Creative spaces between… Curriculum, assessment and pedagogy…


This blogpost is a long time coming… I have had my head buried in some deep thinking around the potential of what can be…I have had one term in my new position as Deputy Principal at Rototuna Senior High School in Hamilton and my learning has been provoked through multiple aspects of my role and also through digging deeper to the “why”…

I am developing new relationships after my shift from HPSS half way through the year, relationships with my SLT team of Natasha Hemara (Principal) and Megan Barry (Deputy Principal). Relationships with new colleagues at Rototuna Junior High School including Fraser Hill (Principal), Melissa Moore(Deputy Principal) and Paula Wine (Deputy Principal). With a real drive and want for alignment and cohesion across our two schools, working alongside the other awesome staff at the Junior High School has been a special time, for watching and learning from others on their own new journeys. Starting to develop relationships with the akonga (students) especially the Year 10 that we have been working with, before their transition to RSHS next year. An opportunity for real transition and using the learning the rest of the staff have had in developing their relationships with the students this year. The deep understanding of their learners the staff have developed through their advisory model and innovative teaching and learning programmes.

At the same time we have been digging deeper to the why???

Using both this work by Julia Aitken and this work by Simon Sinek…

We have only started this process as we wish to co-construct this further with our staff next term as we work from Beliefs and Values to Principles and Practices. Always coming back to the why… this again will only be part of it as we need student voice in this process as well, we aim not to do education to, but with our akonga…something that has been reiterated in the #ulearn16 twitter feed today…, especially from what I could see on the panel from Rose Hipkins and Michael Fullan etc…

Here is an example of our digging deeper…

Another thing I have noted in the #ulearn16 feed is talk of challenging the system, working the system, focussing on the NZC and the potential it has for our akonga…not allowing assessment to drive things…

This is an area of passion and interest of mine that I looked at in my thesis

This is where the alignment of curriculum, assessment and pedagogy is a must, starting with our akonga, placing them at the centre, giving them voice and in turn power with choices of contexts, passions, interests and aligning teaching and learning programmes and assessment to this. Capturing evidence of learning in an on-going way, making learning visible and valuing the process of learning over final outcomes…

I have had this well and truly affirmed after our recent trip to USA and Canada, looking to base any learning, reflection and action on research and evidence of best practice… see the blog Natasha has been writing to inform our community of our learning…
This blog shows depth of reflection into each of our visits to the self-directed schools in Canada and the two “High Tech Highs” in the USA. What I would now like to focus on is the potential for truly aligning curriculum, assessment and pedagogy… Making learning visible and the importance of exhibitions to show both process and outcomes of learning.

Here are a few examples of exhibitions of learning that included process and outcomes that we saw at High Tech High (both Point Loma and Chula Vista campuses).


I could go on showing you more and more examples, the students and the teachers truly walked the walk of authentic, real world learning. Often the essential question had aspects of social justice as the drivers and provokers for deep learning, reflection and action. Exhibitions were used as a way to show this learning process and the amazing students that showed us around at both campuses, talked to the use of multiple modes to show their depth of understanding in other ways. While you see mainly work on the walls, when students exhibit they talk to the learning process and what occurred, happened and shifted along the way. Outcomes were often about the action that took place during the process as well. At High Tech High they talk to this being project based learning, which we are looking to have as part of our curriculum at RSHS. This type of authentic learning and the process of exhibitions and presenting took place right from the elementary level of school. The students that showed us around were highly articulate at explaining the process and outcomes of learning they had been involved in.


All of these exhibitions involved at least two curriculum areas that were being integrated along the way. Where teachers collaborated even if teaching took place in different classrooms. This sparked deeper thinking for the potential for more that two curriculum areas working together and evidence falling out as it may. This happened at HPSS (where I was prior) where big concepts were found across the NZC and where teachers collaborated in modules to of two to three curriculum areas. Subject specialists were teaching to threshold concepts that they had back mapped from the NZC and aligned carefully in a scaffolded way towards NCEA. You will see I have recorded a lot of reflection on this and linked to many others at HPSS back further in my blog.

BUT what if…essential questions derived through a process of project based learning could go wider, allow more curriculum areas to be covered and to emerge. What if….the learning process and exhibitions were developed by students, driven by students, scaffolded and supported by teachers… what if teachers with their “subject expert hat on” then looked at what learning has arisen, gave feedback and feed forward to where students could head next…what if teachers with their understanding of clarifications documents and EN’s of standards could “see” what was falling out of the learning naturally… or students who look at standards they think they may be covering and directing questions at teachers to clarify, dig deeper, gather further evidence where required. Teachers then giving feed forward to support deep learning as well as making sure that authentic and rigorous assessment occurs. Allowing authentic assessment that calls for community partnerships, taking action and presenting and exhibiting learning. Assessment would no longer be the driver, it would not be ignored, it would be manipulated by subject experts amd students, working the system to not having a standards driven curriculum, but a student driven curriculum, with authentic and rigorous outcomes. Where the NZC could be used to its true potential, where social action, making a difference could not only take place, but be valued. I believe it can be done, it is not easy, there are institutions that need to be broken, but challenging the status quo is the only way to truly give the power back to akonga. To put them in the drivers seat, to allow them to see connections and for us as kaiako (teachers) to support, scaffold and be the assessment experts who can make the assessment process transparent for our akonga. So students know where they at and where to next, while still digging deeper and being challenged, using their passions, interests and voice in the process. We need to “use the creative spaces between…curriculum, assessment and pedagogy”.