Since 2018, Whakarongo School has been developing a conceptual approach to our curriculum. This sees a concept, and supporting big idea, forming the basis for purposeful and relevant integrated units of learning.

Literacy, Mathematics and the Whakarongo Kid form the FOUNDATIONS of our curriculum and are integrated through all learning.

Our conceptual learning approach draws on these foundations and the wider curriculum areas; with the wider curriculum areas split into two key areas: STEM & HEArtSS to provide key conceptual and contextual focuses for learning.

  • STEM integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics alongside the curriculum foundations.

  • HEArtSS integrates Health, Environmental Studies, The Arts and Social Sciences alongside the curriculum foundations.

The Conceptual Learning Approach

The focus of learning in conceptual learning is defined through a broad concept (e.g. collective responsibility) instead of a topic (e.g. World War 1).

Unlike more traditional learning models, which tend to only concentrate on imparting knowledge and recalling facts, conceptual learning focuses on understanding broader principles or ideas (what we call “concepts”) that can later be applied to a variety of specific examples. This concept is then underpinned by a big idea that children can explore through a variety of contexts to help them build deeper understandings in their learning as they make more connections across their learning, apply their new learning in purposeful ways, and develop greater transference of learning and ideas to other learning areas and contexts.

As part of this, students build critical and creative thinking, key research skills, perseverance and collaboration, and key problem solving skills through the embedded use of our design process and computational thinking to support children as they embark on 'big tasks' in a probject-based learning approach to apply and synthesise their learning, solve real-world issues, and share their learning through authentic learning contexts.

What a conceptual curriculum focuses on:

    • Concepts over content - Think big picture, not activities.

    • Less is more - Working with fewer concepts means learners can use and extend the knowledge and skills present in a meaningful, formative way.

    • Prior knowledge - Takes time to nurture student’s interest and make connections to the concepts they are learning.

    • Makes transference of learning a goal - Students have opportunities to transfer and apply their conceptual understanding and skills to new contexts.

    • Shows how the disciplines of knowledge (subject areas) naturally transcend formal boundaries and work together in real life contexts and problems.