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Learning programme design

When planning programmes, an English department/faculty needs to have at its fingertips a comprehensive analysis of the diverse learning needs of the students concerned. Although quite different programmes may answer the purpose, all effective programmes in senior English:

  • are designed to address student needs
  • are coherent and have meaning for students
  • support a broad vision and goals (these may be school-wide goals or relate to community, special character, curriculum concepts, competencies, values, etc)
  • include content and contexts that students will connect with their wider lives
  • facilitate collaborative learning
  • offer students an element of choice
  • are tied into appropriate curriculum objectives
  • generate authentic opportunities for assessment
  • set up assessment so that it will inform further learning.

Curriculum design: Practical considerations

Get to know your learners

While prior planning usually has to be done before the composition of classes is known, these plans should be modified as necessary as students’ needs come to light and teachers analyse assessment data. Any programme should be designed to address the learning needs of the particular group of students.

Key questions

  • How do you respond to, respect and value your students’ beliefs and cultures? For example, if there are Pasifika students in your class, would you discuss with them what Pasifika writers they would like to read?
  • What cultural norms are validated and valued in your classroom? How could you become more culturally responsive to Māori, Pasifika, and students of other ethnicities, validating and valuing their identities and cultural norms?
  • How does your department provide continuity and flexibility between year and curriculum levels? For example, do you offer modules that students from different levels can take or multi-level assessments for students who have studied the same text?
  • How do you support students to realise their potential? For example, do you use a range of approaches, including digital, so students can demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways?
  • What opportunities for extra assistance or extension do you make available to your students (for example, having resources on a class blog or the school intranet)?
  • How are you equipping students to meet goals beyond school? What opportunities are you giving them to develop understanding of culture and identity and to shape responses through speaking, listening, writing, reading, presenting and viewing.
  • How do you use student voice?
    – Do you involve students in planning? For example, they might suggest the genres and films that they are interested in viewing or provide feedback on their learning needs vis-à-vis the focus achievement objectives.
    – Do you provide specific opportunities for your students to tell you how their programme is engaging them? For example, by recording their reflections on a piece of work
    – How do you gather evidence of achievement (both academic and in terms of other valued outcomes)? What kind of evidence do you gather? What kind of data? Do you deliberately and systematically ask your students to discuss their progress with you?

To learn more about using evidence for learning see Assessment Online.

Consider The New Zealand Curriculum

The New Zealand Curriculum gives you the flexibility to design learning programmes that meet the needs of your students.

As you do this, you should consider not only the achievement objectives for English, but also the vision, principles, values, and key competencies.

Key question: How do these underpin your curriculum/programme planning and design?

Consider the key concepts for English

The key concepts for English, found elsewhere in this teaching and learning guide, are identity, communication, story, and meaning.

These concepts sit behind and above everything that goes on in the English classroom. Every discussion and every activity comes back in one way or another to these four core ideas.

Key question: How can you embed these concepts in your students’ minds and keep them to the forefront whatever text or activity is currently the focus?

Review measures of progress

Consider the sections progression in English at levels 6–8 and the strands in English.

Key question: What does English at levels 6–8 looks like in action, and how do learners progress from one level to the next?

Curriculum design: Other considerations

  • What constraints are already in place: term dates, calendar events (for example, assessment deadlines, sports fixtures, exams, major production), events in other subject (for example field trips, camps)?
  • How should we allocate classes, taking into account teacher strengths and passions, workload, and other equity-related considerations?
  • How do we ensure that our year 11 and 12 programmes offer students ample opportunity to satisfy NCEA level 1 and university entrance requirements?
  • How do we manage resource availability and budget constraints? (For example, by finding resources online at sites such as Te Papa, swapping and collaborating with other schools, using the National Library service.)
  • How do we keep assessment and marking loads reasonable?
  • How do we manage a transient student population?

Read snapshot 13: Shifting the focus onto learning to see how an English department shifted its focus from assessment to learning and, as a consequence, increased programme coherence and student interest. At the same time, the students’ assessment results improved markedly.

Last updated April 15, 2016