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Learning opportunities that build on strengths and aspirations

"In deep expressions of practice, students’ learning activities and the curriculum/knowledge content they engage with are shaped in ways that reflect the input and interest of students, as well as what teachers know to be important knowledge."

Bolstad, Gilbert, et al., 2012, page 19

Learning involves making connections between what is already known and new information, skills, and understandings. Research also demonstrates the importance of emotion and motivation for learning – for example, a major OECD review of the research on learning calls emotion and motivation the ‘gatekeepers to learning’ (Dumont, Istance, & Benavides, 2012). Therefore it is vital that the learning opportunities you provide build on each learner’s strengths (linking to prior knowledge), aspirations and interests (linking to emotion and motivation), and identity, language, and culture (linking to both).

A second key consideration is supporting students to acquire the knowledge and skills that have been identified by the New Zealand Curriculum as important and appropriate for their age and stage of development. In this regard, broad learning experiences will provide contexts for developing students’ overall capacity to learn: that is, to use knowledge effectively, to be curious and questioning, to think independently, and to plan and evaluate.

Over time and on balance, teachers’ planning has to take account of these two key considerations.  At times this will involve supporting students’ short-term goals – for example, they may want to have a friend who will sit beside them and talk to them, or to be able to give a presentation like their classmates. At other times, it will support longer-term goals, such as being able to ride the bus by themselves, to drive, to obtain a qualification, or to live independently. In both cases, the learning opportunities you provide will enable your students to draw on and develop the key competencies, to develop the specific knowledge and skills they need in relation to their goals, and to understand why these are important for achieving these goals.


In Example 4, a student in a year 13 English class is supported to build on her strengths and interest in photography while working towards an IEP goal of talking to others about why and how she takes or selects particular photographs.


In small groups, view the video Involving Families in Transitions. Discuss how as a school you listen to and support the aspirations of whānau for
their children throughout their schooling, particularly at transition points. How might learner profiles help to capture the aspirations of both students and whānau?

Next – Connecting pathways with strengths and aspirations

Published on: 24 May 2016