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

Date Published: March 2011

Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report.

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 5: Findings: The New Zealand Curriculum Understanding and Practice

What progress is being made in schools' practice and understanding of The New Zealand Curriculum?

Findings about the progress that has been made in implementing The New Zealand Curriculum are reported, mainly, against nine aspects of practice (or factors). The aspects of practice and the survey items that were included in each are outlined in Table 3. These nine aspects of practice are organised in this way since a factor analysis of both the 2008 and 2009 paper survey data revealed these items to hang together in a common factor structure when the 26 items were analysed.

Table 3: Practice Factors
Items Included in the Factor
Practice Factor: Key Competency Pedagogical
Integrating key competencies and learning areas
Foster students' own disposition to recognise when and how to use the key competencies
Practice Factor: key Competency Disciplinary
Thinking key competency
Using language symbols and text key competency
Students do things with knowledge in meaningful real-world contexts
Practice Factor: Key Competency: Situated Inter-/Intra-personal
Relating to others key competency
Managing self key competency
Participating and contributing key competency
Practice Factor: Values
Encouraging students to hold the values listed in the NZC
Developing students' skills for exploring values
Drawing out knowledge, attitudes and values during learning experiences
Teaching and learning about the nature of values
Practice Factor: Student Agency
Students participate in decisions about what and how they learn
Students participate in decisions about how they are assessed
Practice Factor: Partnerships
Parents/community members are consulted about teaching and learning; their views/opinions are sought, taken seriously and responded to
Parents/community members often take part in teaching and learning at home
Parents/community members often take part in teaching and learning at school, as key participants in the programme
Teaching and learning about the nature of values
Practice Factor: Teaching as Inquiry
I engage with evidence about students' needs and abilities to prioritise next steps for learning
I draw on the experience of colleagues to inform possible changes to my teaching
I read and use published research to inform possible changes to my teaching practice
I modify teaching practices as a result of what I have learned about student response to my teaching
I systematically collect data and analyse it to understand students' response to my teaching
Practice Factor: Change to Classroom Practice
Planning documentation
Teaching/learning approaches/activities used
Resources used for teaching and learning
Content/topics/themes of teaching and learning
Role students take in class
Practice Factor: Change to Reporting
Way parents are reported to
Content of reports to parents


Responses to items included in the first seven of the factors on the table above were on a 4-point scale:

0 – Not evident; it is NOT something I consider to be an important aspect of my practice
1 – Evident at times but NOT something that I feel I must always do
2 – Strongly evident; it is important to me that I do this often
3 – Very strongly evident; it really matters to me that I do this consistently

This scale signals how evident curriculum practices are both in terms of how frequently they are done and also the commitment educators have to them.

Responses to items included in the last two factors on the table above (both about change) were on a 6-point scale:

0 – Have not considered
1 – Considered, decided not to change
2 – Intend to make changes
3 – Made slight changes
4 – Made moderate changes
5 – Made substantial changes

This scale, and the items rated on it, varies distinctly from the other practice scales, since it relies on self-reports of change generally, and not necessarily in relation to items deemed to reflect The New Zealand Curriculum. For this reason, findings from these are treated much more cautiously than those from the main practice factors.

Overview of progress in curriculum practices

There were only very small shifts in the extent to which educators reported curriculum elements being evident in practice between 2008 and 2009. Those reporting key curriculum elements as "very strongly evident" in their practice shifted, on average (across 23 items) 1% over the year, from 22% to 23%. The means for all types of practice changed little (see Figure 12). For the key competency factors and Teaching as Inquiry factor, the shifts, albeit small, were statistically significant6. For values, student agency and parent involvement, there was no statistically significant change between 2008 and 2009—the degree to which these aspects were evident was maintained, but not improved.

Figure 12: NZC practices: 2008–2009 comparison

Image of Figure 12: NZC practices: 2008–2009 comparison.

More importantly the effect sizes, indicating the magnitude of any shift between the two time points, were very small (Cohen's d effect sizes of less than .2 for the key competency factors and less than .1 for all of the other factors, see Table 4 and Appendix 5).

Table 4: NZC Practices 2008–2009 comparison
Notes:
  1. Situated Intra-/Inter-personal.
  2. N = Number
  3. SD = Standard Deviation
  4. Effect Size (Cohen's d)
NZC Practices 2008 2009 Effect
Size4
Mean N2 SD3 Mean N2 SD3
Key Competencies:
- Intra/Inter-personal1 2.11 2487 0.618 2.20 1752 0.564 .16
- Disciplinary 2.11 2519 0.533 2.17 1761 0.505 .11
- Pedagogical 1.52 2481 0.669 1.60 1750 0.643 .13
Values Factor 1.83 2509 0.621 1.86 1756 0.610 .05
Teaching as Inquiry 1.98 2507 0.542 2.01 1757 0.519 .07
Student agency 1.40 2480 0.719 1.44 1751 0.709 .05
Parent Involvement 1.26 2441 0.749 1.29 1730 0.705 .05


