The delivery of quality learning experiences for all children is central to our work. Consequently, a high priority is placed on quality assessment of learning and careful differentiation of programmes to ensure that all children experience challenging, stretching and effective learning. In the early years at school, an emphasis is placed on the acquisition of appropriate literacy and numeracy skills. As skills develop, children increasingly use their literacy and numeracy skills as tools to support their deeper learning.
Over the past decade, the phenomenon of inquiry-based learning has come to shape the framework of modern learning practices here at Fairfield School. Inquiry of the curriculum is an important part of Fairfield School's approach to the delivery of the New Zealand curriculum.
“Inquiry” as a term, lends itself to the ‘act of asking questions’ or ‘undertaking an investigation’, and in the educational context that is exactly where the heart of this learning approach lies. Gone are the days where students are seen as passive recipients of knowledge and teachers are viewed as static transmitter of facts. Today’s 21st century classroom is all about knowledge construction, probing students to independently and collaboratively learn through the process of exploration, investigation, research, pursuit and study.
Drawing on constructivist ideologies, inquiry-based learning emphasises a hands-on, minds-on teaching and learning approach whereby students and teachers share the responsibility in the learning process. This dual passageway challenges Fairfield students to guide their own learning pathways and challenges teachers to act as the facilitators and supporters of the student learning process. Through harnessing the spirit of investigation, inquiry-based learning advocates the importance of thinking in order to create meaning, working to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding.
In theory this learning approach appears faultless, effectively placing students at the centre of their own learning. In practice, inquiry-based learning achieves exactly that. Through focusing on the processrather than the outcome, students are able to understand the reasoning behind their learning, and therefore engage with their learning on a deeper level. Whilst indeed this learning model is a notable shift away from traditional teaching methods; it is a favourable shift that is seeing students extend their academic capacity.
Here at Fairfield School we recognise the importance of inquiry-based learning in facilitating the “thinking” process. Following years of academic research and practical experience, Kath has developed a useful set of considerations which can help teachers to integrate inquiry into their classroom practices.
Source: Kath Murdoch, 2012
Through implementing an inquiry-based learning model students not only obtain valuable knowledge, however they also develop a range of transferable skills around cognition, analysis and investigation. Moreover, with a focus on collaborative group work, students are given the opportunity to develop essential soft skills such as communication, problem solving, delegating and team building – all of which help to provide a complete and holistic learning experience.
Here at Fairfield School we believe one of the most valuable benefits of inquiry-based learning is the facilitation of life-long learning for students. In today’s ever-changing world, the time span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete is forever shrinking. For this reason there is an undoubted need for us as individuals to actively review, update and expand our knowledge as the world changes around us. This is precisely where the benefits of an inquiry-based learning model lie – as from a young age students are developing essential learning skills to assist with all their future endeavours.
Schools are required to report to parents on the progress of their children with reference to the National Standards twice a year. Reports must be written and in plain English.
The standards apply to achievement in:
The National Standards are broadly stated and can be thought of as a band of achievement that children are working towards, working within or working beyond. Teachers are required to make 'overall teacher judgements' when determining a child's level of achievement against the Standards, taking into account multiple sources of information.
The formatting of the National Standards suggest that all children will be achieving at a set point in the curriculum, at a set point in their education. This does not fit with a child-centred approach to learning and makes no allowance for individual rates of learning. This has created a philosophical tension for many teachers. The natural variation in any population means that there is in fact a wide spread of achievement.
The key expectations of the National Standards are detailed below.
Student achievement in regard to the Standards is communicated to parents through learning conferences (parent-teacher meetings), written reports and informal chats.
You can read more about the National Standards on the Ministry of Education website.