Citizens, road users and deep learners

Issue: Volume 96, Number 7

Posted: 1 May 2017
Reference #: 1H9d7e

This year, Road Safety Week takes place from 8–14 May, providing a timely chance to reflect on how sharing our roads can be an effective context for learning. Education Gazette looks at how teachers are integrating road safety into their school curriculum.

Road safety is a common subject in New Zealand schools, and Road Safety Week, this year observed from 8–14 May, provides a good opportunity to contextualise learning.

At Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, head of mathematics and statistics Sarah Howell has been using road safety as an authentic learning context, utilising curriculum resources from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and New Zealand Police.

For example, transport issues will be statistically investigated by students enrolled in the correspondence school later this year, using original NZTA datasets collated by Sarah.

Students will look at how far it takes vehicles to stop in wet and dry conditions and the impact of fatigue/tiredness or texting on driving concentration levels.

“The contexts are engaging, relevant and important ones for students,” says Sarah.

“The curriculum resources I’ve used provide a rich context which is engaging to students and helps them make meaning for themselves around road and vehicle safety."

“Plus, the choice of the right context to teach mathematics and statistics allows the key competencies to be authentically developed.”

And as Sarah’s comments reflect, the context is shifting from events towards integration with curriculum-based learning.

This builds on research findings into what makes for effective road safety education in schools. Organisations like NZTA and the New Zealand Police have refined how they support schools as a result.

Key to this approach is supporting teachers as the educators who know their students best, and offering resources that help students develop understanding for themselves, while achieving meaningful learning goals.

In support of effective teaching and learning

Rolleston College senior leader Hayden Shaw has seen first-hand the outcomes achieved when students explore safe road use in class time. He has taken students (at a previous school) through an integrated technology and PE unit where they investigated cycle safety on local streets and used their findings to design physical activity games. Rolleston College students are now doing something similar.

“There’s a greater chance of critical thinking taking place when you’re learning about road safety for a sustained time period,” says Hayden.

“It makes a big difference. It allows the students to go through more situations or scenarios."

“You’re using a context, such as cycling, and exploring lots of different things that are connected to it. And then trying to make your learning into something.”

Resources and partners for road safety

Curriculum resources on NZTA’s education portal support many learning areas, and include NCEA assessment resources which have been quality assured by the NZQA. The resources can be downloaded – teachers are encouraged to adapt activities to meet student needs and interests.

For example, Sarah says teachers at PD workshops have seen the usefulness of the statistics data sets and contexts for learners in years 7 and 8 right through to year 13.

“Students collectively know a lot about these contexts and sharing of their prior knowledge is a great way to get started and engage them in the investigation.”

Successful teaching design responds to learner needs. At a system-level, this includes recognition that there are reading and writing challenges involved in learning the Road Code,
which provides the bedrock of knowledge about safe road use, and informs testing for the graduated driver licence system.

In response, Road Code modules were built into Pathways Awarua, the online literacy and numeracy learning tool. Pathways was made available to secondary schools last year. The modules provide contextualised learning and help students gain their licence – which has positive outcomes for personal mobility, employment and safety.

Teacher Jan Stark has used the Road Code modules to help year 11 students develop reading skills.

“It is at the appropriate level and it is of high interest and relevance. My literacy class focused on the literacy skills students need to function as informed New Zealand citizens so any work that is linked to real life is a winner,” she says.

“Most of the students who went for their learner’s licence passed, and the students themselves asked to use the tool, so I count that as successful.”

In a similar vein, police school community officers work alongside teachers to enable student learning around aspects of safe travel identified by each school community. This includes support for teaching and learning.

For example, Hasting Girls’ High School’s Gateway department has worked with a school community officer to support student learning around the driver licence system.

Deputy principal Phil Carmine says the high school has expanded driver education to all senior students.

“Our Gateway team have a goal of no student leaving our school without at least a learner licence. Last year we had over 130 year 13 leavers and just five did not meet the goal. Our aim is to remove as many of the barriers as possible,” he says.

At a national level, NCEA credits are now available for students who gain their learner, restricted and full driver licences.

Outcomes for learners

Effective learning within road safety contexts provides young people with opportunities to make meaning for themselves and demonstrate active citizenship. Curriculum-based learning design acknowledges both the complexities and strengths young people bring to the issue of safe road use.

Sustained learning adds more moments when students contribute their own understandings, as Sarah Howell has found.

“You can tell students are getting value out of a learning experience that includes road safety when they make connections between this learning and their own lives in ways that you didn’t anticipate,” she says.

“For example, students at my previous school who investigated stopping distances discussed the effect that modified cars with lowered suspension would have on braking distances. And after the analysis, they proposed lowering the speed through the main street of their home suburb to keep people safe. They’re making these connections for themselves and connecting their learning and their world.”

Hayden Shaw says his PE students last year took their investigative learning about cycling and repurposed it to generate scenarios for new games.

“They were leading that themselves, and at that point I knew the critical thinking had taken place.”


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 7:13 pm, 1 May 2017

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