The interpretation of these findings as positive, neutral, or negative, depends largely on the expectations held for implementation. A central focus of the research question for this evaluation was on progress. This implies that regardless of the starting points of educators, over time, increasing evidence of curriculum-related practices could be anticipated. It is acknowledged that implementation is an ongoing endeavour, that substantial change takes many years, and that 2008—2009 was an early phase of implementation of The New Zealand Curriculum. But even so, the data from this study indicates limited progress in terms of practice, despite the positive findings about educators' regard for the curriculum. In addition, the data used in the 2008—2009 comparisons were collected 16 months and 4 months prior to the new curriculum becoming mandatory. This was during a period of intensive attention to support for curriculum implementation, making the limited progress a concern.

It is argued here, that evidence of progress would have been indicated by:

  • at least small, and ideally moderate, rather than very small effect sizes comparing the magnitude of difference between 2008 and 2009 on each type of practice
  • statistically significant shifts in a positive direction for all rather than just some of the practice factors
  • the overall percentage difference of those rating curriculum elements as very strongly evident in their practice increasing by more than one percent between 2008 and 2009.

An alternative view might be that the relatively high starting points for some practice elements are sufficient, and that maintaining, rather than improving, levels of curriculum-related practice are acceptable during the early phases of implementation.

Are the key competencies becoming more evident in teaching and learning?

There were statistically significant differences for all three of the key competency-related factors, in the desired direction, between 2008 and 2009. The magnitude of the differences, though, is only very small. The effect size (Cohen's d) for the disciplinary element of key competencies was 0.11 for the situated intra-/inter-personal 0.15 and 0.13 for the pedagogical element.

Figure 13: Key competencies evident in practice: 2008–2009

Image of Figure 13: Key competencies evident in practice: 2008–2009.

Another means of considering the shift between 2008 and 2009 is to compare the percentage of respondents who reported each individual practice item as being very strongly evident in their practice (since these practices being strongly evident in practice is consistent with the direction set out in The New Zealand Curriculum).

Table 5 shows that there was only a small percentage increase over the one year timeframe on all items, and for the vast majority of respondents, key curriculum practices are not yet strongly or consistently evident in their practice.

Table 5: Percentage of respondents reporting practices as 'Very Strongly Evident' in their practice
Practice Items 2008
  %
2009
  %
Difference
  %
Key Competency: Disciplinary
Developing student competency in thinking 26 30 4
Developing student competency in using language symbols and text 34 37 3
Students do things with knowledge in meaningful real-world contexts 30 31 1
Integrating key competencies and learning areas 19 24 4
Key Competencies: Situated Inter-/Intra-personal
Developing student competency in relating to others 33 36 3
Developing student competency in managing self 36 39 4
Developing student competency in participating and contributing 26 28 2
Key Competencies: Pedagogical
Foster students' own disposition to recognise when and how to use the key competencies and be willing to do so 11 11 0
Students participate with staff in discussions about the key competencies 8 8 1


Explanations for the limited shift were highlighted in the range of responses to the web survey item that asked respondents to complete the phrase 'Key competencies in the NZC requires teachers to...'. Some responses demonstrated insight into the complexity and challenge involved in implementing key competencies, but most gave only a surface-level response.

Examples of deeper responses included the following:

We've been talking about dispositions forever in various ways, you know, getting kids into a space where they are willing to learn and to be lifelong learners....but the trick is not in identifying that, but how you get that disposition, how you encourage that in them. (FG Primary teacher)

I like the recognition as learners being lifelong and have found this is affecting my outlook on seeing my time with the student as a short phase but I now look to see what learning tools they have rather than necessarily what knowledge they have. (W09)

[P]lan and teach using rich contexts that provide opportunities for students to display KCs within that teaching/learning dynamic. (W09)

The teaching of the key competencies involves equipping the learner with the knowledge to identify, apply and reflect on each of the competencies in a range of contexts. Although there needs to be much rich and challenging dialogue with learners about what the competencies are and how they are essential tools for life, they do not 'stand alone', but should ideally be embedded seamlessly across all learning contexts. (W09)

Encourage independent learning focus and stamina in their students so that they develop their thinking, language depth and use, self motivation, inter-relationships, tolerance and involvement in their ongoing learning. (W09)

Typically there were more surface responses including suggestions of a compliance nature relating to documentation, such as "format units to make sure they [key competencies] are included".

In focus groups there was evidence of increasing recognition in 2009 that key competencies differ in important ways to essential skills. There was typically a great deal of discussion, though, between participants about how key competencies might look in relation to other curriculum elements, including the learning areas. While there was more talk about the differences between key competencies and essential skills, it remained difficult to elicit examples about how key competencies had changed practice and changed the nature of students' learning experiences.

Are Teaching as Inquiry, Values, student agency and parent involvement becoming more evident in teaching and learning?

