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The psychology standards matrix

The psychology matrix sets out the framework for the achievement unit standards. Select those that most closely align to your teaching and learning programme at the appropriate level.

See the Psychology achievement standards matrix (Word, 15KB)

Teacher actions

  • Consider the learning needs of your students.
  • Understand the requirements of The New Zealand Curriculum.
  • Understand the requirements of the psychology achievement standards and related achievement standards from other domains.
  • Choose contexts that engage students’ interest.
  • Design tasks, schedules, and formative assessments that support student achievement.
  • Ensure sound management of formal assessments.
  • Log moderation procedures for tasks and grading.
  • Check the requirements for making re-submissions and re-assessments.
  • Guide students with examples of approaches to assessment.


For the range of effective assessment to ensure learning has been mastered and has the appropriate psychological context, check the assessment for learning section.

The psychology achievement standards

New psychology achievement standards have been registered and are available for use from 2018. Learning programmes and summative assessment tasks and schedules will need to reflect the new standards.

As with all standards, the specific requirements are described in the supporting notes, conditions of assessment, and specifications.

Teacher actions

  • Careful inspections of the criteria and notes at every stage of your course and assessment development will ensure your assessments are valid and equitable, and provide a smooth pathway for your students to demonstrate their capabilities.

Using appropriate contexts for internal assessments

Students achieve higher levels of success when the focus of their learning is on contexts appropriate to their interests and related to their personal environments. (Care must be taken to ensure students’ wellbeing and emotional safety.)

Teacher actions

  • Take into account a range of factors such as the culture, gender, literacy needs, specific learning differences and styles when you choose texts or assessment contexts for your learners.
  • Consider student interests and current issues as you design and review your local curriculum.
  • Adapt or change curriculum contexts and select fresh texts and resources to suit the learners and reflect current issues.


Contexts may shift from year to year. For example, local issues may arise that the learning programme may need to address, such as the effects of the Canterbury earthquake. These contexts may not be appropriate for every class, or provide rich enough ground for exploration. Ensure student interests, learning contexts, and curriculum objectives are aligned.

Managing formal assessment

Schools have their own policies on the management of assessments.

Teacher actions

  • Ensure a robust system for recording student achievement to ensure sound and equitable results.
  • Keep a moderation log.
  • Make sure the assessment schedules reflect only what is in the standard.
  • Ensure your assessment tasks elicit responses that allow the students to provide evidence at the highest level attainable for the criteria.
  • Publish and make transparent your assessment requirements.
  • Apply ‘checkpoints’ for evidence collecting over longer time frames.
  • Mark a sample – moderate – mark more, and keep exemplars.


Your moderation log will note that the tasks and schedule were moderated (by a teacher peer or colleague from another department or school).

Be clear on what you are not assessing.

There is no requirement in any psychology standards for structured paragraphing, accurate spelling and grammar, provision of diagrams, or application of any particular formatting. This should not stop you from considering the literacy needs of your students in the context of psychology.

There is no requirement for time limitations, so make an equitable allocation that allows students to complete the tasks. The assessment resources do give timeframe guidelines.

For extended assessments, such as inquiries, you might get students to develop a plan and checkpoints to keep them on track. Ask for a submission of the plan at a specified date, the research findings at a later date, and the self-evaluation near completion. This encourages students to self-manage and to take ownership of their learning.

Check the NZQA policies on reviews and reconsiderations.

Refer to the NZQA psychology assessment support resources.

Accessing standards from other learning areas

This guide provides examples of how teachers of psychology can implement teaching and learning programmes in different settings.

Standards from a range of learning areas are suggested but not offered as an exhaustive list. The priority is to design a course that meets students’ learning needs. Issues may include:

  • university entrance criteria
  • cross-curricular connections.

University entrance

Each teacher must ensure that course design enables students to work towards the requirements for tertiary study. If the tertiary provider requires achievement standard credits at a certain count, teachers must ensure that the psychology achievement standards they choose are also linked to and assessed as achievement standards in other subjects.

Where the tertiary provider requires students to have a merit or excellence endorsement, psychology teachers must ensure their programme design provides assessment opportunities to enable this.

Cross–curricular connections

Learning areas are not exclusive. The format of The New Zealand Curriculum "facilitates a cross curricular collaborative approach to planning and assessment" (p. 45).

Mapping out a pathway to best meet students needs may need to be a negotiated process. Psychology offers a chance to draw together a range of learning areas that engage students and allow them to apply knowledge and skills from these areas in different contexts.

A student-centred approach will require collaboration and negotiation with teachers in other learning areas. Things to consider when constructing course assessments are:

  • pedagogical approaches
  • moderation
  • duplication of standards within a school
  • multi-level learning.

Teacher actions

  • Check university requirements and those of other tertiary providers your students may be intending to attend.
  • Carefully check that any achievement standards you choose are linked to the psychology strands and either scaffold or enhance students’ psychology learning.
  • Ensure standards offered from other learning areas and subjects are relevant and that the other subject does not disadvantage learners by standards being offered in more than one subject area.


  • Collaborate with teachers from other subjects to ensure the best possible expertise is offered to students. This may mean that team planning and/or teaching is required to support student learning.
  • Negotiation may be required to ensure you have the positive support of the teachers and heads or leaders of the subject you intend to use.

Achievement objectives by level and strand.

Last updated May 28, 2021