14 SES 02 A, School-related Transitions - Secondary Education and Beyond
This proposal addresses characteristics of students’ school experiences as contextual conditions for their educational development and how they shape the learning motivation they perceive until the end of school.
Reflections of the "Capability Approach" (Sen 2009), which focuses on the skills of an individual and his or her conditions of realization, provide a theoretical basis for this contribution. In contrast to competence or rational choice approaches, the individual prerequisites, contextual circumstances, as well as one's own potential possibilities to make use of existing resources, are taken into account. For schools, however, this also means to concretely enable students in the best possible way, so that under the conditions and circumstances given and the aspect of a good life, they are offered opportunities to achieve their respective educational goals (Geppert 2017, p. 49). Studying educational transitions in this sense considers students as actors, since they are not asked if they have achieved a certain goal, such as a certain school leaving certificate or a certain test result, but whether independently set educational ideas can be realized with the support of the school.
The focus on school as the life world of young people and students emphasizes the importance of social relationships inside school. Results from empirical research show the importance of the peer group for the development of learning-related perceptions such as the academic self-concept (Marsh 2005) or the motivation to learn (Anderman and Midgley 1997; Raufelder et al. 2013; Wölfer and Cortina 2014). On the other hand, the social dynamics in a class network for well-being are emphasized (Eder 2007; König, Wagner &Valtin 2011; Hascher &Edlinger 2009). As "Significant Others" in the sense of the role theory of Mead (1967), classmates form a reference group set by the school that can affect students’ perceptions, feelings and the cognitive processing of demands.
Educational studies from German-speaking countries (Ditton 2007a; Eder & Haider 2012; Fend, Berger & Grob 2009; Klieme &Steinert 2008; Scharenberg et al. 2016) point to unequal starting conditions regarding social capital or extracurricular support opportunities for learning. Such transitions are usually accompanied by a series of personal and social changes and are usually associated with fears, joyful tension or challenges on the part of the students. It is not always possible to adapt to the associated, changed learning requirements, which is why school transitions are also regarded as "critical life events" (Filipp 1995) or ones of "context change" (Neuenschwander 2017). Transitions place numerous demands on students and require them to become familiar with a new learning environment.
It remains to be seen, whether students in secondary schools will also change their educational aspirations in the long term and maintain it in the future. In this context, it is interesting to see how the motivation and aspirations of the students and their goals, develop. This proposal explores whether the educational aspirations of students after lower secondary education are changing and to what extent, and the conditions that are recognized to be important. In concrete terms, the proposal addresses the questions:
• How do students’ reported school experiences and characteristics of self-cognitions (such as learning motivation, academic self-concept and educational aspirations) change before and at the end of upper secondary education? What continuous or discontinuous developments can be observed in this regard before and at the end of upper secondary education?
• What contextual conditions and past experiences can explain the current educational development in these areas (learning motivation, academic self-concept and educational aspirations) at the end of upper secondary education?
The proposal is based on the NOESIS follow-up study*, which, since 2018 in Austria, has been following the three student cohorts of the NOESIS study (4th to 9th grade) until the end of upper secondary level (12th grade). The study deals with the question of the school experiences students report on the transition to upper secondary level, and how sustainable the educational experiences at the lower-secondary level are for their further educational career, especially in the New Middle School (NMS). Survey data from three student cohorts from the 12th grade (2018, 2019, 2020) were combined with the existing data from the lower-secondary level. In order to be able to track former students, the surveys were successively extended to a wide range of upper-secondary schools. The online surveys carried out from 2015-2020 in different types of upper-secondary schools (college for higher vocational education, school for intermediate vocational education, where most of the students filled in questionnaires during lessons. Therefore, in the study, the experiences of students from 3 cohorts (1st cohort N= 4082, N= 3187, N= 2877; 2nd cohort N= 2453 N=1277 N=2453; 3rd cohort N=2271, N= 1723, N= 1573) were analysed. This extensive longitudinal investigation on the conditions for successful educational pathways enables evidence from the perspective of the students. Factors examined cover the social dimension of school and teaching (class climate, school well-being, relationship between students and teachers, class cohesion), as well as learning-related cognitions (academic self-concept in German and mathematics, learning motivation, learning and performance goal orientation, teaching experience), extracurricular experiences (joint activities with family and friends, extracurricular learning resources, tutoring, opportunities for learning support outside the school), but also the desired educational goals of the students in the sense of their educational aspiration. The panel models and multilevel analyses carried out with the survey data of the three student cohorts are used to identify components for successful school transitions and educational processes. Additionally, students’ perspectives of their learning experiences in school give important insights for an identification of significant predictors relating to changes in students’ motivation to learn, but also in their educational aspirations. *Supported by funds of the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank, Anniversary Fund, project number: 17706)
The analyses show that the influence of the so-called "soft outcomes" (relationships between students and teachers, class climate and well-being of the students) is important for a positive development of learning motivation up to the 12th grade and thus lays the foundation for further steps towards a successful educational career. It is therefore important not only to focus on factors that positively influence school performance, but also to take into account those factors students themselves experience as important for achieving their educational goals. If, in the spirit of a strong learning culture, a high degree of cohesion in the class is experienced in lower and upper secondary level, it is possible to maintain confidence in one's own performance and to build trust with classmates and teachers. As results of the study show, this experience contributes to the follow-up of the previous learning experiences in lower-secondary education to develop a positive attitude towards education, learning and schooling, and consequently to students realizing their own educational goals. The results are a positive signal in terms of what schools can do to increase students' chances of achieving their self-imposed educational goals. International school effectiveness studies (e.g. Scheerens & Bosker 1997; Ditton & Krüsken, 2006; Maaz, Watermann & Baumert 2007) repeatedly conclude that the family background of students is the strongest predictor for performance development and educational progression. In contrast to the conditions that have a significant influence on students’ educational careers but cannot be changed by teachers (migration status, gender or poverty), work on school culture, well-being, class climate and on the relationship with students gains high importance. As indicators for the “cultivation” function of schooling (Hopmann 2013) they seem to be more promising focusing onfor students’ longterm educational pathways.
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