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Thesis

Publication details

Towns, S 2011, 'Measuring up: an examination of the expectations and realities of students during the primary to secondary transition', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright S Towns 2011

Abstract

This study was undertaken to investigate the primary to secondary transition for two key groups of students within Catholic Colleges in Tasmania. The first group was students from small rural schools transitioning to larger urban schools. The second group was students transitioning within schools that have a Preparatory to Year 10 (or Year 12) structure. New instruments: the Early Transition Questionnaire, the Late Transition Questionnaire and the Parent Questionnaire, were devised to gather data about students’ expectations and experiences of the transition process, as well as parents’ perspectives about transition.

Research questions were answered through numerous statistical analyses of questionnaire data. Contingency Table Analysis, Independent-samples t-tests and Mann-Whitney U tests were used to investigate the differences between rural and urban students, and internal and external transitioning students’ expectations and realities of transition. Paired-samples t-tests or Wilcoxon signed rank tests were conducted to examine the difference between expectation and reality of transition for rural and internal transitioning students. Statistically significant differences were confirmed by the calculation of effect size.

For the Early Transition Questionnaire the sample consisted of 898 students, made up of rural (n=64) and urban (n=834) students, and internal (n=203) and external (n=695) transitioning students. The Late Transition Questionnaire sample consisted of 722 participants, made up of rural (n=49) and urban (n=673) students, and internal (n=189) and external (n=533) transitioning students. Finally, the sample of the Parent Questionnaire consisted of 461 parents of rural (n=28) and urban (n=433) transitioning students, and internal transitioning (n=111) and external transitioning (n =350) students. Seven Catholic secondary schools across Tasmania were involved in the study, four of which have a Preparatory to Year 10 (or Year 12) structure.

Sizeable differences were found between rural and internal transitioning students’ expectations and realities of transition across the social, academic and organisational dimensions, parental influence and transition programs scales. Results suggest the existing transition programs help ease rural and internal transitioning students’ organisational and social dimension concerns, but greater attention should be given to the academic dimension of transition.

This study presents three distinctive contributions to the understanding of the primary to secondary transition for rural and internal transitioning students. Firstly, existing transition programs need to incorporate more strategies that meet the academic needs of transitioning students. Secondly, internal transitioning students have a different set of transitioning needs and programs should be designed to cater for these students. Finally, in the context of the cohort in this study, pre-transition anti-bullying strategies appear to be effective in reducing the incidents and reporting of bullying post-transition.

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