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Learning intentions

When teachers and Pasifika students negotiate the learning intentions, and share clear expectations and knowledge of the outcomes to be achieved, Pasifika students engage more confidently and more purposefully in their learning.


Key content

Effective teachers let their Pasifika students ‘into the secret of what they’re teaching’. The explicit sharing of goals and learning intentions provides a clear focus and enables more purposeful learning. They negotiate the learning intentions with their Pasifika students and express these in language that the students understand, so that they know what they are supposed to be doing and why. The mistakes they make are neither a barrier to their achievement nor indicators of their lack of achievement. Mistakes are viewed as part of Pasifika students’ ongoing learning and knowledge-building measured against specific success criteria.

“As a result of the learning process, intentions may well have to be renegotiated or transformed according to the achievements of students. Having flexible  learning intentions allows for learning spontaneity and 'unplanned' learning.”


Thanks to the principals, staff and students of Aorere College, McAuley High School, Mangere Bridge School, Sylvia Park School, Mary MacKillop School and Wymondley Road Primary School for their contribution.

Lunch for Greedy Cat reproduced by permission of the publishers Learning Media Ltd and copyright holders, Robyn Belton and Joy Cowley. Copyright © 2000, All rights reserved.

Things to think about

  • Do you think that your Pasifika students understand what you want them to achieve in each lesson? Are there ways that you could help them to understand the learning intentions more clearly? How?
  • What do you do to make the learning intentions explicit for your Pasifika students? Do you do this for all your students? Does this process work as you want it to? If not, why not? What could you do better?
  • Do your Pasifika students have access to the success criteria as well as the learning intentions? If so, what difference does this make to their motivation, engagement and achievement patterns? If not, do you think that they would benefit from access to these?
  • Have you ever visited another teacher’s classroom where that teacher has evidence that they have improved the achievement in their Pasifika learners? Would such a visit help you to critically reflect on your own practice with your Pasifika students? What would you look for in particular?


Liz Crisp
I believe in letting Pasifika kids into the secret of what they’re learning so that it isn't a secret any more. We are going to learn how to write a sentence. To do that we're going to need to put a capital letter at the beginning and a full stop at the end. We are going to write words. If you tell them what they’re going to learn it makes it much easier for them, and I think that's particularly effective.

ACTUALITY – Liz with students

Shyamala Papa
Even at that young age, even a 5 year old, we try to make the learning as explicit as we can, so we share learning intentions in the classroom. We use lots of different examples. So I will say ‘oh you have to know 7 and 3 make 10 so that later on when you're joining groups you have to use that knowledge’. They’re quite capable of taking in learning intentions.

ACUALITY – Syamala with students

Victoria - student
If we are stuck on something we can just go straight to the learning intention and just use the main idea for us to know what we’re doing.

Jan Bills 
For the children, I think they’re much more purposeful in their learning. When they can discuss their learning and the reason why they’re doing it they feel far more, it’s meaningful for them. I think for a long time things were done to children not with them. And I think now that they feel that their teacher is there to help them and support them and work with them.

Don Biltcliffe
Every time we sit down with a learning intention we always refer back to where did these learning intentions come from. And sometimes it almost feels like you’re cheating. It almost feels like you’re just giving them this information. But saying it once is not enough to embed it in a child’s mind. Repeating it again and again they start to believe it, they start to see the connections, they start to understand how things fit together in their learning.

ACTUALITY – reading Greedy cat

Jan Bills
I think they know when they make mistakes, they can acknowledge their mistakes, they can learn from their mistakes. That’s an interesting one for some children to get a hold of. But generally speaking once they understand that they see that it all adds up to being a successful learner really.

Lisa - student
At our school mistakes you can learn from it. Like mistakes can be bad, mistakes can be good, but teachers are here to help you learn from your mistakes and just to keep carrying on. Don’t fall for those mistakes.