Learning transition; purpose, processes and promises

Initiation rites are performed in many societies of the world to mark the passing from one phase of life unto another. Whilst they vary in their purposes, processes and activities, the central objective is the celebration of the end of one phase of life and transition into a new phase. Initiation rites thus acknowledge maturity, development, transformation and change as an ongoing process. Such transition provides the link between discontinuity and continuity, ending and new beginning, the past and the future following prescribed social rules, norms, and conventions. The occasion provides the individuals involved with the necessary instructions, support and guidance to discover and fulfil their personal ambitions and to live purposeful lives.

The rite of adulthood is perhaps the most important of the many sets of initiation rites. In western culture the status of adulthood is characterised by the 18th birthday which is the age at which most young people make the transition from secondary school or college into Higher Education. The event is marked by matriculation ceremonies in some institutions to both welcome and induct new learners into their respective HE community.

Academic discourse on learning transition (from FE to HE) has been the focus of much writing aimed at addressing concerns of learners in terms of adjusting into their new learning environment. Issues which have engaged the attention of most writers include, but are not limited to the factors influencing student retention, the impact of socio-cultural backgrounds on learner transition, student expectation of HE learning environments, information behavior of students preparing for transition, and type of support provided by institutions to help students make successful transition.

The question to be asked is, with the increasing move by most higher educational institutions to “online learning” and “learning across locations”, what new challenges will learner transitions bring and how do we reconceptualise learning support to make learning transition both meaningful and engaging? The IMPALA4T project provides a lot of food for thought.

Samuel Nikoi (12 May 2009)

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