3. Māori learner transitions to tertiary education

3.3 Post-school and TEO enrolment

This section discusses the transition period post-school and during the TEO enrolment period.

The longitudinal qualitative study undertaken by Madjar et al. (2010) following the experiences of 44 secondary school students’ transition to university, appears to be the sole recent study that examines students’ experiences in-depth during this stage of the transition process. A small number of other studies (such as Kopu, 2010a and White, 2009) touch briefly on the barriers, enablers and opportunities identified.

Despite this limitation, and the fact that the Madjar study was not exclusively about Māori learners’ experiences (17 Māori learners took part), it highlights the importance of this stage of the transition journey given it can be a period of potential vulnerability. This is particularly the case for learners with less clear goals and confidence about their readiness for tertiary study, and who lack appropriate guidance and support during this time.

“...Māori whānau are less likely to have completed tertiary study and therefore may be less equipped to provide appropriate guidance.” (Wikaire and Ratima, 2011, p.479).

The period post-school and pre-tertiary can be a time of uncertainty. It is a time when students no longer have direct access to staff at school, need to make sense of the implications of exam results, may be making key decisions without access to friends and family who have tertiary education sector experience, and are faced with having to directly navigate the tertiary landscape. However, this “disadvantages Māori in particular given that Māori whānau are less likely to have completed tertiary study and therefore may be less equipped to provide appropriate guidance (Wikaire and Ratima, 2011, p.479).” And “most students who are new to study do not have sufficient information to make wise and informed decisions” (White, 2009, p.5).

Therefore, as Madjar et al. (2010) highlight, the level of information and advice available from tertiary institutions and early encounters with TEOs, can impede or encourage the transition experience for Māori learners.

Barriers to overcome

A quarter of participants in the Madjar study reconsidered progressing to university during this period. For students initially less certain about their goals and readiness for university study, a lack of appropriate guidance and support added to increasing self-doubt or loss of focus prior to and during the enrolment period. “Lack of information, misunderstandings about university regulations, lack of confidence and fear of failure, all acted to shake their resolve” (p. 40).

Students who had a limited understanding of university life, tended not to access or know about course information materials put out by their intended faculties or departments. A lack of understanding about enrolment processes led to delays in students applying for financial support and enrolling in subjects. This resulted in students being unable to select preferred subjects or ending up with inconvenient lecture or tutorials slots. Subsequently this impacted on students’ initial experiences once their study commenced.

An important finding of Madjar et al. was that the majority of students involved in the research experienced significant difficulties accessing academic advice, information and help during the enrolment process. Indeed the researchers in that study felt ethically required to intervene in one case. Common problems with StudyLink led to at least 10 students starting the semester without financial assistance, and saw one student withdraw within weeks of commencing.

Both Madjar et al. (2010) and White et al. (2009) identified the difficulties, frustration, stress and disappointment at this stage of the transition process, which can make it a tipping point as to whether or not students continue to transition to tertiary study.

Both Madjar et al. (2010) and White et al. (2009) identified the difficulties, frustration, stress and disappointment at this stage of the transition process, which can make it a tipping point as to whether or not students continue to transition to tertiary study. It can also be “critical to the wider student learning experience, achievement and retention once study commences” (White et al., 2009, p.74).

A consistently strong theme identified across the recent literature on Māori learner retention and success is the importance of students encountering a welcoming and supportive environment (discussed more fully in section four of this report). However, as identified by Madjar et al. (2010), a lack of information, guidance and support and practical difficulties encountered at this stage of the transition process “contributed to students’ frustration and disappointment, and reinforced the perception of universities as big, impersonal places – formidable rather than welcoming to newcomers” (p.97).

Enablers and opportunitiesTop

Therefore, students’ experiences interacting with the institution and the choices they make at this stage in the transition, can impact significantly on students’ subsequent academic and holistic experiences once they commence tertiary study. This was evidenced in Madjar’s study, where students who had obtained specific course information well in advance were able to make more appropriate subject choices than those who had not. Timely applications and knowledge about how to navigate matters, such as financial assistance ensured that all non-academic matters were taken care of before the first semester started and minimised stresses experienced.

