Social and Academic Experiences for Transitioning Students

This chapter discusses the findings resulting from analysis of the qualitative data generated by the structured student interviews. Multiple themes were identified in the student responses to the structured interview questions they were prompted with. One set of themes dealt with more logistical and tactical coping in the transition to the new academic environment while others could be thought of as more of social and emotional coping to the changes. The themes identified were:

Social Integration/Friendship

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Orientation to Classes & Facilities (Physical/Logistical)

Academic Integration (New Curriculum)

Role of Teachers through the Transition

This chapter will provide an overview of the research methods and procedures that were used to collect the data. It will also provide a discussion of the themes identified as well as provide examples of some of the students’ responses that were interpreted to fall within the theme categories identified. The identification of the themes that emerged and the coding of the data can be potentially valuable to future research or to provide practitioners insights into many of the specific concerns and challenges individual students may face when transitioning into a new academic system.


Eight student interviews were conducted and, following the guidelines of Braun and Clarke (2008), and thematic coding was conducted covering the entire data set. The eight participants were each identified by an assigned letter A-H. Each participant’s interview was transcribed verbatim into MSWord, including utterances that did not convey meaning (e.g., um, and uh). X overarching themes which responded to the research questions guiding the study were generated from the themes and sub-themes identified from the data extracts (see Tables x, y, and z). Comment by penny w: Hopefully the reference to tables answers your question … you will need to correct the exact table numbers. I have re-jigged this section to enhance its logic … do you agree? Comment by penny w: Watch tense consistency. Comment by penny w: I think you could say how many primary themes you found.

The epistemological grounding for the current study conforms to a pragmatic model. It is necessary to highlight that in using a qualitative approach that the relationship with the experience, language, and meaning associated with the participants’ responses is simple and unidirectional, and fosters simplified theorisation about their perspectives. An inductive or bottom up approach was used to organise the data and ensure that the themes were strongly linked to the data (Patton, 1990). Inductive thematic analysis is data-driven and does not reflect any analytic preconceptions that the researcher may hold, nor does it entail attempts to fit the data into a pre-existing coding frame (Braun & Clarke, 2008). Consistent with qualitative best practices that were identified in the work of Braun & Clarke (2008), emerging themes were identified at the semantic level, such that researcher accepted the explicit, surface-level meanings conveyed by the data and did not look for meaning that was beyond what was expressly said, written, or recorded. Comment by penny w: I suspect this whole section might go to the Method part … we’ll check … but here you should just stick to results in my view. Comment by Graeme Aitken: This reads like it should be referenced. Comment by penny w: Why not remove the word “yet”? Would it matter? Comment by Rajeev Sharma: GA: Not sure what this sentence means.PW: I agree … what does it mean? Maybe leave this out. I think you were in some way justifying the language you used to describe your themes … not necessary in my opinion.

Overarching Themes Comment by penny w: You will probably drop this heading and incorporate the following paragraph in your introduction. So, the four theme heading will be Level Two. I have started to make the corrections for these … check throughout.

The primary overarching themes discussed below are related to influences of social integration and forming friendships, the orientation to the new physical layout of classrooms and facilities, the ability of students to integrate into a new or different academic curriculum, and the role that the teaching staff can play throughout this process. Each of these four broad categories captures a wide majority of all the responses collected from students. Additionally, each of these factors is critical to the transition phase and the questions in the survey are related to these overarching themes in some way. Each question asked was broken down into the theme related to the question as well as any sub-themes that were present. Furthermore, to code the qualitative research, a table was compiled that summarised the total themes that were present in the interviews (see Appendix x). Comment by Rajeev Sharma: GA: We need to see how these themes were revealed through the use of examples. Comment by Graeme Aitken: This reads as if it wasn’t bottom up – that the thmese were somehow predetermined in the questions. It is also not surprising that the themes were related to the questions given that these were the prrompts for the discussion. Comment by penny w: Vague. I think you are better to say something about the factors contributing to a better understanding of the transitioning process for the students, and the themes emerging from data generated by the questions … otherwise it doesn’t make sense. Comment by penny w: Talk about generating themes. The themes emerge from the data … they do not by rights exist as answers if that makes sense.

Influences within the New Scholastic Environment on Social Integration

One of the main concerns that students expressed was the fear as to how other students would perceive them. Many of the students reported that fitting in or making new friends was of high concern to them and that they did not feel any sense of relief until they were able to accomplish this. Furthermore, these concerns were nearly universal. Such a concern serves as a testament to the role and importance of acceptance and belonging in an academic setting. Students spoke about social interactions with peers in the earliest days of their transition. For most transitioning students in this study, a feeling of belongingness and acceptance by individual new friends or by groups of new friends came within a few days to over several weeks. Comment by penny w: So how is this distinct from the social integration that you mention in the last theme?

My first day I was very, very nervous (chuckles) but I already had a few friends to come to, so it was easier than not knowing anyone at all. The second I got into my classes I got to sit with people who are still my friends now, and they made me feel really welcomed here.

Student A

I would say a bit stressful as I was like shy and I was put in a class with no one I had ever met before.

Student D

I’m from South Africa … so relating to the children was difficult at first, but as soon as I accepted that they will have a different opinion and a different view of the world, we got along.

Student F

As soon as I got to know student and her friends, I started to feel as though I fit in.

Student F

Like if you don’t have anyone you’ll just be, like by yourself all the time and that. And then you’d like, slowly start becoming depressed because you don’t have any friends.

Student H

For some students, social confidence developed from daily contact with other students, and they gradually eased into a circle of friends or developed singular friendships with other students.

The first few weeks, I just stood there or sat there, and just kind of got used to their personalities, got to know them, because I’m used to a smaller group of friends and she’s got like 11 of them. So it was quite intimidating but as soon as I kind of got over my fear of these strange new people, and started engaging in conversation and getting to know them, I started talking and joking. It didn’t feel awkward anymore. I felt as if I belonged.

Student F

Most of the kids were inviting and ok with me being there … I just you know wasn’t hanging out with anyone … of course at the start, I sort of worried about oh what are these kids going to think … I am not one to talk to a lot of random people … So I ended up just sitting by the tree down the field by the tree and some nice person walked up and asked where my friends were, but I said I didn’t have any.

Student B

Well, I’m into my music, and I joined music last year. It was really fun, Um, and me and student name, my friend, we — well, this last term we entered the talent quest and came in second.

Student E

Students quickly recognised their differences in appearances set them…


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