Rising to the challenge: Exploring the transition from primary to secondary education in a Western Australian school
Date of Award
Master of Public Health
School of Exercise and Health Sciences
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
Dr Laura Thomas
Associate Professor Leeane Lester
The ‘Rising to the Challenge: Exploring the transition from Primary to Secondary education in a Western Australian School’ study explored the positive predictors of primary to secondary school transition of a cohort of Year 7 students (n=182) at a school in Western Australia. The transition from primary to secondary school is an important process in the lives of adolescents aged around 11-13 years old. It is a challenging and exciting time that coincides with social, emotional, physical and cognitive changes of the adolescent stage of development. Enabling a positive transition to secondary school can give adolescents the support they need to maintain their educational performance, mental health and social wellbeing during adolescence, and may also have an impact on their future adult success. The purpose of this study was therefore to follow a cohort of students through their transition into secondary school, and determine the positive predictors of transition for this cohort of students.
Nancy Schlossberg’s theory entitled ‘A model for analysing human adaptation to transition’ was used to guide this research, providing a multifactorial ecological framework that describes the process of transition from the perception of the individual. The study investigated a broad range of variables around the individual, the transition situation, supports for students, and academic progress associated with primary to secondary school transition experience immediately after changing schools and again six months later. One kindergarten to Year 12 school was utilised as a case study school. Data was collected by online survey at two time points, being in the first few weeks of secondary school, and again six months later. Data pertaining to students’ academic achievement was collected from student record files.
The results of this work identified many significant variables in the transition process for this cohort, while analysis of four research questions tested the applicability of each domain of Schlossberg’s model to the primary to secondary school transition process using multinomial logistic regression. Results indicated that students’ negative expectation about transition, the things they like about their secondary school, emotional peer support, loneliness, school safety, being a reliable person, levels of agitation and turmoil, and perceived academic achievement significantly influenced students’ perception of a positive transition experience. Gender and primary school of origin were also significant predictors of transition experience for this cohort, with females experiencing a poorer transition than males, and ‘continuous’ students (those who remained at the school from primary through to secondary graduation) having the easiest transition experiences.
Finally, the implications of this research were discussed. Discussion of these results in conjunction with the literature shows that school transition is a complex process, with links between domains that require further investigation and an emphasis on an ecological approach to capture the nuances of the transition phenomenon. Results could not be generalised to the population of transitioning students due to sampling, but are useful for informing further research in the area. Investigation of the mechanisms of the predictor variables on transition experience is warranted given the results of the study, and the use of mixed methods research would provide depth to the analysis results. Given there is little research on transition in comprehensive K-12 schools, further research into primary school origin and the influence of gender are research foci for the future. Finally, the case study school and the school system at large should review school policies around transition and gender equality in teaching.
Wenden, E. J. (2015). Rising to the challenge: Exploring the transition from primary to secondary education in a Western Australian school. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/1714