Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

Karen Sumner

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to better understand how students make meaning of their freshman transition year and to assist school personnel in the school to develop effective strategies to help students transition more successfully into the ninth grade. This study explored the self-efficacy theory as it relates to ninth-grade students’ transition experiences in their freshman year of high school and adapted an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis stance as the theoretical framework from which the issue of the ninth-grade transition was explored. Few studies have used a phenomenological approach to examine the freshman transition experience and even fewer studies have used an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis approach to study this topic. This study attempted to address this gap in the literature.

Using an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis approach, 13 ninth-grade students were asked in the second semester of their ninth-grade year to journal and participate in a 30- to 40-minute interview session about their high school transition experience. To further ascertain how students experienced their ninth-grade transitional year, they also submitted symbolic representations. The study data were analyzed using the steps outlined by Smith, Flowers, and Larkin (2009) which included reading and rereading the data several times, initial note taking, identifying emergent themes from the transcript and early notes, searching for connections across themes by organizing identified themes into those that cluster together and those at a higher level, moving to the next case, and then looking for patterns across cases.

Six themes emerged from the data that helped to explain how students make meaning of their transition experienced during their freshman year of high school: facilitators of successful transition, indicators of successful transition, transitional adjustments, barriers to successful transition, looking to the future, and high school readiness. Each student experienced his or her freshman transitional year in a personalized way, yet commonalities were found in these unique experiences.

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