Ecclestone, Kathryn, Biesta, Gert, Colley, Helen and Hughes, Martin (2005) Political, Practical and Academic Assumptions About Transitions. In: ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme Annual Conference, 28th - 30th November 2005, Warwick, UK. (Unpublished)

Transitions are crucial to success and difference in educational outcomes and the TLRP and other areas of research reveal their complexity and significance in different contexts. Yet we know little about common or distinctive features in points of change and progression, or their effect on peoples’ capacity to act autonomously in different types of transition. Nor do we understand whether structural conditions (such as class, gender, race, employment and education, social and economic factors), people’s capacity for agency and the shaping of their personal and learning identities are more salient in some transitions than others.
The seminar series aims to:
• conceptualise transitions by identifying common and distinctive features and relating these to people’s ability to exercise agency, the formation of their educational, occupational and personal identities in ‘learning careers’, and to structural conditions
• evaluate critically the ways in which policy initiatives, practitioners and researchers depict transitions for different groups
• evaluate critically conceptual models and methodological approaches used to explore transitions in different areas of research
• evaluate critically how empirical evidence from TLRP projects and other research illuminates the connections between identity, agency, structure in different transitions
• identify practical, political and theoretical implications for different audiences
Work in the series so far shows that many formal transitions have strong normative assumptions and policy makers and professionals and other mediators of learning (such as parents, employers, careers and personal advisers, peers etc) depict transitions in particular ways. Underlying these depictions is a growing assumption that transitions are inherently risky and problematic and that they need better identification and more effective management by individuals and education and welfare agencies.
This paper evaluates these depictions and assumptions in relation to some key transitions in the education and training system. It raises questions about the most useful and important areas for further work in the seminar series.

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