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Key competencies

Ko te mahi nui a ngā pūkenga matua ā-ipurangi ko te tautoko i ngā kaiwhakahaere me ngā pouako ki te whakataki, ki te whakawhanake hoki i tō rātou māramatanga ki te hira nui o aua pūkenga matua mō ngā ākonga.

Supporting school leaders and teachers as they introduce and deepen their understanding of key competencies for learners.

How the key competencies developed and evolved

PDF icon. How the key competencies were developed: The evidence base (PDF, 2 MB)

PDF icon. How the key competencies evolved over time: Insights from the research (PDF, 2 MB)

These papers were developed to make clear the evidence base and intent of the key competencies, and provide a view of current practice to help inform discussions at key education events in 2018.

Key competencies and effective pedagogy

The key competencies and effective pedagogy project undertaken by NZCER and University of Waikato helps schools audit their progress with integrating the five key competencies into all learning programmes. Example units and lessons are included.


Monitoring key competencies

Assessing key competencies: Why would we? How could we?
Written by Dr Rosemary Hipkins, one of the many New Zealand educationalists who have been involved in the development of The New Zealand Curriculum

Exploring key competencies

Curriculum weaving: an idea whose time has come?
Key competencies have always been aligned with “21st century” learning imperatives but it hasn’t been obvious exactly how they could provide the impetus for changing teaching and learning. Dr. Rosemary Hipkins shows how ideas about “weaving” approaches have been quietly gathering momentum, and how they can help us take a fresh look at the curriculum work the key competencies were always intended to do. 

The nature of the key competencies: A background paper
This background paper by Rosemary Hipkins explores the nature of The New Zealand Curriculum key competencies. 

Documenting learning of the key competencies: What are the issues? (PDF 726KB)
A discussion paper by Rosemary Hipkins, Sally Boyd, and Chris Joyce, NZCER.

A Systemic Lens on Classroom Teaching: Supporting the Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum in Secondary Schools
This paper reports on school efforts to implement the key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum while considering the wide range of policies and organisations that impact classroom practices at the secondary level.

Key competencies case studies
Sally Boyd and Verena Watson from NZCER report on their research findings from the normal schools’ key competencies exploration during 2006. 

The shape of curriculum change
Rosemary Hipkins presented this session at the CORE Breakfast seminar in Dunedin, 29 March 2011. 

The shape of curriculum change – Summary
A short discussion of key findings from the Curriculum Implementation Studies (CIES) project. 

Deepening understandings of key competencies
Rosemary Hipkins, Chief Researcher at NZCER, talks about the way the key competencies can change both the learning and the subject content. Rosemary emphasises the importance of understanding how meaning is made in a subject, what the literacies and conventions are, and how students should be included in the 'hidden game' as they make the learning-to-learn links.  

More complex than skills: Rethinking the relationship between key competencies and curriculum content
Rosemary Hipkins, NZCER, presented this paper at the International Conference on Education and Development of Civic Competencies, Seoul, October 2010.

Lifelong Literacy: The integration of key competencies and reading
This report presents the findings of a research project that explored how the key competencies described in The New Zealand Curriculum might be integrated with the teaching of reading in the middle years of primary school (years 3–6). The project involved researchers supporting teachers to conceptualise key competencies more deeply, and design and implement reading programmes that integrate the competencies.

Exploring the “front end” of the curriculum
This part of the curriculum is widely seen as very powerful. The addition of key competencies and a redeveloped values statement seem to be particularly attractive to teachers and school leaders. 

Te reo Māori and the key competencies
Students who are learning te reo Māori develop key competencies as they participate in meaningful social interaction. 

Key competencies in action

Helping your child develop key competencies
A guide for parents to help them help their children develop and use the key competencies.

Capable kids: Working with the key competencies
This material was developed for the Ministry of Education by the New Zealand Council for Education Research.

Key competencies in the classroom
This webpage provides information for educators to support the use of the NZCER teacher and student surveys: Key competencies in the classroom. It has links to information about the development of the surveys, and ideas about how data from these surveys might be collected, analysed, and used in schools. 

Thinking Tools
Use these tools to explore the impact science and technology might have on society, both now and in the future.

Technology and key competencies
Technology, as an essential learning area, has a responsibility to work with all other learning areas to ensure the key competencies are mediated into the classroom curriculum. The capabilities captured in the five competencies are all essential underpinning capabilities for the development of a technological literacy that is broad, deep, and critical in nature, and one that will result in increasing student empowerment for future citizenship.

Science and key competencies
The science learning area in The New Zealand Curriculum emphasises developing learners’ citizenship capabilities. The Nature of Science strand explores ways science knowledge is created and used in the world, and can be used to encourage teaching and learning to help achieve the citizenship purpose.


Building question askers not question answerers
CORE Education's Trevor Bond explores how we create an environment for our students to be inquiring lifelong learners. He challenges us to think about whether our students spend more time asking questions or answering questions.

Thinking about thinking
Rosemary Hipkins from NZCER has been thinking about thinking. She talks about the "everywhere and nowhere" nature of thinking and how we need to look below the tip of the iceberg.

Audri's Rube Goldberg Monster Trap
This Youtube video (duration 4:06) shows the process 7 year old Audri goes through to construct a working Rube Goldberg machine. It could be used as a stimulus for discussion with students about many of the key competencies.

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us
This lively RSA Animate, adapted from Dan Pink's talk at the RSA, illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace.


The key competencies are just another name for the old essential skills, aren't they?

The key competencies are more than just a set of skills. They are about the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values we employ as we encounter different situations and interact with diverse people and their perspectives. Developing the key competencies is a lifelong process as we respond to, reflect on, and integrate new knowledge as a result of our experiences.

Students need multiple opportunities to develop and apply the key competencies in a supportive environment across a range of learning contexts and school events.

We have decided to focus on one key competency each week to ensure we get good coverage on every competency by the end of the term, but it isn’t always a good fit with what we might be doing in the classroom. Are there other ways of ensuring we get good coverage and depth in each competency?

A focus on a particular key competency as part of a professional development or review cycle can be useful in exploring the complexity of each competency, particularly in terms of school curriculum design.

It is also important to explore how each of the learning/subject areas can provide rich contexts and opportunities for developing different key competencies at different times to other learning areas.

When planning units, teachers will be thinking about the strengths and needs of their students and the teaching approaches they will be using to best bring about the learning outcomes. This is an ideal time to plan for developing particular aspects of one or more of the key competencies that align with the approach.

Term and yearly plans will be useful in mapping key competency development opportunities across the learning areas and school events.

Our school is developing indicators for each of the key competencies, which we will monitor our students against to ensure we are developing their competencies. Are there any risks we have not foreseen?

Students need to be given opportunities to set goals and to self and peer assess the demonstration of a particular key competency within the context that it has been taught. This reinforces the idea of greater student ownership and self-management of the learning process.

The teacher is an important part of this cycle, helping individualise learning goals with students, providing the learning opportunity, evaluating students’ progress towards their goals, and planning for next learning steps.

Context is so important. We all have strengths and weaknesses in the different competencies, dependent on the situation we find ourselves in, and the knowledge and strategies we have available to us. Reporting on student development in the key competencies must reflect the context in which they were observed.

Published on: 04 Apr 2014