Transition: Transformation or Trauma

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This paper, which is based on three empirical research studies, focuses on the transition between College and University, and its implications for both traditional and non- traditional students. It aims to increase our knowledge of the transition and the experiences of students in that transition, asserting that it is only with enhanced understanding that we can enable institutions to develop “orientation” or “induction” programmes that improve the experiences but also the outcomes for students.

Transition research identifies two major elements to the process: the “ formal’ and the “informal” aspects of the new institution and its culture. We suggest that there are two aspects to transitions to University. One involves neophyte students ‘switching’ to the unfamiliar arrangements and agendas of University education. Secondly, they need to find a “space” within the new informal cultures and “become a student”. The key concept here is ‘status passages’, which we use in exploring the concomitant transition from school to University and from adolescence to young adulthood.

Much research on the transition to Higher Education has considered the ‘social and emotional’ aspects of the experience and focussed on students’ characteristics, such as their coping strategies or the quality of their ‘resilience’. In contrast there has been far less attention paid to the impact of institutional arrangements and agendas, which confront students, or what we term “formal aspects”.

This paper will examine such arrangements in order to identify the significance and impact of the range of practices whereby Universities manage transition. As a team we are reluctant to underestimate the need for social and emotional support for students. Our argument here is that both the formal and the informal aspects need to be braided robustly together to produce the best outcomes from the process of transition.


Keywords: Transition, Transformation or Trauma, College to University Transition, Empirical Research, Practice Outcomes
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Lynda Measor

Reader in Applied Social Sciences, School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Brighton
Brighton, UK

Lynda Measor is a Reader in Applied Social Sciences at the University of Brighton, her research interests are in young people and she has completed research work on transition from Primary to Secondary School and published both academic and practice based material in this area.

Paula Wilcox

Principal Lecturer, Criminology
School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Brighton

Brighton, UK

Paula Wilcox is a principal lecturer in Criminology. She has pegagogic research interests in student experience of the transition to Higher Education and in th use of qualitative methods of research in this area and has published number articles in this field

Dr. Philip Frame

Director, Work Based Learning Programmes
Business School, Middlesex University

London, UK

Philip Frame is Director of Work Based Learning Programmes in the Business School at Middlesex University. His research interests and publications include work on induction schemes for students and student transition from College to University and the subsequent transition from University into working life.

Ref: L09P0230