Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology


School of Psychology and Social Sciences


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Supervisor

Lynne Cohen


This research sought to explore the experiences of students during their transition to a senior college. The senior college was established in response to the amendments to education policy in Western Australia that made it compulsory for students to remain in full-time education, training or employment until the age of 17 years (Department of Education and Training, 2008). Senior colleges were established to teach Years 11 and 12 exclusively, to promote a school environment that suited the maturity of senior students. Students attending senior colleges experience an additional transition during their senior school years and, as previous research has shown, this has the potential to influence their educational attainment and physical and mental health (Eccles, Midgeley, & Adler, 1984). By investigating the experiences of senior college students as they undertook the additional transition, the impact of the amendments to educational policy was examined. In phase one of the research, 16 Year 11 students were asked to share their transition experiences in personal interviews. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using grounded theory analysis processes. The findings that emerged indicated that the participants had transitioned successfully. The participants identified aspects of the school structure and environment that had contributed to their experiences. The participants credited the four-day week timetable, the open school policy allowing students to leave campus during lesson-free time, the mentor program, the accessibility and support of staff and the respectful relationships between staff and students with positively influencing their transition experiences. In phase two of the research, these findings were incorporated into a transition survey, which was administered to 91 Year 11 senior college students. Survey respondents were asked to rate their level of agreement with statements describing the beneficial aspects of the college using a five-point Likert scale. The results of the survey indicated that phase two participants had transitioned successfully and confirmed the beneficial influence of the college aspects as identified by phase one participants. The survey results were subjected to a multiple regression analysis with successful transition being the dependent variable and mentor program, lesson-free day, open school policy, teacher support and relationships the independent variables. The analysis indicated that the most significant contributors to successful transition were teacher support (t (85) = 3.40, p < .001) and relationships (t (85) = 3.46, p