Case Study 4 - Learning more about life skills is more important
A Māori and Pasifika Case Study from the Enhancing the Effectiveness of Tertiary Teaching and Learning through Assessment project.
A Māori and Pasifika Case Study
Name: Clark Tuagalu
Organisation: Te Kuratini o Poike, The Bay of Plenty Polytechnic
Researcher: Oneroa Stewart
"This course is leading itself more towards life skills rather than just learning the content – it’s that motivation, aspiration to finish the skills."
Many of the students in the National Certificate in Sport and Recreation have a pre conceived idea that the course is focused on playing sports. However, an essential part of the course for all students is to plan and document all activities within a workbook. Initially there is some resistance to the reading and writing course work requirement from students who mostly think they are primarily attending to complete a practical course and enjoy their playing abilities.
Not wanting to detract from his students’ enthusiasm, this tutor has been busy refining a course workbook developed specifically for the types and needs of his students. What he expects from his students is that they all learn and experience a strong focus on life skills and attitudes.
The right balance between workbook theory and the practical component of the programme is indicated by high success and retention rates, all of which encourages most of the students towards higher qualifications at the institution.
About the tertiary teacher
Clark Tuagalu is a sports and recreation tutor at Te Kuratini o Poike, the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, in Tauranga. He is Samoan and maintains close contact with his island home. His main role is that of being the Programme Coordinator for the National Certificate in Sport (level 3) and the delivery of the National Pool Life Guard Award. Clark also co-ordinates the Sport and Leadership Programme run in local high schools (a unit standard based programme - developing self confidence and leadership skills in young people in years 12 to 13). He is also required to teach a small section of the advanced sport diploma and degree programme in sport management and sport sociology.
In 2006 Clark completed the Certificate in Adult Teaching and Learning (CALT). During the interview he found it difficult to state how this formal qualification actually helped his development in assessment. He did acknowledge that his Academic Advisor had been useful in guiding him with how to write and report results and write and moderate assessments. But for the most part, according to Clark, he functions "independently with little guidance and supervision."
Views of assessment
Unless there have been notified programme changes then little pre and post moderation takes place. Clark feels that more moderation should be taking place as he is always keen to pick up new ideas and share his work with others. Most information he receives during informal discussions with colleagues.
For Clark, experience on the job has been the best teacher when and where he has "picked up on mistakes on areas that probably need improvement, and the evaluations that we conduct here as well."
Clark acknowledged that because accountability and reporting requirements "had tightened up" then he has to pay much more attention to his assessment practices. The sports and recreation industry was the main influence of promoting change in assessment practices.
Description of the assessment strategy
Clark has complete nine and a half years’ experience at running the Sport and Recreation programme at the Polytechnic. For the first three years of his teaching on this programme, the National Certificate in Sport was originally run for a full year. It was restructured to run just for a half year in order to make the unit standards (at level 3) and the qualification more achievable and responsive to market trends.
The programme now offers a pathway for the successful students to gain entry into a higher level 5 course. The older second chance learners tend to take this pre-entry course while the younger students tend to come straight from high school directly into the level 3 programme.
The main assessment strategy centres around the use of a course workbook. It is how this workbook is presented and used by the students that determines the success of the course and includes a mixture of both written and practical assignments.
Most of Clark’s students first arrive at the beginning of the course expecting they are attending to play games all day. Thus when first being presented with their workbooks, the tutor finds some initial resistance to the required amount of reading and writing (which is actually very little). How then does this tutor convert and convince his students to the discipline of reflecting on and recording their own progress?
Clark guides his students page by page, section by section through the workbook for all the assessment tasks. Initially, there is some resistance from some students at seeing all the work required, from those who think they are only enrolled to play sport all day and everyday. But this tutor carefully explains that this workbook is a written record or diary of all their course achievements. All the set tasks are formatively assessed until completed. Students may repeat any assessment activity until mastered.
Clark suggests that one of the main reasons for the workbook success is that he has provided a large number of clear examples of problems that his students can model. He has built these up from his own teaching experience and he continually revises his work.
Then when finally mastered, the activity is signed off to then become a summative record of achievement. Formative assessment takes place frequently as all the students train to attempt various skills as the unit standards require. It may appear to an outsider that the course looks rather unstructured. This is due to the variation in timeframes caused by students being at varied levels of competence and performance. Students seem to enjoy the open timeframe (of approximately 20 hours) to complete all their workbook documentation. Continual encouragement to improve personal performances and succeed is very important in building the self-esteem of the participating students.
The best part of the workbook, according to Clark, is that it is designed and constructed on a spiral learning approach. Each section is a development of the proceeding section and progresses learning. To most students the connections between skills and content is obvious. But where not, then Clark maintains "an open door policy" to help and assist all his students.
With over nine years’ experience, Clark has been continually making refinements to the workbook by providing clear and relevant examples, free of jargon, so that his students quickly respond to the set tasks.
Motivation for adopting the assessment strategy
From the very beginning of the course, Clark sets the standards for his students by explaining to them all that this workbook, in terms of the important record it contains, will determine their pass or failure in the course. He expects it to be neat and tidy (from students who may not have a neat and tidy attitude from their previous schooling experience).
The same approach and attitudes have to carry over when students are directed to visit a facility, talk to any staff, carry out surveys, demonstrate skills, meet visitors, etc. All students are required both to perform and document their entire course.
Strengths and limitations
The workbook contains all the information the students need to complete the unit and so pass the course. As one document it is easy to refer to when needed. It remains as a check list of all things required and no student can ever claim s/he was never told because it is all written and explained in class.
Clark regards the use of the workbook as sufficiently challenging but definitely not overwhelming. To him this is its success. It does also have the added bonus of preparing these students for the literacy requirements and expectations as students move towards higher qualifications.
These students, who mostly come from an educational background of not particularly liking or being successful with lots of reading and writing, are carefully nurtured to move up from simply filling out pages with a pen to more advanced on-line learning.
He has also added value to the course by the use of the e-learning programme, Moodle. This allows all students to take their own responsibility to submit and track their own learning on the Polytechnic intranet. However, one student who has a computer phobia is allowed to complete the workbook manually for submission and assessment.
Receiving feedback and sharing the strategy
Response from students
While the actual number of enrolled students for this course has steadily dropped over the last few years, the success and retention rates have remained constant. Most of the students opt to move up into the Polytechnic’s diploma programme and advance into the full degree.
Response from colleagues and the institution
While there are frequent discussions on general aspects of assessment, Clark feels there is little, if any, talk about particular assessments because the pre and post moderation process happens so infrequently.
Industry advisor groups are encouraged to comment on the sports programmes, especially the content and desired outcomes. There is always a focus on the skills required to make successful graduates for the industry.
Clark considers the valuable feedback he receives from his industry colleagues by reflecting on how he can incorporate new information into his own course. Although he usually meets with the ITO only once a year the reflection is ongoing by many informal meetings and discussions held at other times and places.
Clark is currently engaged in research to determine health and physical activity needs with people of his home country of Samoa. His findings will be important in determining the future shapes of his course structures and teaching methodologies.