3. Māori learner transitions to tertiary education

3.4 First semester experiences

The literature focusing on Māori learners’ entry into tertiary education institutions identifies the first semester as key to whether or not Māori learners continue and progress with their tertiary studies. Earl (2007) suggests that the key intervention point for success appears to be in the first semester of the first year of study. The literature identifies that this hinges on the extent to which learners are socially and academically connected and supported to feel welcome and confident engaging in the new tertiary environment.

Transition barriers

The unfamiliarity of tertiary study and academic requirements and expectations, a lack of academic preparedness, and lack of confidence to engage academically, are identified strongly in the literature as core barriers to Māori learners’ successful transitions into the tertiary environment. Coombes (2006) identified this as having a significant impact on Māori students’ academic non-persistence decisions.

“[A]cademic engagement is not automatic, and when students struggle or fail to become academically engaged their transition to university and their likelihood of succeeding are seriously compromised” (Madjar et al., 2010).

In the study by Curtis et al. (2012), Māori students talked of the difficulties associated with transitioning into and within tertiary study. Difficulties included a lack of basic study skills, and unfamiliarity with workload demands and different expectations of teaching support associated with the differences between high school and university study (for example, the sheer size of the tertiary institution and different relationships with teachers).

Barriers or difficulties encountered are perpetuated if students are not socially and academically connected to peers and staff who can support their academic development and engagement. This can reinforce students’ feelings of isolation and lack of belonging.

“[A]cademic engagement is not automatic, and when students struggle or fail to become academically engaged their transition to university and their likelihood of succeeding are seriously compromised” (Madjar et al., 2010)

Enablers and opportunitiesTop

Enablers identified in the literature are often simply those things that work against barriers. Therefore one key enabler identified is the facilitation of staff and learner connections to create supportive learning relationships, along with appropriate learning support opportunities.

Madjar et al. (2010) in referring to the study by Leach and Zepke,8  identified that New Zealand researchers have found that “relationship building is a key factor in determining success or failure; retention or early withdrawal. Positive, professional relationships between students, their peers, institutional support staff, and teachers do have major effects” (p.16).

In Madjar’s study, the examples of students’ experiences within highly structured foundation certificate programmes and degree-level classes with a high amount of teacher-student contact, demonstrated the role of social engagement in reinforcing academic engagement, and helping students to feel more motivated and more at ease in the university environment. This bridged social distances between students and their teachers, and strengthened the students’ capacity to learn.

Support for learners’ holistic wellbeing and culturally appropriate pastoral care is also identified as a key enabler to academic success, as well as contributing to learners feeling welcome and cared about.

The literature identifies several key ways TEOs can effectively and actively connect Māori learners to their peers, academic staff and support is discussed below.

Orientation and induction

The orientation and induction experience is an initial step facilitating Māori learners to feel welcome in a new environment and for paving the way for connections to be made.

As identified in the research undertaken with workplace learners by Kāhui Tautoko Consulting Ltd (2012a), the orientation and induction process is important to shaping students’ perceptions and ongoing experiences of the learning environment:

learners felt that manaakitanga (care and inclusion) was evident in a workplace where they felt a clear impression that they would be cared for and supported (p.33).

Greenwood and Te Aika (2008) refer to the importance of a personalised and preferably iwi-based induction with students feeling valued and affirmed by a strong human interface. Powhiri were seen as important because they demonstrate a commitment to Māori values, provide a connection with iwi and affirm the importance of personal relationships. Students also considered live-in inductions, preferably in a marae context, important, because this enabled them to get to know one another (p92). Similarly , White et al. (2009) identify the importance of powhiri to contributing to cultural safety in mainstream tertiary environments.

As identified by Madjar et al. (2010), it is important how orientation activities are presented, structured and embedded in programmes. In that study it was significant how few students attended academic orientation activities, with some indicating that they were “too scared” to go on their own.

For those students in Madjar’s study who did attend, they saw small-group orientation activities targeted at specific student groups as helpful (this aligned with the earlier literature referred to in that study pointing to the value of small specific activities). Students valued the role of an older student guiding the orientation, who was familiar with and empathetic to the needs of new students and able to share useful ‘insider’ tips on a range of practical relevant matters, including the timing of lectures and accessing student resources.