There were statistically significant differences for the Teaching as Inquiry factor between 2008 and 2009, but not for the values, student agency, or parent involvement factors. Effect size calculations (Cohen's d) for each of these factors, however, show that the magnitude of the differences between 2008 and 2009 are tiny—Teaching as Inquiry (0.06), Values (0.05), Student agency (0.05), Parent involvement (0.05).

Figure 14: Values, Teaching as Inquiry, student agency and parent involvement evident in practice: 2008–2009

Image of Figure 14: Values, Teaching as Inquiry, student agency and parent involvement evident in practice: 2008–2009.

Comparisons between the 2008 and 2009 percentages of respondents who reported each individual practice item as being strongly evident in their practice are another signal of the limited shift. For several items there was no increase in the percentage reporting practices strongly evident, at most the increase was 2%, and for two items there was a 1% decrease (see Table 6).

Table 6: Percentage of respondents reporting practices being 'Very Strongly Evident' in their practice: 2008-2009 comparison
Practice Items 2008
 %
2009
  %
Difference
  %
Values:
Encouraging students to hold the values listed in the NZC 28 30 2
Developing students' skills for exploring values 15 15 0
Drawing out knowledge and attitudes and values during learning experiences 20 22 2
Teaching and learning about the nature of values 18 17 -1
Teaching as Inquiry:
I engage with evidence about students' needs and abilities to prioritise next steps for learning 33 34 2
I draw on the experience of colleagues to inform possible changes to my teaching 31 33 2
I read and use published research to inform possible changes to my teaching practice 16 17 1
I modify teaching practices as a result of what I have learned about student response to my teaching 34 35 1
I systematically collect data and analyse it to understand students' response to my teaching 22 23 0
Student Agency:
Students participate in decisions about what and how they learn 14 14 0
Students participate in decisions about how they are assessed 7 7 0
Parent Involvement:
Parents/community members are consulted about teaching and learning; their views/opinions are sought, taken seriously and responded to 10 9 -1
Parents/community members often take part in teaching and learning at home 11 11 0
Parents/community members often take part in teaching and learning at school, as key participants in the programme 6 5 0
Values

The emphasis in the approach to addressing values in the curriculum remains on defining and then modelling/?encouraging particular sets of values—schools' own values aligned to the values stated in The New Zealand Curriculum. While almost one third of respondents said that they consistently or often encourage students to hold The New Zealand Curriculum values, there is still less attention, as shown in Figure 15, to the more difficult aspects. Only a small proportion of respondents report integrating values into learning experiences across the curriculum (22%), learning about the nature of values (17%), and developing skills for exploring values (15%).

Figure 15: Values items: Comparison of 'Very Strongly Evident in my Practice' responses

Image of Figure 15: Values items: Comparison of 'Very Strongly Evident in my Practice' responses.

The emphasis on schools aligning to, and students holding, 'particular' (NZC) values is also evident in the following comments:

[Values in the NZC require teachers to...] be cognizant of the values that are espoused by the school community and act in ways that reflect these. (Web09)

One of the things that I think that we have got very close to understanding, it's about getting that habit changed for us is the alignment of our school values and the values that are espoused in that New Zealand Curriculum document. I think we're quite a long way along the track there. Not every teacher will be able to tell you how they align, but at a strategic level, we certainly understand them and it's gradually filtering down through the school. (FG Secondary)

[T]hat's the only thing that I could think of that I would classify as having some form of being embedded, the school values and a close alignment to the New Zealand Curriculum values and how that's reflected in restorative practices and respectful systems um throughout the school. It's embedded as a system; it's not embedded as a culture. So the system is there, but it's not, it doesn't happen naturally [laughs]. It has to be forced. (FG Secondary AP)

These findings suggest that the three-way values education process signalled in The New Zealand Curriculum (education about values, and in valuing skills alongside encouraging affiliation to key public values) is not yet well understood.

Those who are integrating values across the curriculum explain the potential for embedding values throughout the learning areas and throughout the day:

The kids know them and you can go back to them any time of the day at any stage and in any subject, it's not just a set time for values or whatever: in the playground, before school, after school, whenever, you can. (Web09)

For many, the role of values in the curriculum has been not so much about teaching and learning, but about behaviour management:

Most of us run our behaviour management through using the values as the basis for behaviour management. (FG Primary)

[When]kids slip up or make a mistake or do something wrong …they're pretty good at telling you which one of the values they broke … their understanding of their values and what's required of each one and. So it's easy to do them [values] because that's what you want the kids to have and that's just a natural thing. You want the kids to show respect, you want the kids to be responsible and you want the kids to show kindness. (FG Primary)

As the quote above shows, comments typically emphasised teachers' role in encouraging affiliation to particular values, without attention to the other two aspects of the three-way values education process.

