Competent Learners at 16: Competency levels and development over time

Publication Details

The Competent Children, Competent Learners project is a longitudinal study which began in 1993. It follows the progress of around 500 young people from early childhood education through into secondary school. The project is funded by the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER).

Author(s): Cathy Wylie and Edith Hodgen, New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

Date Published: March 2007

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This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.

Executive Summary

The report, Competent Learners at 16: Competency levels and development over time, is the first report to be released from the age-16 phase of the Competent Children, Competent Learners project. It looks at the ways in which students' cognitive competencies (numeracy, literacy and logical problem solving) and their attitudinal competencies are related. The predictability of students' current levels of performance in relation to earlier levels of performance is also explored. A longer technical report has been written to accompany this report, which provides more detail of the results and the analysis behind them.

The findings contained in this report are consistent with the results from previous phases of Competent Children, Competent Learners, which highlight the importance of developing early numeracy and literacy skills. Early competency in these is likely to influence students' ongoing success in school.

  • The researchers found there was reasonable consistency in students' cognitive competency scores over time. That is, students with high performance early on were more likely to perform well later on and, conversely, early low performers were more likely to have low performance later on. However, while there was consistency in student performance and competency development, results also show that students' performance can change over time and that sustained improvement in students' performance was likely to occur gradually, rather than through sudden gains.
  • Further results show how students' cognitive and attitudinal competencies are related and influence one another, highlighting the need for both to be addressed in student learning.


Further reports and articles from the age-16 phase are scheduled to be released later in 2007 (please refer to the 'Downloads/Links' inset box, top right, for the link to the 'Competent Children, Competent Learners" publications).

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