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  1. 1. Journal of Research inInternational Education12(1) 85­–102© The Author(s) 2013Reprints and 10.1177/1475240913478078jri.sagepub.comJRIEAdministrator perceptionsof transition programs ininternational secondary schoolsJessica BatesColchester High School, Colchester Vermont, USAAbstractThis study investigates the extent to which transition programs are offered to students at internationalsecondary schools. Components of professional development, orientation and departure programs, andtransition support teams were examined. Participants included school administrators at 11 internationalschools across five continents. Findings suggest that systematic transition interventions are underutilizedto support Third Culture Kids, and suggest a lack of awareness among administrators about the issue oftransitional problems associated with international mobility.KeywordsInternational schools, Third Culture Kid, transitionMobility and the third culture kid experienceSo-called Third Culture Kids (TCKs), having spent a significant portion of their formative yearsoutside of their home countries, have a unique perspective on the world. A typical TCK mighttransition to a new community several times within their educational experience; there areadvantages and disadvantages to such a lifestyle. Allan (2002: 78) points out that at each junc-ture there are opportunities for the formation of cultural identities and resulting behavior pat-terns, inter-cultural communication, cultural acceptance, rejection or social exclusion. TCKsinteract with the school culture (often an English-medium international school, catering particu-larly for such children, who are often from many different national and cultural backgrounds),the culture of the host country, the majority student culture, the faculty cultures and others.Although this can be positive for students, it is also in these interactions that cultural dissonancecan occur (Allan, 2002).There is limited research about types of transition programs offered in international schools.This article attempts to ascertain if programs are offered, or not offered, and to what degree theyfunction or malfunction, in particular schools. Risch (2008) conducted a study of 58 respondingCorresponding author:Jessica Bates, 1327 Clay Point Road, Colchester, VT 05446, USA.Email: Jessica655@gmail.com478078JRI12110.1177/1475240913478078Journal of Research in International EducationBates2013Article
  2. 2. 86 Journal of Research in International Education 12(1)schools within members of the East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools, and in that studyhe identified key components of formal transition programs in international schools. Similar to thatstudy, this project aims to identify the degree to which transition programs are being offered ininternational schools. But instead of identifying components of programs, as Risch (2008) did, thisstudy focuses on the success or failure of three components in particular: professional develop-ment, orientation and departure programs, and the use of transition teams.Increased international mobilityThe 1990 US Census counted 925,845 US federal workers living outside of the USA; by 2007 thatnumber had increased to approximately 4 million (Knowlton, 2007). In 2011, the Association ofAmericans Resident Overseas reported that 5.08 million Americans lived in over 160 countriesthroughout the world (2011). The USAis not the only nation facing increased migration of citizens;since 1990, the number of worldwide citizens living outside of their native country rose by over 1.5million people. One statistical estimation indicated approximately 214 million people living, work-ing, or attending school outside of their home country by 2010 (United Nations, Department ofEconomic and Social Affairs, 2008). With such an increase in global mobility, it is not surprisingthat research in the field of international education has also increased over the past several decades.The increase in globally mobile individuals means that transition support for these individualsneeds to be addressed in some depth.Socialization in TCKsExamination of current models for transition programs could promote the improved socializa-tion in TCKs. Anecdotal accounts of how such students cope with transition are conflicting, anddozens of such accounts can be found across the current literature (Pollock and Van Reken,2009; US Department of State, 2011). Several researchers indicate that globally mobile adoles-cents prefer to socialize with other TCKs from various cultural backgrounds, including theculture of their home country. They also often prefer this multicultural socialization to sociali-zation within a monoculture (Eakin, 1998; Pollock and Van Reken, 2009). Transition programsin schools could provide a basis for such positive interactions. It could be argued that transitionprograms could serve as a bridge between the student’s personal cultural identity and the greaterculture of the school community, or host community. Heyward (2002) discusses the importanceof international students not only grasping communication within the monoculture, but alsoimproving their