Investigating the experience and quality of the transition from KS4 to KS5




This study as the aim of investigating the experience and quality of the transition from KS4 to KS5.The study, was conducted in school A and looked at among other factors, the extent KS4 candidates join KS5 and how knowledge equipped the KS4 student is by the time the join KS5. All these were done to gain a deeper understanding of how the transition between these stages of education so far is being managed and thus guide the future changes if there will be need for any modification .( Howard Pack2006)

Research design or tradition

To achieve this objective and understand the education environment more the research centered on interviewing groups of students at ks4 in the identified school. These means picking a few students randomly and asking them of their honest opinions in as far as the education level, achievements and any shortcomings ,that they may have noticed during their studies.

The research will also aim at identifying key factors that shape the students perception of what they think their studies in KS5 will be like. Whether they expect the same standards, quality or weaknesses, to be carried on to next stage. The same group of students in ks5will also be interviewed and t heir opinions taken. This should also include the question of whether the current educational standards in ks5 are as they had foreseen or expected.

Identification of key factors in relation to their perceptions of transitions from ks4 to ks5 is also important. This should be able to bring out the picture of what is real and what is not in as far as graduating from ks4 to ks5 is concerned. In cases where what they find in ks5 is different from what they perceived, they should be given the chance to give suggestions on how best the same situation should be improved .The students will also be given a chance to state what they think should be done cover the inadequacies.

Research setting

The research is centered in school A. The implication that this kind of investigation will have for the school should be identified. This may for example involve repercussions that may occur because of increased numbers of students from one level to another contrary to a believe that they may be lesser students in the next level. The financial implication in situations where the facilities have to be increased among other consequences depending on the suggestions of each group of interviewed students.

The strengths and weaknesses of both qualitative and quantitative research contacted should be acknowledged. The quantitative research has been criticized as a fast research meant t o “quick fix” matters when contacting any research. Silverman’s ( 2000)acknowledged. The quantitative research as for instance been seen as a quick fixer of research whereas qualitative research aims at exploring naturally occurring data through observations as c compared to the experiments that should be carried out when carrying out quantitative data silverman (2000). The two types of research could be questioned(Howard Pack2006).

The qualitative research specifically the limitation of the qualitative research method is its inability to be objective. It asks open-ended questions hence the lack of specific answers. Moreover, qualitative analysis cannot be used full to fully reach a conclusion in linguistic surveys because of this subjectivity.

Research sample and data sources

The data needs to be flexible and genuine in the context in which it made (Mason 2002). The imaginings of the participants during the research, the ways that the social processes discourcrs and relationships work towards the significance of the generated meanings.

The most appropriate explanatory design could thus be considered to be appropriate because the aim of is to explore and analyze the experiences and perceptions of students transiting to ks5 from ks4 and the implication this particular stage of transition could affect the particular schools or others. To understand this well therefore a methods of comparing qualitative data have to be compared. The best way to achieve t his would be the use of focus groups.

Instruments and Procedures

Focus groups provide access to data that could otherwise not be obtained through participant observations and individual interviews. The method will allow a wider perspective in sampling issue exploration and data provision (kitzinger 1995). The method encourages participants to explore issues and share their experiences in as far as the particular phase of education is concerned. The information will be very useful in determining interaction level attitudes experiences and what the participants generally feel in as far as their schooling system and their knowledge acquisition is concerned.

The focus groups therefore remain very beneficial because of the interaction the believes the attitudes, feelings of participants and experiences this is done in ways which may not have been feasible using other methods

(Flick,2006 p191) suggests that that human beings have opinions and attitudes and studying all this in isolation away from the context around which they happen can be avoided . Group discussions are even much better compared to single interviews. There are people who as a result of this can feel powerless and participation therefore to be encouraged.


Focus groups distinguishing trait of a focus group is their interactive nature. This always results to the production of data that is insightful. The participation of most or all the members becomes a big plus to the quality of research content.

The presents of a moderator also makes focus groups, as a method of researching, be organized, the conversation on the right track and encourages the engagements of all those participating.

There will be no one person dominating the discussion from the start to the end.

The group participants therefore raising the possibility of a new line of thought developing. Besides the topics can be modified to make sure not much detail is left out during the discussion. The quality of the discussion can even be enhanced further by having a client personnel to provide their thinking in as far as the subject is concerned (M.S.S. El-Namak, 2007 ) .

