A phenomenological study of the experience of transition into the sixth form in a rural upper school
This exploratory study considered the experience of students in a rural upper school as they moved into the sixth form. In the literature surrounding transition and transfer there is little written in relation to this stage in students’ academic lives. Studies that have investigated transition and transfer have tended to focus on the move from primary school to secondary school, or from school to university and the associated academic and social challenges. Understanding the experience of transition into the sixth form is particularly relevant to school practice at the moment as we have moved to a position where all students have to remain in some form of education until the age of 18. As a result, sixth form providers are no longer working with only the most able students, but increasingly diverse cohorts.
In order to develop a holistic understating of student experience, interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to identify and understand themes associated with moving into the sixth form. Ten students participated in the research, and their narratives provided insight into the experience of transition that was rich and detailed. From their accounts it was possible to identify six shared themes which resonated across the group. These included teachers expecting students to take greater control of their own learning, coping with an increased workload, being able to self-regulate, developing new strategies to cope with the workload, enjoying increased teacher support and feeling more self-efficacious.
Based on the experiences of the students, several recommendations were made that could be considered in order to inform practice. Some examples of these included continuing the existing induction support offered to students, providing opportunities for current sixth form students to discuss and share their experiences with younger students, more rigorous support and guidance associated with subject choice and the development of self-regulated learning strategies in earlier years.