ability to communicate cross-culturally, to develop what he defines as intercul-tural literacy. Well-crafted, school-based transition programs could support opportunities forcross-cultural communication.Advantages of the TCK experienceThe experience of a globally mobile adolescent TCK is complex and many advantages and dis-advantages are associated with their lifestyles. Affluence and internationalism (Bonebright,2009) are seen as advantages (Hayden, 2006; Simandiraki, 2006). Another factor viewed as anadvantage is educational opportunity, due, in part, to first-hand cultural experiences and travel(Gillies, 1998). TCKs are resilient and often have greater communication skills and problemsolving skills than their home country peers because they are frequently forced to adapt in newways to new situations (Hayden, 2006; McLachlan, 2007); Bonebright (2009) refers to this as
  3. 3. Bates 87constructive marginality. Although TCKs have a life-experience that tends to be somewhatunstable, they have a marked ability to solve day-to-day problems as they arise, especially afterexplicit training in creative problem solving (Lee et al., 2007; Sears, 2011). They have back-grounds that are rich with a variety of experiences, which allows for the innate ability to com-municate effectively across cultural lines and identify with people from various cultures (Al-Issa,2004). TCKs also tend to have strong family bonds and attachments (Langford et al., 2002: 35),despite the fact that they see their hard-working fathers and faraway extended family membersless frequently than non-mobile children (McLachlan, 2007). Because international schoolsoften act as community centers for international families, many parents of TCKs interact closelywith the school community and are active participants in the educational experience of theirchildren (Sears, 2011). Families who deliberately try to strengthen the family unit while main-taining a mobile lifestyle are the most cohesive (Hausman and Reed, in McLachlan, 2007).Perhaps a similar cohesiveness may be achieved for international school communities that workto build transitional support systems.Disadvantages of the TCK experienceResearch indicates some disadvantages to the TCK experience. Anecdotal evidence suggests anelement of estrangement from home country as well as social and emotional problems which resultfrom the experience and lifestyle of the TCK. There is a fear among some who work with TCKsthat these children might not stay in a location long enough to develop emotional security(McLachlan, 2007). With each move, TCKs commonly experience loss of home, friendships,belongings, teachers and sense of place. This loss leads to feelings of grief (Pollock and Van Reken,2009). Students can experience depression, anxiety and stress while transitioning between cultures(Davis et al., 2010). TCKs may also struggle with sojourner adjustment, described as ‘the psycho-logical adjustment of relatively short-term visitors to new geographical areas where permanentsettlement is not intended, and where assimilation into the host culture is not expected’ (Berryet al., 2002 as cited in Hayden, 2006: 55). TCKs report feeling different from others and as outsid-ers in many places, but also report feeling connected to other TCKs (Walters and Auton-Cuff,2009). These students can also experience difficulties forming and maintaining a sense of self inadolescence which, for some, leads to problems with personal identity well into adulthood(Grimshaw and Sears 2008; Sears, 2011). Support in international schools, such as transition pro-grams, could be a part of the solution to this problem.Problems of repatriation have also been noted, which might be improved by the implementationof transition programs in schools. Although TCKs may want to acclimate to the home culture, it isoften more difficult to do so than anticipated. The number of repatriations also affects social-emotional well-being; the more times a TCK experiences repatriation, the more negative may bethe effect (Peterson and Plamondon, 2009). Social challenges relating to cultural norms, rootless-ness, and loss are exacerbated by repatriation. TCKs may experience feelings of isolation anddistance from their peers upon returning to their nation of birth. There is a noticeable gap betweenTCKs and others who have not shared a similar experience; this is often an experience felt byTCKs as they re-enter their home culture (Eakin, 1998; Sheard, 2008). TCKs may feel disappoint-ment when they discover differences between themselves and the once-familiar home countrypeers, who have never lived abroad. TCK may be accused of bragging, so they hide their experi-ences from others (Pollock and Van Reken, 2009).Another troubling factor for TCKs may be the inconvenience of an equally mobile school com-munity. The experience of frequent moving is often shared by all members of the international