This will intern help the moderator to handle the direction of the discussion appropriately. Videotaping can also be done. This will improve the discussion in two ways: all the participants will make sure they dwell on the topic and not digress much. Naturally, human beings do not want to be quoted as having missed the point or sounding awkwardly out of topic. The second advantage is the cability of the researcher to play the video clip as many times a possible if need be.

Although focus groups are highly recommended in this kind of research, it has disadvantages too. There have been criticisms by other scholars who have been advocating for other alternative qualitative research methodology apart from focus groups. The reasonable the character traits that people have in life naturally. There others who are naturally dominant and they will be the biggest contributors of the discussion hence compromising on the quality. That the output of the discussion will become biased( McLeod, D, 1992 ) .

Focus groups are not the optimal technique for all research situations, the criticisms below have been mentioned by people who promote some other qualitative research methods. In addition, the naturally shy ones may never get the opportunity they have in sharing their ideas. This makes it difficult for the focus groups to get even the best ideas from this group of people. It will not be easy for sensitive topics to be dealt with conclusively and in an insightful way for the same reason. 

However, the proponents of the line of thought that, this method of qualitative research may not succeed much in doing so because it has withstood these debates for a long time. The most noticeable among its benefits is the flexibility. The relaxed atmosphere, the deep thinking and the opening up of members where there is quality moderations are features that has made this mode of research among the best.

Data collection and analysis

For it to be effective enough the participants are organized in groups of between 20-25 members. The length of period a discussion lasts should be agreed on and each session should not run for over two hours. This way they achieve the intended goals. Research should just limit themselves to the use of language spoken patterns (Creswell,1998)

The participants express their feelings and mutually support each other and stimulate thoughts amongst each other. These are some of the reasons this qualitative research methodology has withstood the test of time. Nevertheless, it is worth acknowledging the fact that it does not mean this information could not have been achieved if individuals were consulted separately. It means getting details that could not have been given if individual were privately or separately contributing(Carey 1994)

In the case of this research, the choice was mainly because of the objective of trying to gain information required by mainly listening to views of those participating in an environment that that does not cause any threat or intimidate. This is done in this ma manner because of the fact that students normally feel nervous when confronted with questions in an environment that they have not been prepared for or where proper moderation was not done. They need t o be told in advance what to expect especially on the intent ion and purpose of the discussion. They should then develop a rapport amongst themselves and feel free knowing that no one is examining with any ill intentions. When this is done the students will also open up more knowing that their answers are meant to act as suggestions to the objective of the society or country as a whole in ensuring the education system and transition is achieved an efficient and proper manner Litoseleti 2003).

The other limitation of focus group is the inability to represent all those whose voices or concerns should have been represented. Sampling a group of 25-30 students for instance in a school with a population of more than 1000 will not look as a g.ood representation. This will therefore mean some information that is vital will not be collected. The quality of the research on the other hand will have been compromised. It is true the researcher will get some information but not as detailed as when more students could be invited or represented.

Though there are always leaders and, moderators during focus group discussions past events indicate that there is a problem with t he manner in which the moderation is done mainly as a result of the difficult in controlling and steering the groups. It is thus not easy to finish as scheduled. Some time will be lost because of s.ome irrelevancies that are going to crop up during the deliberations. However much the moderator may try to limit the discussion to the main t opic something will always still come up that will make the participants digress. This challenge will not be easy getting rid of in focus groups.

There is the peer pressure factor that is common also among students. What this means is that they will always not wise to say out rightly what they think and feel. With the exception of very few who have overcome the peer pressure. The repercussion of this is the inability of focus groups to arrive at a wide variety of ideas because of this peer pressure limitation. Students will prefer to say what is popular among their peers and avoid the mention of anything that would isolate them in any way with their schoolmates (kitzinger, 1995).

There are all sorts of moderators just as there are all kind s of professionals in any field. Some are qualified and skillful enough some are not. What this would therefore mean is that in the event of a focus group that has a moderator w hose skills in handling focus groups are inadequate it will result to a situation where the answers given to different questions will be similar. This is mainly cause by the poor wording of the questions asked. This will cause inadequate or inaccurate results.

Payton and Reed (1997) realized that although the proponents and supporters of this method attach a lot of significance to the interactive part of the discussions its neglect on the dynamics of the group and, the consequences that will later be witnessed during data analysis. Analyzing data that has been collected from a focus group can be troublesome especially if the manner in which the data itself was collected is poor( Paletta., 2011 ).