Timely, responsive and proactive information provision, guidance and support

Opportunities identified to address barriers at this stage of the transition process centre on ongoing information, guidance and support that is easily available and is provided to Māori learners and their whānau in a proactive and supportive way both before and during the enrolment process.

Madjar et al. (2010) after seeing the practical enrolment difficulties experienced by students also recommended the need for universities “enrolment procedures and student administration services [to be] efficient, ‘user-friendly’, and responsive to students’ needs. Timely notification of acceptance or rejection by limited-entry programmes is essential for students considering other options” (p.106).

This part of the transition phase provides a key opportunity for TEOs to identify Māori students and to start building relationships with them and their whānau that will be important for students throughout the course of their study (Wikaire and Ratima, 2011). Māori students should be identified and communication and interactions established at an early stage so that students are provided with advice on their programmes, papers and workloads as early as possible (White, 2009; Wikaire and Ratima, 2011).

It also provides the opportunity for Māori learners to be introduced to pastoral and academic support options available to develop the foundations for ongoing engagement in academic and pastoral support once studies commence.

Whānau engaged and involved

The importance of early engagement with whānau is discussed by Kāhui Tautoko Consulting Ltd (2012a) in the study of Māori learners’ transitions to workplace learning, as well as in TPK’s evaluation of youth transitions through programmes such as Gateway and Youth Guarantee (2012a). Both studies discuss the importance of engaging parents and whānau at this time to ensure their involvement in students’ journeys, giving them the opportunity to clarify roles and responsibilities and to share their expectations of the provider and the goals they have for their rangatahi.

In the TPK study, an effective mechanism described to enable this engagement was the facilitation of joint whānau/student interviews pre-enrolment. That is also an approach followed by the Otago University’s Tu Kahika health science scholarship programme for Māori learners. All short-listed students and their whānau are interviewed in their home region (many in their own homes), where staff outline expectations of learners and their whānau, and learners and whānau outline their expectations.7

There is a strong focus across the literature on the effectiveness of positive peer-mentoring and tuakana-teina relationships in engaging Māori learners.

Advisory service

Madjar et al. (2010) discuss opportunities for an easy-to-access advisory service available to students during this period that is responsive to requests for advice and help. This advisory service should also be responsible for proactive outreach to prospective students, ensuring they are on track with enrolment and are reminded of key deadlines, orientation activities and support services, and providing them the opportunity to debrief about NCEA results and their implications, and to discuss doubts, concerns or questions.

Peer mentors

There is a strong focus across the literature on the effectiveness of positive peer-mentoring and tuakana-teina relationships in engaging Māori learners (for example Wikaire and Ratima, 2011; Tahau-Hodges, 2010; Ross, 2010). Easy access to proactive and visible senior Māori student mentors representing different faculties on campus during the summer period, is another way in which potential students could be proactively helped and supported during this time. Potentially this could also pave the way for ongoing support once students commence their studies.

Summer and preparatory courses

Preparatory courses, and individual engagement with learners and their whānau, prior to enrolment, not only supports students to become familiar with the tertiary environment, but also enables learners' individual needs to be identified so that they can be guided into appropriate programmes and assisted to engage with academic and pastoral support services. As participants in Wikaire and Ratima’s (2011) study recognised, “the university needed to be proactive in identifying struggling students early, because Māori were less likely to approach services for assistance at an early stage” (p.479).

Madjar et al. (2010) and Ross (2010) identify the place of summer or preparatory courses to help students become familiar with the university’s conventions and expectations, to strengthen and develop academic and study skills, boost confidence, and to assist learners to become socially and academically engaged in their new learning environment.

Options discussed include short ‘not for credit’ courses, or longer more academically focused ‘for credit’ summer courses. Longer courses could provide assistance to students to develop their study skills and to understand the nature of learning that they will be engaged in before their studies begin.

When discussing students’ first semester experiences (see section 3) the literature identifies that students’ unfamiliarity with the academic requirements can be a key barrier to Māori learners’ success in the tertiary environment when combined with a lack of academic guidance and support.

Summer and preparatory courses are identified as enabling Māori learners to develop time and workload management skills and academic and study skills appropriate to the relevant tertiary context (Wisely, 2009). For example, Wānanga Pukenga Ako is a short course (three to five days) provided at Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) for Māori and Pasifika learners to develop their writing and study skills, usually in the two weeks prior to the academic year commencing (White et al., 2009).

