Students' lived experience of transition into high school : a phenomenological study

Ganeson, Krishnaveni (2006) Students' lived experience of transition into high school : a phenomenological study. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


There is a need to understand the transition of students from primary to secondary schooling outside the confines of practitioners' and academics' viewpoints. This thesis explores that transition from the perspectives of the students themselves. It argues that they experience the transition into secondary schooling as challenging. This issue is significant because transition into high school coincides with adolescent developmental changes - social, physical, emotional, cognitive and psychological - as well as the move from the relative stability of one teacher a year to different teachers for each subject, and the shift in status from being the most senior to the most junior students in their school. These students also face challenges such as friendship and identity issues as well as problems locating places in the new environment, for example, subject classrooms, play areas, teachers' rooms.

This study's theoretical framework is constructed from a phenomenological psychological stance. A phenomenological methodology guides this study, allowing students' experiences to speak for themselves. Other methodologies were not appropriate as the researcher wanted to hear the students' voices while they were experiencing transition.

Few studies in the past have attempted to study transition into high school as it is lived and experienced by students themselves. This empirical study addresses that gap in the literature. Its findings could provide the necessary information needed to further assist educationalists in developing appropriate programs and activities to support this group.

Sixteen adolescents participated in the study. Of two common methods of collecting data in phenomenological studies - interviews and journal writing - journal writing was chosen. This data collection technique enabled the researcher to learn about transition from students' perspectives.

The data were collected in the first ten weeks of high school from Year 7 students (first year of high school in New South Wales). Drawing on the work of Giorgi (1985a, 1985b), who translated aspects of phenomenological philosophy into a concrete method of research (Ehrich, 1997), a phenomenological psychological approach was used to analyse the data in a step-by-step process. There were four steps to the analysis of the data. The first step involved reading through the entire description of the participants' experience to get a sense of the meaning of the experience as a whole. In the second step, the description was read to identify meaning units, i.e. words/phrases that clearly express meanings of the experience of transition. In the third step, the analysis involved transformation of the meaning units from participants' concrete descriptions into more general categories. The fourth step involved two aspects: a situated structural description of the experience was written, and finally the researcher produced a general structural description that represented the whole experience of the phenomenon.

Because of the small sample selected, the study does not claim generalisability across other populations of adolescents. However, what the study does is to highlight seven essential themes of transition. First peers can play a significant role in enabling a smooth transition to high school. Second, schools support transition through a number of programs and activities to help students adapt to the new environment. Third, students need to learn new procedures, location of rooms and other new routines in this environment. Fourth, learning occurs through the academic, practical and extracurricular activities and some learning is more challenging than other types of learning. Fifth, high school transition is enhanced when students are confident and feel a sense of achievement and success in their new environment. Sixth, homework and assignments are a part of the high school curriculum. Finally, teachers' attitudes/abilities can affect student integration into high school and make learning fun or boring.

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ID Code: 16249
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Ehrich, Lisa & Campbell, Marilyn
Keywords: student, school transition, phenomenological study, learning, study environment
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Krishnaveni Ganeson
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:59
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:40

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