Date of Award

Winter 2005

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

John Hornstein


Transition encompasses the events and experiences that occur as a child moves from kindergarten to first grade. Transition marks the time when children are separated from a familiar routine and environment and placed into an environment of uncertainty, changing roles, and expectations. Children who experience continuity with earlier educational experiences show increased motivation, improved relationships with peers and adults, and higher achievement.

Using a constructivist grounded theory approach this study documented the perspectives, concerns, and experiences of ten children and their parents as children transitioned from a University-affiliated kindergarten program to a public school first grade. Data were gathered using observation, participant observation, interviews, and correspondence with study participants. While continuities emerged from these data, discontinuities were numerous and included school culture, teacher, social adjustment, pedagogy, rules and routine, communication, information sharing and parent involvement.

Teachers expressed concern about information sharing and the format and content of kindergarten assessments. Parent concerns included teacher disposition; instructional approaches; learning environment; social adjustment; and children's fatigue, stress, self-esteem, and body image. Children's concerns included teacher expectations; increased academic demands; school rules and routines; friendships; and a loss of voice, choice, and control over their learning. First grade teachers attributed children's transition difficulties to readiness skills, academic preparation, and social immaturity.

Four underlying complexities of transitions emerged in my data (a) the importance of children's microsystems; their home, their pre-school and kindergarten, and their first grade public school world; (b) the transferability of previously acquired competencies, skills, and learning behaviors in the first grade learning environment; (c) conformity; the loss of voice, choice, and control over children's learning; and (d) the tension between beliefs about DAP and compliance with legislative mandates such as NCLB.

To promote successful transitions recommendations were made for parents, teachers, and administrators. Recommendations include advocacy for children; information sharing between sending and receiving teachers; and on-going communication between teachers and parents, and parents and children. To prepare and alleviate anxiety in children and parents practices, routines, and schedules should be established; along with on-going discussions prior to school entry in September.