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Published June 2009
Fairfield Intermediate School’s curriculum focus has been to couple introducing the key competencies with quality planning for an integrated curriculum.
A series of collaborative planning days have enabled our staff to explore each key competency. Working in teams, we read the curriculum statement for each competency then discussed and clarified the key learning. What is the big learning? What do we have to know and do to achieve this?
The learning criteria for each key competency is co-constructed with students then displayed in each classroom. It has been exciting, as teachers find that it is not until you explore the learning with the students that you gain a clear understanding of each key competency. One syndicate has explored what the key competency might look like at home.
I have never learned like this before. I used to learn in boxes. It is amazing how this learning is all connected. Did you do this on purpose?
Year seven student, 2007
After identifying the key learning in each key competency, the teachers brainstormed where learning areas clearly relate to this. They planned integrated units accordingly. Teachers found that planning and teaching an integrated unit which focussed on a key competency enabled the students to make strong connections across learning areas. The learning was revisited in a range of contexts.
A number of teaching teams have organised time to visit one another’s classrooms to see, share and discuss their work on the new curriculum.
We are learning to manage self...
What do I have to know and do to ...
Know my classmates?
It’s exciting. You can see there’s a buzz. The teachers are quite excited about it. This strategy enables those really inspired teachers an opportunity to share their excitement.
With appropriate teacher guidance and feedback, all students should develop strategies for self monitoring and collaborative evaluation of their performance in relation to suitable criteria. Self Assessments might involve students examining and discussing various kinds of evidence, making judgments about their progress and setting further goals.
The New Zealand Curriculum 2007 (Page 38)
By using formative assessment principles, identifying the key learning and criteria for each key competency, students have a clear understanding of the competency and what it involves or are developing this understanding.
Teachers are encouraging reflection, self and peer assessment to measure individual and collective progress against the criteria. Teachers are also giving specific feedback against the learning criteria. One team has used video to record and critique student achievement against the learning criteria and further learning is initiated and collective goals are set. Students are co-constructing criteria. Some teachers are also sorting and developing these learning criteria further.
A number of teachers have introduced the key competencies to students through guided reading. This has enabled rich opportunities for discussion and dialogue.
We are sharing a number of aspects of the curriculum with our students. They are intrigued that we don’t just pluck these ideas from thin air. I took a lesson with a group of kids working on 'relating to others'.
Their learning criteria weren’t very clear, so we selected an excerpt from The Fastest Indian where Bert Munro is negotiating to get to race. After we had viewed the clip the students 'think pair shared', and came up with the effective strategies Bert Munro used to get what he wanted. All of a sudden the criteria seemed real for the kids.
As teachers engaged in the planning process, they realised that sometimes units are selected because of key events in the school calendar and tradition, rather than an exploration of the question: 'What do my students need to learn?' This will impact directly on our decisions about the FIS curriculum. Is our Curriculum a needs based curriculum? What might that curriculum look like?
Students need to be able to integrate new learning with what they already understand. When teachers deliberately build on what their students know, they maximise the use of learning time, anticipate students’ learning needs and avoid unnecessary duplication of content. Teachers can help students to make connections across learning areas as well as make connections to home practices and to the wider world.
NZC, Draft for Consultation, 2006. Effective Pedagogy (Page 24)
Thus, we have decided to focus on developing an integrated curriculum. We have chosen to explore each of the key competencies, one per term. This is so we can explore each key competency deeply and think about what the learning might look like in practice. One syndicate is building on the learning criteria from term to term to highlight and make connections between the key competencies.
We have focused on using a key competency as the big learning for a unit. We have developed criteria in each of the learning areas or across learning areas. For example: We are learning to investigate (the key competency) thinking. This includes science, statistics, procedure and report writing, and hypothesising and answering questions in reading.
As a staff we have worked extensively on vision, values and 21st century learners. We have used a model developed by Julia Atkin to explore our values and beliefs about learning. These are currently being developed into our charter statement. Once we are clear about what our students need to learn and what the curriculum enables us to teach we may need to revisit our vision and values. We have treated the launch of the new curriculum as an opportunity to explore outside the traditional parameters and routines of intermediate teaching.
At our most recent staff planning day we explored the connection between values and the key competencies.