Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

A Qualitative Exploration of the Transition Experience of Students from a High School to a Senior High School in Rural Western Australia

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

A Qualitative Exploration of the Transition Experience of Students from a High School to a Senior High School in Rural Western Australia

Article excerpt

This qualitative study explored the experience of rural students who had undergone transitions between schools to continue their studies in Years 11 and 12. A thematic content analysis identified two main themes: social relationships and school issues. Social relationships, concerned with peer interactions and student-teacher relationships, had long-term significance while school issues, particularly academia and school structure, were considered a short-term concern. The study recommends increased attention to the development of peer and teacher relationships, informing students of the academic focus of Years 11 and 12, and maintaining the schools' current pre-transition preparation that introduces the students to the new school environment.

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An aspect of schooling that has been prominent in educational research is that of school transitions (Akos & Galassi, 2004a; Alspaugh, 1998; Blyth, Simmons, & Carlton-Ford, 1983; Bogat, Jones, & Jason, 1980; Cotterell, 1992; Crockett, Petersen, Graber, Schulenberg, & Ebata, 1989; Elias, Gara, & Ubriaco, 1985). School transitions are the movement of students from one school to another (Johnstone, 2001). Common school transitions include the commencement of schooling in childhood, starting a new school as a result of family relocation, and transferring from primary to middle or high school, or from middle or high school to senior high school (Bogat, Jones, & Jason, 1980).

School transitions have been found to have numerous effects on the psychological, social and intellectual wellbeing of students (Elias, Gara, & Ubriaco, 1985; Kagan & Neuman, 1998). Psychologically, students have been found to experience a decrease in self-esteem, sense of belonging, and the ability to cope with stressors (Alspaugh, 1998; Isakson & Jarvis, 1999). Social problems that have been associated with school transitions have included changes in peer friendships, changes in teachers, and the loss of friends as students move to different schools (Hirsch & DuBois, 1992). In regard to intellectual wellbeing, researchers have found that school transitions have a negative effect on students' academic performance (Akos & Galassi, 2004b; Isakson & Jarvis, 1999) and on academic motivation (Schumacher, 1998).

It appears, however, that these negative transition effects on student outcomes are not inevitable (Akos & Galassi, 2004a, 2004b; Barone, Aguirre-Deandreis, & Trickett, 1991; Felner, Primavera, & Cauce, 1981; Fenzel, 1989; Reyes, Gillock, Kobus, & Sanchez, 2000). As a result, transition programs have been developed in an attempt to minimise the negative outcomes (Bogat, Jones, & Jason, 1980; Felner, Ginter, & Primavera, 1982; Felner, Primavera, & Cauce, 1981; Hertzog & Morgan, 1998; Mizelle, 2005).

Further to this, transition researchers have not only measured the effects of school transitions, they have examined students' perceptions of the transition experience (Akos & Galassi, 2004b; Letrello & Miles, 2003; Yates, 1999). As research has most commonly utilised quantitative methods (Akos & Galassi, 2004a, 2004b; Berndt, Miller, & Park, 1989; Feldlaufer, Midgley, & Eccles, 1988; Fenzel, 1989; Harter, Whitesell, & Kowalski, 1992; Lord, Eccles, & McCarthy, 1994; McDonald, 1992; Mitman & Packer, 1982) the need for qualitative research, which enables students to have a voice, has been recognised (Brown & Armstrong, 1982; Johnstone, 2001, 2002; Kinney, 1993; Letrello & Miles, 2003; Rowland, 2002; Stumpers, 2002; Yates, 1999). The meaning and perception of the transition experience from the students' perspective requires qualitative methods that allow students to 'tell it like it is' for them. As quantitative research, by its very design, tunnels participant responses towards particular concerns, results may not reflect the true experiences as expressed by participants. …

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