In many focus groups, the multicultural dimension of values was raised, and often as a challenge rather than as a rich resource for values in the curriculum:

Values is very difficult. I mean we've got over 50 different nationalities at our school so they have got a different sense of the values. (FG Secondary teacher)

The cultural thing you bring up is really interesting too because one of our challenges, because we've got quite a large Polynesian community, is the differing values. One of the ones that we had looked at was pride, that for our Palagi parents, they would like their children to be proud of what they do and they feel that if you have pride in yourself then that motivates you to keep going or it becomes an end to a goal and it's something really positive. But for many of our Pacific Island parents, especially the Tongan ones, they felt that pride is almost a sin, that it was, that humility was the value that they wanted to be taught and that they felt that if you were prideful then you wouldn't be respectful or humble. So that's been a challenge for us. (FG Primary)

Teaching as Inquiry

Five items related specifically to the Teaching as Inquiry model in The New Zealand Curriculum and were designed to address aspects of the focusing, teaching and learning inquiries.

Figure 16: Percentage of respondents reporting Teaching as Inquiry practices being 'Very Strongly Evident' in their practice: Comparison 2008—2009

Image of Figure 16: Percentage of respondents reporting Teaching as Inquiry practices being 'Very Strongly Evident' in their practice: Comparison 2008—2009.

The three inquiries are used to structure a summary of the Teaching as Inquiry item findings below:

  • Focusing inquiry: One third report strong emphasis in their practice on prioritising next learning steps for learning based on evidence about students' need and abilities.
  • Teaching inquiry: The practice of reading and using published research to inform teaching was strongly evident in half as many respondents' practice as attention to colleagues' experience in both 2008 and 2009.
  • Learning inquiry: While more than a third of educators report modifying their practice as a result of learning about students' response to their teaching, less than a quarter report that systematically collecting data for that purpose is strongly evident in their practice.
Teaching as Inquiry/Inquiry Learning confusion

There was a great deal of variation in participants' understandings about the model of Teaching as Inquiry in The New Zealand Curriculum. Comments from many (in the 2009 web survey) about what Teaching as Inquiry requires indicate some depth of understanding, through reference to formative assessment, focusing inquiry, attention to evidence, data and research, inquiring teachers, and being improvement focused:

...use formative assessment, both formal and informal, to inform them about student achievement then use this data to make decisions about student needs and finally consult colleagues, research and other sources to find innovative approaches to meet student needs.

...understanding where the students are with their learning, what the best way forward is for those students and reflecting on how it went and implications for future practice.

...Reflect on their practice in order to get better outcomes for their students. Requires de-privatisation of the classroom and requires honest, frequent high quality feedback related to specific goals from mentors and colleagues. It also requires a level of comfort with uncertainty as one learns and adjusts practice and brings on board new beliefs about their learners and themselves as teachers.

...Make decisions about their teaching practice based on data and information and reflect, make changes and move forward—it is all about raising student achievement.

...adopt a big paradigm shift and position themselves as researchers or problem solvers. Their findings should provoke new perspectives and encourage alternatives in looking for ways to improve student achievement.

...integrate formative practice, data analysis, action research—to inquire into the efficacy of their teaching practice.

...Use data to inform their programme, update programmes based on the needs and gaps they see, and be reflective on own teaching, ensuring that we learn from our "mistakes" or less successful strategies and programmes and making changes.

There is still, though, a significant degree of confusion between the notion of Teaching as Inquiry as described in The New Zealand Curriculum, and Inquiry learning approaches. Thirty-three percent of the 513 comments in the web survey revealed this confusion as indicated by the suggestions about the implications of Teaching as Inquiry in the following examples:

Student-question driven

Encourage student to ask questions and seek the answers themselves.

[teach] specific thinking tools and questioning strategies.

Student independence

Scaffold knowledge building around a 'topic' and then allow students to explore questions of interest to them with as much guidance as they need or don't need for their age and ability. This new 'independent' learning is then shared with others or results in some further 'action'.

Teachers' facilitation role

Teaching as Inquiry requires teachers to give up the 'centre stage' and become more of a facilitator in the classroom.

Emphasis on students' skills

Ensure children have the skills to find information.

Guide children through a process to get, sort and use information.

Reduced emphasis on knowledge

Be more process driven rather than knowledge based.

Project/Integrated learning approach

More jargon for old thematic/integrated learning approaches

Student agency

While more educators reported involving students in decisions about what and how they learn, than about how they are assessed, a large proportion still only allow this at times or not at all, as shown in Figure 17.

Figure 17: Student agency items: 2009 frequencies

Image of Figure 17: Student agency items: 2009 frequencies.

