Tertiary Prep – A Pilot Programme

Things have been very busy on the Tertiary Prep front this year, and over the next few weeks, I will highlight some of the collaborations that have been created and developed during 2016.

The first is one that came out of the attendance at two workshops during the SLANZA Conference last year. Dinah Warren, the Director of Library and Information Services at Waimea College, attended both the workshop I presented on the Tertiary Prep Programme and Alison McIntyre from the University of Canterbury’s workshop on the transition to tertiary education.  What follows is Dinah’s description of the pilot programme she established between Waimea College, the University of Canterbury and myself.


A lot of literature has been written and now studies have also been done around the failure and drop-out rate of first-year students at our tertiary institutions. These statistics are of concern for all educators, and one of the key factors identified is the transition process, where our students go from an intensely supported learning environment to one where they are expected to be independent learners. In other words, for transitioning year 13 students, schools are from Mars and universities are from Venus. Of course, there are other contributing factors including social adjustment and financial problems that are already addressed by other organisations, but no one seemed to be looking at the learning processes and environments so this sparked my interest in Senga’s Tertiary Prep Programme.

With this in mind, I was keen to initiate a programme at Waimea College and focused on workshops at the SLANZA conference in Christchurch in 2015 which could potentially give me more information, tips, ideas and structure of how to begin. From the relevant workshops I attended I made two key contacts; Senga White, Research & Learning Coordinator from Southland Boys’ High School and Alison McIntyre, Academic Liaison Manger at the University of Canterbury. As a result of this, Senga and I flew to Christchurch to meet with Alison and other key staff at Canterbury University where planning for the programme began.

As Senga had been running the programme successfully for many years, she was key to developing the programme’s direction and structure, and also had a massive input into the content. Canterbury University staff also contributed content, expertise and advice while providing us with the crucial tertiary perspective. This added kudos to the programme and their library staff were involved in a hands-on workshop during a visit to Waimea College. Both parties were integral to this pilot programme.

Every secondary school is different and will face their own unique difficulties and dilemmas. For our school, it was important to get key senior management and teaching staff to support me through my two biggest challenges: timetabling and student engagement. Our principal, HOD Careers and Transition and a small cross-section of Year 13 subject teachers were included in all areas of planning and content for the course and were vital to its success.

Together we identified five main topic areas and timetabled each module to be delivered fortnightly on a day where most of our year 13 students had a study period. At the end of each module, students were required to anonymously fill in a sticky note which included rating the lesson from 1-5, stating something they learnt from the lesson and an option to write any other comments. This information was collated and will be used to adapt the programme for 2017. Canterbury University provided a certificate for all students who completed the course.

Ascertaining the level of success with our programme will take several years as our first students’ progress through their tertiary studies.  We will seek their feedback on our content and its relevance to their transition. Our sticky note feedback was generally good with positive comments on content and provided suggestions for improvements. Our students have very busy lives so it is important that they see the significance of the content and are able to use it during their last year at school.  They are not interested in extra work to do outside of the Tertiary Prep Programme so all content needs to be short, sharp and relevant to their learning.

Beginning the programme was the hardest part and I could not have done this on my own. I am indebted to Senga, Canterbury University and our own staff for their support. This programme was definitely a team effort at our school and this will be key to embedding the programme into our school curriculum in years to come.


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