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Learning conversations and key competencies

The following discussion tools each pick up on an aspect of the key competencies – learning conversations, student voice, de-privatising practice, and monitoring through noticing – as raised in the Kelburn Normal School digital stories.

Additional ideas are outlined for how you could go about trying these strategies in your own context.

Learning conversations for strengthening key competencies

"Learning as dialogue between students and students, and teachers and students, in which meaning and learning is constructed."


The Kelburn Normal School digital story 'Learning conversations' describes:

  • the importance of learning conversations in strengthening the key competencies
  • the importance of making conversations shift from being random and irrelevant to being focused, relevant, and purposeful.
Teachers discuss learning conversations and empowering students with several learning dispositions.
Downloads and related videos

"Children are attentive to each other – they are really listening to each other. The students come to realise the KC 'relating to others' is a vital part of their learning because the other people in the class are the key resource to them for their learning."


Ideas for thinking about learning conversations between students in your classroom:

View a text version of this diagram.

Ideas for thinking about learning conversations between teachers and students in your classroom:

View a text version of this diagram.

Student voice – 'going curvy'

"A learning conversation is first and foremost entirely open ended. ...to build on the natural learning dispositions of children, in particular their wonder of the world, sociability, creativity, their love of invention and play."

The Kelburn Normal School digital story 'Learning conversations' gives an example of teachers taking student voice seriously, not just listening to students' suggestions, but being responsive to them. In the clip the student describes this as learning 'going curvy'. Students are involved in decisions about teaching and learning, and make choices about their learning pathways.

"Everybody has their individual style of writing and learning...not everybody has to do the same thing...they can make a task their own by writing it in their style, so that it doesn't have to end up looking the same. Everybody can do something different whereas in some cases, they want everything to be perfect and quite outlined and straight and sort of really exact, whereas you can sort of go curvy in class."


Other ideas for promoting student choice in learning:

View a text version of this diagram.

De-privatising practice in teaching as inquiry

The Kelburn Normal School digital story 'Teaching as inquiry' describes how teachers de-privatised their practice through classrooms being opened up and teachers freely discussing their practices with each other. At Kelburn they used action research for this, but de-privatised practice could occur in a range of ways.

"People just became so passionate about it because it was so exciting going into class and doing these lessons with the kids...and then the conversations were about those lessons and about the things kids were saying. It really helped to make the conversations about the learning, and you'd feed off each others' ideas."


De-privatising practice – opening up classrooms, practice, and discussion – involved teachers looking at themselves as inquirer and learner.
Downloads and related videos


Other ideas for de-privatising practice:

View a text version of this diagram.

Monitoring through noticing

The Kelburn Normal School digital story 'Monitoring' introduces a way of thinking about monitoring the key competencies, and the progressions students make. Monitoring key competencies at Kelburn Normal School is not about keeping checklists but about noticing.

"In a junior class, where once they may have stood up and said 'I made this' or 'I drew this picture', they are now starting to say 'I helped this person by doing this.' So the conversations that the juniors are having moved away from the actual task into key competency speak, which was happening in class."


In this clip, principal Justine McDonald talks about monitoring the key competencies and student progressions.
Downloads and related videos

Reporting to parents involves how students have progressed in relation to key competencies that are appropriate to the student. There are no separate sections on a report for reporting to parents on key competencies, but key competency progress is embedded into comments that are made, particularly those competencies that are most developed or need most work.


Ideas for noticing key competency progress:

View a text version of this diagram.

Download a hard copy of the discussion tools:


Published on: 23 September 2010

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