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Who else can help you know the learner?

As well as your own observations and contributions from whānau, valuable insights into learners’ needs and aspirations will come from regular communication with members of wider teams supporting individuals or groups of students. These teams may draw their members from school, home, specialist services, and the community.

Regular communication with members of such teams plays an important role in building knowledge of the student. To do this effectively and respectfully, you need to agree on ways of communicating with team members that respect the commitments of each person, including whānau members.

Planned meetings, informal conversations, emails, and phone calls are all opportunities to share knowledge of students so their strengths, passions, and interests are made increasingly more visible. These interactions are also opportunities to identify and discuss challenges that students face in their communities and to work together to respond to these.

Building a knowledge of the learner is important when developing learning pathways for students from year 10. Collaborative planning between the Careers Department, the student, whānau, specialist teachers, deans, and subject teachers helps to determine a learning pathway that meets the needs, interests, and aspirations of the student. This may mean a shift in attitude within senior leadership teams to think creatively and flexibly about timetabling, subject choices, and learning pathways outside of the immediate school environment.


In Example 8, subject teachers for a year 9 class collaboratively plan a unit of work and keep in touch to share updates on students’ progress.

The following table suggests shifts in practice that will contribute to building a rich knowledge of the learner.

Moving from...


Attempting to get to know the student from one or two meetings Developing relationships and growing a rich knowledge of the student over time
Relying on limited information to make decisions about student capability Drawing on a broad knowledge base – from previous teachers, the student, their whānau, and team members providing support
Adults deciding what can and needs to be done to support learning

Adults listening to and supporting the learner to be an active participant in decisions about their learning

Finding out what a learner can do and wants to do, and using this to support learning

Defining a student’s needs and learning opportunities by their impairment Recognising and accessing support so the learner can work within the curriculum
Having all the answers from day one Identifying one aspect of learning and working on that to build knowledge and achieve progress over time
Teachers working on their own Teachers working as a part of a collaborative team and sharing information

As a group, use the table above and the following questions to reflect on your practice and how it could change to better support all learners.

  1. How well do we know and work with our students in respectful and positive ways? Are there some students who miss out?
  2. How do our beliefs about disability and diversity support or limit our relationships with our students?
  3. How do we gain information about what our students can and want to do? Who do we consult in their network of support? How do we use this information?
  4. How do we support our students and their whānau to ensure they feel safe, connected, and valued in the school community?

Published on: 02 Jun 2015