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Creating a coherent and connected curriculum  

This blog focuses on making connections within and across curriculum learning areas – an action endorsed by the coherence curriculum principle. The blog offers a survey, reflective questions, and stories to help you think about ways that you can build a more connected curriculum at your school and in your classroom.

Coherence diagram.

What does a connected curriculum look like?

In 2011 the Education Review Office gathered data from over 200 schools to evaluate the extent to which the principles of The New Zealand Curriculum were evident in the interpretation and implementation of schools’ curricula. This resulting 2012 ERO report describes how the coherence principle was enacted in schools.

ERO found that schools with a connected curriculum:

  • show consistency in planning, delivery, and assessment, including moderation of assessment practices
  • share a common language of learning and shared aspirations for students
  • make links to students’ prior learning and experience
  • make cross curricular links
  • plan collaboratively
  • use an effective curriculum tracking system to monitor the learning of individuals and groups.

How connected is your curriculum?

The connections section of the coherence checklist can be used to help you consider the level of connectivity in your school curriculum so that you can establish possible next steps for your curriculum design and review journey. The checklist is available as a Word document download. By marking the tick boxes, you will be able to identify where you sit in relation to each statement. The survey can be used in a range of ways:

  • by the entire school community, including students, parents, families, whānau, and iwi to identify areas of strength and possible next steps 
  • by teachers to generate discussion and classroom actions
  • by school leaders to inform strategic planning.

An image of the connections section of the checklist can be seen below. Please note that this checklist is not interactive. It is available as a Word document download only.

Download checklist:

Word 2007 icon. Coherence checklist (Word 2007, 37 KB)


Unpacking the checklist

The second part of this blog helps you takes a closer look at each descriptor in the checklist by providing guiding questions and school stories.

Make connections across learning areas

Guiding questions He pātai 

  • In what ways do you help students make connections across learning areas?
  • Can you create courses or units of work that combine discrete subject areas?

School example

Breaking down the notion of a subject based curriculum at Logan Park High School
Paul Enright discusses a new way to create senior school courses. He provides the example of an environmental studies course that draws standards from geography, education for sustainability, and earth science, making an assessable course at three levels.

Use a common language of learning

Guiding questions He pātai

  • In what ways do you share a common language of learning with teachers, parents, whanāu, and communities?
  • How can you build on this?

School example

Using a common language
Teachers at Mangere Bridge School discuss modelling and use of key competency language, common to the whole school, and how students are using it to describe and reflect on their learning.

Have consistent understandings of learning progressions within learning areas

Guiding questions He pātai

  • How do you build consistent understandings of learning progressions within learning areas?
  • How do you ensure that the entire school community shares these understandings?

School example

Clear pathways for literacy learning
Staff across the Mt Roskill campus have worked together to create a clear pathway of learning in reading and writing to ensure success for students. This film has accompanying questions to help you review learning areas at your school using a coherence lens.

Plan collaboratively across learning areas

Guiding questions He pātai

  • How can you keep planning and curriculum delivery consistent across your school?
  • In what ways could you encourage and support greater collaboration between staff?

School example

Vertical curriculum planning
Sarah Hynds explains how her whole school plans together across the levels of the curriculum to increase collegiality, smooth transitions between the levels of the curriculum, and ensure teachers understand what comes before and after individual student's curriculum levels.

Align and moderate assessment practices and teacher judgements

Guiding questions He pātai

  • How do you align and moderate assessment practices and teacher judgments at your school?
  • What kinds of approaches can you use to make your moderation more accurate and consistent across your school?

Collegial learning and the value of shared practice
Teams of teachers from the Upper Hutt Networked Learning Cluster describe how they worked together to develop sustainable moderation systems and consistent judgments across the cluster and within individual schools.

Find out more ...

Coherence diagram.

NZC Online offers a coherence principle package that features information, practical tools, resources, and school examples to help you embed the principle of coherence into your school curriculum.