Turner, Lynda (2015) Identity and transition into Higher Education: an exploration of the synthesis between prior and emerging learner identities. In: EDULEARN15: 7th annual International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies, 6-8th July 2015, Barcelona, Spain. (Submitted)

The connection between identity and education has long been a focus for research enquiry. For example, attention has been given to school and adolescent identity formation and the ways in which students on vocational degree courses develop a professional identity. There is also a growing consensus that educational contexts influence identity formation, arguing that education must focus on the adaptive construction of identity by promoting students’ agency, confidence and questioning skills. Issues of identity become more salient at certain times in our lives than others. The current research is concerned with identity during transition to Higher Education. Identity is unsure in transition because students don’t know yet what to do or how to be in the new educational landscape. A large body of research on transition to Higher Education focuses primarily on ways to support the process, for example the induction procedure, institutional services or study skills support. Research frequently concludes that undergraduate students have difficulties with taking responsibility for their own studies and adapting to independent learning. The proliferation of transition research and interventions clearly demonstrates commitment to help students during the transition process across disciplines both in the UK and internationally. However, there is a need to understand the underpinning psychological mechanisms which separate successful and unsuccessful transition and whilst the existing research suggests concrete practices which influence it, the actual psychological process of entering HE remains obscure. The current paper aims to address this by considering academic practices and the synthesis between prior and emerging learner identities during transition.

The paper considers ethnographic data collected during undergraduate students’ transition to Higher Education. Drawing on Lave and Wenger’s (1991) Communities of Practice theory the research focuses on the psychological process of identity as a trajectory, considering how reconciliation and negotiation across and between communities influences transition. The aims were

To explore academic practices which construct the transition experience
To analyse those practices in terms of student identity and participation
To explore the psychological mechanisms which underpin transition

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