Our Learning Approach

The Kohimarama School teaching team bring a wealth of experience and have embraced a range of learning approaches to prepare our children to thrive in our changing world.

The school’s teaching is based on the New Zealand Curriculum. On this page we describe some of our current areas of focus for bringing the curriculum to life as we prepare our children for the future.

Transforming Learning for the 21st Century

Our society is in the midst of the 4th industrial revolution where breakthroughs in science and technology are leading to rates of change like we’ve never seen before. The short video below talks talks about the change we’re seeing and how we’re transforming to prepare our students for the future.


Our Changing World

It’s predicted that our society will change more in the next 20 years than it has in the previous 300. This change is largely being driven by breakthroughs in science and technology such as artificial intelligence and bio-technology. All this change is already disrupting many traditional industries, institutions and professions. While the predictions vary widely, we know that many of the jobs we do today will be affected. In fact most of the children in our Kiri team today will go on to work in occupations that do not yet exist.

On top of this our children need to be prepared for a world that’s feeling the effects of climate change, that has a growing and increasingly connected world population, and that’s grappling with ethical challenges surrounding how we use new technologies. To prepare our children for a changing world and for jobs that do not yet exist, we’ve continuing to change too. Instead of producing students who are job-ready, we’re enabling them to be future-ready citizens and learners.

What Future-ready Citizens & Learner’s Need

Recent reports on the future of work and education from the likes of the OECD, McKinsey and the World Bank, all agree that a future-ready person is someone who is equipped to adapt and learn throughout their lives. On top of a solid foundation in numeracy and literacy, this requires new sets of skills, values and attitudes:

  • Higher cognitive skills, which are things like creativity, critical thinking, and complex problem solving.
  • Social and emotional skills; things like collaboration, curiosity, empathy and self efficacy.
  • Technological skills. Increasingly most jobs will require some level of technological skills, from having basic sufficiency in new technologies, through to advanced IT, science, data or maths skills.
  • Values and attitudes. Most importantly, being future-ready requires a core set of values and attitudes such as respect and motivation.
Our Approach to Meeting Student’s Future Needs

These are some of the main ways we’re transforming to enable our students to be future-ready learners and citizens.

  • Learner Agency. We’ve embraced a learner agency approach, which empowers our students to take greater ownership of their learning. Part of this is learning design, which deeply involves students in designing their own learning.
  • The ‘Kohi Way’ values and learning dispositions capture many of the values, higher cognitive skills, and social skills. In fact from 2019, these are reported on alongside a student’s performance in core subjects.
  • STEAM (Science, technology, Arts, Maths). Our increased focus on STEAM subjects continues.
  • Innovative Learning Environments. We continue to evolve our innovative learning environments to enable greater flexibility and collaboration between teachers and students.

Just like our students, we’ll continue to learn and adapt our approach.

Dr David Parsons, Associate Professor Massey University, explains the need to teach higher level thinking skills and develop key competencies using technology to prepare students for the 21st century. Source: TKI | Ministry of Education.

Learner Agency

This short video provides an overview of what we mean by learner agency.


What is it?

Becoming a life-long learner means taking ownership of your learning and building a level of independence. This is captured in the concept of learner agency. Agency is having the power or capacity to act and make choices. In a learner-centered environment, learners have agency over their learning and classroom systems serve the needs and interests of the learner.

Why is it important?

The student agency approach helps set our children up to be lifelong learners. Research links student agency with:

  • Increased motivation and ownership of learning
  • Increased emotion in learning and therefore engagement
  • Increased neural development (through active learning)
  • Greater differentiation
  • Increased sense of belonging
  • Increased likelihood to continue in schooling
  • Increased achievement

Children who plan their own goals, set weekly schedules and evaluate their own work build up the frontal cortex and take more control over their lives” Bruce Feiler

Sustained higher achievement is possible when teachers use approaches that enable students to take charge of their own learning. Such approaches do not leave the students ‘to discover’ in an unstructured environment. Rather, they are highly structured in supporting student agency and sustained and thoughtful engagement.” Adrienne Alton-Lee (BES 2003)

How we are Supporting Learner Agency

The key tool we’ve implemented  to support student agency is the introduction of the ‘SchoolTalk’ app. SchoolTalk is an interactive learning platform that let’s a students track and manage their learning along with their teacher. Parents and caregivers also have access allowing them to be more involved and aware of their child’s learning progress. This supports our learning community philosophy where we are all involved in a student’s learning.

