The Journey of Tertiary Prep in 2017

2017 was another year of massive growth in my journey with Tertiary Prep, which was enhanced by three significant opportunities.

Number One

July: SLANZA (School Library Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) Conference

In this joint presentation on the outcome of the collaboration between Canterbury University and Waimea College using the basis of the Tertiary Prep Programme to create a transition programme, Dinah Warren and myself had the opportunity to share our anecdotal evidence of the success of this programme, and how it continues to be developed for the Year 13 students at Waimea.

Number Two

September: CATE (Careers & Transition Education) Conference

Presentation to educators involved in careers and transition planning in secondary schools, where I shared about the Tertiary Prep Programme within the wider educational and employability context of information literacy skills.

Number Three

November: FYSEC (First Year Science Educators Colloquium)

I was thrilled with the invitation to present about the Tertiary Prep Programme at the second annual FYSEC held at Victoria University in Wellington.  Jointly hosted by Victoria and Massey Universities, FYSEC is an opportunity for first-year science educators in New Zealand to get together to discuss mutual challenges faced by them.  The first day was all about transition, so it was fantastic to not only share Tertiary Prep but also to gain an insight into other aspects of the transition to tertiary education for students.



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.

In the News …..

Calls for more support to help university students

A recent article on Stuff highlights the growing acknowledgement in New Zealand that a gap exists in how we prepare our young people for the transition to tertiary learning.

Unitec Chief Executive Rick Ede is quoted in the article as saying “tertiary providers need to form partnerships with high schools to make sure students are prepared for a range of options.” The Tertiary Prep Programme is one way we can partner with our tertiary colleagues to ensure our students are not only aware of the differences in learning between secondary and tertiary sectors but are taught skills useful for them to excel at level 3 NCEA as well as in the more challenging tertiary environment.

One of the main factors that cannot be underestimated is the need for independent learning and critical thinking skills.  Often students “cruise” through school and expect to continue to cruise through tertiary endeavours.  This is rarely the case. University of Auckland’s Student Association president Will Matthews said “the university environment was incredibly challenging and there were many things that caused social, financial and mental distress.” Add to that, those students who come from provincial towns and cities are also leaving home for the first time and are coping with a number of major life changes simultaneously, so while all our tertiary providers offer support through the libraries and academic services, many of our students either have an inflated confidence in their own abilities or become overwhelmed with the transition that they don’t succeed at the level they have previously.

Offering The Tertiary Prep Programme while they’re still at school in an environment that has become comfortable and familiar to them, allows them to become confident in exploring their own learning scaffolds and building on their understanding of research and study skills, developing a toolbox of strategies to call on when required.

This is an outline of what is covered in the programme. If you would like to discuss implementing this programme into your school please contact me on  sengaw@windowslive.comTertiary Prep Sessions Website

If you’re looking for help in transitioning students from secondary to tertiary education, you’ve come to the right place

This site is designed to support schools who would like to explore ways of partnering with their students and parents who would like to support their children to achieve their academic goals both during their final year of secondary schooling and beyond.

On the Tertiary Prep Programme site you will find a programme structure you are welcome to use and develop to suit your own students’ requirements

There are examples from a variety of schools so you can see how others have created their own programme.

There are also links to resources used to create the five tutorials that make up the Tertiary Prep Programme.

I would love feedback, comments and suggestions regarding the information on this site and I would also love to hear from you if and when you put your own programme together and how it’s working in your school.

If you would like me to work with your school towards embedding this programme into your school learning structure, please email me at