Summer and preparatory courses provide the opportunity for students to receive information about strategies to support holistic wellbeing during tertiary study, and for Māori learners to be connected to mentors as an early part of establishing social and academic networks.

Wānanga Pukenga Ako – Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec)

Aim/focus
Wānanga Pukenga Ako (WPA) is a no fees one-week writing and study skills preparation course for Māori and Pasifika students, usually offered two weeks before the academic year starts.

Although the course originally sat under the mainstream student learning services, it was transferred to Te Kete Konae (TKK), the institute’s Māori and Pasifika Support Centre, where staff are not only qualified to teach the same course content as is offered in the mainstream equivalent, but are also bilingual and practitioners of Māori and Pasifika customary protocol.

The course is focused on empowering students to identify areas in which they need assistance and to understand how they can access this assistance during their studies.
Activities
The course is set at Level 3, but caters to a wide range of students (sometimes ranging from Level 1 to Level 3) through content variance and tactical teaching delivery to ensure all levels of academic skills are catered for. Opportunities are facilitated for one-to-one and group activities, wānanga, and class tutorials. Students are provided a homework timetable to model how to manage their homework over the week with a focus on completing the assignment task/question within the timeframe given.

The course is underpinned by Māori and Pasifika values and philosophies. Holistic cultural pedagogical practices and strategies are utilized such as whakawhānaunga, manaakitanga, whakamana tangata, tautokotanga. Māori and Pasifika tuakana-teina processes are adopted.

Acknowledging that not all students know their cultural inheritance, course instruction and support is offered predominantly in English, but allows space for Māori or Pasifika language streams. Facilitators are skilled in a variety of academic fields and in tikanga and protocol. Students’ culture is valued and not separated from their learning.

Students shape the room to suit their needs (set-up). Often this is in the shape of a horse-shoe so not one person is singled out or set apart from the others. After the first day, which includes whakawhānaunga, orientation and introductions, students can participate in morning karakia and each day is concluded with a karakia.

The course allows students to develop support relationships with their peers and with tutors. Students have access to TKK facilities including a whānau room for studying, interviews, and one-to-one and group teaching.
Manalo, E., Marshall, J., Fraser. C. (2010)

Summer and preparatory courses provide the opportunity for students to receive information about strategies to support holistic wellbeing during tertiary study, and for Māori learners to be connected to mentors as an early part of establishing social and academic networks. Such courses also provide the opportunity for TEOs to proactively engage with and provide information to whānau to ensure that whānau can also begin to develop familiarity with the tertiary environment, to actively participate in supporting their children’s academic decisions, and to develop an understanding of students’ likely study support needs.

Bridging/foundation programmes

Mullane (2010) indicates that approximately 303,000 students have taken part in foundation learning-related tertiary education, with Māori making up 40% of these learners. Mullane refers to “the accumulation of Māori learners entering tertiary education who are ill-equipped to meet the demands of academic study at a simple level” and as discussed in the section above, identifies that this is in part due to a lack of qualifications and academic preparation to meet entry criteria (p.42).

Foundation and bridging programmes tend to be more intensive preparatory programmes focused on supporting learners to work at a higher academic level by acquiring necessary academic skills (including literacy, language and numeracy).

In Australia, the “…positioning of foundation/bridging programmes alongside internal organisational support structures has shown to help minimise the educational gap experienced by indigenous learners…”

In Australia, the “positioning of foundation/bridging programmes alongside internal organisational support structures has shown to help minimise the educational gap experienced by indigenous learners…” (Mullane, 2010, p.25). In New Zealand there are strong indicators that foundation tertiary programmes can be effective in scaffolding Māori learners into tertiary study.

However, as the literature identifies, there has been minimal research to understand the benefits of foundation learning for Māori and what facilitates strong learner outcomes (McMurchy-Pilkington, 2011; May, 2009; Mullane, 2010). In addition, because much of the published literature pertains to university study experiences, there lacks a solid base of information regarding Māori learners’ experiences in foundation-focused training and an understanding of what is facilitating Māori learners to progress from foundation to higher level study and to do well.

Key findings about post-school TEO enrolment transitionsTop

Key barriers

Key enablers/opportunities

7www.otago.ac.nz/tukahika/index.html