Developing and enhancing student agency in decision making is seen as a big step, or even a risk, for many teachers:

We've got a huge change in our thinking to come forward to, you know, that – because for so long we've told them what to do and what to think and suddenly we are having to change the way we approach things and for some of us, we're further down the track than others. (FG Secondary AP)

Even those that would like to give it a go, they themselves are not comfortable with feeling, "Well I don't really know where this is going." And the students need to have a little bit of safety as well. I mean it would be something that you could trial on a small scale and over time you then build it as people get more confident and feel safer with the outcome that you can get from it as well. (FG Primary)

Many also raised a concern about students and parents not having an expectation that teachers will share a decision-making role with students:

And so it's actually educating the students and the parents as well that there is a change in the way and how we approach the learning process. (FG Secondary)

In some cultures, if the teacher wants the student to actually work, and have agency, the parents and the students think the teacher's opting out and doesn't have the knowledge base. So they see that as poor teaching because um good teaching is you spoon-feed the child and the child regurgitates it at the end of the year. (FG Secondary)

Some signal that such agency and decision-making roles are possible for certain phases in the learning, and for certain (more capable) learners:

One teacher just told me recently that … they have total freedom about how they present their assessment, they can do anything. They can do a blog, a diary, a PowerPoint....You'd probably find there's a lot of that going on for individual assignments within classes. I definitely think those that are able, they're given the choice.

A common response related to the barrier of assessment and qualification systems to the idea of student agency:

You could, if it wasn't for the tyranny of the moderation, you could do different things. But it's so much trouble if you upset the moderators that it's better just to go with the tried and true, and so that would cut out student choice really. (FG Secondary)

Parent involvement

Only a very small proportion of respondents (11%) reported that involving parents/community members in teaching and learning is "Very strongly evident" in their practice (see Figure 18). When focus group participants were asked to explain their interpretation of taking part in teaching and learning at home, they typically described parents' role in ensuring homework is completed, and not necessarily taking part in the substantive aspects of home learning. The lowest rated of these three items was parents/community members often taking part in teaching and learning at school, as key participants in the programme. This implies parents going beyond the traditional parent-help model of involvement, to making meaningful contributions and having their expertise utilised, but was described as difficult by most focus group participants, and (like for all of these items) especially those from secondary contexts.

Figure 18: Partnership items: Comparison of 'Very Strongly Evident in my Practice' responses

Image of Figure 18: Partnership items: Comparison of 'Very Strongly Evident in my Practice' responses.

In a similar set of items, respondents were asked to indicate the frequency with which parents/community members are informed about, consulted about or collaborate in teaching and learning matters. The same pattern, in terms of frequency of participation emerged in the 2009 data as was evident in the 2008 data. More respondents reported "always" or "often" informing than consulting with parents about teaching and learning, and more reported "always" or "often" consulting than collaborating.

Figure 19: Parent/Whanau/Community frequency of participation: Informing, Consulting and Collaborating

Image of Figure 19: Parent/Whanau/Community frequency of participation: Informing, Consulting and Collaborating.

Focus group participants often signalled an awareness of the need to grapple with ways to engage parents and whanau:

A lot of the work that we've been talking about with trying to implement ideas from the new curriculum has been about how do you engage with your community, how you have learning opportunities that are about the community in which kids live and how do you form relationships with local businesses or pathways for kids in, between school and outside of school? (FG Secondary)

Those who described efforts at partnering with parents and communities on teaching and learning matters gave examples of community members' expertise, and community/wider education initiatives being used:

We need to look to the outside area and community environment, I think of it as going back to what I sort of said before and how we're bringing in problems around the area, like we've just done a planting with the Enviro School. (FG Primary)

Using resources that we have in our community that are relevant to our children and our children's needs or learning needs and using experts in the community, things like that. And also involving parents, getting families more involved, if we can – you know, like Science expo. (FG Primary)

These efforts do, though, often present schools with challenges:

We tried a few different things but nothing that I've found to be totally sustainable. I think that things like Gateway programmes where kids are actually going out and working in communities and then coming back to school for learning and assessment to support that work out in the community, that's really successful. But oh my god those are labour intensive and it takes a lot for a teacher or an individual in a school to connect those organisations. (FG Secondary)

I think the other thing in terms of difficulty is that we talk about students going out into the community to work or to have learning experiences, but that in itself is posing a lot of problems, administrative problems, not necessarily just from a timetable point of view but from a safety point of view. I mean I've just come back from a camp of 150 kids and the RAMS that we had to go through to do that was just ridiculous and every time you take a trip out, I took the girls out yesterday on a guided education programme, you know, every time you're doing all these things there are barriers that you're putting in the way. You know, we've got the Gateway programme going but, you know, you've got the competing balance between being in a class and bums on seats as well as going out and having the experience. So there's all the, those sorts of things that are making things hard, to get kids out of school into you know real life. (FG Secondary)

Partnerships across school sectors were also raised by participants as an area with potential for improvement:

I would like for there to be more interaction between the two, but there isn't, and it's not up to me. (FG English Secondary)

But we're finding it quite difficult here with the intermediate school to try and have a seamless programme and to actually break the barriers as well. (FG Science Secondary)

Overall understanding of curriculum change

In the 2008 web survey respondents were asked "If someone asked you 'what is the most significant change in practice required by this curriculum?' what would you say?". Thirty-four per cent of respondents either indicated "do not know", or did not respond. It was clear from the quantitative data a year later that educators grasp of the magnitude of change and shift required by The New Zealand Curriculum was still variable. Respondents were asked, for example, to rate on Semantic Differential scales to indicate if they understand the curriculum to be more the same or different to the previous one. The 6-point categorical responses were transformed to collate responses from the lower 3-scale points, and the higher 3-scale points as shown in Figure 20.