  4. 4. 88 Journal of Research in International Education 12(1)school. Students must adjust and cope with their own move, as well as the movement of teachersand administrators (Sears, 2011). Even students who remain in a school for a number of years mayexperience the loss of friendships as they see their friends move (McLachlan, 2007).Transition support in international schoolsResearch has indicated a need for internationally educated students to be supported throughtransitions from one nation to the next. This study attempts to identify if transitional support isbeing used in international schools and aims to examine critically why, or why not, such supportis being offered. Some TCKs, upon reaching adulthood, struggle with unresolved grief, feelingsof isolation, rootlessness and loss, owing to difficulties arising from their highly mobile lifestyle(Hayden, 2006; Langford et al., 2002; Pollock and Van Reken, 2009). This study investigatesthree common transitional forms of support for TCKs in international schools: orientation anddeparture programs, professional development, and transition support teams. Support throughtransition could lessen the negative impact of continued mobility and instability in TCKs.Pollock and Van Reken (2009) describe a transition experience as consisting of five stages:involvement; leaving; transition; entering; and involvement. Several studies have been devotedto the idea of supporting students during transitions (Al-Issa, 2004; Alspaugh, 1998; Davis et al.,2010; Hayden, 2006; Pollock and Van Reken, 2009; Risch, 2008; Seidman et al., 1994). Fewstudies have been dedicated specifically to the availability of formal transition programs withinthe context of international schools. Also, studies identifying concrete methods for supportingTCKs in transition are fairly rare in the context of international education. Although transitionprograms exist in many international schools, some schools do not have such programs.Furthermore, of schools without transition programs, some have even reported being unawarethat a need for such programs exists (Risch, 2008).Theoretical framework: international transitionsTheories of transition describe chronological stages of emotional adaptation to cultural or interna-tional movement. These stages are finite and predictable among those who interact with new com-munities. Heyward (2002) creates an excellent comparison of two early adaptations of this idea:the U-curve model and the W-curve model. He credits these models to the theory of culture shock,developed by Oberg (1958, in Heyward, 2002: 12) which describes a condition of a person who isnegatively impacted by the cross-cultural experience.The U-curve model includes three predicable stages (Lysgaard, 1955; Sewel and Davidson, 1956).This model was later expanded to a four stage W-Curve model (Gullahorn and Gullahorn, 1963,1966, in Heyward, 2002: 12). Both offer a framework from which to observe the international experi-ence but are somewhat limited, and are not necessarily specific to the TCK experience. Based on theearly models, Heyward (2002) develops a greatly expanded and multidimensional framework whichbetter describes the stages of inter-cultural communication from the perspectives of understandings,competencies and attitudes. Like the U-curve and W-curve, Heyward (2002) describes chronologicalstages of adaptation by describing the relationship between a foreign individual and the host culture.These transition frameworks are limited because they capture only a part of the TCK experience.They allow for insights into how the TCK might respond to the culture of the host country, but not tothe culture of the international school, or family. Pollock and Van Reken (2009) offer anotherexpanded model which is more specific to the TCK experience. Table 1 illustrates the relationshipbetween various transition theories.
  5. 5. Bates 89Table 1.  Transition theories compared.U-curve modela W-curve modelb InterculturalliteracycTransitioncycledIntercultural level Involvement stageBicultural or transcultural Community connection  Unconsciously competent Present moment  considered ideal  Leaving stage  Impending move  Loosens ties  Denial of grief  Disappointment  Elevated anticipationStage 1 Stage 1 MonoculturalLevel 1 or 2Transition stageInitial enthusiasm Highly elated Unconsciously competent Leaves communitySpectator Excitement Limited awareness Family dysfunctionForming impressions Knowledge of customs or chaos/withdrawal  Limited interaction Focus on culturalsimilaritiesUnconsciouslyincompetentSense of panic  Naïve awareness  Stage 2 Stage 2 Monocultural Level 3  Disenchantment Period of crisis Engagement  Knowledge of hostcultureCultural differences Distancing  Inability tocommunicateThreatened Self-security Consciously incompetent  Stage 3 Stage 3 Entering stagePeriod of recovery Period of gradual recovery Chaos endsSubtle cultural cues Understands cultural cues VulnerabilityDevelopment oflanguageMakes friends Begins to learn norms  Improved adjustment Emotions fluctuate  Excited or uncertain  Mentor suggested  Stage 4 Crosscultural level Reinvolvement  Near or completerecoveryEmerging interculturalliteracyComfortable andsettled  Accepts host culture Consciously competent Understands norms  More completeunderstandingPredictability  Ability to cope with stress Involvement  Biculturalism  Notes: aLysgaard (1955), Sewel and Davidson (1956); bGullahorn and Gullahorn (1963, 1966); cHeyward (2002); dPollockand Van Reken (2009).
