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More complex than skills: Rethinking the relationship between key competencies and curriculum content

Rosemary Hipkins

The role that key competencies will play in a curriculum depends on how they are interpreted. Drawing on the New Zealand experience, this paper outlines two possible implementation pathways. The “skills” pathway could lead to modest improvements in teaching and learning. It is, however, unlikely to achieve longer-term goals such as strengthening citizenship, enhancing creativity and fostering lifelong learning. Such goals have future-focused and dispositional components. The “participatory” pathway could support these longer-term goals. Students are challenged to use knowledge, not just get it. However following this pathway requires a rethinking of how curriculum content is used, with implications for what is seen as evidence of learning. The presentation will draw on several common science topics and two of the key competencies as they were developed for the New Zealand Curriculum (Thinking; Using Language, Symbols and Texts). These will be used to illustrate possible changes in teaching and learning approaches. Implications for curriculum support processes will be raised.

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