Designing learning programmes

Organisations are at different places on the journey to provide Vocational Pathways for all students. In some instances collaborative relationships between organisations have been forged a long time ago to respond to student needs and interests, whilst in others these relationships are still growing. This section is intended to help you wherever your starting point may be.

Strengthening and building partnerships between secondary, tertiary, and ITOs

Collaboration and communication between secondary, tertiary, and ITOs will enable educators to develop a full understanding of their students’ needs and how best to accommodate these.

The following questions will help you to initiate conversation and reflection.

  • What are our students’ needs? What evidence do we have to inform us? How do we use it?
  • How will students’ progress and needs be monitored and shared?
  • Who do we currently have relationships with?
  • What possible new partnerships could be formed? Who should do this?
  • How would new partnerships create benefits for our students?  
  • How could partnerships be strengthened?
  • How will new initiatives be tracked and monitored?
  • How could we alter our business model or share funding to accommodate greater changes?


Essential components for designing an effective learning programme »




Students are engaged in learning and evidence is used to identify all student needs, interests, and future directions.

Current learning programmes

Partners review current programmes and assess the extent to which programmes are meeting the needs of the students, including those at risk of disengaging and those currently not achieving.

Community and industry

Collaboration with the community, strengthening of partnerships, and establishment of new partnerships to influence learning programme development. Resources may be reviewed as part of this process.


Partners assess current resourcing and explore possible new options with community input. Educator and other expertise, for example, industry, is explored, identified, and sourced, including the need for particular expertise to support or extend students. The requirements for specialist facilities, equipment, materials, and tools are scoped.



Programme design

Programmes incorporate relevant industry content and from learning areas in The New Zealand Curriculum and focus on essential skills and key competencies, with progression to further education and employment.

Teaching and learning delivery approaches

Educators use evidence of teaching approaches that have a positive impact on their students. A reflective approach is used by all educators and students (see table: Teaching and delivery approaches).

Location of learning

Partners identify and utilise the most appropriate locations for learning.


Connections with workplace, community, and industry are actively maintained.

Assessment approaches

Assessment delivery caters for individual student needs. Quality Assurance processes exist and are monitored.

Teaching and delivery

Regardless of the location of learning, there is extensive, well-documented evidence about the kinds of teaching approaches that consistently have a positive impact on students’ achievement. The research tells us that students learn best when educators:

  • create a supportive learning environment
  • encourage reflective thought and action
  • enhance the relevance of new learning
  • consistently make connections between learning and the world of employment
  • facilitate shared learning
  • make connections to prior learning and experience
  • provide sufficient opportunities to learn
  • inquire into the teaching-learning relationship (The New Zealand Curriculum, p.33).

Successful integration of e-learning into programmes of learning also supports and motivates students to achieve.

This list is by no means exhaustive. The table below outlines a number of other teaching delivery approaches that could be considered.

Teaching and delivery approaches »
Contextualised learning
  • real life and industry-related contexts

  • cultural contexts

  • building products for actual clients.

Problem solving
  • using problem-based scenarios

  • using actual situations in real time

  • using virtual simulations.

Skills development
  • introducing a wide range of foundational skills and competencies

  • regularly teaching and practising skills in a variety of situations.

Work-integrated learning experiences
  • visiting a range of relevant industry sites

  • meeting a range of industry employees across levels of the industry

  • using available funding mechanisms to support work-integrated learning experiences (for example, Gateway and STAR).

Relationship building 
  • affirming identity, language, and culture

  • engaging students’ interests and cultural perspectives in their learning

  • seeking out students’ achievements, attitudes, personal backgrounds, and interests.

Special education needs
  • modifying teaching environments to include all students

  • providing appropriate support for students’ additional learning needs and positive behaviour.

Health and Safety
  • managing the physical and cultural health and safety of individuals, groups, and visitors.

Learning and assessment feedback
  • providing formative feedback that is regular, on time, and in manageable chunks, and clearly identifying next steps

  • identifying next steps in all summative feedback and setting achievable challenges and goals.

Reflective practice
  • constantly reflecting on what is going well and not so well and regularly making adjustments

  • encouraging students to do the same.


An example framework for planning »

Consider the following example, which provides a possible framework for developing a learning programme, and some starters for joint planning between secondary, tertiary, and ITO providers. Partners need to work together to make sure all the areas below are adequately covered.

Example of a framework for planning the learning programme

Graduate profile

Identify attributes of learners exiting from a learning programme.


Broad learning outcomes

Identify knowledge, skills, and capabilities valued by the sector.


Planning categories

Plan for each of the learning outcomes using these categories:

1. Industry-specific content

Identify the skills, capabilities, and knowledge that are valued.

2. New Zealand Curriculum content

Identify relevant content from The New Zealand Curriculum that supports development of valued knowledge, skills, and capabilities.

3. Key competencies and graduate capabilities

Consider how the learners will develop the key competencies, core capabilities, and soft skills valued in your sector.

Refer to the sections, Key competencies and the tertiary competencies and Key competencies within the Vocational Pathways for guidance.

4. Delivery arrangements and flexible resourcing

Consider appropriate resourcing to meet the needs for learners, for example, STAR, or Gateway, or shared delivery arrangements between schools and tertiary providers (STP). Identify learner interests and available industry, and work placement opportunities.

5. Assessment

Use an appropriate balance of recommended and sector-related achievement and unit standards to enable learners to achieve NCEA level 2 with a Vocational Pathway Award.


Can the learner progress to further qualifications and/or employment from this learning programme?



Questions for self-review »

The purpose of this resource is to provide some guidance in the development of learning programmes within and across the Vocational Pathways. The questions included throughout the resource may help you to plan and implement your programmes.

These questions may also prove useful:

  • What are you currently doing that is working well for students?
  • How do you identify those students who are not doing so well? Analyse why this may be the case?
  • To what extent are your programmes meeting the needs of all your learners including Pasifika, Māori, and students with additional educational needs?
  • How do you currently allocate funding for off-site learning?
  • How could funding from partner organisations be used differently to support the partnership approach?
  • What may need to be done differently?
  • How do you know what needs to be done differently?
  • What can you do today?
  • What can you do in the longer term?
  • Who has consent to assess the assessment standards?
  • Can this consent be developed across tertiary and secondary providers?
  • How do you ensure you meet the requirements of The New Zealand Curriculum, and of industry, for 15–19 year olds?