  6. 6. 90 Journal of Research in International Education 12(1)Transitional programs at international schoolsRisch (2008: 52) defines a formal transition program as:a clearly articulated and labeled transition program that provides activities and events to help students andfamilies transition to, within, and from international schools. Such programs also provide them withstrategies to manage their transitions.Transitional programs are considered useful in order to alleviate distress in TCKs. One studyfocuses on 36 18–20-year-old missionary students attending a transition seminar upon repatriationto the USA. Assessment data alludes to a significant difference in stress levels before and after thetransition seminars; of the sample, 43 percent of participants reported moderate to severe distressbefore a transition seminar, with only 17 percent of participants reporting moderate to severe dis-tress after the seminar (Davis et al., 2010). Although it may be difficult, due to curricular con-straints, to implement day long seminars, international schools could benefit from incorporatingtransitional supports throughout the curriculum in order to ease stress for students throughout thetransition cycle.More studies on such transition programs are not readily available within current research.O’Boyle (2009), in a study relating to the perceptions of international students, also indicates thelack of information in this area; he writes ‘For international schools, studies on transition and trans-fer to secondary schools are sparse’ (O’Boyle, 2009: 32).Components of successful transition programsGillies (1998: 38) indicates that specific elements of transition programs imbedded within the cur-riculum could be useful, and that there are several ways of successfully doing so. To support transi-tion and alleviate distress in TCKs, transition programs should incorporate valuing an internationalperspective without exaggerating it, welcoming new students by creating partnerships betweennew and existing students, forming cooperative learning groups to encourage student involvement,creating opportunities for community building and problem solving, acknowledging the difficul-ties and rewards of international mobility through class discussion or individual meetings withstudents, and treating students as individuals and not ‘new students’ (Gillies, 1998). Gillies (1998)also states that such strategies can be implemented at any point during the students’ transitioncycle. McKillop-Ostrom (2000) advises improved efforts for professional development around thetopic of transition in relation to cultural awareness in international schools. Transition-relatedactivities are suggested such as orientation and departure programs for incoming and outgoingstudents. Also suggested are curricular supports for other students at the international school whoneed to adjust to a mobile culture where peers, teachers and administrators move frequently.McKillop-Ostrom (2000) suggests the implementation of transition support teams, and cites theUnited Nations International School of Hanoi as an example of a school where such interventionswere a success. Transition teams are described as consisting of 7–10 volunteers including teachers,parents, counselors, administrators and students who collaborate in order to make transitionssmooth for students entering and leaving the community. Policy and budgetary supports are statedto be relevant and important to the success or failure of transition programs (McKillop-Ostrom,2000).Transition teams in international schools serve a variety of purposes including consolidationof transition efforts, increased transition expertise, transition education and cultural awareness,implementation of transition activities, customized transition services, institutionalized transitionprogramming and year-round transition support (Langford, 2006; McKillop-Ostrom, 2000).
