Key competencies leading teaching and learning : imagining new possibilities in education

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Thorpe, Margo
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Applied Practice
Unitec Institute of Technology
Mane, Jo
Reinders, Hayo
Masters Dissertation
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand
teaching practice
New Zealand Curriculum
Thorpe, M. (2019). Key competencies leading teaching and learning: Imagining new possibilities in education (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Applied Practice). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: 1. How do experienced teachers describe the impact of the New Zealand Curriculum competencies on their practice? 2. What is the potential for teaching and learning if competencies are at the forefront? 3. What are the tensions and challenges of placing competencies at the forefront of teaching and learning? ABSTRACT: This thesis is to contribute further to the understanding of how key competencies can transform teaching and learning, and therefore the curriculum. The vision for key competencies (dispositions, capabilities or habits) is to enable students to fulfill their potential and to prepare them for their future in which they will participate in society. Current research and the literature have examined the origins of key competencies both internationally and nationally and continue to seek answers on whether they have had the intended impact on education. The focus of this research is to examine teachers' experiences of transformational education involving key competencies, how the New Zealand Curriculum key competencies have impacted their practice and what is the potential when key competencies lead teaching and learning. Finally, the focus is to identify the tensions and challenges met when key competencies are at the forefront of teaching and learning. The research is based on a qualitative paradigm and draws on a practitioner research approach encompassing a critical theory philosophy. The data is collected by conducting seven semi-structured interviews with experienced teachers from four different schools by employing a narrative inquiry approach that draws on practitioner life stories. A focus group was then used to explore emerging themes from the interviews. The data has been analysed combining a narrative analysis aiming to understand how people think through events over time and in context, along with a thematic analysis focusing on the content of the narratives. A key finding was how significant the personal values and beliefs of a teacher influenced them to teach in schools that have a vision that resonates with their purpose of education, being about the holistic growth of a child. The experiences in their practice lead them to think differently about teaching and learning and how key competencies have the potential to deliver a curriculum for the needs of all students, including a future-focused education. In summary, the participants described the prospect of key competencies leading teaching and learning in the New Zealand Curriculum; transforming it beyond what it is currently. Recommendations are that a systemic change is required to the continual effort for schools to develop a deep and shared comprehension of the complexity and potential of key competencies. There is a challenge to be braver and to have a sense of urgency in order to transform the ‘status quo.’ Teachers are asking to be heard, for the profession to be mentored by teacher experts and to actively collaborate between theory, practice and vision. They are also asking policy makers to consider the impact they have on education, and whether a new way of governing education is required.
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