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Co-constructing the Transition to School

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1 Co-constructing the Transition to School
Dr Hilary Fabian

2 Aims To identify theories that inform transitions;
To link theory and practice to understand how successful transitions come about; To develop an understanding of the transition for parents; To identify themes that can frame transitions.

3 So what does the research say?
Long lasting and far reaching consequences (Margetts, 1999; 2002); A socially constructed time of accelerated developmental demands (Fabian & Dunlop, 2002); Much greater levels of independence, responsibility and self-regulation expected of children at school (Dockett & Perry, 2007); Social and emotional difficulties in first years can predict risks of educational and social problems for up to twelve years hence (Margetts, 2002).

4 What does transition involve?
Leaving the familiar behind (potential loss of assumed connections): Place – home / other environments; People – mum and dad, friends. Encountering the unknown: A change of identity; A different culture; A new place, people and rules.

5 Sociological and Psychological elements
Structures Processes Rituals Separation Psychological Belonging Feelings Attachment Identity

6 Challenges of transition for children:
Physical: Philosophical: Social: Environment Uniform Rules Food Being the smallest Structure of the day Unfamiliar activities Unfamiliar adults and PTRs – missing mum Unfamiliar children (and age ranges) Working in groups chosen by the carer Unfamiliar words or use of words

7 Challenges for Managers
Working with others to achieve continuity of learning; Developing transition activities that are helpful to learning and well-being; Helping children to construct their identity and develop resilience; Understanding the range of expectations and perspectives of stakeholders including the children’s perspectives.

8 Challenges for Families
Separation – providing support / security; Feelings of guilt; Trusting the setting; Concerns about health; Worrying about bullying; Children with particular needs; Access to, and communication with, the setting.

9 Enhancing the Transition process through:
Mediating any discontinuities; Supporting the development of resources for change. (Brooker, 2008)

10 What does successful transition look like?
“A child can be seen as successful in school when she or he: (a) develops positive attitudes and feelings about school and learning, (b) establishes supportive social ties with teachers and classmates, (c) feels comfortable and relatively happy in the classroom rather than anxious, lonely or upset, (d) is interested and motivated to learn and take part in classroom activities (participation, engagement), and (e) achieves and progresses academically each school year.” (Ladd, 2003 p.3)

11 What makes a good transition?
A sense of self-worth and a positive sense of identity; The presence of trusted and familiar adults; Friends and familiar peers; Understanding of rules and opportunities; A sense of control and purpose; An environment of opportunities. (Brooker, 2008)

12 What are the Important skills for a child to possess on transition to school?
Social skills Independence Concentration / Listening Language / Communication (O’Kane, 2009)

13 Theorists Theorists Van Gennep Bronfenbrenner Bruner Goleman
Lave and Wenger Bowlby Turner Gibson Elder Discipline / concepts Anthropological domain Rites of passage ‘Nested’ systems Socio-cultural cognition Enculturation Emotional literacy Communities of practice Experiential constructs Attachment ‘Threshold’ people Adaptation Life course theory

14 Fabian & Dunlop 2002, p151

15 Common Themes of Transitions to help structure the process:
Effective Communication Healthy Relationships Emotional well-being Belonging to a community Learning processes

16 Effective Communication
The right amount, level and timing of information (both given and received) and level of accessibility (both pre- and post-transfer), instils confidence, reduces stress and helps make learning accessible. This means: Involving all stakeholders working together; Providing a ‘road map’ of the transition process; Understanding the ‘language’ of the next stage; Each stakeholder sharing information and listening to one another; Knowing who to contact and how to access them; Revisiting aspects and continuing to provide information.

17 Theory Urie Bronfenbrenner: inclusion of the family in the communications network; the potential of settings is enhanced by the mode of communication prior to entry; the person and members of both settings involved are provided with relevant information and advice; valid information and advice relevant to one setting are made available to the other; Renate Niesel & Wilfried Griebel: co-construction; Jóhanna Einarsdóttir: asking what children want.

18 1. Healthy Relationships
Making a transition with a friend or making friends during a transition builds confidence and helps individuals to flourish in the new situation. This means: Knowing how to make friends; Providing opportunities to make friends e.g. group activities and team work; Learning to support one another; Cultural and social capital transfer; Parents having trust in the organisation.

19 Theory Bronfenbrenner / Elder: starting with significant others (friends); birth year defines cohort membership and subsequently the influence on life chances; Pianta: forming relationships; Bourdieu: cultural/social capital transfer; Bowlby / Ainsworth: attachment.

20 Making Friends Buddy programmes; Parent mentoring programmes;
Opportunities for new children to meet and play together before starting at the setting.

21 2. Emotional and physiological well-being
Emotional well-being during a transition can help develop children’s confidence and provide feelings of being in control, which in turn lead to continuing cognitive achievements. This means: Managing stress; Keeping physically healthy; Negotiating the ‘border-crossing’ to a zone that feels comfortable, i.e. ‘feeling suitable’ and being in control; Balance between the recognisable and the new; Being prepared for difference; Developing resilience; Parents’ emotional well-being.

