2018 Learners Summit at EGGS

This is the third posting chronicling the journey of a collaborative Professional Learning Group at Epsom Girls Grammar School. The focus of this Community of Schools (COS / COL) PLG inquiry has been tertiary preparedness in senior school students: strengthening transition pathways for students beyond the high school environment.  

These are the highlights of the third year of the PLG journey; the second year of running the Unicorns and Vacuum Cleaners: year 13 learning summit.


Jonathan:  Our PLG’s main focus this year was on revising the structure and content of the conference day, which we based on feedback gathered last year after running the very first UVC Summit in 2017.

The key changes include:

  • adjusting the timing of events throughout the day to allow workshops to run for 40 mins instead of 30 mins
  • adding in a third workshop option for students (replacing a Q+A session that we ran last year)
  • introducing new workshops that cater to our student’s acknowledgment (via the feedback we received last year) that workshops based around “bigger-picture” issues were of most benefit. Issues such as car management, surviving flatting, matching your career pathway with a world-issue you want to be a part of and unpacking the concept of being adaptive, are some of the key new workshops that speak closely to this point.

Other workshops that featured throughout the day covered:

  • academic research/libraries
  • employability skills
  • how to be a more confident speaker
  • philosophical thinking
  • surviving university lectures
  • managing your finances
  • “being adult”
  • academic referencing
  • mindfulness practice

This year’s summit also featured a greater connection with the Tertiary Sector.

  • AUT ran a workshop around the concept of being an adaptive learner
  • Massey University collaborated with Ben Jackson’s  workshop (another one of our amazing teachers at EGGS) titled ‘Surviving University Lectures 101’ by sending their student ambassador
  • University of Auckland library staff joined our librarians in presenting their workshops
  • Canterbury University collaborated with EGGS Deputy Principal, Kate Slattery on her presentation titled ‘Being Adult’.

Over the rest of this year, following on from the conference, the PLG focus has been on developing ways to present and measure the concept of student agency in our own teaching subjects and Year 12/13 classes. We believe that we need to look at our teaching practices to ensure that we are establishing teaching environments that facilitate student agency as a key skill for success outside of the secondary school environment.


Michele:  The changes we made to the 2018 Unicorns & Vacuum cleaners programme introduced many exciting new workshops, all with great student appeal. Even with these engaging workshops to choose from I knew there would be a core group of the studious who would opt for learning about academic life and the expectations of those first university assignments.

However, nothing could have surprised me more than the number of students who signed up for my first workshop – over 80!  This growth in numbers attending and the enthusiasm for learning demonstrated by the students gave me a great boost of encouragement for running the workshops in the third year.

My library team member Debbie Horrocks and I presented two workshops.

  1. Academic Research and Libraries: why I can’t Just Google it
  2. An Introduction to Referencing

Stats for Library Workshop One

Inspired by the student sign-up I invited Tricia Bingham from the University of Auckland Library to join us for our presentations. I had been in touch with Tricia through contact with the Education Campus at Epsom in 2017 when Tricia had created a fun tool for testing referencing expertise – The Zombie Interactive. Tricia was excited about working with our senior students in their transition to tertiary study and was very complimentary about the information literacy programming we currently offer.

Learning the complex basics of citing and referencing can be extremely dry for any student, but I found having Tricia involved in a collaborative presentation with myself and Debbie took our presentations to the ‘next level’. The students were attentive and engaged – many even taking notes!  Tricia’s experience brought our ‘how-to’ and’ how-not-to’ examples to life throughout the presentations.

Our tertiary prep PLG has taken three years and the efforts of many experts to evolve into what it is today. I think all who have come along for the journey are pretty proud of the fantastic end product. We are really excited about the Unicorns & Vacuum Cleaners summit and hope that this becomes a tradition that will continue to flourish at Epsom Girls Grammar School.


Tertiary Prep – A Pilot Programme Part 2

In my previous post, I shared Dinah Warren’s reflection on setting up the Tertiary Prep Programme for Waimea College.  In this post, Alison McIntyre shares the University of Canterbury’s perspective on our collaboration.

University of Canterbury (UC) librarians were delighted to be involved in a 3-way partnership with Dinah Warren and Senga White to pilot a Tertiary Preparation programme for year 13 Waimea College students. In line with our UC vision “people prepared to make a difference -Tangata tū, Tangata ora” we were keen to learn about students’ experience at high school so that we could be better prepared to support their transition to our university. In return, we committed to providing content and a university perspective for the Waimea College programme.

UC Library visited the school to meet with staff and for face to face workshops with students. We also contributed a video and, lesson plans and teaching resources for specific components of the programme. Dinah, with support from Senga, designed the programme and delivered all except the workshops on the day of our visit, and the first session, which Senga delivered during her visit to Nelson.

We were interested in exploring how UC Library information literacy programmes might be scaled to provide such services to high schools. This pilot was an opportunity to work together with Waimea College to better understand the information literacy problem we were trying to solve and to experiment with content and methods for delivery. Dinah’s vision and leadership of the project were critical to the collaboration. It took open and honest communication to ensure that the students’ interests were kept at the core of the work.

My impression is that the Waimea College Library and Information service has a lot in common with the UC library service. When we visited the school it was clear that the library was a popular place for students to meet, that the librarians were friendly and knowledgeable and that library instruction was embedded in the academic programme. Two things stood out as obvious differences that require navigation by students in transition from high school to university, one was simply the scale, and two the types of information resources available to students specifically access to scholarly journals.

UC Library will continue to collaborate with Senga as a means for supporting school librarians in their work with students intending to enrol in tertiary education. We have also committed to working with Dinah on a follow-up project to incorporate learning from this year’s pilot to further develop the Waimea College tertiary transition programme. We’re convinced that librarians working together across sectors can make a difference to ease the transition from high school to university.

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.