencies into, say, a music class or an art class or a drama class it is something that’s been happening all along. It’s just quite valuable that these days it’s articulated as an important part of the curriculum. Hence the reason why the arts need to be included. 

The opportunity to grow key competencies within an arts programme is enormous these days and it highlights the value of the arts in a robust curriculum. We’re quite fortunate at our school they do value the arts. When you can give concrete examples of exactly how learning to play the guitar is going to help a student to approach reading in a literacy programme you’re actually able to articulate exactly and quite clearly how the arts are going to support learning in other areas.

I think there’s always been a connection but over the past few years as it’s been articulated in the curriculum and we’re told now yet something else we need to include in your teaching programme you need to work at developing these as a curriculum team. When we’re sat down and we are talking we’re going “Hey, we’ve been doing all this all along”, it’s actually articulated in the curriculum now.   

My advice to other teachers is to stop and look personally at what the value is of the arts in developing student key competencies. The key competencies are underpinning most of the learning that is happening at school. By developing key competencies in the students you’re making their entire learning experience at school quite a lot easier, quite a lot more effective.   

Published on: 03 Jan 2013