Figure 20: Ratings degree of change in NZC

Image of Figure 20: Ratings degree of change in NZC.

They were also asked to indicate (also on a 6-point Semantic Differential scale) whether the NZC requires few shifts or major shifts.

Figure 21: Ratings of shifts required by NZC

Image of Figure 21: Ratings of shifts required by NZC.

The trend overall was for respondents to recognise The New Zealand Curriculum as quite different and requiring major shifts. In 2009 a substantial proportion (around one third of respondents), however, continued to view The New Zealand Curriculum as more the same as the previous curriculum and as requiring fewer, rather than major, shifts. It may be an apparent positive finding that at least a majority recognise the call in the curriculum for a profound response to improving teaching and learning. The finding is less positive, though, when the proportion of teachers who view the curriculum as being more the same, and requiring relatively few shifts is translated into the number of students whom they teach–many thousands of students.

Assimilation: Seeking the familiar in the unfamiliar

For many, there has been a tendency to assimilate their understanding about the new curriculum into their understanding of the old one or to seek the familiar in the unfamiliar. This is often expressed as an "I already do that" kind of response when asked about new curriculum aspects:

There were not major changes as the new NZC was similar to the old, so most things just needed tweaking. (W09)

We've looked at the key competencies with all the units that we're implementing and sort of identified how they fit with what we're doing. (W09)

I think a lot of it was just the same,...For us I don't think it'll make all that much difference, it just seems like a lot of, kind of new-looking things coming out are things we're already doing, just a matter of some sort of paper trail to follow. (FG Secondary)

It's basically stuff you've been teaching them anyway. You know, it's just now when we're writing it down. (W09)

I don't think I had to really change much in terms of how I teach them and what I've always taught them anyway, but I feel now all I'm really doing is making a note of it, to be honest. (W09)

Often, participants who take this view emphasise the technical and compliance-driven aspects of curriculum implementation—adjusting just the paperwork and planning documentation:

At this stage, it seems to be more of a change in paperwork rather than a change in teaching practice. (W09)

Well I've just found that with the curriculum, which I think is very exciting, that staff have been quite resistant to moving into a different place. What staff want – but I'm generalising – is really just an extra line that they can draw in their scheme, you know, an extra column that they can then tick. (FG Secondary Deputy Principal)

While the assimilation tendency has been unconscious for many, others have quite purposefully sought (in their work with others) to emphasise the alignment between existing practices and The New Zealand Curriculum, rather than opportunities for change and improvement:

I think that teachers, classroom teachers, give themselves a wee bit of a hard time. When I say to them, "Okay, let's look at this particular key competency, 'Relating to others', how have you implemented that in your classroom to date?" – after I've observed them. And well, they'll…"We were talking at the beginning of the lesson to each other, just greeting each other, okay, that's relating to others." "We were working in groups part of the time – that's relating to others." You know, and when we go through it like that, the teacher will sit back and go, "Okay, right, so it's not so bad, I'm actually doing it, I'm actually doing the key competency of 'Relating to others'".

This approach is not, however, likely to deepen understandings about how to strengthen key competencies in teaching and learning (Cowie & Hipkins, 2009).

Group comparisons

A MANOVA test was used for the 2009 paper survey data to examine whether there were significant differences between respondent groups (their school's decile, their role, the primary/secondary school levels).

School type comparison: Primary/secondary

There were statistically significant differences between primary and secondary respondents on all of the practice factors shown in Figure 22. The magnitude of the difference between the two groups is calculated as an effect size, and shown in Table 7. The difference is a moderate one for most of the factors (d = = 0.4) but is large for the parent involvement factor (d = 0.93).

Figure 22: NZC practices 2009: Primary/secondary comparison

Image of Figure 22: NZC practices 2009: Primary/secondary comparison.

Table 7: NZC practices 2009: Primary/secondary comparison
Notes:
  1. Situated Intra-/Inter-personal.
  2. M = Mean
  3. N = Number
  4. SD = Standard Deviation
  5. Effect Size (Cohen's d)
Variable   Primary Secondary Effect
Size5
M2 N3 SD 4 M2 N3 SD 4
Key Competencies:
- Intra-/Inter-personal1 2.35 763 .501 2.07 875 .584 0.50
- Disciplinary 2.20 767 .490 2.13 879 .521 0.13
- Pedagogical 1.79 761 .603 1.44 875 .632 0.57
Values 2.02 763 .539 1.73 878 .634 0.50
Teaching as Inquiry 2.16 765 .480 1.87 876 .512 0.59
Student agency 1.59 762 .663 1.30 875 .709 0.42
Parent involvement 1.60 757 .611 1.01 860 .664 0.93
Roles comparison: Teachers/principals

There were statistically significant differences between the response of principals and teachers on all of the practice factors shown in Figure 23. The magnitude of the difference between the two groups is calculated as an effect size, and shown in Table 8.

