The Intent of Science in NZC

Blog post written by Sabina Cleary

Kia ora whānau

Being part of the Kaha Education team has meant an invigorating and exciting start to the year! Our rich and diverse experiences enable us to work collaboratively to plan and carry out ways of working with, and supporting, teachers and schools with high quality professional development and learning.

The elephant in the room

Last year, one of the most frequent points of conversation with science teachers I worked with was around assessment: particularly in relation to science capabilities. Unfortunately, I didn’t (and still don’t) have many easy answers for teachers. Initially, I planned to launch into a discussion about assessment in this blog. However, I’m going to take a step back and suggest something that really needs to be unpicked before we can talk about assessment: the essence statement – the intent – of science in the NZC …


(Ministry of Education, 2007, p.17).


What does a “critical, informed, and responsible citizen” look like?
If we want to develop these students, then what do they need to be able to do?
What knowledge and skills do they need?
And, importantly, how do we support them to think with, and use, the knowledge and skills?

These questions need to be answered with all students in mind. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that learning the content of the four contextual strands (Living World, Material World, Physical World, Planet Earth & Beyond) is the central purpose of the science learning area, chiefly so that we can prepare students for a career in science. However, this is not the intent of this curriculum learning area. Some students will certainly go on to careers in science, but all students need to use their knowledge of science to inform problem solving and decision making in their lives.

I would encourage teachers to have rigorous discussions with their colleagues about who and what their science programme is for. This will then drive decisions around what an effective programme looks like and how we assess student progress towards desired outcomes.

Two documents which you might find useful as a starting point for discussions with your colleagues are: “Building a science curriculum with an effective nature of science component” -  Rosemary Hipkins ( ) and “Reflecting on purposes for learning science” - Lorraine Spiller and Rosemary Hipkins ( ).


Posted 27 Mar 2017