New Zealand and international literature identify the following barriers to effective implementation of the KCs:
- System-wide confusion over the KCs and their place in students’ learning
There is a mistaken belief among teachers that KCs risk replacing knowledge learning (McDowall & Hipkins, 2018, p. 5). The reverse is true. The KCs and knowledge complement one another. When knowledge is memorised rather than used in the application of skills, studies have found that students have only a superficial understanding of that knowledge and are less capable at applying and remembering it in the long term (Fadal, Bialik, & Trilling, 2015, p. 69).
- Teacher opposition
In Expansive Education, Lucas, Claxton, and Spencer identified teachers as the biggest barrier to implementing KCs. Some were unwilling to move away from familiar teaching styles (Lucas, Claxton, & Spencer, 2013, pp. 173-175). KCs need to be recognised as an integral part of all teaching and learning, not as an addition to the curriculum.
- Clarity of benefit
Resistance to a focus on the KCs comes from a lack of data that conclusively demonstrates positive student outcomes. The outcomes of KCs are not usually measured. Until teachers come to terms with how to teach them explicitly and what they look like in practice, we cannot determine how well they prepare students for future challenges. Substantial evidence shows that if we continue to teach in traditional ways, students will be ill-prepared for demands they will face when they leave school. To rule out the KCs for lack of evidence would be premature, and most likely detrimental (Fadal, Bialik, & Trilling, 2015, pp. 104-105).
- Assessment is a work in progress
Hipkins and Cameron (2018) discuss the difficulties associated with assessment of the KCs, as they can be context-based and two or more often interplay. Assessment challenges should not detract from teachers focusing on the pedagogy required to provide students with the opportunities to develop their capabilities. Scoular and Heard (2018) are adamant that the question is no longer why but how we should be teaching and assessing general capabilities.