Space and time to establish relationships and connections

Curtis et al. (2012) and Kāhui Tautoko Consulting Ltd (2012a) discuss the importance of time and space at the beginning of the academic year for activities aimed at establishing relationships between staff and students and between student peers within and across years to build social and academic networks and a supportive learning environment.

Both share examples of different initiatives undertaken by TEOs to enable this. Curtis et al. refers to the three-day wānanga or “Freshers’ camps” of the Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme (MAPAS) in tertiary health programmes at the University of Auckland. Kāhui Tautoko Consulting Ltd discusses a Youth Guarantee transition at the Turipuku campus at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Rotorua, which is described below.

Youth Guarantee transition at Te Wānanga Aotearoa’s Turipuku campus

Time is dedicated at the outset for the kaiako and kaiawhina to get to know the learner and his or her whānau. This provides the time and space for staff, students’ and whānau backgrounds and journeys to be shared and trusting mutual relationships to be formed. The first eight weeks are dedicated to whakawhānaungatanga – students finding their place in the environment, understanding learning expectations, and tutors understanding individual learning needs to ensure students are guided to correct programmes and provided relevant support.

A measure of the effectiveness of this approach is identified in relation to the 96% completion rate for the Certificate in Sports, Fitness and Health courses.
Cited in: the unpublished report of Kāhui Tautoko Consulting Ltd, (2012b)

Māori peer mentors

Māori peer mentors are consistently identified in the literature as an effective way to help new Māori learners develop a sense of place in the tertiary learning environment, to connect students to academic staff and support, and to provide proactive, ongoing and culturally appropriate guidance and encouragement (Curtis et al., 2012; Kāhui Tautoko Consulting Ltd, 2012a; Wikaire and Ratima, 2011).

The value of peer mentoring relationships is discussed by Ross (2010) in describing the initiative summarised below.

Peer support initiative in a distance-learning context facilitated by the Open Polytechnic

Peer mentors telephoned every first year Māori student at a number of key points in their first-year of study. A review of the initiative (reported by Ross), found that students valued the brokering-type role that the peer mentors provided, that their concerns were listened to and that the mentors connected them with relevant support services or with their tutors. Through this approach, it appears that the proactive contact meant that students were readily assisted with support relevant to their particular and evolving needs and were not left to seek out or navigate support themselves. At the same time, they had control over whether they accessed and engaged in support. Students identified that the peer mentoring contributed to their sense of belonging and which they regarded as important.
As described in: Ross, C. (2010)

The role of peer mentors in acting as a conduit to link new students to academic staff is important for new students who lack confidence to initiate contact themselves.

The role of peer mentors in acting as a conduit to link new students to academic staff is important for new students who lack confidence to initiate contact themselves. As was found in the research by Madjar et al. (2010) “few students felt comfortable initiating a conversation or making appointments to discuss any aspect of their academic work with their lecturers or even tutors. Even fewer were prepared to discuss any personal problems that might have been affecting their studies” (p.67).

While there seems to be an absence in the literature of research identifying factors constituting an effective peer-mentoring relationship between Māori learners, much of the literature discusses the strong benefits of the mentoring relationship founded on the traditional tuakana-teina concept (for example, Greenwood and Te Aika, 2008; Kāhui Tautoko Consulting Ltd, 2012a; Kopu, 2010a; May, 2009).

Within the tuakana-teina relationship, the tuakana (senior or more experienced learner) is responsible for assisting the junior/less experienced learner (teina), but the relationship is a reciprocal one where both tuakana and teina are teacher and student.

The relationship provides mutual benefits for both tuakana and teina. For the more experienced learner sharing and imparting knowledge, the role is empowering and recognises and reinforces the knowledge that learners have acquired. The mentoring relationship provides tuakana the opportunity to build on knowledge learnt. The less experienced learner receives ongoing support and is able to learn from and receive inspiration from students who have come from similar learning experiences.

Peer mentoring based on tuakana-teina “has been identified as particularly useful and relevant in supporting Māori learners to develop a sense of belonging within their learning environment, and facilitates other support that learners may require, including academic and personal support” (Tahau-Hodges, 2010, p.9).

