Teaching and learning has to change

The inclusion of key competencies in The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) redefines what should be taught to prepare students for lifelong learning. This is in keeping with what has been proposed internationally.

Fullan and Scott (2014) are clear that modern learning:

… is about collaborative learning through reflection in action and on action in order to become better at negotiating the messy, fuzzy, dilemma-ridden context of real-world life and work with positive impact. It is about developing an attitude of mind, a set of values and the personal, interpersonal and cognitive capabilities identified repeatedly in studies of successful early career graduates and those leaders who have helped create more harmonious, productive and sustainable workplaces and societies. (Fullan & Scott, 2014, p. 4)

The key competencies vary internationally. However, there are common themes and exemplars for effective implementation of key competencies to equip students with the capabilities they need for the future. These include teachers:

  • preparing students for a complex world, in which challenges have no simple solutions, by focusing on ‘wicked problems’ (Hipkins, Bolstad, Boyd, & McDowall, 2014, pp. 22-24)
  • using ‘could be’ language to help students answer open-ended questions, which encourage students to think critically and creatively (Lucas, Claxton, & Spencer, 2013, pp. 142-144)
  • working with families, linking learning content more closely to the real world; this includes incorporating what students learn at home into schools and vice versa, and equipping students with skills useful beyond the workplace (Lucas, Claxton, & Spencer, 2013, pp. 141-142)
  • focusing on learning, with attention to:
    • Growth mindset – teachers encouraging students to believe that learning is continuous. This is in contrast to a fixed mindset, which holds that intelligence is genetically determined and immutable (Lucas, Claxton, & Spencer, 2013, pp. 128-139).
    • Metacognition – teachers guiding students’ reflection on their learning. Students should be supported so they know how to be effective lifelong learners (OECD, 2005).
    • Learner agency – teachers giving students opportunities to direct their own learning and take risks which will support them to be adaptive and able to apply key competencies in unfamiliar learning situations (Charteris, 2013).
    • Shifting priorities for learning – reducing recall learning to provide students with more opportunities to deepen understandings (OECD, 2018, pp. 59-60).

Examples in practice can be seen in The Institute for Habits of Mind, Building Learning Power and A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning.

Because such examples of teaching practice are not common in schools, pedagogy needs to change.

Students are more likely to develop those competencies and capabilities that they have opportunities to experience, practice and discuss. Teachers need to enable students to identify their strengths and challenges as learners. Students can then determine what strategies to use and what they need to practice, to build their learning capabilities. Learning-to-learn requires the interplay of metacognition and co-agency (OECD Learning Compass 2030). Teachers’ support of students to take agency (co-agency) helps students to be aware of themselves as learners (metacognition).

Effective pedagogy for development of key competencies also includes teachers promoting students’ self and peer assessment.

Several authors have identified aspects of teacher knowledge and thinking needed to build self and peer assessment capabilities in students. These aspects include:

  • a belief that the practice is likely to benefit learners
  • a deep practical knowledge of quality outcomes
  • willingness to allocate time to designing assessment criteria with students
  • knowing how to support students to apply this knowledge to their works in progress, to have peer-to-peer assessment conversations, and to respond appropriately to feedback from teacher and peers. (Hipkins & Cameron, 2018, p. 30)

Such practices would promote students’ metacognition, a deep appreciation of the expectations implicit within tasks, and strong learning partnerships of students with their teachers and peers.