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Building on strengths and aspirations

E tipu e rea mō ngā rā o tōu ao…

Āpirana Ngata, 1874–1950

Grow, tender young shoot, in the days destined for you…

We all have dreams and aspirations, shaped by where we come from, what we already know, who we interact with, and where we see ourselves in the future. And we all have strengths, which we build on and draw on to work towards our aspirations.

When we work in collaboration, we learn together and achieve more through the support we give one another. In such situations, some students may readily build on their strengths and work towards their aspirations. Others will require more support to do so. Along with whānau and peers, teachers and leaders play a key role in providing this support.

It is critical that we recognise and respond to students’ aspirations and strengths. A common barrier faced by all students is others underestimating their potential. Teachers also need to look for the yet-to-be-discovered abilities and talents of their students (Giangreco, 2010).   

"[We need to] pick up on how we perceive the learner … because if the teacher doesn’t believe the student can do it, guess what? They won’t.”

Academic, project interview, 2013

Why is building on strengths and aspirations so important for students with additional learning needs?

In many ways, students with additional needs are at greater risk of people focusing on what they can’t do and overlooking their capabilities and dreams. Everyone should actively challenge low expectations for any student, regardless of who holds them. 

Family and whānau aspirations for their children

Parents and other whānau members have important knowledge about a student’s strengths and aspirations.

Learning opportunities that build on strengths and aspirations

Learning involves making connections between what is already known and new information, skills, and understandings.

Connecting pathways with strengths and aspirations

It is important to build on students’ strengths and aspirations when planning learning pathways with them.

Published on: 24 May 2016