Making good use of the learning outcomes
The learning outcomes in Te Whāriki bring together the big ideas on valued learning for children in relation to the principles, strands, and particularly the goals, of the curriculum.
The learning outcomes are underpinned by current New Zealand and international evidence on the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and dispositions children need to learn and thrive.
The learning outcomes offer kaiako and communities:
- touchstones from which to build a rich and relevant local curriculum for every child
- support to analyse and interpret learning.
A significant change in the revised Te Whāriki is the reduction in learning outcomes from over 100 to 20. This streamlining makes the process of using the learning outcomes more manageable and meaningful for kaiako and communities and helps to sharpen the focus on “what matters here”.
The learning outcomes are designed to be used alongside the goals to support and inform kaiako practice during:
- curriculum design (planning)
- assessment of children’s progress
Learning during the early years is a highly integrated, varied, and dynamic process. Capabilities fluctuate and the possibilities for learning are infinite. This is reflected in the nature and purpose of the learning outcomes in Te Whāriki. They are described as “broad statements” of learning intent. They are there to orientate kaiako towards “what matters here” in collaboration with children, whānau, and communities.
The 20 learning outcomes incorporate aspects of the learning dispositions (“ready, willing, and able”) and working theories that children need to be competent and confident lifelong learners.
Learning outcomes – a compass rather than a map
A fitting analogy is to think of learning outcomes as a compass, rather than a map. Their purpose is to stimulate thinking and practices around the five strands of Te Whāriki.
The definition of a compass is an instrument that charts a general direction but doesn’t show the exact route to take. Using a compass, you make decisions based on factors such as past experience, interests, dispositions, and skill level. You include plans to ensure those journeying are well cared for and safe.
In contrast, a map is much more prescriptive. On a map the routes are marked out and you follow, rather than create, the pathway.
A map is very useful if the exact destination is known. A compass is preferable for a general exploration of the terrain.
Conceptualising learning outcomes as a map has led to kaiako concerns about:
- pre-set outcomes restricting and narrowing learning opportunities for children
- losing the open-ended, “let’s-see-where-this-leads” approach based on children’s interests
- spontaneous playfulness being superseded by formal, structured teaching.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Using a compass analogy, the 20 learning outcomes of Te Whāriki become the starting point for:
- curriculum design
Their purpose is to inspire conversations about curriculum, children’s learning and assessment, and evaluation – conversations that create the paths most likely to benefit all those journeying. This local interpretation of the outcomes reflects the priorities for learners, the context, and the community.
This process begins with kaiako taking the time to examine the outcomes in Te Whāriki in relation to their context. By putting them under a microscope one by one, kaiako discover their contextual relevance and meaning.
Curriculum design using learning outcomes
Kaiako who see the learning outcomes as a compass to guide planning will:
- understand the purpose of planning is centred on expanding and deepening learning rather than listing activities
- see learning outcomes as something that requires ongoing interpretation by kaiako, whānau, and communities
- understand that the goals outlining roles and responsibilities of kaiako and the learning outcomes are mutually reinforcing
- understand the significance of the stem “Over time and with guidance and encouragement children become increasingly capable of” (Te Whāriki, page 24), and therefore design the curriculum with continuity of learning in mind
- acknowledge what is intended is not always what is actually learnt.
How Anne and Lucy use the learning outcomes in their curriculum design
In this video, Anne Meade and Lucy Hayes from Daisies Education and Care Centre discuss how they use the learning outcomes in curriculum design.
Transcript of Anne and Lucy discussing learning outcomes
Anne Meade: I'm Anne Meade and I'm one of the co-founders, with my daughter, we established Daisies ten years ago and I'm still actively involved in Daisies not as a teacher but in the education leadership team.
Lucy Hayes: And I'm Lucy Hayes and I am an education leader and kaiako at Daisies.
Anne Meade: We do quite longish investigations as part of our curriculum design in Daisies. And when we're working on a more in-depth and comprehensive investigation we will take a look at which goals and learning outcomes might be associated with that. They don't get fixed at that point in time. They're just sitting there as maybes and then there's quite a bit of discussion with following children's interest. Then we'll say that seems to be their own learning goals. So we will focus, we'll zero in, a bit more closely on the learning outcomes or the goals the children seem to be showing us that they're interested in pursuing and we’ll take it forward. And then our documentation will include mention of these.
Lucy Hayes: Our most recent investigation we had a whole centre investigation that was exploring whanaungatanga and that led our oldest group of children and their kaiako literally up a mountain. But right at the beginning of that investigation before we really knew what direction it was going to go I remember, over I think it was two meetings, we looked at what learning outcomes we felt right from the get go were important to explore. And I know recognising and appreciating their own ability to learn was something that we valued from the very beginning and it was something that was threaded right through. And this was eight months of investigation from when we started shorter walks and then the big walk to the top of Tarikākā.
Anne Meade: It really would not have been possible if they weren't supporting each other as a group and that was where the whanaungatanga came into it.
Lucy Hayes: I'm looking back now and actually even just thinking back we could easily have, I mean there's a place in that investigation for pretty much every point there. I'm looking at the contribution page (Te Whāriki, p. 37) but actually we chose to focus on two or three different areas and different learning outcomes through that investigation. I think that's important we could have just gone tick, tick, tick, tick, tick but we didn't, we went deeper.
Anne Meade: You kept coming back to it. What I liked to hear you talk about was the way you were threading quite big words that are actually in Te Whāriki into the conversations with the children. The sort of motivational things that you needed to do for those children to achieve their aspiration of climbing to the top of the mountain, which takes four hours on your feet there and back again. You were using some of the words in Te Whāriki and they love the big words.
Lucy Hayes: They do. We've got four-year-old children who can talk to you about physical and mental resilience because we've used language. We've talked about expressing feelings and how we can contribute to shared goals and how the children can contribute to their learning as a group too. Everybody has a contribution, everybody has something to offer and we have children who can talk about that – their strengths and the strengths that their peers have. And I think that's pretty amazing. But we, as kaiako, gave them the tools, we gave them the language that is reflective of Te Whāriki. That was a choice that we made to expand or extend the children's thinking and their knowledge.
Assessment using the learning outcomes
Kaiako who think of the learning outcomes as a compass guiding assessment:
- use them for analysis and interpretation of learning
- apply them as a reference point for informing possible future pathways.
Learning outcomes have often been used to backward map links to Te Whāriki through quotes, tags, and checklists. These processes limit deep, critically reflective evaluation.
Evaluation using the learning outcomes
Kaiako who see the learning outcomes as a compass to guide evaluation:
- are curious and keen to make deeper sense of the outcomes through processes such as internal review
- understand how they can be used as a reference point for evaluating the balance across the strands of Te Whāriki.