The difference is small for key competencies (disciplinary), (d = 0.20) and moderate for all of the other practice factors (d = =0.4).

Figure 23: NZC practices 2009: Teachers/principals comparison

Image of Figure 23: NZC practices 2009: Teachers/principals comparison.

Table 8: NZC practices, regard and confidence 2009: Teachers/principals comparison
Notes:
  1. Situated Intra-/Inter-personal.
  2. M = Mean
  3. N = Number
  4. SD = Standard Deviation
  5. Effect Size (Cohen's d)
Variable   Teachers Principals Effect
Size5
M2 N3 SD4 M2 N3 SD4
Key Competencies:
- Intra-/Inter-Personal1 2.18 1622 .561 2.46 70 .557 -0.49
- Disciplinary 2.16 1631 .504 2.26 70 .548 -0.20
- Pedagogical 1.58 1622 .631 1.94 69 .720 -0.57
Values 1.84 1626 .609 2.19 70 .591 -0.57
Teaching as Inquiry 1.99 1628 .515 2.31 70 .474 -0.62
Student agency 1.41 1623 .700 1.95 69 .743 -0.77
Parent involvement 1.26 1602 .697 1.80 70 .686 -0.77
School decile comparison

Differences between 2009 respondents working in low, mid and high decile schools were not marked. The only statistically significant differences were on the Teaching as Inquiry factor and the Student agency factor (with respondents from low and decile schools rating slightly higher than respondents from both mid and high decile schools). The magnitude of the differences on these factors (see ) was small.

Figure 24: NZC practices: Low decile/mid decile comparison

Image of Figure 24: NZC practices: Low decile/mid decile comparison.

Table 9: NZC practices: Respondents' school decile comparison
New Zealand
Curriculum
Practices
Respondents' Decile Effect Size Comparisons
Low Decile
to
Mid Decile
Mid Decile
to
High Decile
Low Decile
to
High Decile
Teaching as Inquiry 0.19 0.03 0.22
Student agency 0.23 0.00 0.22

School curriculum design and review

A key feature of The New Zealand Curriculum is its emphasis on school-based curriculum, and the process of design and review. At the end of 2008 the majority of principals had reported having reviewed the "front-end" aspects of the curriculum – values, principles, key competencies, and fewer reported having reviewed pedagogy or the "back-end" of individual learning areas. One year later, more principals reported having reviewed all elements, and the pattern is much the same (with greater attention to the front than the back end).

Figure 25: Review of curriculum elements: 2008–2009

Image of Figure 25: Review of curriculum elements: 2008–2009.

While the shift between 2008 and 2009 indicates some progress, there remain 10-20% of schools who have not yet reviewed values, principles or key competencies in their school's curriculum, 23% that have not reviewed pedagogy, and 29% that have not reviewed the individual learning areas in light of The New Zealand Curriculum. Many of those who carried out thorough reviews speak positively about the process and outcomes:

Implementing NZC has given us the opportunity to think clearly about what we are teaching and the purpose of the learning. We have redirected our thinking around subject-based teaching to global or overarching themes. Inquiry will form part of the teaching and learning platform but will not be the only way in which we deliver our curriculum. The NZC in our school will be a work in progress as we begin to implement it in 2010. Reflection and review will always be an integral part of ensuring we are meeting the needs of all of our students. (Web09)

We've identified areas that we need to work on and we can tailor how we deliver the curriculum to meet those needs and that's – that's the freedom of the new curriculum, you know, that we can take advantage of and get a lot out of. (FG Primary)

Curriculum principles in practice

The New Zealand Curriculum requires schools to implement a curriculum for their students that is "underpinned by and consistent with the principles". Respondents to the web survey were asked to indicate the principles that are most and least emphasised in their school's curriculum.

Figure 26: Most emphasised curriculum principles as indicated by principals

Image of Figure 26: Most emphasised curriculum principles as indicated by principals.

The findings indicate a pattern of emphasis on the learning to learn, and high expectations principles, with significantly fewer schools indicating that most emphasis is on inclusion, community engagement, future focus, cultural diversity, coherence or the Treaty of Waitangi. To find out more about how educators are interpreting these principles, respondents to the 2009 web survey were asked to give an example of their most emphasised curriculum principle in action. A selection of examples for the two most predominant principles is outlined below.

High expectations

Many of the examples about high expectations in practice related to the provision of support, and the establishment of particular support roles for focusing on student achievement:

All Yr 11 students are supported one-to-one where required so that they are able to achieve NCEA L1 Literacy & Numeracy Credits.

