Reaching more students through block courses

Reach more students through block courses

Ara has introduced block courses to reach more students and made changes to the existing Electrotechnology course, grown relationships with Māori schools, and is looking at co-teaching courses with teachers.

2017 reflections lead to changes in delivering courses

At the end of 2017, Secondary-Tertiary Pathways Project Manager Pete Wilson reflected on the Year 12 – 13 Electrotechnology courses he was running. While successful, they required a four-term commitment from students, appealed to a limited number of schools, and targeted students who in some cases had already decided on university study.

Block courses would allow a more in-depth experience than a one-day course, giving students the opportunity to gain knowledge, skills and possibly NCEA credits.

Pete was also keen to give students experience of more fields of engineering rather than just focusing on Electrotechnology.

Providing relevant, hands-on engineering experiences

Students taking a block courses have a three-and-a-half-hour lesson once a week for five to seven weeks.

Pete aims to engage them with engineering through relevant, hands-on experiences. Talking to students about the environment, for example, picked up on a topic of interest to young people and led them into developing models for wind turbines.

Another group developed musical mechanisms during their course. “They were mostly music students and that aspect of engineering resonated with them.”, Pete says.

Engaging more Māori students with engineering

Pete and Ara Community Engagement Manager Harry Westrup are working to increase the number of Māori students involved with the Secondary Tertiary Pathways Project (STPP). Pete notes that Harry’s involvement with the Māori community has been a great advantage when they visit schools together.

“Having him endorse our STPP programme was very helpful. Instead of the traditional route into schools via careers advisors, we talked to school principals – support from senior management makes it much easier to engage with other staff.”

Exposing students to engineering and building connections with the school curriculum

25 students from Te Pā o Rākaihautū (a bilingual Year 1 – 13 school) enrolled for a block course – 16 Year 9 students in one and 9 Year 10s in another. As their Maths teacher is championing this in the school, course content included aspects from the Maths curriculum, such as data processing in Excel.

11 Year 9 – 10 students from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whanau Tahi are enrolled in a third block course.

The course, Pete says, will expose students to a range of engineering activities. He is also building connections with the school curriculum. “We’re seen as a bit of an opportunity for them. And growing relationships with these schools has led us into conversations with Ngāi Tahu around cultural responsiveness in teaching at Ara, and possibilities around working with them to give extra support and experience to targeted engineering students.”

Aiming for a sustainable model

The STPP programme is currently associated with Pete’s role as STPP project manager and engineering tutor. He is working towards developing the programme as a sustainable model such that it can continue without Engineering e2e funding.

This, of course, comes with challenges: engaging with schools so that they become part of the programme rather than just users, recruiting busy colleagues as tutors, and budget constraints.

“Working with teachers or careers advisors to deliver engineering courses, lessons or activities,” Pete says, “can lead to that sustainable model. We want to empower teachers to include aspects of engineering within their Technology, Science and Maths programmes.”

Co-delivering Technology courses with teachers

Pete has talked to a few schools about how Ara can help run their Technology programmes. “There’s a lot of interest in how to teach Technology well. They want to make their programmes more modern and design oriented while retaining the practical aspect.”

One principal is keen to collaborate in setting up co-teaching of curriculum-related engineering courses for senior Technology classes. “The school is trying to offer Technology as a subject leading into Level 6 – 8 tertiary education, to get away from the assumption that it’s just a pre-trades subject.”

While there are various ways to co-teach, Pete suggests the most advantageous is to have a teacher deliver theory-related lessons at school. This would allow students to have hands-on experience with specialised equipment – and tutors’ engineering knowledge – in Ara’s labs.

Working with other teachers

Pete plans to promote co-teaching opportunities to science teachers also. “We could offer students the opportunity to achieve engineering-related NCEA Technology, Science or Maths achievement stands – they could potentially work on one standard at school and another at Ara.”

Making changes to Electrotechnology programme

The Level 2 – 3 multi-school course is continuing this year. Students (including four who travel an hour from Cheviot) come for five hours every Friday over Terms 1 – 4. (Papanui High School now has an Electrotechnology teacher, and there weren’t enough Christchurch Boys’ High School students to make their courses viable.)
Case study 75: Providing opportunities and facilities
Case study 61: Electrotechnology programme reaches more students

Case study 56: Electrotechnology course leads students into engineering

Increasing emphasis on projects

Maintaining student enthusiasm in a long-term course is always a challenge, so this year Pete gave give students the basic theory they needed to move on quickly to individual project work. He has also changed the content so that students learn more general engineering rather than pure electrotechnology. It now includes more aspects of mechanical engineering, such as mechanisms and laser cutting. One of the unit standards has been replaced with the generic Technology standard – which students can use towards university entrance requirements and which allows greater flexibility in the course.

Students will again visit local engineering workplaces, to see engineering theory in practice and industries where they could potentially work.

Our thanks to Pete for his time and advice; if you have any queries contact

May 2018