Primary-secondary transition : coping in a new school environment

  • Veronica Sen

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    The aim of the Field Study described in this Report was to examine the nature of primary-secondary transition as perceived by students themselves. Twelve students from four A.C.T. primary schools were interviewed prior to their entry to one or other of two high schools, and subsequent interviews were conducted at intervals during the students' first six months in high school. Further information was obtained from interviews with their parents and from formal and informal assessments made by their primary and secondary teachers. To place the trends revealed in the interviews in a wider context, surveys were administered at the beginning and end of the six months' period to all Year 7 students in both high schools. A major emphasis of the Study was an investigation of how students cope with new tasks, social and academic, at a time when there is a potentially stressful conjunction of early adolescence and major educational transition. Such coping is conceptualised as the individual matching his resources against the demands made by a new situation. The initial appraisal by students of the new situation was a general perception of high school as either benign or threatening. The more differentiated, or secondary, appraisal was influenced by further information and experiences; and re-appraisal was characterised, after a further lapse of time, by either a reinforcement or reversal of original perceptions. It was found that upon moving to the more complex institutional setting of high school some students had difficulty in adjusting to a more formal organisation and a more demanding curriculum. The students' response to high school included such coping strategies as hostility, withdrawal or active striving to meet the challenge of a new school. Some students who showed a marked inability to cope with one or more of the tasks, social or academic, of high school were deemed to have experienced adaptive failure. A key factor in adjustment to high school, and one that was at least as important as academic achievement, was that of interpersonal relationships. Success in relating to both teachers and peers was found to be a crucial factor for students, whether bright or less bright, and it was found that students of limited academic achievement could find compensation if they perceived their "person environment" as benign.
    Date of Award1978
    Original languageEnglish

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