Learner experiences of transition from the general education

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The United Kingdom (UK)

Progression and continuity are cornerstones of the curriculum, according to Braund and Hames (2005). They noted that one of the most significant changes in the curriculum since the introduction of the National Curriculum in England and Wales in 1989 had been the rapid development of science in the primary school. The implications of such a development for continuity and progression throughout age 5 – 16 (Years 1 to 12) schooling in science and especially at the primary-secondary interface (Years 6 and 7) were recognised in a very influential government policy statement in the run up to the introduction of the National Curriculum (Braund & Hames, 2005):
The development of science in primary schools imposes an added responsibility on the schools to which the pupils transfer: they have to ensure, if the goal of making science from 5 to 16 a continuum is to be realised, that pupils’ early start is neither ignored nor undervalued but rather reinforced and exploited in their subsequent work. Suitable arrangements for ensuring continuity and progression are therefore essential (Department of Education and Science/Welsh Office, 1985: 11, para 32). Braund and Hames (2005) noted that twenty years later and 15 years after the implementation of the National Curriculum, this goal had not been achieved. As many as forty-percent of the learners failed to make the progress in early secondary school predicted by their primary school performances. (Galton, Gray & Ruddock, 1999).
Some studies show that learners obtain lower scores when they are re-tested in secondary school using the same questions put to them previously in the primary school (Bunyan, 1998; Nicholls & Gardner, 1999). Braund and Hames (2005) offer two kinds of explanations for this decline and for the fact that it is worse for science:
• A new, larger and more challenging environment, new friendship groupings, more teachers and new rules all make demands on incoming learners.
• The ‘shock of the new’ for learners after transfer, in terms of changes in pedagogy, may have a much more significant and long-term impact on learners’ learning in science and on their attitude to the subject.
Literature on the transition over the primary-secondary interface suggest the following factors that are particularly important in relation to post-transfer regression and early decline in learners’ attitudes to school science:
• Learners may repeat work done at primary school, often without sufficient increase in challenge, sometimes in the same context and using similar procedures (Galton et al., 1999; House of Commons Committee, 1995; Secondary Science Curriculum Review, 1987).
• Teaching environments, styles of teaching and teachers’ language are often very different in secondary schools compared to primary schools. They represent a change in the culture of teaching and learning to which learners have difficulty adjusting (Hargreaves & Galton, 2002; Pointon, 2000).
• Teachers in secondary schools often fail to make use of or refer to learners’ previous science learning experiences. Information supplied by primary schools on their learners’ previous achievements is rarely used effectively to plan curriculum experiences in the secondary school (Braund, Crompton & Driver, 2003; Nicholls & Gardner, 1999; Schagen & Kerr, 1999; Doyle & Hetherington, 1998).
• Teachers in secondary schools do not trust the assessed levels of performance gained by learners in national examinations in science taken by learners at the end of primary school. Secondary school teachers often claim that these levels have been artificially inflated by intensive revision for these examinations (Schagen & Kerr, 1999; Bunyan, 1998). This may be used by secondary school teachers as justification for starting afresh when planning new learning (Nott & Wellington, 1999).


The United States of America (USA)

In the USA, researchers explored the reasons why transitions were difficult, the kind of learners that had the greatest difficulty with transition and the process of disengagement from school that too often followed unsuccessful transition. They focussed on the systemic transition from elementary to middle/junior high school and middle/junior high school to high school. Systemic here meant “systematically built into the typical structure of public school systems” (Rice, 1997, p. 1) School transitions interrupt the continuity of life (Anderson et al, 2000). As learners move from one school to another (e.g. from middle/junior high school to high school), they are confronted with:
• An increase in the physical size of the new institution and the number of learners (Roderick, 1993)
• Increased differentiation of the learner population in terms of racial, ethnic and class diversity (Roderick, 1993)
• A greater emphasis on relative ability and competition (Schumaker, 1998)
• A more detached relationship with teachers (Mizelle, 1995; Wells, 1996)
The negative impact of systemic transitions on self-esteem tends to be greater for girls than for boys (Crockett, Peterson, Graber, Schuleners & Ebata, 1989; Blyth, Simmons & Bush, 1978). This decline is exacerbated by other life changes, such as the onset of puberty and divorce of parents (Simmons & Blyth, 1987). Learners with behavioural problems in primary school tend to have more difficulty in making the transition to middle/junior high school (Anderson et al, 2000). This lack of academic preparedness is evidenced by low scores on tests (Roderick, 1993).
The failure to successfully negotiate systemic transitions may initiate the gradual disengagement process from school and promote conflict between the affected learners and the school (Roderick, 1993). This gradual disengagement process may even lead to dropping out of school as the final step (Finn, 1989).

Chapter One: Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 The General Education and Training band
1.3 The Further Education and Training band
1.4 Motivation for the study
1.5 Problem statement
1.6 Aims of the study
1.7 Organisation of the chapters
Chapter Two: Literature Review
2.1 Introduction
2.2 International studies
2.3 South African studies
2.4 Theoretical framework
2.5 Way forward
2.6 Chapter summary
Chapter Three: Research methodology
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Sample
3.3 Research design
3.4 Instruments and data collection
3.5 Data analysis
3.6 Validity and reliability
3.7 Triangulation
3.8 Ethical considerations
3.9 Chapter summary
Chapter Four: Results – Quantitative data
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The grade 11 examination
4.3 The Interest Questionnaire (IQNSFS)
4.4 The Nature of Science survey
4.5 The Diagnostic Test
4.6 Chapter summary
Chapter Five: Results – Qualitative data
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Documentation
5.3 Classroom observation
5.4 Interviews
5.5 Chapter summary
Chapter Six: Synthesis
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Triangulation of results
6.3 Research questions re-visited
6.4 Limitations to the study
6.5 Directions for further research, implications for science education and recommendations


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