Focus groups are directed and inspired by the researcher’s interests. This will mean the study will always be open to criticism. When the researcher is present the discussions are likely to change because they may influence t he direction of the deliberations and therefore ultimately affecting the data analysis and quality.

It is always recommended that the literature of the focus group and that the pre-session time is used to strategize. This will be done to make sure that the discussions are planned in such a way that all those with contributions are accorded opportunities, to say or state what they think, Those will make sure that the discussions flow and gives equal opportunities too all contributors ( Krueger and Casey 2000). The pre session time can also be used to make observations of the kind of participants and their various personalities and especially gauge how these personalities will affect the research. The presents of the shy ones especially should be noted and during the focus group discussions the y be encouraged to talk or say what the y think or reveal their persona l experiences (Economou, A 2003 ) .

The more dominant ones should anyway be given enough time. However they should be restricted if they seem to be hitting into more time that others in attendants are allocated. The dominant ones can be subjected into further questions in the event that the researcher feels they have more information or data that may be useful to the research as a whole. The reason it is wise to probe them further is because of their natural ability to talk their minds without fear or trace of shyness.

The precession should also serve as an opportunity for the moderator to provide an overview of why the research is being contacted, how all participants a re required to be engaged and the debt and breadth of the discussions. The moderator can also take the opportunity to help ease the minds of the participants and generally warm them up for a health and fruitful discussion.

In this case the students should be made aware that the research is meant to investigate and help gain an understanding of how students trans to key stage 5 from key stage 4. The school manager’s role in these transitions and their perceptions in as far as the transition is concerned. The strengths weaknesses and any creative ideas that may help shape the transition system in future if any. The students should also be made t o understand that the manner in which this transitions are managed will affect the later transitions from year 11 to the sixth form. That the research will assist in the general management of these transitions. With this in mind, the participants will try to center their thoughts on the objectives and reduce the chances of going off topic/subject M.S.S. (El-Namak 2007 ) .

Measuring the credibility qualitative research will require that the extent of reliability and validity of the information or data given is looked at. The areas of likely weakness of focus groups should be identified. This will assist in general interaction of the group which will in turn assist in getting the right and adequate information for the research(Silverman(2000).

The moderator of the interviews in this case study was a teacher in the particular school the participants are studying. The fact that the teacher is in a position of authority t o the students could have a direct effect on the quality and the accuracy of the answers given by the students and e eventually the quality of the data collected. ‘A moderator does not interview people, hold a position of power or influence or inhibit the flow of ideas by interrogating’ (Litosseliti 2003 p.44).

In this cas e however the participants commented on the importance of accepting their teacher as a moderator arguing that it was not f air to have a moderator w ho they were not familiar with. This complicates everything and makes it difficult for a research he r to arrive a t a decision. The best way however would be to have the person they know – in this case their teacher to do the moderation. That this could make them more free than the stranger.

Kruger and Casey (200) suggested that the respect a moderator for the participants would determine the quality of the deliberations during focus groups. The focus groups dealing with young people can especially be very complicated and will require a person with the understanding of young people, the characters and developmental challenges that may affect their attitudes and performance in what they do. This would eventually affect the participation during focus group discussions as well. In this case, the teacher student relationship could be the only available chances to have this research succeed( Economou, A 2003 .

The specifically talented teachers in student understanding and interaction will have to be identified to moderate on this topic. Secondly the research is centered on t he school which is part of the teacher’s career path and training.

It can therefore be argued that in this particular case t he nature of the discussions and the choice of a moderator could have more positive result because of the common good relationship between teachers and students. Potential biased that could be caused by this teacher/student relationship could be solved by having a c o-facilitator to assist w here the teacher could not handle (Paletta, A 2011 ) .

The use of a co-facilitator will reduce the research bias that could have been cause by power dynamics. The c o-facilitator can b e useful in operating the tape recorder, note taking, handling the environmental challenges during the interview and generally be in g keen o n non-verbal communications during focus group discussions and interviews (Krueger and Casey2000) . This will give he moderator a humble time to work on the question and concentrate on t he answers instead of getting involved in everything that would at the long run work against the process.