Students from across all of four “success” programmes in different institutions reviewed by Greenwood and Te Aika (2008) valued the peer relationships and support opportunities fostered. Moreover, in the research undertaken by Tahau-Hodges with 34 Māori industry training learners, the students identified “the immeasurable support and assistance that older or more experienced colleagues provided and of being taken under the wing in the early stages of their apprenticeship” (p 26).

Timely, in-depth feedback from academic staff

Students need timely, regular, in-depth feedback on their work to build and develop academic skills and an understanding of the institution’s academic expectations and requirements.

Students need timely, regular, in-depth feedback on their work to build and develop academic skills and an understanding of the institution’s academic expectations and requirements. This is particularly important for first assignments and pieces of work, as without this input, students cannot learn or develop their study skills and practices, before submitting further work. One of the findings of the Madjar et al. (2010) study highlighted the difficulties students had with delayed and limited feedback on their early work. This can result in anxiety and poor performance and can ultimately contribute to students leaving.

In that study (set in a university), students in large classes “had no expectations, and no experience, of being seen as individual or special”. Some “felt overwhelmed by the totality of what they saw in front of them, and struggled to work out where or how to start. Not surprisingly, they were drawn toward other, similar uncertain students, and quickly drifted away from academic work toward spending most of their time putting off going to classes, studying, or writing” (p.68).

Proactive provision of support

Madjar et al. (2010) identify the importance of student support being proactively provided, given that “students at greatest risk of failing to make a successful transition can easily become invisible in a system that depends on them to make their needs known (p.107)”.

As with the proactive contact provided in Ross’ study (2010), Madjar et al. (2010) also observed that students were more likely to respond to academic student support services that initiated contact with students, and provision that sought to normalise learning support. This was in contrast to services that expected students to initiate the engagement, which could make learners feel inadequate, and had more formal rules or practices to the engagement.

As part of normalising learning support, students in Madjar’s study commented favourably about a “one-stop-shop” service located in a high-student-traffic area of the university library and which could be informally accessed without the need for prearranged appointments.

Tahau-Hodges (2010) discusses an initiative of Te Aotahi, the School of Māori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Canterbury, which normalises learning support through the tracking of every student’s submission of assessments and through this monitoring, proactively provides support in response to specific needs identified.

Te Rau Puawai Māori – Massey University and Ministry of Health

Established in 1999, Te Rau Puawai Māori is a mental health workforce development programme for Māori learners. It provides learners with a scholarship for course fees and travel costs and additional tutoring and mentoring. The programme supports students who are seeking to commence or complete a university qualification with a focus on Māori mental health. Most students are employed in the Māori mental health workforce and study part-time, via distance learning.
The university undertakes recruitment visits to Māori mental health providers throughout the year, providing presentations and engaging in one-to-one discussions with potential learners about enrolment, course information, and to ensure students are well informed of course expectations.

Mentors, a full-time coordinator, and part-time support tutors are available to provide academic advice and general learning support to students. They are contactable via a 0800 telephone number. Students are provided assistance with course planning, essay writing and study skills, curriculum vitae and job interview preparation, and are provided access to a Māori learning community and student networks.

A holistic and proactive student centered approach is taken to the provision of student support. The coordinator monitors student progress, identifies study related needs, provides one-to-one study support, links staff and students, and provides regular face-to-face contact through regional visits undertaken throughout the year. The support team proactively seeks out and contacts students who have not regularly updated on their study progress, and are in contact with students through regular contact by phone, email or in person.

Paid peer mentors, experienced in the discipline of mental health, are available on Thursday evenings and provide academic support. Academic mentors are available during business hours and provide study specific learning support.
Two hui are held each year at the Palmerston North campus to promote whakawhānaungatanga (to grow and strengthen relationships) between staff and students. Students are introduced to campus and support services.

The programme website has a virtual whare and provides a virtual meeting place. A monthly newsletter is also provided. To promote whakawhānaungatanga each student introduces themselves by writing a paragraph about themselves along with a photo and their email details. This is distributed to each student to help identify other students located in the same area.
Factors of success
The programme is focused on providing a safe learning environment.

