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Helping Educate under-25 Tertiary Students

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Helping Educate under-25 Tertiary Students

EIT has spearheaded a significant multi-educator research project aimed at enhancing the teaching of younger students attending tertiary institutions nationwide.

EIT, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, Wintec and Waiaraki Institute of Technology are collaborating for the two-year project, Becoming effective teachers for under-25 students: A model for professional development decision-making.

All five institutions are sharing in a $150,000 contribution to the research project, a figure being matched by Ako Aotearoa, the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, which promotes and supports effective teaching and learning across New Zealand’s tertiary sector.

EIT teacher development advisor Dr Lesley Petersen says it is the first large Ako Aotearoa grant for a polytechnic-led project. It is also the biggest collaboration funded by the centre since it was established in 2007 under the aegis of the Tertiary Education Commission.

While EIT is leading the project, Dr Petersen and Bay of Plenty Polytechnic academic staff development advisor Judith Honeyfield are the institutional project managers.

Early last year, EIT started investigating the professional needs of staff teaching a growing demographic of students aged under 25 – a dynamic bolstered by the launch of the Hawke’s Bay Schools Trades Academy @ EIT, the Government’s Youth Guarantee scheme and the increasing popularity of EIT’s 12 bachelor degree programmes.

“The common expectation for students transitioning from school is that they can work independently and manage their own learning in tertiary education,” Dr Petersen says. “But while our programmes are tailored to make students work-ready, younger students in particular can find that quite a challenge.”

While national retention and completion rates are lower for the under 25 age group studying at tertiary level, there has been scant research undertaken on the professional development needs of teachers who work with this cohort.

The five tertiary institutes taking part in the research project are each embarking on two case studies. In EIT’s case, the targeted programmes are the institute’s Certificate in Engineering Trades and the Level-7 Bachelor of Computing Systems.

“I see this as a really good mix,” Dr Petersen says, “covering a Level-3 trades programme and degree studies.”

The first phase of the project will involve focus groups of students and individual interviews with teachers in the two case study programmes. The researchers will also interview other key stakeholders in programmes, including staff developers and heads of school.

Having helped pinpoint their professional development needs, the teachers will then be asked to test drive appropriate initiatives over a one-year period to determine whether these work in practice.

“We want to know what support is needed to teach these under-25 students well,” Dr Petersen says. “Of course the initiatives have to positively influence others in the classroom as well as the younger students.”

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