What Matters?: A Case Study of Primary School Teachers' Perspectives on Transition to School

What Matters?: A Case Study of Primary School Teachers' Perspectives on Transition to School

Aihua Hu (Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4435-8.ch010
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This chapter uses a case study to explore Chinese primary school teachers' perspectives on students' overall performance in their transition to primary school and what has been and can be done to make the transition experience better for all children. Open-ended questionnaires, documents, and interviews are the major data sources triangulated by observations, photos of the school environment, and displays of activities. Both quantitative and qualitative content analysis are utilized to analyze the collected data. Findings indicate that children's emotional, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and behavioral as well as preschool academic skills matter in transition. Learning habits and self-care abilities are especially identified as what most children lack and the important aspects they need to be equipped with. Besides individual skills, involvement and collaboration of the significant institutions, namely kindergartens, families, and their primary schools, are of great importance. While identifying good practices, the responding teachers also offer suggestions for improvement.
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Transition to formal schooling is seen as the first important transition in one’s life, which possibly influences many people’s future transition experiences. Research has confirmed that if children are prepared to learn when they enter formal schooling, they are more likely to succeed in school and in their future lives, e.g. greater academic motivation, fewer arrests and antisocial acts, better self-esteem and locus of control, better high school graduation rates, higher employment rates and better earnings, and then more positive quality of life outcomes (e.g. Peters, 2010).

Transition has attracted international researchers from a multitude of perspectives in the past decades aiming to provide some suggestions and solutions for successful transition. Primary school teachers are among the significant actors in children’s transition from pre-primary to primary school and they have first-hand knowledge and experience about this process. As a result, their perspectives on transition have been investigated. Some researchers (e.g. Cassidy, 2010) explore primary school teachers’ perceptions, attitudes, and expectations concerning transition. Some (e.g. Urbina-Garcia, 2014) explore teachers’ views on children’s problems in the transition period. Others (e.g. O’Kane & Hayes, 2006; Sahin, Sak & Tuncer, 2013; Urbina-Garcia & Kyriacou, 2018) explore both pre-primary and primary school teachers’ perceptions on readiness. Research has indicated that teachers’ awareness and knowledge about changes taking place in the transition period is important in terms of supporting and planning activities for children in transition (e.g. Wildenger & McIntyre, 2010), which provides the rationale to conduct this research.

According to Guo and Guo (2018), who conducted a literature review on transition from kindergarten to primary school, research in China focuses on existing problems and coping strategies, inspirations gained from other countries’ experiences, and planning and implementing transition strategies. Transition from kindergarten to primary school gained research attention as early as the early 1980s in Shanghai, focused on how kindergarten children prepared for early primary school (Zhao, 2017). However, little research was done to investigate primary school teachers’ perspectives on transition in China. Besides, most of the available findings on transitions are based on studies in English-speaking and Nordic countries (OECD, 2017, p264). This chapter aims to address the gap by exploring primary school teachers’ perspectives as the witnesses and actors of this transition process.

UNICEF (2012) defines transition as “children moving into and adjusting to a new learning environment, families learning to work within a sociocultural system (i.e. education), and schools making provisions for admitting new children into the system” (p.8). In this definition, the important roles of families and schools as important actors in children’s transition to school are mentioned. This is in line with Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model which stresses the importance of situating the study of children in multiple environments. Based on the previous research and this definition, this study aims to explore primary school teachers’ perspectives on transition from three angles: their overall perspectives on children’s transition; practices, especially good practices of their school; and suggestions to major stakeholders to support children’s transition.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Home Visit: Means that primary school teachers pay visits to children’s home to get to know individual children personally, exchange information with parents, and answer questions raised by the parents and children in the summer before the semester starts in Chinese context.

Life Habit: Is related to self-care, especially in terms of taking care of their stationery, keeping the classroom clean, and cleaning their own mess.

Self-Regulation: Means children’s ability to control their emotions and behaviors.

Buddy Project: Is a project where 4 th graders are asked to be the buddies of 1 st graders to help them get used to school life in primary school settings in China.

Starting-From-Zero Policy: Means no academic teaching learning should be conducted at Chinese kindergartens and primary school should teach from scratch assuming children have no prior academic knowledge.

Self-Care: Means students’ ability to take care of themselves, for example, eating by him/herself, going to the toilet and cleaning him/herself afterwards, taking care of their paperwork, putting things into their schoolbag in an orderly way and taking home what needs to be taken back.

Learning Habit: Refers to children’s learning behaviors including how to listen to teachers, raising hands before speaking up, sitting straight at desks, preparing books, exercise books, and necessary stationery for the coming lesson during the break, and finishing homework assignments and bringing them to school for submission, etc.

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