It provides a proactive learning support model, encourages students to study collectively, and recognises the importance of te reo and tikanga Māori. An evaluation of the programme9   identified that students regard it as a source of inspiration and motivation and indicated that they would not have succeeded without the support provided. The programme has been identified as resulting in students attaining slightly better overall pass rates (85 – 90%) compared with pass rates across the university. The MOE website identifies that: “For many Māori students returning to education after negative experiences, perhaps the most important factor to success is the belief of Te Rau Puāwai that each Te Rau Puāwai student has the capacity to achieve and excel in tertiary studies…”
D. (2007); White, F. (2009) and: Distance Education

Learning support embedded in the curriculum

To better normalise learning support and to enhance its accessibility, Madjar et al. (2010) emphasise that student support services should be a core part of the curriculum rather than separate from it, and should be closely aligned to the content students are studying.

To better normalise learning support and to enhance its accessibility, Madjar et al. (2010) emphasise that student support services should be a core part of the curriculum rather than separate from it, and should be closely aligned to the content students are studying. They point to research suggesting that support initiatives are more effective if integrated with teaching and learning and directly relevant to students’ studies.

They also observe that students followed in that study, and who had enrolled in courses with learning support built into the curriculum, “achieved greater academic and social engagement and better academic results than students in larger courses with separate support services” (p 6).

By contrast, as Madjar et al. identify, without personalised or highly structured support built into the core curriculum it is more difficult for learners (particularly in large classes) to develop a connection with the teachers, easier for students to get lost, and makes students more at risk of irregular class attendance and poor performance.

Literacy support was embedded into planning and teaching, in groups, in a class setting and in one-to-one situations. During the programme three study evenings were available for students to catch up on assignments. These evenings were labelled “fish and chips” nights and aimed to encourage students to utilise the institute’s services and to feel a sense of belonging to this academic learning environment.

Integration of literacy support into a foundation programme – Bay of Plenty Polytechnic

In 2005, the Manukau Institute of Technology’s model of literacy team teaching was explored and adopted. This resulted in a literacy tutor being present in the classroom of a Level 2, 17-week foundation programme for two days per week. The foundation programme aimed to prepare students for further study. Students ranged from 16 years of age to mid-50s. Forty-one percent of the students were Māori.
Factors driving the initiative
In order to engage more students and provide more meaningful contextualised literacy support it was decided that literacy support would be more effective if embedded within the programme context in the students’ classroom.
Literacy support was embedded into planning and teaching, in groups, in a class setting and in one-to-one situations. During the programme three study evenings were available for students to catch up on assignments. These evenings were labelled “fish and chips” nights and aimed to encourage students to utilise the institute’s services and to feel a sense of belonging to this academic learning environment.

Individual appointments were arranged in class time to meet with students. This time was identified as invaluable as staff were able to gauge where students “were at”. Although the focus for these discussions was their academic progress, students were able to discuss how study and learning fitted in with the reality of their lives. Study was not seen as an isolated event.
Factors of success
Critical success factors of this programme identified included: the team teaching relationship; teachers’ backgrounds in teaching, teaching styles and shared passion for student success; a holistic approach to teaching and learning; expectations of students; classroom management; student engagement; respect for tangata whenua/diversity and the foundation learner.

Significant improvements in Māori learner retention and “success” were observed. In 2005, retention was 56%. This rose to 70% in 2006. In 2006 this lifted to 100%, with 81.25% of students who succeeded going on to further study. Staff involved with this programme in earlier years all agreed that this was an unprecedented number of students who chose to progress onto other higher education qualifications.

It was observed that there was also an embedded commitment by the institution to recognise the aspirations and learning needs of iwi through whānau; to reduce the disparity of Māori learner outcomes; a commitment to growing the capacity of staff; to recognise the unique attributes of the Māori learner within the mainstream context; and to the introduction of concepts such as manaaki within the learning environment.
Manalo, E., Marshall, J., Fraser. C. 2010

Learning support opportunitiesTop

Learning communities

Madjar et al. (2010) believe that the “learning communities” model should be given careful attention. In referring to a number of past studies, Madjar et al. relate that learning communities have been found to have many positive outcomes, including increased retention, academic performance, motivation, student engagement, cognitive development, and social integration (p. 18).

