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Ministry of Education.

Focusing inquiry: Know the learner

Learning about my students' needs

What is important (and therefore worth spending time on), given where my students are at? This focusing inquiry establishes a baseline and a direction. The teacher uses all available information to determine what their students have already learned and what they need to learn next.

Key questions

What do we know about each student's:

  • prior learning?
  • ethnicity/culture (Ko wai? No hea? - Who are you? Where are you from? eg. hapu/iwi/country of origin)?
  • linguistic background/languages spoken?
  • interests/hobbies/community involvement?
  • aspirations/goals (both student and whanau/community)?
  • skills, knowledge (including prior cultural knowledge) and understandings?
  • expected levels of progress in English?

Why are these questions important?

Our two national curriculum documents  The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) and  Te Marautanga Aotearoa place the learner at the centre of teaching and learning. In order to effectively "attend to the cultural and linguistic diversity of all students" (NZC p34), teachers need to develop a rich knowledge and understanding of who their students are, what they bring with them, and their learning strengths and needs.

Teachers as Learners: Improving Outcomes for Māori and Pasifika Students through Inquiry
Seven case studies about teacher inquiry in New Zealand classrooms have been adapted as learning stories; these are included in this set of materials as springboards for thinking about the Teaching as Inquiry cycle, effective pedagogy, and cultural responsiveness and how they might connect to your own practice.

Teaching Secrets: When the Kids Don’t Share Your Culture 
An article from the New York Times which provides a number of practical ways to get to know students from different cultural backgrounds.

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Useful resources

Student Voice: Have we considered what our students would like from us? What helps them realise their potential?

Where can I find out more?

  • Ethnicity data from your Student Management System
  • Information from contributing schools, and , where relevant, ESOL department and RTLB
  • The Literacy Learning Progressions describe the specific literacy knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students draw on in order to meet the reading and writing demands of the curriculum.

Making Language and Learning Work in Secondary Science and Maths: Know the Learner

Published on: 13 Oct 2015