The introduction of the tool changes the way our teachers design, track and report learning. The teaching staff have worked hard behind the scenes learning the tool and integrating it into their day-to-day activities.

Another benefit of the tool is the ability to measure student progress against the curriculum. Students and teachers can assess gaps and develop personalised learning plans. This has become even more important with the shift away from National Standards.

Becoming Assessment Capable

By the end of 2018 our children were becoming “assessment capable”. This was acknowledged in the 2018 ERO report. This means students knew where they are at in their learning, the next steps they needed to take, and how to approach their learning and make choices around what’s next. For example, in SchoolTalk our students can see their goals. They load 3 pieces of evidence against a goal and so they have a real sense of how they’re achieving against it.

Being “assessment capable” is a foundational piece of the learner agency journey. When students know what they need to learn, they’re in a position to then get deeply engaged in how they do their learning. This is supported by a learning design approach.

Learning Design

What is it?

In the past, designing learning approaches and materials was solely the domain of teachers. Learning design is about involving our students in that process and supporting them to take greater ownership of it. In 2019 we have a goal to incorporate learning design into our teaching practices.

Why is it important?

Embedding learning design takes us further on our journey to enhance the learning process in the school.  Our goal is to instil our students with a desire to achieve their very best; to have high expectations about what they’re achieving and a desire to exceed against the curriculum.

As we know, when students are deeply engaged, they have higher rates of achievement and develop a love of learning. To be fully engaged students need to know the context of their learning and have the opportunity to take a different approach, giving them a sense of control. A learning design approach enables this.

How does it work?

A teacher would determine a clear set of learning objectives and outcomes and then invite students to be design partners in determining the context. For example, if a class was learning about explorers, rather than telling students they will be studying Captain Cook, students would be invited to suggest their own examples. Teachers and students would then design activities together that would allow them to achieve their learning outcomes.

As they work through their activities, students would use their teacher, peers and broader learning community to support their learning. The teacher essentially provides the learning scaffolding; providing the knowledge, guidance and support around the learning process, then gradually removing supports as the student becomes more autonomous.

A learning design approach encourages ‘just in time’ learning. Here a student may have to learn several levels ahead to help complete a particular task because it’s something they need to know now. They may also make connections across other subjects. Their learning becomes purposeful and supports their progression through the next steps of learning.

When it comes to providing evidence of their learning against an outcome, a student may show their understanding in different ways that play to their strengths and interests. It could be a presentation, an essay, a poster and so forth.

Community of Learning

Core to our approach is our ‘community of learning’ philosophy. We believe that students, teachers and parents/caregivers all need to be part of learning. By working together we can maximise the opportunity for our students to reach their potential.

In the broader community, Kohimarama School also actively participates in the local Te Roopu Pourewa Community of Learning (COL). The COL is made up of 5 local schools (Kohimarama, Orakei, Stonefields, St Thomas’s, Selwyn College) and is constantly looking at ways to collaborate on learning and achievements. A recent priority of the group was developing enhanced ‘learner agency’.

Environmental Sustainability

Global warming and environmental sustainability is arguably one of the greatest global issues our students will face in their lifetime. So much so that this is now an area recognised in New Zealand Curriculum. The Curriculum seeks to instil environmental sustainability as a core value to be encouraged, modelled and explored.

Kohimarama School has embraced this and has put a number of programmes in place to help our students build an understanding of environmental sustainability and to be empowered to act on this. This is an ongoing initiative  as we work with students to incorporate sustainable practices into their daily lives at school and home.

The school is also participating in the Enviroschools programme which is an action-based education programme where young people plan, design and implement sustainability projects and become catalysts for change in their families, and within the wider New Zealand community. You can find out more about the Enviroschools programme at www.enviroschools.org.nz.