Transitioning through life

Nan Bahr, November 5, 2019

I can’t stop thinking that our work in the service of others, as teachers, social workers, carers, police, and so forth, is hampered by a tendency to over complicate things. Our support for people facing life transitions is a perfect example. For children, we have separate transition models to guide their move into kindy, school, high school, beyond school. For adults, we have transition models that apply for starting university, joining adulthood from adolescence, repatriation following injury, menopause, to name a few. I counted up the number of transitions a young person might face as part of their schooling life. I think it numbers about 22 discrete transitions for which we have specific bespoke action plans.

These discrete transitions include, and I won’t mention them all, from year level to year level (N=13), from childhood to adolescence (1), from primary to secondary school, and from topic to topic for individual subjects (N=too many to count). And for each of these transitions, we teachers have collected intervention effectiveness data, implemented bespoke evidence-based, yet theoretically free, programs and actions to smooth the transition, workshopped with each other and designed bespoke resources, policies, and processes. But something is missing. I think we have not sensibly considered what is shared across all transitions and how this knowledge could better provide an informed and confident approach to assisting every person in transition. This might enable us to better consider and respond to the factors influencing transitional experience for the individual person. We need a Bloom’s taxonomy of sorts, to guide us.

The Bahr Taxonomy for Effective Transitioning

I boldly propose that there are three contributing forces culminating in the establishment of a fourth that together position a person for effective transition, regardless of the specifics of the change they face. They are: A1 Anticipation; A2 Abruptness; A3 Agency: A4 Adjustment.

A1: This is the degree to which a person has a reasonable expectation of what is about to happen to them. Transitions are effective when people can anticipate well, and have enough information to match their expectations to their detailed experience. The influencers here are the activities or experiences that support a student to create an authentic mental model of the way things are likely to unfold for them. Appropriate Anticipation is fueled by actual and vicarious experience, provision of resources, familiar faces who can describe their experiences.

A2: This is where a person is blindsided by their change. They may be surprised by the time frame, and the clarity of the supporting resources.

A3: Agency, or self-determination, gives people a sense of control for their destiny.

These three factors taken together support the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive changes required for A4 Adjustment.

So I commend this idea to you for reflection. If we take each of the dimensions we can build a more cohesive and holistic approach to supporting people in transition.

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