As McKegg (2005) points out, learning communities sit comfortably alongside the notion of whakawhānaungatanga. They “involve actively scheduling classes so that a group of students are studying together across classes…students learn together and get to know each other…students share the trials and tribulations of getting to grips with the tertiary environment and collectively support each other to success” (p.295). Students work together towards common goals and take shared responsibility for their own and each other’s learning. A constant flow of feedback between students and teachers is a critical element (Madjar, 2010).

Culturally specific and appropriate academic support

Curtis et al. (2012) identify the importance of institutions providing Māori students with specific high-quality academic support that is culturally appropriate, including providing tutorials with Māori tutors, senior academic Māori role models, and staff who are connected with Māori students and who create culturally safe learning environments.

The Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme within the Faculty of Medical and Health Science at the University of Auckland provides Māori learners with specific academic and pastoral support services and activities. As the following description of this initiative indicates this initiative appears to encompass the level of guidance and support that the review of the literature has identified as important in the transition process for Māori learners.

Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme (MAPAS) – University of Auckland

Aim/focus and activities
The programme is for Māori students enrolled in tertiary health programmes at the University of Auckland. Students receive additional academic support including additional group tutorials for specific courses, specific study space and computer labs, support to set-up study groups, study retreats, homework centres and pre-exam study weekends.

MAPAS students receive additional pastoral support including: peer/whānau support through regular cohort lunches and wānanga, a “Freshers” wānanga held prior to the first semester for students to whakawhānaungatanga/get to know one another, MAPAS-specific orientations, student attendance and progress tracking, scholarships information and application support.

Academic support is provided in a culturally appropriate ways including whānau kai, marae overnight stays, wānanga, and use of karakia and the inclusion of extended whānau.

Tuhia ki te Rangi – University of Auckland

Tuhia ki te Rangi (TKTR) is a writing wānanga initiative aimed at improving the writing capacity of Māori and Pasifika students and focused on developing learner’s writing abilities. It is run through the learning centre at the University of Auckland. TKTR is also focused on building relationships and confident interactions between students, tuakana (tutor/mentor) and other staff, and students at the university. TKTR is expected to help students successfully participate in their courses through the development of academic learning skills, in particular essay writing. It provides an opportunity for students to contribute to and be part of a Māori and Pasifika community of students and staff, and to be nurtured in leadership amongst Māori and Pasifika students, and tutor/mentors.
Factors driving the initiative
STEAM was a result of an institutional Review of Equal Educational Opportunities (University of Auckland, 1998). At the time recruitment and promotion of university study was mainly limited to students in their final two years of secondary schooling. Subject choice was a significant issue because access and success in the STEAM degrees depended on Year 13 mathematics and science. The review suggested that targeting Year 9 or 10 students and using Māori and Pacific role models would be a more effective approach.
TKTR incorporates Māori and Pasifika cultural practices in teaching academic writing skills while students work on an essay assignment. Tuakana tutors/mentors facilitate group and individual sessions. Key writing process functions are taught and developed through a variety of activities including Akonga Tauira (30-minute learning skills tutorials), ako (student study periods) and korero poto (content discussion). It is expected that students will produce a draft of their essay assignment over the two and a half day wānanga.

Activities such as powhiri whakatau, mihimihi and whakawhānaungatanga endorse cultural identity and establish connections for relationships to be fostered. For example, students making whakapapa connections, realising that they are doing the same course or have attended the same school. Kai is a further opportunity to build rapport between students and staff in a relaxed informal setting. With this engagement, trust is established and staff become more approachable.

