Implementation of the New Zealand Curriculum: Synthesis of research and evaluation

Publication Details

The revised New Zealand Curriculum was launched in November 2007, with schools required to give full effect to the curriculum by February 2010. Progress towards this has been monitored using evidence reported by the Education Review Office and research teams commissioned by the Ministry of Education. This report synthesises this evidence.

Author(s): Dr Sandie Schagen. 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.  Links to related publications/ information can be found in the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box and on the webpage (below).

Section 1: Introduction

The revised New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) was launched in November 2007 (Ministry of Education, 2007), following a lengthy period of trialling and consultation, which included the publication of a draft version in 2006. Schools were required to give full effect to the curriculum by February 2010. Their progress has been monitored using evidence reported by the Education Review Office (ERO) and research teams commissioned by the Ministry of Education to explore the process and stages of preparation, including a University of Auckland team (the 'MECI' study) and a combined New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) and University of Waikato team (the 'CIES' study). This paper synthesizes findings from these reports, and other relevant documents. Reports used are listed in the references (page 29).

Documents included

It is important to note that the documents included in this synthesis are very different in a number of ways. For example:

  • Authorship – included ERO reviewers, professional researchers, School Support Services (SSS) advisers and teacher union officers.
  • Purpose – MECI undertook a national evaluation of progress towards implementation; CIES aimed to provide snapshots of the ways in which individual schools went about giving effect to NZC, identifying factors that could support other schools in their 'journey'.
  • Samples – ERO worked in schools being reviewed; MECI drew a stratified random sample, to be representative of all New Zealand schools; CIES selected schools reputed to be 'early adopters' of NZC, which could potentially illustrate good practice. Different units of analysis were used across studies with ERO reporting the whole school level and MECI reporting at the level of teachers and principals.
  • Methodology – MECI carried out surveys (online and paper-based), CIES undertook case studies; Different units of analysis were used across studies with ERO reporting at the whole school level and MECI reporting at the level of the teachers and principals.
  • Timing – surveys and case-study visits were undertaken at different times during 2008 and 2009 (reference is also made to surveys undertaken in 2006 and 2007) and it would be expected that thinking and practice would have developed considerably over this period.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the reports represent different perspectives, and this needs to be borne in mind, as it could help to account for apparent differences in findings. Nevertheless, there does seem to be an overall degree of consistency in themes arising, which makes the task of attempting a synthesis challenging but not impossible.

It is also important to note the inevitable limitations in scope of the findings. The most recent reports are based on research or professional development (PD) activities carried out in the second half of 2009 – before the date by which schools were due to be giving full effect to NZC. Schools' progress varied considerably, and some schools had no doubt implemented NZC ahead of time. But the goal of NZC (young people who are "confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners" (Ministry of Education, 2007, p.8)) will take considerable time to realise. The focus of these reports is therefore on the implementation of NZC, and the changes in thinking and/or practice which this may entail.

Structure of the report

The next chapter summarises findings about schools' readiness to implement the curriculum at various timepoints leading up to February 2010. The following four chapters focus on themes selected because of their prominence in the documents included in this synthesis:

  • the professional development needed and undertaken to prepare teachers to implement NZC effectively
  • the engagement of students, parents/whānau and the wider community in the process of implementing NZC and designing the school curriculum
  • how schools went about implementing NZC – which aspects did they focus on first?
  • the factors that had a positive or negative influence on implementation.

The final chapter provides a brief summary of the key points in this report.

A note about referencing

Reports included in this synthesis, or referred to in connection with it, are listed at the end of this paper, together with brief notes on the dating of the research covered. Key reports (notably CIES, MECI and ERO) are referenced frequently throughout, and it was decided not to incorporate full references (names and date) at every mention, as this would be unnecessarily repetitive and would break the flow of the text. Full references are given, however, where wording is quoted directly from a source. In the case of other documents cited, information is not always available to permit full standard referencing.

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