Michelle Tewkesbury

Assistant Principal – Curriculum
Speaking at


A tale of teaching secondary school chemistry towards two different qualifications: Comparison of NCEA and International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma

Arguably, the broad scope of different secondary school chemistry curricula are similar. However, the NCEA and IB Diploma qualifications are structurally very different from each other, and so invited comparison. While the achievement standard structure of the NCEA invites flexibility in course design and credit accumulation, the IB Diploma requires candidates to complete all components of the programme for award of that qualification. So, what do teachers have to say about teaching chemistry in such different qualification frameworks?

Teachers in three case schools in New Zealand were interviewed as part of this research. Evidently, participant teachers had a lot to say about the NCEA. They talked about the achievement standard structure and modes of assessment of the NCEA having complex and profound effects on the taught curriculum. Teachers in this study expressed misgivings about the NCEA courses they were teaching. They articulated concerns about over-assessment, with trends in recent years of increasing levels of internal assessment, and they also talked about students being focused on credit accumulation, rather than on learning. In the context of the imminent government review of the NCEA, these teachers’ perspectives should be heard.


Michelle Tewkesbury is currently Assistant Principal, Curriculum at Scots College. On first graduating from Otago University, she worked first as a biochemist, then geochemist in projects in Australia and China. Michelle is an experienced International Baccalaureate educator, and is currently a researcher-practitioner teaching towards both the IB Diploma and NCEA qualifications. Michelle’s recently completed PhD from Victoria University comprises an analysis of the NCEA, with a focus on the tension between curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.