Understanding transitions using a sociocultural framework

Crafter, Sarah and Maunder, Rachel (2012). Understanding transitions using a sociocultural framework. Educational and Child Psychology, 29(1) pp. 10–18.


Transitions have traditionally been characterised as forms of change. These may either be inner changes (new beliefs or developmental growth) or the physical move from one place to another (see Erikson, 1975), such as the move from primary to secondary school. This theoretical paper will argue that transition can be best understood using a sociocultural framework, which links human thought and action to social and cultural situatedness (Zittoun, 2006). Using ideas underpinned by Vygotsky (1978) we will present three frameworks for addressing sociocultural transitions: (i) the notion of consequential transitions (Beach, 1999); (ii) symbolic transitions and identity rupture (Zittoun, 2006); and (iii) Communities of Practice transitions (Wenger, 1998). We will borrow examples from research on educational transitions from primary and secondary school contexts through to Higher Education in order to demonstrate that transitions are about a change in self-identity born out of uncertainty in the social and cultural worlds of the individual. Implications for educational practitioners involved in supporting young people undergoing transitions will be discussed

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