Korero mai are informal feedback discussions for students to report on their writing progress and provides an opportunity to acknowledge their accomplishments and value their performance. Feedback is provided either individually or in group activities. Fun activities are also incorporated to intentionally remove students from their intense study activity.
Factors of success
TKTR is identified as facilitating sustainable relationships among students, and between students and staff; providing a teaching approach and learning environment that is culturally safe and connects students with the university community; and enabling students to improve their independent learning and to complete and pass their assignments.
Manalo, E., Marshall, J., and Fraser, C., 2010

Māori and Pasifika students responding to the Australasian Universities Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) undertaken across all of New Zealand universities from 2007 to 200910  referred to the benefits of tutorials and the opportunities tutorials provide to discuss and hear different points of view in a small group. “Many comments that do not mention tutorials specifically mention the benefits of working in groups with other students” or refer to the challenges of not being able to work with other students (Van der Meer, Scott, and Neha, 2010, p.7).

However, there appears to be limited information in the literature specifically demonstrating outcomes of Māori learners’ engagement in culturally specific academic support, such as Māori learner tutorials.

An exception is Henley’s (2009) review of the effectiveness of tutorials for first-year Māori and Pasifika students enrolled with the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies at the University of Auckland. This found that students’ attendance at the tutorials reduced “did-not-sit” statistics and resulted in those students receiving a consistently higher pass rate than those who did not. However, a rise in fail rates due to non-attendance and did-not-sits was observed in 2008 with increased enrolments in the second semester. Potentially this aligns with the view of Madjar et al. (2010) that larger classes make it more difficult for a connection to be developed with teachers and the need for academic support to be highly personalised.

The following summary of Henley’s findings confirm the importance of normalising learning support and the value of proactive provision of support, specific cultural spaces for learning, and culturally appropriate support, including peer mentoring. As with the first-year Māori student support initiative at the Open Polytechnic described by Ross (2010), and mentioned earlier in this report, students have the space to seek out help themselves, but are also proactively engaged to determine specific needs and how these can be supported.

In addition to providing academic learning support, a commitment to supporting students’ holistic wellbeing and the proactive provision of culturally appropriate pastoral support is a further facilitator identified in the literature as important to supporting Māori learners’ positive transitions into the tertiary environment. (Phillips and Mitchell, 2010).

Tutorials for Māori and Pacific students, Department of Film, Television and Media Studies – University of Auckland

The tutorials are identified as instilling a commitment to learning because they provide an environment where learners feel comfortable and feel at home, have a space for academic learning, and gain academic survival skills. They are also empowering as the Māori tuakana tutor, once a student, is a role model for first-year learners.
Factors driving the initiative
Tutorials for Māori and Pacific students were established as part of an equity initiative to provide culturally appropriate learning support for first year students. The tutorials were developed in direct response to high non-completion rates in a programme – TV and Media Studies; two large first year courses.
The tutorials for Māori learners are taught by a Māori tuakana tutor who has the same academic status as other department tutors and tutors teaching mainstream tutorials. Academic support is normalised as it is made clear that the tutorials are not remedial and operate at the same academic level as mainstream tutorials with the same materials covered.

A tuakana mentor also attends the tutorials and proactively engages with learners outside of the tutorial in the first six weeks of the semester encouraging students to attend lectures, to enrol in a tutorial and in preparation of first assignments. This is said to demonstrate to students that they are cared about and enables information to be gathered about possible obstacles students may be facing to initiate the provision of pastoral care.

Individual learner progress is reviewed on an ongoing basis by the equity team which enables the identification of individuals’ need for more specialised help.
Factors of success
Henley (2009) identifies that in the last nine years the tutorials have resulted in consistently higher pass rates than the class median for all Māori and Pasifika students within the course, as well as outstanding success in the turnarounds of did-not-sit statistics (seen in 2006 and 2007) for students who consistently attended the tutorials.
As described in Henley (2009)

Culturally appropriate pastoral supportTop

In addition to providing academic learning support, a commitment to supporting students’ holistic wellbeing and providing culturally appropriate pastoral support are further facilitators identified in the literature as important to supporting Māori learners’ positive transitions into the tertiary environment (Phillips and Mitchell, 2010). Indeed, in the Tu Kahika foundation year at University of Otago, learners have a dedicated kaiarahi to provide both academic and pastoral support.11

Curtis et al. (2012) identify that culturally appropriate pastoral support involves Māori support staff able to operate within both Māori and tertiary education paradigms who are “aware of and understand Māori student issues, including Māori cultural issues; foster Māori student independence; support student navigation of university processes; and support students with pastoral transitioning issues” (p.30).