22 Theory Goleman: Emotional intelligence;
Campbell-Clarke: border-crossing / transitional objects; Giddens / Jóhanna Einarsdóttir: agency Krovetz / Cefai: developing resilience ; Margetts / Kienig: practice that influences adjustment for individuals at risk.

23 3. Belonging to a community
A sense of belonging to the community is an important contributor to adjustment. Belonging gives greater confidence to ask questions, take the initiative and meet new expectations. This means: Familiarisation with the environment; Developing an identity of belonging to the setting; Sharing the values of the setting; Bringing own culture and identity; Cultural understanding and scaffolding. A sense of belonging to the community is an important contributor to adjustment. Belonging gives greater confidence to ask questions, take the initiative and meet new expectations. This means: Familiarisation with the environment; Developing an identity of belonging to the setting; Sharing the values of the setting; Bringing own culture and identity; Cultural understanding and scaffolding.

24 Theory Van Gennep / Turner: rites of passage;
Bernstein: Knowing the rules, rites of institution; Bruner: Cultural understanding and adaptive behaviour; Liz Brooker: Children’s rights and culture; Sue Dockett & Bob Perry: understanding the local culture (neighbourhood effect).

25 4. Learning processes For children this means:
Curriculum continuity and progress across phases of education can help with confidence. Effective transition programmes facilitate each child’s development as a capable learner. For children this means: Facing the challenge of learning at the next level, (knowing the what and how of learning; different teaching and learning styles); Coping with feeling de-skilled, managing time /getting organised to complete the work; Being assessed.

26 For staff this means: Acknowledging, and building on, knowledge already gained; Recognising family expertise; Focusing on children’s strengths and treating children as individuals; Supporting understanding of ways in which teaching and learning takes place.

27 Theory Galton: dip in learning during first year of secondary school;
Aline-Wendy Dunlop: curriculum continuity; Corsaro & Molinari: priming events; Lave & Wenger: situated learning; Sally Peters: competencies for transition journeys; Inge Johansson: understanding the differences in learning in daily horizontal transitions; Stig Broström: readiness and activities to bridge philosophical phases (frame play).

28 How can parents help their child?
What is best for getting on at school? Helping your child to talk How can children have a head start? Make your child look good What helps to keep children motivated? Praising your child when s/he has tried (it’s about effort rather than achievement) Robert Winston: 2005

29 Transition Framework: Fabian (based on Van Gennep: rites of passage)
emotional and social well-being  preliminal rites  liminal rites  postliminal rites  Induction familiarisation preparation Separation making sense linking ideas Incorporation acculturation identity  Values, attitudes and culture

30 Summary of effective transitions:
Having a named person, or a small team, to take responsibility for the process; Providing pre-entry visits for children and their parents that involve learning about learning at the setting as well as familiarisation with the environment and people; Having systems that allow for communication and interaction between family, pre-transfer settings and the setting, where information is both given and received; Being sensitive to the needs of individuals and particular groups; Flexible admission procedures; Starting with a friend and having systems in place to help children make friends; Having strategies to help children develop resilience to cope with change and to be active in making the transition work for them; Curriculum continuity across phases of education, that results from establishing prior learning that has taken place; Evaluating transitions from the perspective of all participants; Special training for staff working with those children who are new to the setting.

31 “It is as if the teacher had been presented with a small library of 30 brand new books all waiting to be opened with the reverence that brand new books deserve – anticipation about how each new plot will develop, how the characters will develop, will it be a thriller, a horror story, a family saga or a romance, and of course, will there be a happy ending?” (The First Day at School, Fay & Griffin, 2004, p.3).


33 Useful References Bourdieu, P. (1991) Language and symbolic power. Cambridge, Polity Press. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979) The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Bruner, J. S. (1996) The Culture of Education. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Brooker, L. (2002) Starting School: Young Children Learning Cultures. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press. Corsaro, W. A. and Molinari, L. (2000). Priming Events and Italian Children’s Transition from Preschool to elementary School: Representations and Action. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63, 1, Dunlop, A. W. (2003) Bridging Early Educational Transitions in Learning Through Children's Agency. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, Themed Monograph Series No.1. pp.  ISSN X Dunlop, A.W. and Fabian, H. (2007) Informing Transitions: Research, Policy and Practice. Berkshire: Open University Press/McGraw Hill. Fabian, H. (2002). Children Starting School. London, David Fulton Publishers. Fabian, H. and Dunlop, A.W. (Eds.) (2002) Transitions in the Early Years London: RoutledgeFalmer Publishers. Fabian, H. and Dunlop, A.W. (2005) ‘The Importance of Play in Transitions’ in J.R. Moyles (ed) The Excellence of Play 3rd Edition. Berkshire: Open University Press/McGraw Hill. Van Gennep, A. (1960). Rites of Passage. (Translation by Vizedom, M. B. and Caffee, G. L.). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

34 Correspondence Dr Hilary Fabian

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