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Key competencies and a thematic approach

An important feature of key competencies in teaching and learning is that they integrate knowledge, attitudes, and values in ways that lead to action in authentic contexts. A thematic approach presents a potentially useful way of making this feature of key competencies happen.

This tool presents some considerations for discussion about three features of the thematic approach outlined in the clip from Katikati College – big ideas, connections, and critical thinking.

Thematic approach.

Watch 'Key competencies and a thematic approach at Katikati College'. Duration 4:23.

Big ideas and enduring understandings in a thematic approach

  • How can we ensure that students both encounter the big ideas, and also have enough particular examples from authentic contexts to make sense of them?
  • What are the actions of others (in the past and the present) that students could learn about?
  • What actions (actual participation in something real) could students take now?
  • How can we address attitudes and values as we think about knowledge and ideas?
  • What might we say to a student that draws their attention to values as they consider conceptual understandings?
  • There are likely to be lots of possible contexts that relate to the theme – how can we involve students in decisions about the contexts that would be most useful to deal with?

Connections in a thematic approach

  • There are likely to be lots of potential connections to be made between understandings related to a theme. How can we decide which ones are most meaningful for students?
  • How can we ensure that connections between ideas from various learning areas are useful to make?
  • What connections could be made between school-based learning and the ‘real’ world?
  • What is the relationship between the proposed theme, and students’ current needs and interests?
  • How might we help students see the connection between the skills they are using and other contexts in which they could apply those skills?
  • Are we being explicit about the relevance of the theme to learners’ lives?

Critical thinking in a thematic approach

Thinking poster.
  • How might we ensure that a range of diverse perspectives on the content of the theme is considered?
  • Big ideas might seem universal – how can we help students challenge that and look for different viewpoints?
  • How can we encourage students to raise questions and problems about the theme or big ideas?
  • How can we improve the quality of students’ thinking and reasoning?
  • How can we help students reflect on their knowledge, attitudes, and values to evaluate the quality of their thinking?

Updated on: 21 Aug 2011