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Documenting the development of learners' key competencies

Documentation about key competencies should draw attention to how students' capabilities are evident as they participate with others in a specific context. It should be useful to learners themselves, parents/caregivers, and teachers as a tool for reflecting on and thinking about strengthening key competencies in ongoing learning.

Documentation for monitoring key competencies is not about recording indicators, criteria, marks, grades, or rubrics.

Documentation for monitoring key competencies is more about rich descriptions, examples, accounts, and narratives.

Possible strategies for documenting learners’ key competency development

Learning logs or journals

A learner record of competency-focused and other learning goals in which they record evidence of their success in meeting goals in particular situations, and reflect on their ongoing learning needs.


Annotated evidence of learning. Students select items for inclusion and write descriptive reflections on what the evidence shows about their learning. This process promotes the idea of life-long learning. Portfolios accumulate evidence across a period of time rather than being a single snapshot. It's important that teachers provide models for students to follow and that each student feels safe to comment honestly on what they perceive to be their learning strengths and ongoing needs. Portfolios can contribute to reporting purposes when they are used as a basis of three-way teacher, student, and parent conferences.


"An e-portfolio is an electronic format for learners to record their work, their achievements and their goals, to reflect on their learning, and to share and be supported in this. It enables learners to represent the information in different formats and to take the information with them as they move between institutions." (Banks, B., 2004, e-Portfolios: Their use and benefits).

E-portfolios can assist students to take increasing responsibility for their own learning. Technology enables the use of a range of media - video, sound, and images, as well as text to show both the learning process and final products.

  • Albany Senior High School
    As part of the MOE 2010 seminar series, Mark Osborne and Miranda Makin describe how the use of e-portfolios supports the monitoring and evaluation of the key competencies at Albany Senior High School.
  • Why use e-portfolios? – seminar with Nick Rate
    Nick Rate is a national facilitator working with 
ICT PD clusters around the country. In this summary of his recent breakfast presentation on e-portfolios, he highlights how they can assist schools to improve learning outcomes, enabling increased student engagement and success.

Learning stories 

These short narratives provide evidence of a learner's development of the key competencies. Over time, the accumulated stories provide a picture of the learner's developing and strengthening competency. The stories may be instigated and written by the teacher, the student, a parent, or some other adult. Typically they will be developed collaboratively and may include photos or other evidence. While this assessment method was initially developed in early childhood settings, it has recently been used at all levels including secondary school (Carr, 2001; and Ministry of Education, 2004). Early childhood example - Becoming part of the group (PDF 124KB).

Strategies for thinking about student development of the key competencies

10-minute reflection time
An opportunity for parents to be informally welcomed into classrooms at the end of the day to be part of a discussion about what has happened during the day and how key competencies were part of the day.

Leaving slips 
A small slip of paper where learners record a key thought about what they learned or their experience of the learning during the day. These can be placed in a box by the door on their way out for teachers to read.

Learning blog
Students detail their learning experience for parents and caregivers to share or comment on.

Reflection/discussion prompts
Prompts relating to key competencies as suggestions for discussion as part of homework/home-learning.

An opportunity for peers to share with each other what they have noticed about each others' competencies in particular situations before, during, and after school as well as at break times.

Camera on hand
A call for students to use a camera or other recording device to capture examples of students using key competencies.

Monitoring the teaching/learning environment

Is it conducive to key competencies?

As well as monitoring and documenting students’ ongoing development of key competencies, it is important to monitor the nature of the school/class programme and the opportunities it provides. In what ways and to what extent does the programme facilitate students’ development of key competencies?

How could we monitor key competencies?

There is still much thinking and consideration going on about the place of assessment in relation to key competencies.

As schools and teachers explore approaches to the key competencies, they are increasingly recognising that opportunities for monitoring the key competencies involve:

  • learners performing real tasks in real contexts
  • noticing students’ application of the key competencies in day-to-day life at school, rather than only during designed activities
  • monitoring what the students have had the opportunity to learn in specific contexts and how this new learning is transferred to other situations
  • learners interacting with others, rather than working in isolation
  • teachers monitoring key competencies with students, rather than ‘doing monitoring’ to students
  • formative opportunities that enable responsiveness, rather than summative
  • the accumulation of information, rather than one off examples
  • self and peer-assessment, rather than just teacher judgments
  • an emphasis on qualitative information (that foregrounds the dynamic, contextual, and complex nature of key competencies) rather than just quantitative information
  • teachers reflecting on overall student performance in a task, how it might have enhanced content learning and determining areas for future focus
  • teachers evaluating units/lesson plans for both content and key competency learning.

Updated on: 07 Dec 2020