Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

New Zealand Curriculum Online navigation


Learning to learn principle

Learning to learn principle
“The curriculum encourages all students to reflect on their own learning processes and to learn how to learn.”

The learning to learn principle is one of eight principles in The New Zealand Curriculum that provide a foundation for schools' decision making. The learning to learn principle calls for schools and teachers to deliver a curriculum that helps students:

  • reflect on how they learn
  • develop the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values that enables them to improve their own learning
  • set challenging and specific learning goals 
  • receive feedback (from peers, teachers, parents, and own experience) that relates specifically to their progress and next steps.

Why is learning to learn important?

Empowering students to become more self-directed learners and helping teachers and parents further develop these skills in their children can significantly increase students’ motivation and achievement in school. 

Cleary and Zimmerman, 2004, cited in Gibbs and Poskitt, 2010, page 21

Student with their thumbs up.

Watch ...

Michael Absolum: What is learning to learn?
In this video, Michael Absolum explores the learning to learn principle.

Guy Claxton: Learning to learn
Guy Claxton explains that learning to learn is a deep seated attitude to your own mind. He explores the difference between expecting that our ability to learn is fixed, rather than being able to grow our capacity to learn.

Read ...

NZC Update 21 – The learning to learn principle
This NZC Update provides resources to help schools explore the learning to learn principle. It also makes links to key research papers.

Learning to learn in secondary classrooms
This report explores teachers' practice and thinking about one of the eight principles in the New Zealand Curriculum, learning to learn. It draws on data from teachers' responses to NZCER's 2012 National Survey of Secondary Schools.

Prompt - Mythbuster.

Learning to learn is more than identifying your preferred learning style and preferences. Learning to learn is a bundle of skills, knowledge, attitudes, and values that, together with metacognition, enables people to take control of and improve their own learning.


Learning to learn spotlight
Use this spotlight to explore the learning to learn principle and help your students reflect on their own learning processes and learn how to learn. Find short videos, group activities, and opportunities for personal reflection.

Learner agency spotlight
Use this spotlight to explore learner agency and find strategies to help you build greater agency in your classrooms. This spotlight includes short videos, group activities, and opportunities for personal reflection.

Growing active learners
In this video, Michael Absolum outlines some strategies for helping your students become active learners. Use the questions provided to develop a shared understanding of learning to learn at your school. 

School stories

Read ...

Roslyn School – Our approach to the KCs
Teachers and students at Roslyn School designed and produced a set of five posters, for use across the school, to highlight what each key competency meant to them.

St John Bosco School – Learner agency
This snapshot describes how teachers at St John Bosco School are supporting learner agency in older prefabricated classrooms. 

Ormiston Junior College - Designing graduate profile badges
Students at Ormiston Junior High School are key players in the assessment process. They discuss, clarify, and reflect on their goals, strategies, and progress with their teachers, their parents, and one another. This develops students’ capacity for self- and peer assessment, which in turn helps them "learn how to learn." 

Watch ...

Leading my own learning
The learning to learn principle has underpinned curriculum change at Taihape Area School. Students are supported to be independent, self-motivated, reflective, and metacognitive learners through newly adopted teaching and learning approaches.

Creating learning spaces
Anne Kenneally has spent this year experimenting with student designed learning spaces, allowing the students to take the lead in deciding what spaces they need for different activities.

Teachers talk about assessment for learning – Mangere Bridge School
Teachers from Mangere Bridge School talk about sharing assessment data with students. There are links to related videos on next learning steps and helping students take ownership of their learning.

Feedback and critique in art
Nikki Maetzig and Matt Jarry explain the process they use in their art department to help students manage their time and drive their own learning. This process supports students to give and receive effective feedback and critique in order to make improvements to their own work and meet deadlines. 

Feedback in a secondary art class
Nikki Maetzig discusses learning to learn in the context of her art classes where students learn how to give and receive feedback. Criticism is an important skill for artists, and the skill of effective critique supports students to be self reflective, plan for improvement in their own work, and to ask each other for help.  

Learning to learn: A school-wide approach
Gregor Fountain found that the focus on learning to learn has de-centred the teachers a little as they need to be able to stand back and help the students develop the capacity to find their own answers. He also challenges us to think about what learning to learn might look like in different learning areas. 

Students discuss learning intentions
Secondary students from Wellington College and Wellington East Girls' College discuss their experiences with learning intentions. They challenge us to think about how to make these learning intentions more effective. 

Students discuss learning to learn strategies
Secondary students from Wellington College discuss the strategies - including peer feedback, real life examples, and exemplars - that help them learn how to learn.  

Learning to learn in English 
Thorsten Harms from Wellington College discusses some of the strategies he uses in his English classes to help students to learn how to learn.

Developing learning dispositions
Tim Thatcher, from Wellington College, discusses how he helps students to develop learning dispositions through inquiry learning.

Creating a positive learning culture
Kathryn Hutchison from Wellington East Girls' College discusses how she creates a positive learning culture. She explains how exemplars, modeling, collaboration, and learning conversations are integral to helping students learn how to learn.

Learning to learn and inquiry
Ricky Prebble from Wellington East Girls' College discusses the role of inquiry teaching and learning in his social sciences programme. He unpacks the elements of inquiry that support the learning to learn principle, specifically how inquiry encourages students to explore why they are learning and how they are learning.

How teachers can help us learn
Students from Wellington College answer the question, "How can teachers help you learn?".

Students and their learning at the centre
Rebecca Logan from Wellington East Girls' College discusses how she centres her lessons around her students with group work and time for inquiry. This allows her to have conversations with them about how they are learning. The result is that the students are much more able to reflect on and grow their learning capacity. The capturing of student voice in this story gives a valuable insight into how students see effective teaching.


Read ...

Assessment for learning – Leading Local Curriculum Guide Series
This guide focuses on informal assessment for learning in the classroom to inform teaching and learning, including selecting appropriate assessment tools for equitable and positive outcomes for all students. It will support you to review your assessment policies and procedures and can be used for ongoing review.

Information sharing and building learning partnerships – Leading Local Curriculum Guide Series
This guide contains guidance, review questions, activities, examples, and resources to enable deep discussions in your school about information sharing and learning partnerships. These discussions will help to maintain a clear focus on equitable and positive outcomes for all your students. 

BES Exemplar 5: Learning logs - He kete wherawhera (online PDF)
Using learning logs with senior secondary students, and how this strengthens student–teacher communications and accelerates learning.

Learning stories
This webpage explains the use of learning stories to capture learning experiences and identify next steps for students. It includes examples of learning stories and suggestions for using this approach at your school. 

Watch ...

What is an active learner?
Michael Absolum outlines the attributes of an active learner, and shares a story about a particular learning experience of his own.

Students directing their own learning
In this EDtalk Ewan McIntosh from No Tosh talks about the benefits of students directing their own learning - benefits for teachers as well as students. Ewan gives some examples, and believes that over time outcomes from student-directed learning can be tied back to the curriculum.

Browse ...

Assessment Online
The information in this website helps school leaders and teachers in gathering, analysing, interpreting, and using information about students' progress and achievement. The emphasis is on the formative use of assessment to improve students’ learning and teachers’ teaching as both respond to the information it provides.

Key Competencies
This section supports school leaders and teachers as they introduce and deepen their understanding of key competencies for learners.

Documenting the development of learners' key competencies
This webpage provides guidance on the documentation of key competencies to 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.

Building learning power
Professor Guy Claxton's Building Learning Power site provides information, resources, and inspiration for teachers - to help young people become better learners.

Updated on: 21 Dec 2020


Support packages are available for all eight curriculum principles: