August 29, 2008

Customised Learning on the Way

Schools will soon be addressing the needs of the students in their individual communities.


THERE is a big change coming in New Zealand schooling, and Johnsonville's Raroa Normal Intermediate aims to put the changes to good use to prepare its students for lifelong learning.

Kevin Ryan, principal of Raroa Normal Intermediate and president of the Wellington Intermediate Schools Principals Association, says all schools are designing curriculums specific to their school.

It is part of the new national curriculum that was developed last year, and schools have till 2010 to implement it.

Mr Ryan says it will result in very customised learning for students, "and schools can start to look at what the needs of the students are in their particular school". This will be good for intermediates as they can focus on the many specific challenges facing Year 7 and 8 students.

"Raroa," Mr Ryan says, "is focusing on developing critical thinking skills.

"We want students to be engaged and challenged so they would be two of the hallmarks of a curriculum designed for here.

"One of the things that has come out in research is that students who are engaged, or interested, will learn, and they will stay at school."

He says to get students really interested, there has to be what he calls authentic learning situations rather than artificial ones.

"So rather than learning about things just in case you might need to know them, it's about learning something just-in-time, rather than just- in-case teaching."

As an example, Mr Ryan says if a student had a scientific question, they would go away, do some research and then some experimentation.

"But in order to do that they would need to have some skills, such as statistics, to make sense of their results.

"So that's the time you link statistics with what they're doing. So you bring in elements when they need it, instead of teaching them a bunch of stuff that they might forget later on."

Mr Ryan says it will require a big adjustment in the way teachers teach.


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