Apprenticing students into a culture of enquiry: Evaluating two courses of undergraduate skill provision in one New Zealand Polytechnic

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Dale, Angela
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Education
Unitec Institute of Technology
Panko, Mary
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
academic literacies
academic skill provision
institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs)
New Zealand
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Dale, A. (2010). Apprenticing students into a culture of enquiry: Evaluating two courses of undergraduate skill provision in one New Zealand Polytechnic. A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education, Unitec Institute of Technology
Prior to 1996, it was established that over half of all New Zealanders had adequate academic literacy skills to enter tertiary study. Since that time further studies have reported a steady decline in both generic and academic entry level skills of those enrolled in undergraduate study. In 2007 the New Zealand government, through its Tertiary Education Strategy, highlighted ‘applied education’ as a key priority for developing a more highly skilled and productive workforce. This goal would be supported in part, through tertiary institutions providing a range of generic and academic skills to enable students to successfully complete their chosen pathway of study. The main concern of this research has been to evaluate the effectiveness and value to students of two undergraduate courses of academic skill provision in a large New Zealand polytechnic. Additionally, the study situates each course within established models of good practice within the reviewed literature. The research process was qualitative employing two case studies and due to the diverse nature of each case study the results were reported separately. The research was conducted in three stages: documentary analysis; focus group interviews and semi-structured interviews. Students rated lack of explicitness and inconsistent feedback as problematic while confidence, the ability to transfer skills across courses, becoming innovative thinkers and resolving cultural differences through perspective transformation were generally identified as positive outcomes. The research highlighted a lack of conceptual understanding surrounding academic literacies and academic skills. Both case studies had strong synergies with the parallel or standalone model of skill provision. Additionally, one had influences from the academic socialisation model while the other had similarities with a work-based projects approach. The main recommendations to come from this research may be applied to both case studies. There is a need for students to be provided with explicit content information by teachers. All teachers need an awareness of the philosophy and pedagogic practices underpinning skill development. Skill transfer requires consistent expectations across all courses allowing students to build confidence. Timely and constructive feedback should be considered a fundamental and developmental requirement of each course. Further research could investigate the range of pedagogic practices used in skill development for best practice and if some skills are more easily transferred across contexts than others, what factors may impede transfer.
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