  7. 7. Bates 91Langford (2006: 53) states that ‘it is in the international school community’s own interests tounderstand why families sometimes fail to adjust and how they as educators can help improve thetransition process for their pupils’. Hayden (2006) identifies her extensive review of literaturewhich suggests that TCKs need to be oriented upon arrival to the school’s philosophies and educa-tional objectives. Teachers were cited as agreeing with objectives to aid students in transition, aswell as support students within the context of the regular curriculum objectives. Also noted is theimportance of counseling services for students in international schools, as well as the creation andmaintenance of portfolios to accompany students between schools. Langford (in Hayden, 2006)also suggests orientation and departure activities, parent counseling and community information tosupport the home structure. Others have made similar suggestions. Pollock and Van Reken (2009)mark the importance of addressing solutions to problems within transition. They identify fourimportant concepts tied to the acronym RAFT: reconciliation; affirmation; farewells; and thinkdestination. Because components of transition programs have been identified across schools, thestudy described here aims to identify perceptions of three particular components: orientation anddeparture programs, transition teams and professional development.Responsibilities of the international schoolOrr (1976: 30) states that ‘when schools operate outside of the controlled, publicly accountablecontext of their nation state, as international schools do, they have a greater level of responsibilityto uphold policies that support and enrich school stake holders’. Sheard (2008: 35), meanwhile,suggests that schools have an obligation to support the unique identities of TCKs:One lesson is that when parents and educators heighten a child’s level of global awareness above that ofmost children, the parents and educators should be alert to possible social and emotional consequences thatmight ensue from the gap between the child and others without heightened levels of awareness. Childrenneed to learn methods to cope with their heightened global awareness, just as they need to appreciate theadvantages and disadvantages of their heightened global awareness.Al-Issa (2004) notes the success of an intercultural communication course in encouraging self-exploration of cultural identity within the school setting, and created assignments, opportunitiesand activities to support cultural identity (Al-Issa, 2004). Internationalism, a frame of mindwhereby one’s concept of oneself is as a member of the international community, might also besupported through school transitional supports, since it is an attitude of cooperation over competi-tion and interdependence over independence (Orr and Glenn, 1974).RationaleAlthough limited research exists on the topic of transition in international schools, some key ideashave surfaced. I believe there is a need for further study to examine components of successfultransition programs. By examining current practices, support for the development of future pro-grams can potentially be improved. Findings from the study upon which this article is based willbe useful to administrators, teachers and faculty in international schools, who have the ability toencourage and implement transition programs for TCKs. School board members, as well as parentsof TCKs, may also benefit. This study provides the means for parents to become more informed inorder better to advocate for the implementation of such programs, as well as to allow school boardmembers to make more informed budgetary decisions regarding such programs. This article is
  8. 8. 92 Journal of Research in International Education 12(1)intended both for international school communities already aware of the importance of transitionprograms, and for those in a more novice stage of awareness. Key stakeholders in the well-beingof international families may also benefit from learning about the topic of transition. By doing so,they could better serve and support mobile families. TCKs will also benefit when institutions adoptand implement programs perceived as successful.MethodologyThis study expands the current discussion of transition programs in international schools, byaddressing the following research questions.1 Do international schools use professional development, orientation and departure pro-grams, and transition teams to support TCKs experiencing the upheaval of transition?2 From the perspective of the school administrator, what factors help or hinder the implemen-tation of transition programs in international school communities?Using a web-based survey as the primary research tool, this study was exploratory in nature, withqualitative and quantitative components. Professional development for transition, orientation anddeparture programs, and transition support teams were examined through the reported perceptionof the school administrator. In order to illuminate positive and negative trends in the implementa-tion of transition programs, administrators rated the success or failure of program components.Administrators also shared perceptions about what helps or hinders effective implementation oftransition programs, which may offer insight to other school communities trying to implementsimilar programs elsewhere.Data about school population and cohorts within that population were also examined. Cohortsincluded in the analysis were the student body, support staff, professional teaching faculty andadministrative faculty. In order to identify its impact, if any, on transition programs, the followinginformation about the student body was also gathered: number of languages used at the school,number of nationalities within the school, percentage of students fluent in more than one language,and the percentage of students with dual citizenship. This study aimed to quantify the level ofmobility within any one particular school, and assess how that mobility impacts the existence andimplementation of transition programs. This was accomplished by seeking to identify approximatepercentages of graduating seniors having attended the same school for 1, 2, 3 or 4 years, and com-paring those percentages with components of transition programs offered. The study also quanti-fies the frequency of student moves as compared to the likelihood that those moves occurred atwhat might be considered logical transition points within the school calendar.ProcedureA survey to gather secondary school administrator perceptions on successful transition programsfor TCKs was sent to participants via email using a web-based survey tool. Out of 41 schools con-tacted, 11 responded to the survey. A list of international schools from the website of InternationalSchools Review (ISR), an organization dedicated to reviewing international schools and directors,was used as the immediate sample frame. As of August 2011, the website had updated a list of 803international schools, listed alphabetically by country. A systematic sampling was taken from theschools listed, by the researcher first choosing a random starting point between one and six andcounting every 20th school.
