Conclusion: Developing conceptual understandings of transitions and policy implications

Paul Downes, Jim Anderson, Erna Nairz

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Transition requires a multidimensional, interdisciplinary approach for its re‐conceptualisation to bring to the fore systemic and power related concerns affecting marginalised and vulnerable groups. This concluding article examines the special issue articles through a range of perspectives. These include examining transitions through a hermeneutics of suspicion, as a mask to displace focus away from other issues of system blockages and failures, building on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory and Bourdieu’s symbolic violence and cultural capital. A distinctive focus on spatial systems as concentric relational spaces contrasted with fragmented, hierarchical diametric spatial systems is applied to transitions. This goes beyond conventional spatial assumptions of transition as a “bridge”. Temporal assumptions underpinning transitions are explored to challenge one directional approaches, while key issues of marginalised students’ and parents’ voices are highlighted. Intersectionality theory is invoked to examine the interplay between issues of social class, ethnicity, gender in the special issue articles. Building on the special issue articles’ qualitative and quantitative research findings, key policy conclusions for transitions are identified. These include the need to promote relational spaces, increase system capacity, develop flexible nonlinear pathways, address structural segregation issues, and recognise that formal equality principles are insufficient for a culturally responsive approach to transitions. These policy conclusions regarding transitions are relevant for the multiple educational domains explored, ranging from early childhood, primary, postprimary, through to access to university and the labour market. They go beyond typical transition policy responses of induction days, information transfer, staff and interinstitutional communication, and curricular bridging approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541 - 556
JournalEuropean Journal of Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 504005 Educational sociology
  • 504007 Empirical social research
  • 503006 Educational research
  • 503018 University didactics
  • 503
  • 503009 Adult education
  • 504021 Migration research

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