Monitoring and evaluating curriculum implementation:

Final evaluation report on the implementation of the New Zealand Curriculum 2008-2009

Publication Details

This report presents findings from a national evaluation of the implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum. The project sought to establish a national picture of implementation progress in English-medium schools in the first two years following the curriculum's launch in November 2007.

Author(s): Dr Claire Sinnema, The University of Auckland. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: March 2011

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This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  To view the individual chapters please refer to the 'Sections' inset box.

Section 4: Receptivity to The New Zealand Curriculum

To what extent do schools and teachers feel confident about, or challenged by, the implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum?

Respondents were asked about how well they regard the curriculum, in terms of its flexibility, practicality and the extent to which they view it to be better, rather than worse, than the previous curriculum. They were also asked about their confidence in implementing The New Zealand Curriculum in terms of how complicated they view it to be, how reasonable they consider the workload, and how easy and confidently they view implementation.

Regard and confidence

The difference in ratings for curriculum regard between 2008 and 2009 was statistically significant, but small, but the ratings were high in both years: 3.3 on the 0-5 scale in 2008 and 3.4 in 2009.

Figure 8: Receptivity to the NZC: Regard and confidence 2008-2009

Figure 8: Receptivity to the NZC: Regard and confidence.

The positive views about the curriculum being practical, flexible and an improvement on its predecessor are also indicated by the percentage of participants responding at the positive end of the Semantic Differential scales (positive and negative anchors at the end of a 6-point scale) for each of the items shown in Figure 9. In 2009 (as in 2008) the vast majority of respondents positioned their response at the positive end of the scale for each of the regard items; better-worse (77%), practical-impractical (79%) and flexible-restrictive (88%).

Figure 9: Percentage responses to regard items

Figure 9: Percentage responses to regard items.

The ratings by primary respondents for both regard and confidence were not statistically significantly higher in 2009 than 2008. The ratings by secondary respondents were statistically significantly higher in 2009 than in 2008 but, as shown in Figure 10, the difference was only small. The initial positive response had been maintained.

Figure 10: NZC regard and confidence: Primary and secondary comparisons 2008-2009

Figure 10: NZC regard and confidence: Primary and secondary comparisons 2008–2009.

The overall positive response to the curriculum in the paper surveys was also evident in comments made by teachers and principals in the web surveys and across all focus groups:

I love it-as a teacher, parent and Board of Trustees member I can only see huge advantages for students, schools and the future of New Zealand. (W09)

I think the New Zealand Curriculum …is the answer, is the way forward for the 21st Century. It is. I mean I agree with it wholeheartedly. (FG Secondary teacher)

The most predominant theme in positive comments about the curriculum relates to its flexibility and the school-based curriculum design aspect. There remains a distinct tone of excitement and sense of possibility in the responses of most teachers and principals:

I am looking forward to the new curriculum being implemented in our school. I think that it is an exciting change that allows for flexibility [and] cohesion amongst different curriculum areas. (W09)

It just simplifies things and gives you more flexibility to take it in a direction that will suit your class. (FG Primary teacher)

The freedom that the NZC allows to develop a curriculum for our own 'clients' is one of the wow factors of it. (W09)

Many respondents were pleased at the pedagogical emphasis in the new curriculum, with its focus on approaches that are likely to support students in their learning and achievement:

Very exciting that schools can design their local curriculum and there is a move to a more constructivist approach and a real look at how children learn best. (W09)

Very excited. The NZC means that there has to be a shift in a lot of teaching practice-a shift that is going to benefit our students. (W09)

Others noted the relevance of the curriculum in preparing students for the future:

I think just from my own looking through, it's more child-centred now and it's all about creating children, for a world out there that we don't even know what it's going to be like, well that's how I see it. (FG Primary teacher)

Those who expressed a less-than-positive view of the curriculum often referred to the lack of certainty about the place of knowledge in the new curriculum, which indicates a misunderstanding about reduced importance of knowledge:

