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"All the Stuff" is Different: A Mixed Method Study of Continuity and Discontinuity During the Transition to School in New Zealand

Abstract
This study investigated multiple perspectives on continuity and discontinuity during the transition to school in New Zealand. The transition to school has been identified as an important time in the life of a child which has the potential to impact social, emotional, and academic outcomes. Starting school involves a shift into a new environment where change must be navigated. Earlier studies have investigated the discontinuities between prior-to-school and school contexts, and it has been suggested that increasing continuity is a way to ease the transition experience. However, policies and practices change over time, therefore the continuities and discontinuities children experience when starting school may differ from those experienced in previous time periods. This research sought to explore the continuities and discontinuities children experience on transitioning into play-based new entrant classrooms in New Zealand, identify which may be significant, and investigate practices teachers use to support transitioning children. The study adopted a social constructionist framework and used a sequential, explanatory, mixed method research design. Phase one consisted of an online survey of early childhood and new entrant teachers which collected both qualitative and quantitative data. Preliminary statistical and thematic analysis of this data informed planning for the second phase of the study which involved case studies in three schools. Each case study included the perspectives of parents, children, and new entrant teachers. Parent perspectives were gathered through questionnaires and teachers’ views through interviews. Child perspectives were elicited through paired child led tours and photographs taken by children. Data from case studies were analysed thematically. Findings from both phases were used to inform the answers to the research questions and the discussion of how the research objectives were met. Findings revealed three key themes relating to the continuities and discontinuities children in this study experienced on transitioning into the play-based new entrant classrooms. These themes were: people and relationships, teaching and learning, and expectations, structure, and environment. Each of these aspects of continuity and discontinuity interacted with and influenced the others, highlighting the importance of paying attention to all three aspects when considering how best to support transitioning children. Data revealed that there were differences between the perspectives of participant groups, particularly between the views of teachers and children. This may mean that teachers are not aware of what matters most for children during this time of change and may not put in place strategies that address these aspects of continuity and discontinuity. The study also identified a range of influences on teacher practices which impacted on what happened in the classroom. These included factors in the wider school and national environment such as intake policies and expectations for showing children’s progress against standards. It was found that while teachers espoused a belief that schools should be ready for children, they held underlying beliefs about child readiness which influenced both their practice and the reasons for their practice. The study highlights the importance of new entrant teachers knowing about each child and of teachers in each sector having relationships with and knowledge of the other sector. Teachers can then understand how to prepare children for the changes they will experience when transitioning and plan induction programmes which are relevant and purposeful.
Type
Thesis
Type of thesis
Series
Citation
Date
2024
Publisher
The University of Waikato
Rights
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