Turner, Lynda (2012) An ethnographic study of transition in to Higher Education for undergraduate psychology students. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

There is a paucity of literature in transition to H.E. which examines transition through the context in which students learn. Much of the transition research is under theorised and draws upon a student deficit discourse. However, in recent years there has been a shift in the transition literature to consider socio-cultural influences. Such understandings demand ethnographic data to fully explore the interaction of person, process and context. The research utilised the ethnographic method to investigate the experiences of first year undergraduate psychology students making the transition in to Higher Education. A socio cultural approach to teaching and learning was taken drawing upon the work of Vygotsky, Lave and Wenger and Bronfenbrenner to understand the practices which influence transition. The study explored and analysed the academic practices which construct the transition environment leading to a reflection on professional practice in planning undergraduate curricula. The data sources included observation, informal conversation, semi structured and focus group interviews and document analysis. Narrative and theoretical thematic analyses were undertaken. The analysis considers practices which enabled participation during transition and also practices which delayed or prevented successful engagement. The key findings indicate that the notion of independent learning in H.E. influenced transition and shaped the identities and participation of both students and academics. Both proximal and distal socio cultural influences were seen to shape participation in the community. A central recommendation is made to reconceptualise the foundation year as a transition year. This would involve critical reflection on practices at the institutional, departmental and individual level.

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