The impact of children’s everyday learning on teaching and learning in classrooms and across schools

Funding year: 
3 years
Massey University
School sector
Project start date: 
January 2015
Project end date: 
March 2018
Principal investigator(s): 
Dr. Roseanna Bourke, Victoria University and Professor John O'Neill Massey University
Research team members: 
Judith Loveridge, Victoria University; Bevan Erueti and Andrew Jamieson, Massey University
Research partners: 
Shona Oliver, Central Normal School; Helena Baker, Principal, Te Kura o Tākaro; Teaching staff of Y5 students at these schools; and young people from the Cloverlea School in a Children's Research Advisory Group (CRAG).

Project description

We aim to develop a deep understanding of how Year 5 students learn informally in their everyday lives outside school. This knowledge will be used to support teachers across 2 schools to develop and trial classroom pedagogies that are informed by their students’ informal learning strengths. By year 3 of the research, these teachers will support other teachers across another 4 schools to access and use the evidence-based resources developed to harness children’s informal learning pedagogies and interests.


This project explores how the knowledge of children’s informal learning outside of school can enhance teaching and learning practice in the classroom. The first year researches young people’s informal learning communities (ILCs). Year 5 students will develop rich media informal learning autobiographies that contribute directly to an Ako Manga professional learning process for their teachers. The second year continues the Ako Manga and the ongoing exploration of informal learning outside of school. It focuses on the teachers’ experiences of incorporating informal learning (activities, pedagogies and assessments) into formal learning contexts alongside and for their students. The third year of the project involves teachers working across schools to explore whether multiple teacher communities can learn to adapt pedagogical practice across schools.

Why is this research important?

We do not know enough about the meaningful learning that happens outside of school for children in their everyday community and home activities, nor do we know how best to maximize children’s understanding of this learning, nor how this knowledge can meaningfully be enacted in a formal school classroom setting. Nonetheless, we do know that “children learn through the demands they meet and through the demands they put on others in everyday activities in activity settings participating in different institutions” (Hedegaard, 2012, p. 136). By focusing on children’s informal learning in out-of-school settings, and then exploring how teachers can maximize and support the transfer of this learning into school-based settings, we can provide an evidence-based method to support teachers’ practical understanding of their students’ learning strengths and aspirations.

What we plan to do

Year One of the study involves undertaking up to 30 interviews with Year 5 children to contribute to an initial phenomenographic study of informal learning. This will also identify a relatively small sample of potential participants (n=10–12) for the Year 1 exploration to understand informal learning of young children. This phase will explore how these students engage in learning in their daily lives outside school, have them identify a number of their learning ‘partners’ and mentor them to produce a rich media autobiography of that learning. The children’s autobiographies will then be used with their teachers as part of a change laboratory exercise, Ako Manga in order to connect learning contexts. Teachers, students and researchers will work together in the second year of the project to incorporate the new knowledge about children’s learning strengths and aspirations. This will involve trialling changes to pedagogical and learning practices and relationships in the classrooms. Both teachers and students will be assisted to explore how informal learning can meaningfully be enacted within a formal education setting. In year 3 of the project teachers will connect their own learning across a school network in supporting an additional 4 schools to link the children’s everyday informal learning into a school context.


Our partners:

• Shona Oliver, Principal, Central Normal School
• Helena Baker, Principal, Te Kura o Tākaro
• Teaching staff of Year 5 students at Central Normal School and Te Kura o Tākaro
• Young people from Cloverlea School in a Children’s Research Advisory Group (CRAG)