Fresh approach sees students excel

By Sonya Bateson

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Bay of Plenty Polytech chief executive Alan Hampton says a range of changes has lead to an improvement in student outcomes. Photo / Andrew Warner
Bay of Plenty Polytech chief executive Alan Hampton says a range of changes has lead to an improvement in student outcomes. Photo / Andrew Warner

Bay of Plenty Polytechnic student achievement has risen dramatically in the past five years.

The Tertiary Education Commission has released its annual report on the state of each of the country's tertiary organisations, which shows the polytech's performance has been steadily increasing in each of the four areas measured.

The polytech's national ranking in each of the four fields has also increased.

Chief executive Alan Hampton said the institute had made many changes to improve student outcomes and aimed to continually improve.

Dr Hampton spoke about the change to the polytech library. Three years ago it was a traditional library. It had the usual rules about no eating and no loud noises, and all the library staff worked from individual offices.

"Nowadays, when students want to learn they don't want all these rules and things on them," he said. "So we took our building and said let's not make it an old library but make it somewhere we can say to the students 'this is your space, not our space'."

The students wanted somewhere suitable for quiet space and louder group work, to use computers and to socialise.

The staff were taken out of their offices and given a shared space, making them more approachable for students.

"That's had a huge impact. In this, we're making students feel comfortable and safe."

Learning support staff were moved out of the old library and were given space in the different schools so they could work more closely with the students in their own space instead of waiting to be approached by those struggling.

Dr Hampton said students in today's world were different even from a decade ago.

"I look at my 20-year-old doing her work and I think 'I can't recognise that'. She lies on her floor with her feet on the wall with her headphones in, while watching TV and probably texting as well.

"That's the style they learn best in and want to learn in.

"We have to change not only how we support them but also how we teach."

Dr Hampton said tutors were needing to become more "facilitators of learning", rather than the old style of making students listen and write down every word, then squeeze it out again at exam time.

Buildings were also being remodelled to make them more multi-purpose and learning friendly.

The improvements have resulted in higher achievement.

"I look at students and think some of them have had a hell of a journey because they've got so much going on outside of polytech.

"When you get to graduation and see their whanau in the audience and see how much it means to them, you realise it isn't easy, it's a big ask to hang in there with everything else that's going on in their world."

Polytechnic at a glance

• 4358 students, 2759 FTEs

• 69 per cent European, 31 per cent Maori, 7 per cent Asian, 4 per cent Pacific, 2 per cent other (some students identify with more than one ethnicity)

• 17 per cent of students are 17 years and under, 27 per cent 18-19, 24 per cent 20-24, 25 per cent 25-39 and 17 per cent 40 and over

- Bay of Plenty Times

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