An assistant was not necessary in the study because an environment that is free was necessary for the research. This would mean not having more strangers do the research or interview. Minimizing the involvement of any other person or people is good. Litosseliti (2003) however suggests that the idea of having an ass instant is possible with small groups of people. In this particular r study however there was no need for an assistant. It would not aid or help this process or focus group discussions. Qualitative research has not been standardized and this would mean a low reliability. The research though wills mainly on the abilities and insights of the researcher (Clifford, 2001).

It can therefore be s aid with a lot of confidence the study could not achieve the same result if it is contacted on a different school. It can also be correctly stated that it would not be the same case or the research could not have achieved the same result if a different teacher played the role of a moderator in with the same students. The validity of the study has however not been compromised. This is because the students were encouraged to express their thoughts and views freely and in an environment that is open to suggestions and ideas. The verification of the information with the intention to gauge the validly was done. The researcher compiled a list of all the factors or concerns they had raised and took them back to the students for confirmation that they were indeed the same details and points t hey earlier had raised (Carey ,1994)

The ethical issues arising from the use of audio tapes were considered. The students were given assurance that the information they gave will remain confidential. The personal details would also be removed and the same fact reiterated during the group interview at the scene stage. The participants were also given the chance to leave if they did not wish to participate in the investigation be yond that point.

A group of six was organized and although the literature on groups give varied suggestions it is wise to have focus groups of between6-10 members put in groups of between 3-5.

A much smaller group is only advisable when dealing with a subject that is much sensitive in nature. (Bloor et al) the participants from year 11 who have the intention of proceeding to the sixth form in the same school were selected. There had to be representations of male and female students and according to academic qualifications. The purposive sampling may have limitations such as being biased but the researcher should make sure that the participants are engaged both at the pre and post transition interviews. There are be ne fits associated with these “se lf contained” focus groups in terms of the debt of information that is going to be given. While selecting participants it is important to have strangers as compared to acquaintances. This is because those acquainted with one another tend t o make assumptions on various topics and information that could benefit the .person contacting the research.(Morgan, 1997)

A semi structured interview sessions with the intention to facilitate of viewpoints findings from literature reviews. The semi structured questions contained questions that sought answers on, for example, the age bracket of the participants, whether they understand what ADEC is and its strategic plans, the role of heads of departments in driving ADEC pedagogical changes, the level at which they are involve d with ADEC, among other questions. The questions were also designed in such a way that they b e answered straight away without the participants thinking so much. Some of the questions were open-ended and therefore allowed the participants to choose freely what to comment. ( Litosseliti, 2003)

These questions were designed in a manner that could reflect on the questions used in the pilot study. They were in the form of discussions that were naturally constructed instead of designing them in a way that would have the moderator in an unnatural way that is normally evident in an interview with poorly constructed questions. The semi structure questions therefore remained the same to the ones as the pilot study. The questions use became more specific the end. This format puts into consideration the difficulties that may have been experienced during the early stages of the interview and compensates it.

Diagrams are used to organize the data. “Visual devices that portray possible relationships between concepts” (Corbin et al. 2008 p.117)

They are of much benefit in research because they help the researcher work with concepts instead of the raw data. (miles and Huberman (1994). Mind Maps were used in this case.

“‘Mind Maps are a graphic, networked method of sorting, organizing and prioritizing information (usually on paper) using key or trigger words and images’ (Buzan 2007 p.138)

They engage the brain with radiant thinking therefore shaping the thinking and memory of the brain. The brain works in many way s and on many thinks a t the same time.

The ability to use a thought process and the researcher becoming more aware of what is essential and what is necessary is made clear. The use of maps avoids the preconceived ideas about the research.

There are three stages of data analysis that was undertaken as described by (Hubemans 1994)

Data display

Transcripts are made from each of the groups attached with the notes of the researcher and when transcribing all personal references were removed.

Stage two: content analysis and Data reduction.

This is a process that was conducted on a full transcript separately and a recording of researcher’s summary impression done. Before this, the data is broken down to manageable parts, for instance sentences or paragraphs. It is after the process is concluded that the researcher can undertake content analysis. This is in the case of all the focus groups.

Stage 3: The purpose of this stage is to compare the current trends, ideas amongst the views given by students and identifying how this can assist in handling ks4 to ks5 transition. This would help in identifying the consequences on School A. Considerations were also given to any evidence that may contradict the general analysis. This could similarly link back to the literature review identified and considered.


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