14 SES 06 B, Perspectives, Choice and Transitions in Secondary Education
School transitions are often seen as critical events in students’ educational biographies, as they involve long-term and far-reaching decisions, which can be difficult to correct or compensate for later on the career path (Bleher, 2011; Ditton, 1992; Koch, 2008; Sirsch, 2000). As international research points out, students perceptions of a supportive learning environment and a collaborative social relationships in the form of peer networks during the transition can be an important resource for strengthening their aspirations and achievements (e.g. Geppert, Kilian & Katschnig, 2013; Ryan & Patrick, 2001; Schuchart, 2013; Smith et al., 2008; Walker, 2003). The afore-mentioned researchers observed this for the transition from Primary School to Secondary I, but also from Secondary I to Secondary II.
In Austria there is an abundance of further training opportunities at the transition from Secondary I to Secondary II (9th grade). The completion of the 9th grade, which at the same time includes the end of compulsory, schooling, can take place in polytechnic schools, vocational secondary schools, higher vocational secondary schools or academic secondary schools, which offer the possibility of attending university. However, various types of schools lead to different qualifications and possibilities for further education and careers, but also include different requirements.
As a new school type in Secondary I, the New Middle School (which was introduced in Austria in 2009 and replaced the old school type, the Lower Secondary School) through pedagogical innovations and a modern instruction, aims at increasing the educational aspirations of their students; it also aims at preparing students sufficiently well for the transition to all school types in Secondary II and to allow them to be successful in pursuing the educational pathways they choose. Hence, it seems of interest to examine if and how the New Middle School (NMS) succeeds and which long-term effects attendance has for students, but also the experiences students gain on finishing the NMS (Projektteam NOESIS, 2016).
This relates to how the transition to upper secondary education is experienced by students, and under which conditions it is perceived by especially former students of the NMS, in order to investigate whether the concept of this school type is capable for of satisfying the requirements of Secondary II.
As far as we know from current research, early school leaving is usually connected with student expectations of school, inadequate organization and climate at school, which are unable to satisfy the needs of these students (Lee & Burkam, 2003; Hillenbrand & Ricking, 2011). Also in this context, the importance of students’ school experiences becomes obvious.
The analysis of the experiences and perceptions of students in their first year in Secondary II highlights the problems students face during this transition and how they can be supported in this process. This research is not only relevant for the German-speaking context, where students after four years of Secondary I have to decide again which school to choose, but also for school transitions after the end of full-time compulsory schooling in other countries and the trend for maintaining a high level of students’ learning motivation and educational aspirations. The results of the paper indicate that the experience of the learning culture in the classroom and at school is a finding that is gaining in international importance (Scheerens & Bosker, 1997; Ditton, 2000; Trumbull & Rothstein-Fisch, 2011).
Bleher, W. (2011). Übergänge im Bildungssystem : biografisch - institutionell – thematisch. Baltmannsweiler : Schneider-Verl. Hohengehren. Geppert, C., Kilian, M. & Katschnig, T. (2013). „Es ist nicht alles Geld, was hilft“ – Die vielfältigen Ressourcen niederösterreichischer MittelschülerInnen. In Projektteam NOESIS (Ed.), Die vielen Wirklichkeiten der Neuen Mittelschule (p. 53-80). Graz: Leykam. Ditton, H. (1992): Ungleichheit und Mobilität durch Bildung. Theorie und empirische Ditton, H. (2000). Qualitätskontrolle und Qualitätssicherung in Schule und Unterricht. Ein Überblick zum Stand der empirischen Forschung. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 41 (Supplement), p.79-92. Hillenbrand, C. & Ricking, H. (2011). Schulabbruch: Ursachen - Entwicklung - Prävention. Ergebnisse US-amerikanischer und deutscher Forschungen. (Early school-leaving: causes - development - prevention - results of research carried out in the States and in Germany). Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 57(2), p.153-172. Koch, K. (2008): Von der Grundschule zur Sekundarstufe. In: Helsper, W. / Böhme, J. (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Schulforschung. 2. Auflage, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, p.577-592. Lee, V. & Burkam, D. (2003). Dropping out of high school: The role of school organization and structure American Educational Research Journal, Vol.40(2), p.353-393. Projektteam Noesis (Hrsg., 2016): „Was Schulen stark macht“. Zur Evaluation der Niederösterreichischen Mittelschule. Lit-Verlag. Ryan, A. & Patrick, H. (2001).The classroom social environment and changes in adolescents' motivation and engagement during middle school. American Educational Research Journal, Vol.38(2), p.437. Scheerens, J. & Bosker, R. (1997). The foundations of educational effectiveness. Oxford: Pergamon. Schuchart, C. (2013). School Social Capital and Secondary Education Plans. Educational Studies, 2013, Vol.39(1), p.29-42. Sirsch, U. (2000). Probleme beim Schulwechsel. Die subjektive Bedeutung des bevorstehenden Wechsels von der Grundschule in die weiterführende Schule. Münster: Waxmann. Smith, J. S.; Akos, P., Lim, S. & Wiley, S. (2008). Student and Stakeholder Perceptions of the Transition to High School. The High School Journal, 91 (3), p.32-42. Trumbull, E. & Rothstein-Fisch, C. (2011). The Intersection of Culture and Achievement Motivation. School Community Journal, 2011, Vol. 21(2), p.25-53. Walker, E. (2003).Urban High School Students' Academic Communities and Their Effects on Mathematics Success. American Educational Research Journal, Spring 2006, Vol.43(1), p.43-73.
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