14 SES 08 B, School-related Transitions: Voices from parents, teachers and students
This presentation focuses on a small-scale project aimed at deepening the understanding of what specializes in pedagogical work in connection with children's transitions from one school form or stage to the next. Information was gathered through qualitative interviews with special needs educators. The periods in question included the transitions children face on their way from preschool to upper secondary school in a Swedish municipality.
Through extensive research findings, it has been noted that educational transitions between school forms and levels are important for children’s well-being and learning. An educational transition entails a move, for example, from one school to another, and should be understood as a process that only ends when you have established yourself in the new culture (Dunlop, 2007). According to Rogoff (2003), a transition can refer to an individual event but can also be understood in a wider sociocultural perspective. For children and students who in some respects are more vulnerable than others, pedagogical transitions can be particularly stressful (Garpelin, 2004; Sandberg, 2017). Another aspect is that a smooth transition can lead to continuity in student learning processes. Research shows that it is very important how the delivery and receiving teachers interact and create arenas for a common understanding of the educational content (Karila & Rantavuori, 2014; Peters, 2010; Sandberg, 2015). This implies the need for in-depth knowledge of the meaning of pedagogical transitions between and in different levels of school, but also with a focus on the different children who may be in danger of negative development.
Something that has been found in research is that special educators in several ways have a key role in transitions within and between schools. They are often responsible for collecting and transmitting information between handover and receiving teachers and for carrying out mapping of the children's level of knowledge before and after a transition. They can also act as what Bronfenbrenner (1979) termed "link persons", that is, they exist and work among the children both before and after a transition.
Within the research group Pedagogies of Educational Transitions (POET) at Mälardalen University, a research project has been conducted over the last five years (Garpelin, 2011). It primarily concerns early pedagogical transitions between preschool, preschool-class and school and has addressed various aspects of these transitions, including special needs education. Based on this project and in international cooperation on early pedagogical transitions, it seems particularly important to deepen the knowledge of pedagogical transitions to also include older students as well as what characterizes special educational work in connection with pedagogical transitions and the critical events that may be relevant.
The empirical material in this small-scaled study is based on qualitative interviews with the nine special needs educators working in a small municipality in Sweden at different schools and stages: Primary school, Lower Secondary School, and Upper Secondary School. Their work includes a special responsibility for one or more of the educational transitions children face on their learning journey through the school system. All of the participants involved in the study have relevant teacher training as well as training to become a special needs educator. The special needs educators were contacted by e-mail and informed about the aim of the study and the ethical guidelines for research (www.codex.vr.se), which have been carefully considered in the study. The qualitative interviews can be described as thematically open, that is, open in the sense that the researcher has always tried to develop the conversation, but at the same time followed a structure based on a number of previously determined subject areas or themes (Forsey, 2012; Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). The study south for the special needs educator’s perspective on what characterizes the special education work in connection with children's educational transitions from a school form or stage to another. The interviews took place in the teachers' workplaces. Each interview lasted between one hour and interviews were recorded in their entirety on an MP3 player. Those recordings were then transferred to computer files and made anonymous. Analysis of the interviews was done by using content analysis (Brown & Clarc, 2006). The theoretical framework used in the study is influenced by an ecological approach to children's learning and development (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2005; Hellblom-Thibblin, Sandberg & Garpelin, 2017)
The findings from the interviews with the nine special needs educators show that the pedagogical transitions may be critical for the children in need of special support. From what the special educators express, the transitions can be challenging in different ways, partly due to the age of the students. Regarding the transition between preschool and school, teachers have different forms of confidentiality, which sometimes is interpreted differently by teachers in the two school-forms. It can also be about different approaches to the value of transferring information. That is, if it is best for the child to come to school as a "blank slate" or with documented information about his or her time in preschool. Another example raised in the interviews is how schools change their expectations of students, from learning to read to reading to learn. This usually happens at the transition from grade 3 to grade 4. Apart from the fact that some children have a problem with reading from the beginning, a new group of students having problems appears. Another important factor that may be critical is relationships, especially between the student and the teacher. During the early school years, it is common for children to have a class teacher teaching most of the subjects. At the transition to the middle school or as late as lower secondary school, the arrangement changes from having one teacher to having several teachers in different subjects. For those who are vulnerable in some respects, this, according to the special educators in the study, can cause major stress.
Bronfenbrenner, Urie (1979). The Ecology of Human Development. Experiments by Nature and Design. London, England: Harvard University Press. Bronfenbrenner, Urie, & Morris, Pamela A. (2006). The Bioecological Model of Human Development. In R. M. Lerner & W. Damon (Eds.). Theoretical Models of Human Development. Vol. 1 of the Handbook of Child Psychology (5th ed.). (pp. 793-826). New York: Wiley. Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101 Dunlop, Aline-Wendy (2007). Bridging research, policy and practice. In A-W. Dunlop, & H. Fabian (Eds.). Informing transitions in the early years. Research, Pol-icy and Practice. (pp.151-168). Midenhead: McGraw-Hill/Open University Press. Forsey, M. (2012). Interviewing individuals. In S. Delamont. (Ed.) Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education. (pp. 364-376). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. Garpelin, Anders (2004). Accepted or Rejected in School. European Educational Research Journal 3(4), 729-742. Garpelin, A. (2011). Borderlands, Bridges and Rites of Passage – Understanding Children’s Learning Journeys from Preschool into School. Research Project funded by the Swedish Research Council. Stockholm: VR. Hellblom-Thibblin, T., Sandberg, G. & Garpelin, A. (2017). Obstacles and challenges in gaining knowledge for constructing inclusive educational practice – teachers’ perspectives. In N. Ballam, B. Perry & Garpelin, A. (Eds.). POET Pedagogies of Educational Transitions – European and Antipodean Research (pp. 47-62). Springer. Karila, K. & Rantavuori, L. (2014). Discourses at the boundary spaces: Developing a fluent transition from preschool to school. Early Years, 34(4), 377–391. Kvale, S., Brinkmann, S., & Torhell, S.-E. (2009). Den kvalitativa forskningsintervjun [The qualitative research interview]. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Peters, Sally (2010). Shifting the lens: Re-framing the view of learners and learning during the transition from early childhood education to school in New Zealand. In D. Jindal-Snape (Ed.) Educational transitions: Moving stories from around the world (pp. 68-84). New York: Routledge.Peters, 2010 Rogoff, Barbara. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. New York: Oxford University Press. Sandberg, G., Hellblom-Thibblin, T. & Garpelin, A. (2015). Teacher’s perspective on how to promote children’s learning in reading and writing. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 30(4), 505-517. Sandberg, G. (2017). Different Children's Perspectives on Their Learning Environment. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 32(2), 191-203. DOI 10.1080/08856257.2016.1216633
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