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Does integrating school curriculum areas work?

Schools that integrate curriculum areas say they offer more relevant and equitable learning

According to a new NZCER study, principals and teachers view 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,”
Sue McDowall, lead researcher  


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.

See the full research report by clicking here.

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