Wellington High School is a co-educational Year 9-13 secondary school in Central Wellington with a roll of over 1000 students, with approx. 200 Year 13 students
Jane Shallcrass, Librarian
I became aware of the possibilities of teaching tertiary information skills a few years ago while talking to Senga. It kept getting down the priority list until this year when Karen Clarke suggested she, Judy Waenga and I prepare something to put on the SLANZA website. After many discussions, we gave a presentation to a Wellington National Library meeting, along with representatives from the Massey University, Whitireia Polytechnic, WelTech and Victoria University libraries.
After that, I couldn’t put it off anymore. I spent time looking at Senga’s wonderful WordPress Tertiary Prep site and then decided to adapt her ideas to our students and add relevant material and sites of our own. I spent a couple of hours with Craig Cherrie at Massey University Library, finding out what knowlfirst-year year students were lacking. I then spent many evenings working on the resource I was going to use.
I decided that the use of databases, evaluation of information sources, Google searching, plagiarism, bibliographies, in-text citations and note-taking were the most important areas to cover, as well as showing them what useful resources were available on the tertiary institutions’ websites. Quite a lot to cover. I was also going to take them to Massey University, next door to our school, to have a session with the liaison librarian. (This didn’t happen because we ran out of time.)
I wasn’t ready to teach the classes until the end of Term 3, which was a little late. I would schedule them earlier next year. I spoke to a Year 13 assembly about it and promoted it in our student notices. Next year I will also promote it in our school community newsletter so whanau can encourage their students to come. I asked interested students to write down what days / times they could do and this turned out to be one of the biggest obstacles . So many students have after-school activities that meant many couldn’t come on the day we finally chose. To get round that, we had the second class on another day so students could often come to at least one of the classes.
I tried to enthuse the teachers of our senior students and several of them promoted the classes to their students. Others, I’m afraid, didn’t seem to see the need for it. As one of the Massey lecturers pointed out in a workshop I went to, the average age of teachers is in the late 50s and most of them hadn’t ever had to use many of the skills themselves.
I wrote my Power-point – a very plain, unadorned Power-point – and presented it over 3 1 hour sessions in the library after school over 3 weeks. About 30 different students attended at least one of the sessions, ranging from international students, who must have struggled with the language at times, to scholarship students who were very attentive and asked lots of good questions.
I also asked the head of the Social Sciences faculty to take a note-taking lesson, mainly so the students could hear a different voice, see a good role model and I could get a break. Next year I may ask a teacher or I may take the lesson myself. There are good resources on teaching note-taking skills.
To measure the success of the classes I would like to follow-up with the students, once they have been at a tertiary institution for a few months, to see whether the classes helped, what else they wished they had been taught and whether I could have taught something differently.
Next year I will:
- promote the concept to teachers of senior students and heads of faculties from the beginning of the year
- promote the classes to students and whanau
- choose a time in Term 2 to schedule the classes
- tweak the Power-point
- check all the links
- find an ex-student who is currently at university to come back and talk to the students about what they wished they had known before they went to university
- find a teacher to teach the note-taking
- take them to Massey University, to have a session with a librarian there
I felt very pleased that I had finally managed to teach these skills to senior students, specifically as tertiary transition skills. I had previously taught most of those students many of the skills, throughout their years at school. However, showing them in a block of content and specifically targeted at them as about-to-be tertiary students made it seem more important to them so, hopefully, they will have taken in more. I still have work to do on the content and the presentation but, if I had waited until everything was perfect I would never have done it, and the students would have missed out. You may want to only teach some of the skills in the first year and build the curriculum gradually or you may just decide to go the whole way and tweak as you go.
For more information about The Tertiary Prep Programme at Wellington High, contact Jane Shallcrass on Jane.Shallcrass@whs.school.nz