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The transition process from kindergarten to primary school: a path towards risk reduction and resource potentiation of school age children


Background. 20 kindergarten schools and 21 primary schools of the cities of Genoa and La Spezia. Hassles and opportunities for the improvement of the efficacy of services to children, youth and multi-problematic families.

Transition represents a qualitative change of context coupled with psychological, relational, social and scholastic modifications (Rimm-Kaufman & Pianta, 2000). During the transition among scholastic cycles students receive from the school diversified requests that, sometimes, do not respect the individual needs (Ross et al., 1999). At the same time, the different school bodies, often do not agree with the type of competences and the level of performance children have to achieve and with the expectations teachers and school demand to them.

Accompanying children in the transition from infancy to primary school is a complex mission that interests various related figures and realities: community, family, teachers and the group of peers (Kraft-Sayre & Pianta, 2000). Literature (Brofenbrenner, 1986) recognizes how the development of an adequate transition plan can reduce individual critical and risky conditions, and improve the overall climate of the new scholastic context. However, in the Italian schools, this practice, related to the transition from infancy to primary school and the other school levels is not homogenously diffused.

The realization of a transition project needs: preparation of an agreement among the different several school levels, definition of the meeting modalities among the teachers of infancy and primary school, meetings between teachers and parents, visits of children to the new school and educational activities shared among children of various ages. Every institute has an individual style in facing the transition project and defines various levels of engagement and contact among the schools.

Purpose. Individuate, through a multi-trait multi-method approach, the possible effects of transition processes from kin-gardens to primary schools in the Italian context.

Methods. The data, in this study, are part of a longitudinal research lasted three years and regard about 300 children and families of the cities of Genoa and La Spezia. The action-research was carried out through some meetings with the school's managers participating to the project, with the teachers (4 meeting of specific formation), and with the parents. Structured questionnaires for children have been prepared and administered to them at school by the research staff during the school periods 2004-2005/2005-2006/2006-2007. Structured questionnaires for parents and teachers have been proposed at the same time. Instruments for Children are: School Liking and Avoidance Questionnaire (SLAQ- Ladd & Price, 1987); Pictorial scale of perceived competence and social acceptance (PSPS- Harter e Pike, 1984); Loneliness and Social Dissatisfaction Questionnaire for Young Children (LSDQ-Cassidy & Asher, 1992); Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test - Revised (Dunn & Dunn, 1981). For Parents and teachers: Colorado Child Temperament Inventory (CCTI- Buss & Plomin, 1984; Rowe & Plomin, 1977).

Findings. Results include evaluations related to the adjustment processes set up by children, teachers and parents and children's self-evaluation measurements. To carry out comparisons about problems caused by the transition. The research considers that some problems related to children self-perception and their relationships with peers, teachers and parents, introduce characteristics of continuity or discontinuity (amelioration/ deterioration) passing from infancy school to primary school. Moreover it analyses how a transition project facilitates or contrasts the adjustment process.

During transition children that declare to be unhappy to attend the school (SLAQ) increase (48,74%) with respect to kindergartens (5,49%) and decreases at the end of the first class of primary schools (11.70%). Regarding the feelings of loneliness (LSDQ), they live the transition with a great sense of isolation. Self perception (PSPS), which is a sensitive element of the comfort/discomfort conditions, points out some worsening in the main areas of evaluation of the instrument; in fact, substantially their positive perceptions of processes of autonomy, friendship relations and physical competences decrease; while the perception of their own cognitive competence increases, even if, from a linguistic point of view (PEABODY), there are elements of regression in a relevant number of subjects.

On the contrary, the significant figures (mothers, fathers and the two orders of school teachers) do not seem to perceive the importance of the transition and its effects. The overall impressions of the moment of transition (CCTI) parents and teachers have are related to a certain criticality but it does not assume the importance and the significance it has had for children. Adults seem mostly interested to their cognitive acquisition processes, and they do not find, if not in extreme cases, marks of their difficulty. Such marks mostly points the emotional sphere, the conditions of insecurity and the friendship relationships of pupils. That can be attributed to the differences in expectations adults have in comparison with the tasks of development of children when they are in the infancy school or when they are in the primary school.

Data reveal how the transition process is an extremely delicate phase in which both teachers and parents would have to be mostly involved and aware. The transition conditions regard the differences of structuring of the contexts but also the expectations adults have with respect of kids. They are extremely diversified and change with changing of the school order. It could be considered as a difficulty of adults to feel the emotional and relational perceptions of their children. It is necessary to formulate accurate transition plans. First, various orders of school teachers and parents would face, with more commitment, the perception and the representation they have of their infants. Second, it is necessary to put in evidence the situations of criticality connected to transitions. In fact, they have favourable outcomes when the educational system is in a position to support children; that does not happen when conflicts and contrasts exist between the school and family systems. Finally It is necessary to set up in a better detailed and analyzable way the plans in order to render them valuable, comparable and re-proposable.

Key references

Brofenbrenner, U. (1986). Ecologia dello sviluppo umano. Bologna: Il Mulino.

Kraft-Sayre, M. E., & Pianta, R. C. (2000). Enhancing the transition to kindergarten. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, National Center for Early Development & Learning.

Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., & Pianta, R. C. (2000). An ecological perspective on the transition to kindergarten: A theoretical framework to guide empirical research. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 21, 491-511.

Ross, S. E., Niebling, B. C., & Heckert, T. M. (1999). Sources of stress among college students. College Student Journal, 32, 312-317.

Contacts: Mara Manetti, Faculty of Formation Science, Science Anthropological Department, Psychological Section, Genoa University, Corso A. Podestà, 2, 16128 Genova, E-mail: manetti@nous.unige.it,Phone +39 010-20953718.

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