Transitions Across Schools and Cultures: Volume 17


Table of contents

(15 chapters)

Transitions are woven into the fabric of students’ school experiences. They can range from changing classes during the day to changing grades or moving from one country to another during high school and beyond. All transitions can create challenges due to a combination of developmental, social, and curricular changes that occur when students shift from one education context to another. Most attention to date has focused on normative transitions: those from pre-kindergarten to elementary, middle, and high school, which may be followed by additional schooling or work. Early research, beginning with Simmons, Eccles, Midgley, and their colleagues, among others, focused on the transition from elementary to middle or junior high school, and included attempts to account for the decline in adaptive motivation that occurred with the transition. Among the explanations for the decline are that middle schools no longer “fit” students’ developmental stage and increased concerns about failure, interpersonal comparisons, and emphasis on evaluation.

Developmental science and school research identify children’s transition to kindergarten as a sensitive period with significant implications for formal school success. In this chapter, we present evidence that a successful transition to kindergarten requires more than ensuring that children have requisite competencies. Instead, we present an ecological model that conceptualizes smooth transitions from pre-kindergarten to kindergarten as a function of linkages between systems, such as connections between schools and families and between pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers and classrooms, especially those made prior to kindergarten entry. This chapter provides an overview of research on and best practices for effective pre-kindergarten to kindergarten transitions that support children’s development and school readiness. Evidence for the ecological framework supporting this critical transition is provided, including how transition and alignment practices are associated with optimal outcomes for children. Promising practices from the field that promote alignment between pre-kindergarten and kindergarten experiences are also addressed. Additionally, we present several case studies detailing the ways in which different localities have used empirically supported transition practices to support children’s early school success. Finally, we conclude with thoughts regarding future directions for transition and alignment work in early childhood.

School transitions have long been associated with drops in academic motivation. Literature is reviewed on both the transition from elementary school to middle school and the transition from middle school to high school, showing how changes in school context, combined with developmental changes in the child, may lead to either positive or negative changes in academic motivation. We summarize literature on school transitions for American youth in general as well as the limited literature on these transitions and their motivational consequences among African American youth. Contextual changes that occur with school transitions (e.g., race composition of schools and classrooms) co-occur with youths’ growing awareness of race, influencing the identity development and academic motivation of African American youth through several mechanisms. Three such mechanisms are discussed in detail. Race and gender academic stereotypes have the potential to shape youths’ self-perceptions, values, and goals. Racial discrimination occurs both at an institutional level (e.g., differences in school quality that place African American youth at a disadvantage) and at a personal level (e.g., a teacher’s failure to recommend a high-achieving Black child for an honors class). Racial identity can serve both as a protective factor and as a risk factor. Suggestions for future research include a closer study of specific aspects of school contexts that shape motivation, the role of families, ways in which school policies and pedagogical practices affect transition experiences, and the examination of ways in which school transitions are opportunities for fresh starts and positive change in African American youth.

It is predicted that by the year 2050, Latinos will make up approximately 30% of the U.S. population. Although the high school completion rate for Latinos has increased over the years, only 44% of these students transition into college. Latinos are faced with numerous obstacles as they try to navigate the college pipeline such as being more likely to attend high poverty secondary schools and have parents with little experience with college education. Despite these challenges, many Latino students continue to be academically successful. From 2009 to 2010, there was a 24% growth in Hispanic enrollment, a higher increase than any other ethnic group. It is important to note that much of this enrollment growth has been at community colleges with 46% of Latino students matriculating to two-year institutions. Latinos are still the least likely to complete a bachelor’s degree. While nearly 39% of white 25- to 29-year-olds completed a four-year degree in 2010, only 13% of Latinos did the same. Thus, it is important to identify factors that may influence the high school to college transition for Latino youth, as well as factors that impact college completion. This chapter explores these issues as a function of the academic and family culture that support the development of achievement in Latino youth. We highlight the important differences in those that matriculate to community college and those to four-year colleges.

The transition from comprehensive school to either an academic or a vocational track and from academic track to tertiary education are the key educational transitions during adolescence and young adulthood in many European educational systems. The present chapter approaches engagement and disengagement during these key educational transitions in the context of the 4-C (channelling, choice, co-regulation, compensation) life-span model of motivation and phase-adequate engagement model. In accordance with the life-span model of motivation and the phase-adequate engagement model, school transitions are triggers that channel the engagement and disengagement processes. The former process reflects school-related engagement, whereas disengagement is a key element of the school-burnout process. Engagement in the school context is defined as a positive, fulfilling work-related state of mind characterized by vigor and energy, dedication, and absorption. School burnout comprises three dimensions in terms of exhaustion due to school demands: a cynical and detached attitude toward the school, feelings of inadequacy as a student, and disengagement. Cynicism is manifest in an indifferent or distal attitude toward school work in general, a loss of interest in it, and not seeing it as meaningful. Inadequacy refers to a diminished sense of competence, achievement, and accomplishment as a student.

