Working theories in the revised Te Whāriki

Rather like a blog post, or indeed any piece of writing – including learning stories – you may or may not have any idea how many hours and drafts went into creating pieces in Te Whāriki that I feel are significant – and am proud of – in relation to my research and the purpose of this blog. If you are a keen and close reader you will recognise some of the key words and phrases 🙂

Firstly, working theories remain alongside learning dispositions as key overarching outcomes for children. Page 23 describes and defines each of these concepts and – most importantly – highlights ways they work in parallel.

“Working theories are the evolving ideas and understandings that children develop as they use their existing knowledge to try to make sense of new experiences. Children are most likely to generate and refine working theories in learning environments where uncertainty is valued, inquiry is modelled, and making meaning is the goal.

Learning dispositions and working theories are closely interwoven. For example, the disposition to be curious involves having the inclination and skills to inquire into and puzzle over ideas and events. These inquiries will often lead to the development of working theories.

Learning dispositions support children to develop, refine and extend working theories as they revisit interests and engage in new experiences. As they gain experience and knowledge, children’s working theories become more connected, applicable and useful and, at times, more creative and imaginative. (p. 23)”

Secondly, working theories are included as one of the 20 learning outcomes designed for more kaiako attention than the previous document’s outcomes. Within the strand of Exploration this is noted as:

“Over time and with guidance and encouragement, children become increasingly capable of … [m]aking sense of their worlds by generating and refining working theories | te rangahau me te mātauranga (p. 47)”

“Making sense”, “generating” and “refining”: such simple words that mean so much in terms of children’s cognitive and affective engagement with their worlds. And this could lead us to so much more we could research about children’s working theories and ways teachers stimulate and respond to sense making efforts. More about that research in future posts.




Photo credits:  1) “nichole pulls up” (CC BY 2.0) by popofatticus; 2) “first one down” (CC BY 2.0) by popofatticus; 3) “stepping on big blocks_2726c” (CC BY 2.0) by James Emery


One thought on “Working theories in the revised Te Whāriki

  1. janette kelly August 23, 2017 / 11:35 pm

    Thrilled to see the great work done in this area finally giving working theories the primacy they deserve. My reference list and Literature Review entry about working theories grows daily. Thanks for your leadership in this area Helen.


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