In the study of students’ transition experiences undertaken by Madjar et al. (2010), factors such as loneliness and homesickness, inadequate sleep, alcohol consumption, limited physical activity and financial issues impacted on students’ wellbeing and academic performance, and contributed to students’ feeling unsettled and stressed.

Both Curtis et al. (2012) and Smith (2012) discuss pastoral support as a conduit to linking students to services that help to address issues impacting on students’ holistic wellbeing. Smith describes the role of the Māori administrator as whaea (mother, aunt) or matua (father, uncle) who provides pastoral care in a culturally appropriate manner and is often identified as a conduit between the student, university and the whānau.

Internal support services, or strong links to external services able to be accessed to support learners include the provision of food, transport, accommodation, counselling, health care, budgeting advice, advice about how to keep well, and connections to Māoritanga (Curtis et al., 2012; Kopu, 2010a; Madjar et al., 2010; Smith, 2012).

Culturally appropriate learning environments feature significantly in the literature that discusses tertiary success for Māori learners and the need for education provision to take place within supportive and familiar environments, which encourage Māori to feel that they belong.

Underlying the effective provision of pastoral support, as with the proactive provision of academic support, is an awareness of an individual’s specific needs. Panoho (2012) identifies that the development and provision of effective pastoral care stems from knowing one’s learners and “including them in the developmental phase, creating a holistic response to learner needs and staff selection” (p.29).

As the recent literature on student retention identifies, institutions needs to be responsive to the realities of students’ lives and accept that they can provide services able to help students to balance external demands or to cope with personal issues (for example, employment and whānau commitments and responsibilities) (Greenwood and Te Aika, 2008; Madjar et al., 2010; Wisely, 2009). This is an area discussed further in section four with regards to programme development and delivery in response to learners’ wider commitments and needs.

Culturally appropriate learning environmentsTop

Culturally appropriate learning environments feature significantly in the literature that discusses tertiary success for Māori learners and the need for education provision to take place within supportive and familiar environments, which encourage Māori to feel that they belong. This includes a significant focus on quality teaching staff and how well Māori learners’ experiences, values and culture are incorporated within programmes and across institutions.

These important factors are fully explored in section 4. However, before proceeding to that section, it is important to emphasise that the quality of teaching staff has an important impact in this stage of the transition process and affects how well Māori learners are engaged socially and academically by the institution.

Specifically, students in different studies have identified that they are better engaged by teachers who are passionate and knowledgeable about what they teach, who are interested in learners and actively engage them in learning, and who set clear boundaries and expectations (Kāhui Tautoko Consulting Ltd, 2012a; Kopu, 2010a; Madgar et al., 2010; Marshall, Baldwin and Peach, 2008).

Research and literature gapsTop

There is limited information available specifically demonstrating outcomes for Māori learners’ engagement in learning environments specifically tailored for Māori (such as tutorials), and therefore, there is a lack of consolidated information to understand what aspects of those learning environments enable or hinder Māori learners’ engagement.

Similarly, while there is strong evidence of the contribution that peer mentoring makes to supporting Māori learners to academically and socially engage in the tertiary environment, further information on the key elements that make up an effective peer mentoring/tuakana-teina relationship would provide a more in-depth understanding of what works best to support Māori learners. This might also include insights into how the tuakana is recognised and supported by the institute, and how the relationship impacts on the tuakana or mentor in terms of his or her engagement and progression within the tertiary education environment.

There is an absence of research and information specifically exploring quality pastoral care provision for Māori learners in tertiary settings (eg. embedding counselling provision or numeracy and literacy support).

Key messages relevant to first semester transitionsTop

Key barrier

Enablers and opportunities

8Refer note 4 (p. 20).
9Nikora et al. (2004) Te Rau Puawai 2002–2004: An evaluation. A report prepared for the Ministry of Health and Massey University: Māori and psychology research unit, University of Waikato.
10See Radloff and Coates (2011) who identify that the AUSSE survey included the voices of 674-unweighted, and 2957-weighted Māori learners. Post-stratification weighting was undertaken so responses represented the target population.
11Refer note 8.