Few studies in K-12 education have investigated the impact of changing schools during the academic year, or within-year transitions, on student motivation and achievement. Yet, many students face this type of transition, including children from low-income families living in urban areas, students from migrant worker and military families, and students with chronic behavioral problems. The evidence that does exist suggests that when students move between schools during the academic year, they may struggle with academic learning, behavior in school, and social interactions. This chapter approaches within-year academic transitions as a developmental context for student motivation. Drawing upon general systems theories and a specific theory of motivational development, the within-year transition is presented as an environmental demand that may lead to changes in student motivation and shifts in classroom actions, such as engagement. Continuity of subject learning and the formation of relationships are discussed as two challenges to student adjustment over the transition period. Student social and personal resources during the transition period are important factors in determining how a student adapts to a new school in the face of these challenges. Several methodological hurdles and possible approaches to conducting research in this area are discussed, as well as topics in need of additional research in this empirically overlooked area. The chapter concludes with suggestions drawn from the research literature as to how districts, schools, and classroom teachers can help support students transitioning between schools within the academic year.

This chapter examines immigrant adolescents’ personal vulnerabilities and strengths that combine in complex ways with environmental adversities and affordances to determine their post-immigration developmental pathways. The challenges associated with immigrant adolescents’ transition to a U.S. school are examined within the framework of risk-protective additive, challenge and susceptibility, and the risk-protective interactive models. This transition is much more than a change of schools. It involves several transitions: (a) the cultural, relational, and physical context the adolescent leaves behind; (b) the circumstances of exit from the home country and of entry into the host country including voluntary and involuntary immigration; (c) the reception accorded to the immigrant adolescent’s family upon immigration; (d) the first place of settlement after immigration; and (e) entry into a new school with a new set of peers, teachers, behavioral norms, and school rules and expectations. The chapter addresses the various forms of immigrant adolescents’ acculturation upon relocation to the United States. These include the role of immigrant group’s social distance from mainstream society, downward assimilation, and selective acculturation. Special emphasis is placed on the relationship between immigrant adolescents’ identity negotiations, their need to belong in the new context, and the acculturation patterns they manifest. While acknowledging the importance of family resources pre- and post-immigration and the role of community resources in the United States that may ease this transition, the crucial role of schools in creating respectful, culturally responsive spaces that foster inclusion, engagement, and learning for immigrant adolescents’ successful adjustment in the new context is highlighted.

Cross-border student mobility represents a critical educational transition, especially for those students who choose to pursue a degree abroad as opposed to a short-term stay, and implies a complex adaptation process with regard to academic, sociocultural, and psychological factors. As a consequence of growing demand for international education and availability of resources and policies that encourage cross-border mobility, the number of international students worldwide is increasing continuously. Yet, little is known about the factors that motivate students to study abroad, and especially why some students choose to go whereas others to stay, given similar opportunities to study abroad. Accordingly, the purpose of the present chapter is to synthesize existing research on the decision-making process to study abroad, to outline important distinctions in types of student mobility and associated motivational implications, and to outline ways in which motivation theory can contribute to a better understanding of this process. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how motivation theories can help to address some of the open questions identified in prior research and thus contribute to a better understanding of the decision-making process to study in a foreign country.

The international student population is steadily increasing. However, we know little about what happens to their academic motivation as they transit from their home culture into a new host culture. This gap in knowledge needs to be addressed given that motivation is a key driver of academic success. The aim of this chapter is to examine factors that can influence international students' academic motivation during and after transition. Three broad theoretical frameworks drawn from the acculturation literature – culture learning theory, stress and coping theory, and social identification theory – are proffered to help understand the impact of the transition on student motivation. It seems inevitable that student motivation will generally decline during the early phases of the transition. This may be due to the differences in sociocultural norms between the home and host culture, the variety of stressors that international students face, and the potential impact of stereotyping and discrimination. However, the extent and duration of this decline could be moderated by a variety of personal (e.g., language proficiency, personality, acculturation strategies, reasons for going abroad) and contextual (e.g., cultural distance, social support) factors. Examples of intervention programs that can buffer against motivational decline are given. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

This chapter provides a critical analysis of the literature on individuals in cultural transitions in higher education, namely, international students in culturally unfamiliar contexts; teachers of international students and culturally more diverse classrooms; and local students in increasingly culturally diverse classes. All these individuals are actors exposed to new and shifting cultural experiences expected to impact their motivation and engagement. Two broad perspectives emerging from the literature were used to organize the chapter: a perspective of adaptation representing research grounded in unilateral, bilateral or reciprocal conceptualizations, and a perspective of transformation, capturing experiential learning research leading to personal and academic development. The analysis highlights how motivation is a critical, yet under-examined construct. This leads to numerous suggestions for future research including: addressing the neglected role of agency in research on international students' sociocultural adaptation and the lack of research on successful processes of adaptation; examining the confounding issue of socialization into new cultural-educational environments and level of proficiency in the medium of instruction, which impacts on engagement; and scrutinizing the posited link between deep-level motivated engagement in cultural transitions and the emergence of transformative experiences. A case is made for research on individuals' engagement and motivation in cultural transitions to be conceptually and methodologically stronger and broader, moving from studies of single groups of individuals in need of adaptation, to investigations of the co-regulated, reciprocal adaptations of actors and agents operating in complex sociocultural contexts where power dynamics related to knowledge and language affect participation and engagement with cultural 'others'.

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Advances in Motivation and Achievement
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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