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Meet the presenter

Hi, I’m Natalie. I’m a teacher and have worked in teams with teacher aides for many years.
M7 Natalie

M7 Understanding the New Zealand Curriculum

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The New Zealand Curriculum

Why this module?

This module supports teachers and teacher aides to develop a shared understanding of the New Zealand Curriculum. The New Zealand Curriculum sets the direction for teaching and learning in English-medium schools. It sets a vision for all young people to be capable, active, lifelong learners.

How the New Zealand Curriculum relates to the classroom

Schools use the New Zealand Curriculum as a framework for developing their own curricula, which are shaped to address the strengths and needs of their students and communities. Teachers use the school curriculum to shape their classroom curricula to the particular needs, interests, and strengths of students in their classes.

The New Zealand Curriculum — overview

The curriculum includes a vision, values, principles, key competencies and learning areas.

  • The curriculum presents a vision of all young people as “confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners.” (p. 7) The vision drives all curriculum practice.
  • The principles detail what is important and desirable in a school’s curriculum. The principles explain the educational experience students are entitled to. Inclusion is one of the principles.
  • The New Zealand Curriculum values have widespread community support. Communities that hold and act on these values are likely to be supportive and strong.
  • The key competencies are ongoing capabilities for living and lifelong learning. People use these competencies to live, learn, work and contribute as active members of their communities.
  • The eight learning areas describe what students will come to know and do. There are eight learning areas: the arts, English, health and physical education, learning languages, mathematics and statistics, science, social sciences and technology.

The New Zealand Curriculum — for every student

“All New Zealand students … should experience a rich and balanced education that embraces the intent of the national curriculum.” (page 37)  All students can learn within the New Zealand Curriculum. Learning linked to the eight learning areas is an important part of accessing a broad, general education.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that helps teachers create an inclusive classroom curriculum. It’s an approach that recognises that each student learns and expresses themselves in a unique way. Applying UDL means designing curricula that embraces and addresses this diversity from the outset. When teachers apply a UDL framework to the classroom curriculum, they build in multiple means for:

  • information and content to be represented to the students
  • students to engage in the learning
  • students to act and express themselves.

UDL prompts teachers to design rich learning experiences. For example, a teacher planning a unit on a local environmental issue might:

  • represent content through data tables, written reports, interviews with activists and scientists and stories
  • engage the students in the learning through online research, experimentation, site visits where they collect and analyse data and active participation in a restoration project
  • provide opportunities for students to take action and express themselves through debate, writing scientific reports, making an oral presentation to the local council and drama.

The school and classroom curriculum can also be made more accessible to students through changes to the:

  • content
  • teaching and learning materials
  • responses expected for and from students.

These types of changes are sometimes called 'adaptions and differentiations'.

  • adaptations: changes to the supports — the school environment, the classroom, teaching strategies and teaching and learning materials (the 'how')
  • differentiations: changes to the classroom programme — the content of the school and class curriculum and expected responses to it (the 'what').

Inclusive Practice and the School Curriculum has examples of teachers creating rich learning experiences that are accessible to all students. It also includes examples of how teachers and teacher aides have collaborated to design adaptations and differentiations to enable all students to access the curriculum. These include a teacher who differentiated and adapted a Figure It Out task to support the learning of all her students in number and measurement. In another example, a teacher designed a multi-level unit for students working on oral presentations at NCEA levels 1 and 2, along with another student who was working towards a curriculum level 1 goal in visual arts. 

Curriculum: teachers and teacher aides — who does what?

Teachers are responsible for planning, developing and reviewing the classroom curriculum, ensuring that it is accessible for all. With help from others, they are also responsible for any strategies, adaptations or content changes intended to support a particular student’s learning. As a member of the classroom team, the teacher aide uses teaching strategies discussed with the teacher to support and implement the classroom programme.

References and further reading

Inclusive Education Guides for Schools: Universal Design for Learning

Inclusive Practice and the School Curriculum (NZC Online): Effective pedagogy for all students