  9. 9. Bates 93This method was chosen for two reasons. First, the small sample size allowed for more person-alized communication between the researcher and the participants. Second, systematic samplingseemed appropriate for an alphabetized list, since it generally eliminates the possibility of clusteredresponses by region, aside from cases where certain countries have higher numbers of internationalschools.ParticipantsParticipants were introduced to the project via email. The researcher distributed an introductoryletter with a description of the project and a request for participation; specifics of the survey werenot given. Using an online survey tool, for those schools with a direct email link, 36 self-administeredquestionnaires were distributed via email to the head of each sample school during October 2011.For schools without a direct email link, or which had not responded by email, 5 hard copies ofsurveys were distributed by mail. Follow up reminders were sent via email during the two weeksurvey window. In total, seven personalized survey reminders were sent to each participant viaemail over the course of two weeks. Due to financial constraints, reminders were not sent to thoseschools without working email.Forty-one schools in 36 different countries were represented in the overall sample. Of the 41schools contacted, 11 responded to the survey. Of the 11 respondents, regional distribution of selectedinternational schools included one each in North America, South America, Europe, Africa and 7 inAsia. At individual schools, the size of the administrative team ranged from one to four school admin-istrators, with the exception of the case of one respondent who did not indicate the size of the admin-istrative team. Of respondents, one had only one administrator, four had two administrators, one hadthree administrators and four had four administrators. Non-administrative professional faculty withinschools ranged from 7 to 260 teachers. Support staff members ranged from 0 to 60 persons. In allcases many members of the student body held passports from more than one country.Survey instrumentThe main instrument in this study was an online 30 item questionnaire, distributed by email andcomposed of items relating to transition programs offered at international schools. Items werebased on a five-point Likert scale to which respondents indicated their perceptions of the successor failure of professional development, orientation and departure programs, and the use of transi-tion teams to support transition. Respondents indicated whether they perceived support was excep-tionally successful, successful, not successful, problematic or not offered. Respondents were givenseveral open-ended questions relating to programs offered, as well as problems and successeswithin programs. The survey was divided into six parts.• Part I: implied consent and demographic information – was created to gather consent andidentify the name of the respondent, the school and the geographic location. This was doneto verify and validate the identity of respondents.• Part II: professional development for transition – sought to gather descriptions of profes-sional development offered, the degree of perceived success, and factors that helped orhindered the support.• Part III: orientation and departure programs and Part IV: transition support teams – askedthe same questions of orientation and departure programs, and the use of transition teams inindividual schools.
  10. 10. 94 Journal of Research in International Education 12(1)• Part V: school population variables – allowed respondents to indicate the following: size ofstudent body and faculty populations, curriculum at the school, and variables within thecommunity such as parent employment type.• Part VI: student mobility trends – identified the level of mobility in terms of how long stu-dents had remained at each school and the likelihood of moves happening at logical transi-tion points in the school year such as the beginning or ending of a semester.DelimitationsThe purpose of this study was to gather administrator perceptions of transition programs for TCKsin international secondary schools. Although findings from this study are expected to be useful toparents, teachers, board members and students, perceptions of those school community memberswere not considered within the context of this study. This study sought only the perceptions ofadministrators for two reasons. First, administrators are uniquely poised to implement systematicand programmatic changes within a school. After considering this study, administrators would bepoised to discuss, design and support the addition of a transition program, or improve an existingmodel, more so than any other school community member. Second, administrators have a compre-hensive point of view and theoretically support changes which support student learning, includingthose that support the well-being of students.As identified above, this study is also intended to identify three components of transition pro-grams that have been identified in international schools: professional development to support tran-sition, orientation and departure programs, and the use of transition teams (Risch, 2008). Alsoconsidered are factors which help or hinder the three components, as well as how they are rated interms of success or failure. Not considered in the study are components deemed by the researcheras less common, systematic or concrete, such as opportunities for social emotional interventions,intercultural communication, self-exploration, cooperative learning, curricular supports, mentor-ing or peer support, counseling or school to