14 SES 09 A, Navigating Educational Journeys: School Transitions in New Zealand, Scotland and Sweden
This paper draws on a three-year study of children in New Zealand as they moved from early childhood education to the first years of school. The project explored ways of understanding and enhancing children’s learning journeys and in the process it also became a study of cross-cultural understandings and collaborations. The study aimed to investigate ways to address inequities in learning and enhance transition experiences by seeking the views groups who were under represented in a review of existing research (Peters, 2010). We focused on including participants from groups for whom the Ministry of Education was most interested in enhancing transitions. These included children and families who identify as Māori (indigenous people of New Zealand) and those who have English as an additional language. Bronfenbrenner and Morris’ (1997) model offered a frame for considering how an individual’s dispositions, resources and demand characteristics interact with features of environment that inhibit, permit or invite engagement, and the wider systems that influence this. Also, Rogoff’s (2003) description of development as a process of “people’s changing participation in the sociocultural activities of their communities” (p. 52), offered a lens to view the transformation of participation that may be required at a transition point. Case studies were undertaken, following the children for up to two years. Understanding the learning journeys over time was important because current definitions of transition “consider long-term trajectories rather than focusing solely on initial adjustments” (Petriwskyj, Thorpe, & Tayler, 2005, p. 66). Data gathering was shaped by the interpretive approach and followed Graue and Walsh’s (1998) description of gathering rich data from many sources. This paper draws mostly on the children’s data to consider their voices and experiences. The first rounds of analysis suggested that surprisingly little had changed since one of the author’s earlier research projects (Peters, 2004). Children were still navigating a difference in the kinds of learning that were expected and valued in ECE and at school, and at the same time struggling with aspects of school that impacted on their learning, such as difficulties in making friends. As the study progressed teachers worked hard to establish cross-sector support for children’s educational journeys. Although there was much good will on both parts there were initial tensions as teachers sought to clarify their own and the other sector’s views about learning, as well as deepening cultural understandings, in order to be effective co-navigators on the journey.
Bronfenbrenner, U. & Morris, P. A. (1997). The ecology of developmental processes. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.) Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (5th ed., pp. 993-1029). New York: John Wiley. Peters, S. (2004). “Crossing the border”: An interpretive study of children making the transition to school. Unpublished PhD thesis. The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Peters, S. (2010). Literature review: Transition from early childhood education to school. Report commissioned by the Ministry of Education. Wellington: Ministry of Education. Petriwskyj, A., Thorpe, K., & Tayler, C. (2005). Trends in construction of transition to school in three western regions, 1990–2004. International Journal of Early Years Education, 13(1), 55–69. Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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