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What's new or different?

Prior to 2010, languages were included alongside English as part of language and languages in The New Zealand Curriculum Framework (1993). Now, learning languages is one of the eight learning areas in The New Zealand Curriculum (2007).

All schools with students in years 7–10 are now expected to offer all students the opportunity to learn an additional language. This means that increasing numbers of students will be entering secondary school with language learning experience and knowledge of additional languages. And it should mean that, in time, increasing numbers of students are learning languages in the senior school.

With the introduction of this new learning area come significant shifts in how languages are taught and learned. Read on to learn about these shifts …

Achievement objectives are generic across languages

Previously: Language-specific guidelines such as French in the New Zealand Curriculum (2002) included detailed and specific achievement objectives at eight curriculum levels and set the direction for teaching, learning, and assessment in each language.

Now: There are now four pairs of banded proficiency descriptors and achievement objectives, which are generic for all languages. These are to be used as the basis for teaching and learning programmes regardless of the language learnt. Further guidance for specific languages is provided in online teaching and learning guides.

Implications for teaching and learning programmes: The communication functions and/or achievement objectives found in the previous language-specific guidelines no longer form the basis of teaching and learning programmes or assessment at a specified curriculum or year level.

Achievement objectives are the same for levels 7 and 8

Previously: NCEA level 2 and 3 assessment was based on separate level 7 and 8 achievement objectives set down in language-specific guidelines.

Now: Achievement objectives are now the same for levels 7 and 8. NCEA level 2 and 3 assessments are based, therefore, on the same achievement objectives and proficiency descriptor.

Implications for teaching and learning programmes: A shared understanding needs to be developed as to what constitutes progression through curriculum levels 7 and 8.

Vocabulary and structures are not prescribed

Previously: Lists of vocabulary, topics, and grammatical structures were prescribed or suggested for each language at each curriculum level.

Now: Except for minimal vocabulary lists for the guidance of examiners when setting listening and reading assessments, lists of vocabulary or structures are no longer suggested or prescribed for any level or language.

Implications for teaching and learning programmes: Features such as words and structures do not ‘belong’ to particular levels. They should be taught and learnt at the appropriate time, as determined by the students’ interest and need, and relevance to the sociocultural and linguistic context in which students are communicating.

Communication is the most important focus

Previously: A communicative approach was encouraged by the language-specific curriculum guidelines, but communication was not always the basis for assessment.

Now: Effective communication is the central aim and the basis for all assessment. This means that developing the skills to become an effective intercultural communicator is more important than attaining native-speaker-like accuracy.

Implications for teaching and learning programmes:Teaching and learning should be aimed at developing opportunities for genuine social interaction in the target language.

Teachers need to promote the consistent use of the target language in the classroom and provide regular opportunities for students to use it for a range of purposes.

Opportunities for interaction may sometimes include the use of English (or other languages) to facilitate effective communication.

Language and cultural knowledge support communication

Previously: Language knowledge and cultural knowledge were often taught, and even assessed, separately. Cultural knowledge was taught as if static, and assessed separately from communicative competence.

Now: Language knowledge and cultural knowledge are now regarded as strands that support communication. They are assessed indirectly through the contribution they make to the development of a student’s communicative competence.

The achievement objectives for these strands focus on developing explicit linguistic and cultural knowledge of the target language/culture and on developing general understandings of how languages work and cultures are organised.

Implications for teaching and learning programmes:The teaching of linguistic and cultural knowledge should not be limited to neatly packaged fragments of information about the target language and culture.

Learning opportunities should have explicit, genuine communicative purposes and include explicit comparisons between cultures and languages, leading to reflection and exploration of different perspectives.

Such an approach requires both teachers and students to develop an actively reflective disposition towards language and culture and, for the student, it means actively exploring their own identity at the same time as they are learning about the world views of others.

A variety of text types is offered at every level

Previously: The different language-specific curriculum guidelines placed different emphases on text type, audience, and purpose.

Now: The achievement objectives and proficiency descriptors explicitly emphasise the need for students to communicate with different audiences and for different purposes using increasingly varied and complex text types.

Implications for teaching and learning programmes: Teachers need to provide students with plentiful opportunities to engage with and produce a wide range of text types, and to consider the types of cultural and linguistic knowledge required to communicate for different purposes and to different audiences.

Internal assessment of writing and interacting is portfolio based

Previously: The externally assessed writing achievement standard often led to a focus on a limited range of written text types.

The internally assessed conversation achievement standard often led to a focus on a limited range of formal high-stakes interactions.

Now: The external writing achievement standard no longer exists. Students develop portfolios of writing throughout the year and submit these for internal assessment.

The conversation achievement standard no longer exists. Students develop portfolios of interactions throughout the year and submit these for internal assessment.

Implications for teaching and learning programmes: Teachers need to develop tasks that extend their students’ knowledge of the linguistic and cultural features of a wider range of text types and interactions than has traditionally been the case.

All languages develop viewing, presenting and performing

Previously: Only Pasifika languages made explicit reference to the skills of viewing, presenting, and performing.

Now: The receptive skills of viewing and the productive skills of presenting and performing now need to be developed in all languages.

Implications for teaching and learning programmes: Teachers need to provide opportunities for students to develop the skills of viewing, performing, and presenting.

Last updated August 28, 2012



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