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Psychology and the curriculum principles

The principles set out in The New Zealand Curriculum "should underpin all school decision making". They "put students at the centre of teaching and learning". They "are particularly relevant to the processes of planning, prioritising, and review" (The New Zealand Curriculum, p. 9).

Teachers of psychology should have the principles very much in mind when planning programmes of teaching and learning.

High expectations

High expectations might mean, for example:

  • insisting that students clarify what they mean, if this is not clear, and that they back their opinions with sound arguments and evidence
  • teaching students to recognise and challenge assumptions and ask questions.

Treaty of Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi principle might mean, for example:

  • ensuring that the achievement of Māori students is valued by building teaching practice on Te Kotahitanga principles
  • finding out what kinds of learning environments and interactions tend to bring out the best in Māori students (consider engaging in relevant professional learning)
  • valuing the cultural knowledge of Māori students
  • making use of themes, contexts, and questions that are of particular significance, interest or relevance for Māori students.

Cultural diversity

The cultural diversity principle might mean, for example:

  • learning something of significance about each of the cultures represented in the class and using this knowledge to connect with students
  • encouraging students to explore psychology research, particularly New Zealand research, and research on the diverse cultures and traditions represented in the class
  • choosing contexts that can be explored from different cultural perspectives; for example, ownership and kaitiakitanga.


The inclusion principle might mean, for example:

  • ensuring that students who are ‘different’ for whatever reason are safe, and their contributions valued
  • accustoming students to identify and their own and others’ prejudices, and to critique them.

Learning to learn

The learning to learn principle might mean, for example:

  • allowing students to exercise initiative
  • involving students in the selection of contexts for exploration in psychology
  • being transparent about assessment, and coaching students so that they are able to effectively self- and peer-assess
  • encouraging students to reflect regularly on their own and others’ learning and to learn from their mistakes
  • encouraging students to transfer the insights of psychological inquiry to their regular living.

Community engagement

The community engagement principle might mean, for example:

  • inviting family and whānau contributions to discourse (for example, through homework tasks or a family member coming to class).

The coherence principle might mean, for example:

  • creating psychology programmes that utilise unit and achievement standards from different learning areas or subjects
  • selecting contexts for exploration from a wide variety of areas (for example, science, commerce, history, English, mathematics and statistics
  • surfacing the development of the key competencies
  • exposing students to pathways to further learning (tertiary, career choices, personal and community decision-making).

Future focus

The future focus principle might mean, for example:

  • encouraging students to examine what is, and imagine what could be.
  • ensuring that the future aspect of contexts and concepts (for example, freedom and responsibility) is explored.

Last updated February 17, 2017