The teacher who spends time in advising students on how they can improve the quality of their work from an A grade standard to an M or E and then facilitating those students to achieve those improvements.

Role of an academic dean has been introduced—students are tracked and they seek to achieve.

High expectations from all students, teachers. Striving to continually to improve. Have introduced colleagues going into classes to observe and discuss changes to their practice.

Others emphasised the shared nature of expectations, between various stakeholders:

Conversations with parents, students and teachers emphasise the high expectations we have for all students. We stress X is here and together we want to move to here...

Data was mentioned by many as being critical to the principle of high expectations:

Continual analysis of data to address weak areas, making example of good practise of children at assemblies and staff meetings. Staff visiting other good practitioners in other schools, good PD.

Others gave examples in which high expectations are incorporated into specific goal and target-setting activities:

Our school code of conduct is "To Achieve Personal Excellence we...". We use rubrics, set targets etc.

Reports to individual students which emphasise the need for goal setting and the personal benefits of striving to achieve.

Each student will make progress. Teachers can make a difference. Specific achievement targets and data gathering for each learning area each year.

Learning to learn

Many respondents talked about learning to learn being promoted through the development of planning structures based around the key competencies:

In our school we have a Key Competency focus that runs through the school each term as a classroom/school focus.

Others emphasised the use of inquiry learning approaches as a means of giving effect to the learning to learn principle:

Using inquiry learning — teaching children the skills they need to investigate a question they have and want to answer.

Considerable emphasis on student led enquiry and students taking charge of their own learning.

Inquiry learning — teaching children to question and to wonder.

Assessment was raised by many as a key example of learning to learn happening:

Assessment for learning, self review, reflective practice.

Emphasis on explicitly unpacking the key competencies using AFL practice so students learn more about themselves at learners.

Student led conferences.

Some examples signalled the use of metacognitive strategies:

Children writing a reflective journal on their learning and identifying what they need to do next.

For others, the use of authentic learning contexts and the real application of learning were the strongest examples of the learning to learn principle in action:

Students carrying out a market of produce made, costed and sold by them as an authentic experience.

Hands-on direct experience learning.

School and community garden competition is involving children in sharing ideas and resources with community members, businesses, etc.

Most recently children and myself working on solving a school wide problem – head lice. We developed a website around teaching children how to deal with it. Children learning from adults, children teaching children and all working together using a range of ICTs to create a child friendly website.

Teacher modelling of being a learner was mentioned by several respondents:

Teachers and learners alike need to model life-long learners. Teachers doing critical inquiry with student learning.

Day-to-day practice: Change to classroom practice and reporting

Respondents were asked to indicate on a 6-point scale, the extent of change to various aspects of day to day practice (0, have not considered – 5, made substantial changes). Figure 27 indicates the percentage of respondents in 2008 and 2009 who reported making moderate or substantial changes to their practice.

There was an increase between 2008 and 2009 in the percentage of educators reporting moderate/substantial change. More than half of the respondents indicated (in 2009) that they had made moderate or substantial changes to their planning or to the approaches and activities used. Between one third and one half of respondents indicated moderate or substantial changes to the remaining aspects of practice. There are still many respondents (between 40% and 68%) who have not yet made moderate or substantial change on these aspects of teaching and learning.

Figure 27: Moderate or substantial changes to practice

Image of Figure 27: Moderate or substantial changes to practice.

Reports of change, however, require cautious interpretation since they do not necessarily indicate changes that are in line with the direction of The New Zealand Curriculum. The following responses to a question on the 2009 web survey, which asked for examples of the most significant change in practice, give an insight into the nature of some of this change.

Planning documentation

Reworking of old units and creation of new units to better match the key competencies etc of The New Zealand Curriculum.

Matching the assessments to the new levels, rewriting the scheme and course outlines so we are teaching processes rather than facts.

Approaches/activities used in teaching and learning

I have increased the amount of "hands-on" investigative work, and reduced the written exercise component.

I use more group work and enquiry-based learning. I focus less on the content and more on the understanding and trust that this will get the students through their exams (hopefully!!).

Differentiated learning and assessment including more self and peer assessment as a powerful form of formative assessment.

Resources used

Importance of local knowledge and use of community facilities — back to the teachable moments – using experiences that are happening around.

Content/topics/themes

To respond more to the learning needs of students rather than take units and lessons from a book.

Ensuring that all learning experiences are set in a real life context — clearer understanding of why we are doing this.

Students' role

Children engaging with students, teachers and parents to discuss what they are learning and how they see themselves as learners.

Reporting approach/content

Looking at our portfolios and considering what we put in them — how can we implement the NZ curriculum and report to our parents more effectively on student achievement?

The change in reporting to parents and the board to be more inclusive of the features of our vision for the school.

Footnote

  1. Yellow highlights are used on figures in this section to signal that the difference between the 2008 and the 2009 mean was statistically significant.

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