Schools integrate curriculum areas to offer more relevant and equitable learning
A New NZCER study shows that principals and teachers saw their curriculum integration experiences as successful.
Curriculum integration is common in primary schools and nearly two-thirds of secondary schools are combining two or more
learning areas at some level of the school.
Curriculum Integration: What is happening in New Zealand schools? is the latest research report from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research. The purpose of the research was
to learn more about teachers’ reasons for integrating curriculum, the ways they go about it, and the learning
opportunities it offers students.
“We wanted authentic learning activities that could engage our students in problem solving and working like people do in
the real world, [and to ensure] relevance, excitement, choice about what they did.” (Primary teacher, Wellington)
The study found that teachers chose to integrate learning areas to make learning more relevant and equitable. Their
difficulty was ensuring students continued to build knowledge in each of the learning areas. Maths was especially
difficult to integrate, and many teachers chose to continue teaching this as a single learning area.
“Schools reported positive outcomes from integrating curriculum areas. The challenge was balancing opportunities for
student choice and agency with opportunities to build disciplinary knowledge,” said Sue McDowall, lead researcher of the study.
The study draws on the findings of NZCER’s 2019 National Survey of Secondary Schools and 3 workshops that researchers
ran in 2018 with primary and secondary school teachers from schools that integrate curriculum areas.
These findings come at a time of significant change in the education system. As part of the reform of the Tomorrow’s
Schools system, the government has committed to establish a nationally-based Curriculum Centre to provide curriculum
leadership and expertise.
Established in 1934, the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) is an independent research and development
organisation, operating under its own legislation. NZCER inspires education. We play a leading role in research,
developing tools, and providing services that drive effective learning and positive change in policy and practice. We
use the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of Aotearoa to help us uphold mana Māori in our
work, relationships, and ways of working. www.nzcer.org.nz