family communication.The study identifies limited quantitative data about school population and cohorts within thatpopulation for the purposes of comparison. Cohorts included in the study include population, stu-dent body, support staff, professional teaching faculty and administrative faculty. Not identified arequantitative measures deemed by the researcher as inconsequential to successful transition, such asfamily income. Only secondary schools were selected for the purpose of this study in order to limitage as a variable.The level of mobility within schools, frequency and timing of student moves, employmentof parents, curriculum models, number of languages used at the school, number of nationalitieswithin the school, percentage of students fluent in more than one language, and the percentageof students with dual citizenship are quantified. Less measurable subjective factors such asschool climate, faculty and staff job satisfaction, student happiness and school spirit wereintentionally excluded.LimitationsDespite efforts of the researcher, there are some limitations to consider. Because the sample issmall, information should be used more to identify similarities and differences between andamong particular programs than to generalize across larger populations. Of 41 schools contactedto participate in the study, 11 responded. Low response rate could have been due to a number ofreasons, one primarily relating to school internet security. The Children’s Internet Protection Act
  11. 11. Bates 95requires that schools hold a higher standard for email filtration than other businesses (Grama,2011), which could have led to some administrators not completing the survey if they wereunable to retrieve it; there is a potential, especially in schools, for unrecognized email to be fil-tered as spam. Also, several schools did not list administrators by name or direct email, soadministrative assistants needed to be contacted instead; at this juncture, problems could haveoccurred in the transference of the survey request. In those particular cases, a hard copy of theresearch tool was sent via postal mail.DataSample: bilingualism, dual citizenship and curricular systemsMore than one nationality was represented in 10 out of 11 schools sampled. Five respondingadministrators reported that 50–75 percent of students hold passports from more than one country.Two administrators stated that less than 25 percent of students held passports from more than onecountry and two other respondents reported that 25–50 percent of students held more than onepassport. The number of languages spoken fluently by students varied among schools; no schoolsreported fluency in only one language. One school each reported two, three, four or five languagesspoken by students. No school reported six languages spoken, but seven schools reported morethan six languages spoken fluently by students. Two administrators described the curriculum asBritish system, seven as American system, while two each described it as bilingual or ‘other’, andnone described the curriculum as Canadian, denominational or differentiated. Schools reportedparents’ employment as mostly corporate employees (n = 10), mostly diplomats (n = 5), mostlyteachers (n = 2), mostly involved in missionary work (n = 1), some combination of the above (n =4) or other (n = 2).Of the 11 survey respondents, all but one reported new students (14–19 years) entering theschool community from another country in the previous 12 months. All 11 respondents reportedstudents exiting their school community, to move out of the country, in the previous 12 months.Administrators reported a wide range of student movement in both areas, as represented in Table2. In Table 2, discrepancy between the numbers of students versus teachers could be due to arespondent reporting a total of K-12 teachers at the school, without indicating the number of sec-ondary teachers exclusively.When do students come and go, and how long do they stay?School administrators reported the likelihood of students entering and exiting at logical transitionpoints, such as the start of the school year, or semester break, on the five-point Likert scale: never;not likely at all; somewhat likely; very likely; or always. The most common responses amongrespondents were that students were very likely to enter (n = 8) and exit (n = 9) at logical transitionpoints during the school year. Few administrators indicated that students were somewhat likely toenter (n = 2) and exit (n = 1) at logical transition points. Only one administrator reported that stu-dents never enter at a logical transition point, and only one administrator indicated that studentsalways exit at logical transition points.When asked what percentage of graduating seniors had attended each school for at least one year,10 reported 50-75 percent, and one reported that they did not know. One school reported that 50-75percent of graduating seniors had attended the school for at least 2 years, nine schools reported greaterthan 75 percent, and one reported that they did not know. When asked what percentage of graduating
  12. 12. 96 Journal of Research in International Education 12(1)Table2. Schoolpopulation.CountryofschoolTeachersstaffSupport(14–19)StudentsrepresentedNationalitiesenteredStudentsexitedStudentsdevelopment?Professionalprogram?Orientationprogram?Departureteams?TransitionUAE1654510003215085YYYYThailand351795122015NYNNSingapore26040130032223154NYNNTurkey8060150485020YYNYKuwait1201112103YNNNVenezuela83446110YYYYNigeria100402505035 35–40NYNNSouthKorea7038633N**NGuatemala5004901042NYNNIndia302180403530YYYNIsrael40109530702YNYY*Missingdata:questionleftblank.
