Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

Senior Secondary navigation


You are here:

Providing sufficient opportunities to learn

Students learn most effectively when they have time and opportunity to engage with, practise, and transfer new learning … they need to encounter new learning a number of times and in a variety of different tasks or contexts.

The New Zealand Curriculum, page 34

Learning often involves complex, sophisticated ideas and concepts that may be new to students or hard for them to grasp. Teachers need to recognise this and build into their programme sufficient, effective opportunities for students to create meaning and embed it into their long-term understanding.

This means giving students time to access, practise, and transfer new learning in a variety of activities and contexts. It means ensuring that the big ideas and key practices and processes are being continually revisited and built upon.

Research has shown the importance of having varied activities and contexts. These are the things that reinforce new learning and give students the opportunity to grasp what they are struggling with.

Obviously, there is a tension between covering the curriculum and ensuring that all students understand what they are meant to be learning. At times, it may be necessary to reduce coverage in order to spend time teaching something more thoroughly or in greater depth.

Creating varied learning opportunities

Teachers should:

  • be clear about learning intentions and how tasks and activities link to this learning
  • focus on valued learning rather than a superficial coverage of the curriculum – for example, by:
    • identifying what is most important and useful for the students to learn and aligning planning, resources, and activities to this learning
    • checking for students’ understanding before continuing, and adapting teaching if students are not ready
    • giving students sufficient time to complete tasks thoughtfully, which may mean altering the timeline or deleting a topic or activity from the programme.
  • provide activities that have differentiated entry and exit points and include extension and enrichment
    This will reinforce to students that because they come with varying levels of understanding they will need to select activities according to their own needs.
  • give constructive feedback on the quality of students’ work, with the expectation that they will action any suggestions
    This may mean allocating time for students to make changes to their work and/or develop personal learning goals.
  • develop tasks that require different levels of understanding for a concept, for example, as described in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Significant questions

Big questions can be a very useful and motivating entry point for learning. They are sometimes known as significant or rich questions. They:

  • are genuinely big in their scope – many people are asking them and they have no single definitive answer
  • open up multiple possibilities for investigation
  • invite collaboration
  • give students agency – each student can take the portion that interests them
  • do not create arbitrary thresholds or limits.

Year 12 home economics topic: Food security

Questions that deal with the significant elements of knowledge for this topic could include:

  • What are the essential elements of a healthy diet?
  • What are the consequences of not being able to access a healthy diet?
  • What factors might limit people’s access to a healthy diet?

A question on comprehension could be:

  • How are the factors that contribute to food insecurity interconnected?

A question requiring analysis would be:

  • To what extent is food security an issue for people in our community/our country?

A question requiring evaluation skills would be: 

  • How effective are the health promotion strategies in addressing issues of food security?

Year 13 physical education topic: Biomechanics of bowling in cricket

A knowledge-eliciting question could be:

  • Can you describe the movement sequences (action couplings) required for an overarm bowl in cricket?

A comprehension question could be:

  • How are movement sequences connected biomechanically?

A practical application would be the student using their understanding to perform a successful bowling delivery in cricket.

An analysis task could be: 

  • Examine the performance of a bowler in cricket. What are the strengths and weaknesses in the bowler’s action? 

Students could show synthesis by using their analytical knowledge to experiment and create new ways of delivering a successful overarm bowl in cricket.

Making use of practical activities

When choosing how to teach and assess the important learning, teachers can use practical activities that encourage students to explore new ideas and apply them in authentic situations.  This empowers students to make their own choices about how they use their new knowledge, skills, and understanding. It also makes the learning more relevant and interesting. 

Home economics

Home economics students could plan and prepare a low-cost meal that meets the nutritional needs of a particular target group.

Students will learn about the cost and nutritional value of specific ingredients, how to adapt a recipe, and the importance of the specific needs of an individual or group. They will develop cooking and presentation skills. They will also enjoy eating the final product.

Physical education

Physical education students could explore biophysical principles in the context of basketball. The learning sequence would start with a practical exploration of the various basketball skills – for example, man-to-man defence, triple threat, and defensive screen.

The teacher regularly challenges the students to question what the features of each skill are and to make connection to the biophysical principles. For example, while the students practise a defensive screen and take a charge the teacher could ask targeted questions such as:

  • What is the ideal stance?
  • Why stand up tall?
  • What is the outcome of being less stable?

The teacher could then make links to the biophysical principles by asking questions such as:

  • How can we explain the advantages of this stance in relation to stability and Newton’s third law of motion?

Last updated October 3, 2013