Process seems fine however I do worry about content general knowledge acquired, as I feel there will be gaps in their learning. (W09)

Width of science curriculum has been increased but without extra time depth of knowledge and/or thinking may be sacrificed. (W09)

There are important elements that were part of the old one, knowledge and skills that we need to plan for and deliver. (FG Primary teacher)

Some also indicated uncertainty due to the reduced prescription, and increased professional autonomy in The New Zealand Curriculum:

It's a lot broader than what it was, although I personally prefer it quite prescriptive, I'm sort of being told what to teach. (FG Secondary teacher)

It sort of destabilises people ... we don't know what we're going to be doing, we hear that say year 11 we're going to not teach micro-organisms and ... we're going to put something else there, but what's going to go there? At the moment there's a big question mark, so it's specifics, and I think teachers like to deal with nuts and bolts and certainly in Science, you know exactly, you know, down to the lesson, what you're going to be doing. When I looked at this curriculum, and thought yeah great, aspirational statements and things – but it's how to get from A to B and to the day-to-day running and that is quite scary and especially when you have to build all the assessments and the pathways as well. (FG Secondary Science Teacher)

Others expressed more general frustration about change generally:

Please don't keep reinventing the wheel for the sake of it! (W09)

The lower ratings for 'confidence' than 'regard' shown in Figure 8, were also evident in the more mixed responses during focus groups from educators about their belief in their own ability to give effect to The New Zealand Curriculum. Some expressed high levels of confidence:

I'm really enjoying the challenge of putting together documentation specific to the needs and interests of children in our school. I am part of the special projects for developing curriculum and as a DP and driver of curriculum at [school name], this gives me a formal forum in which I can be supported and be supportive of other leaders in the sharing of best practice, leading learning and managing school-wide change. Through this Special Project, the development of a professional learning community of senior managers provides me with a forum for shared facilitation around the development of our school curriculum based on the NZC. We're going well and will have our school-based curriculum in place for the start of 2010. (Primary Deputy Principal)

I think that the amount of professional development and exposure that enough teachers have had is meaning people can now talk about these things from a new level of understanding; everyone together understanding the schools are working pretty hard to make sure that people know the document. (Secondary teacher)

It should not be a hard task to implement. As previously stated, the Curriculum is the MoE catching up with us and allowing us to teach best. (Web09)

We are at an exciting time in our history with education. I am so motivated and enlightened with the pathway put forward with the NZC and feel confident and passionate about the change that is happening. (Web09)

Ratings on the practice difficulty scale (a scale comprising 23 items in which 0 represents very difficult, 1–difficult, 2–easy, 3–very easy) indicate that despite pockets of confidence, there remains an overall pattern of practices not yet being considered easy (see Figure 11).

Figure 11: Difficulty ratings for NZC practices

Figure 11: Difficulty ratings for NZC practices.

Difficulty ratings for items about practices considered important for implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum (2009 paper survey), indicate that a significant proportion of teachers continue to find all of these practices difficult or very difficult, rather than easy or very easy (see Appendix 6). These findings indicate that there remains significant work to be done on developing educators' confidence and capability in giving effect to key curriculum intentions. Some explained their lack of confidence as being due to shortcomings in their own curriculum and content knowledge:

It's teacher knowledge I think, you know, because we're going deeper and trying to do things. You know, deeper understandings is named like that specifically because that's exactly what we want to do, instead of once over lightly. You know, we've found our own knowledge shortcomings. (Primary teacher)

We realise we actually don't know how to do some of the things we would like to teach the children. (FG Art teacher)

Many recognised the importance of confidence in an implementation effort that requires teachers to take risks, and to shift practice:

Because if you've got that confidence with the kids, not everything you do in the classroom has to work. Whereas, if you're unsure, you're only going to do things that are safe. So you can take a risk can't you? (FG Secondary teacher)

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