  13. 13. Bates 97seniors had attended the school for at least 3 years, one reported 25-50 percent, four reported 50-75percent, four reported greater than 75 percent, and one reported that they did not know. When askedwhat percentage of graduating seniors had attended each school for their entire high school experience,three administrators reported less than 25 percent, two reported 25-50 percent, one reported 50-75percent, four reported greater than 75 percent and one reported that they did not know.Professional development, orientation and departure programs, and transitionsupport teamsAdministrators responded to several open-ended questions regarding transition. Participants wereasked to describe three types of transition programs being offered: professional development tosupport transition, orientation and departure programs, and transition support teams. Participantswere then asked to describe the level of success of such programs with a five-point Likert scale.After rating the success or failure of the three types of programs, respondents were asked to offerinsights into what helped or hindered such programs. The analysis of the results of that survey isoutlined below.Participants were first asked to describe professional development opportunities offered to sup-port the transition process for teens. Of respondents, five reported that they did not offer any profes-sional development to support transition at their schools. Of those schools offering professionaldevelopment, three schools reported using local and regional conferences and events as an avenuefor learning about transition, rather than offering programs within the school itself. Peer counseling,coaching or new teacher training programs for transition were reported by three of the eleven surveyrespondents. Collaboration among faculty, such as the development of transition strategies and theidentification of key stages of transition, were reported by two schools. On only two occasions hada school offered more than one type of professional development for transition.More schools reported offering orientation programs for new students than departure programsfor exiting students. The most commonly reported orientation support was the school’s use of peersupports. Five schools reported linking the new student with a peer buddy for at least the first week.One school also reported connecting the new student to a peer group trained to support transition-ing students, in addition to the peer buddy. Three respondents reported offering new student orien-tation sessions and one school indicated that homeroom teachers offered additional support to newstudents. One school reported offering nothing in terms of orientation, and two schools reportedoffering nothing at departure. Counseling intervention was offered at both orientation and depar-ture. Counseling for new students was offered by two schools upon entrance, and three schoolsupon departure. Aside from the three schools offering counseling services, not many interventionsor supports were reported for the departing student. Of the 11 survey respondents, three offeredcounseling at departure, one offered a leaver session and one noted contacting the new school withrecords and pertinent information. Two reported offering no departure program at all. One respond-ent noted the difficulty of providing transition services upon departure, by noting that ‘when par-ents decide to move on, there is less that we can do to help; this is often mid-year and at very shortnotice so all we can do is prepare reports and transcripts to ensure that the new school knows asmuch as possible about students who will be joining them’ (school administrator). It would beinteresting to attempt to determine, through further research, whether this is a common feelingamong educators at international schools, or an opinion shared by only a few.When asked about the use of transition teams, most responded with a yes or no response, or aphrase indicating yes or no, without elaboration. Most schools did not offer transition supportteams for students, while only one school indicated that they did utilize transition support teams.
  14. 14. 98 Journal of Research in International Education 12(1)Specifically, one school reported utilizing transition teams, three schools indicated only partiallyutilizing transition teams, and seven schools reported not using transition support teams at all. It isunclear from the responses given whether or not formal transition teams, as suggested by McKillop-Ostrom (2000), were used.When implemented in schools, are transitional supports successful?Administrators were asked to describe professional development opportunities to support tran-sition, orientation and departure programs, and to describe transition support teams as excep-tionally successful, successful, not successful, problematic or not yet offered. Of the elevensurvey respondents, one reported professional development to support transition as exception-ally successful, while no respondents reported orientation and departure programs or transitionteams as exceptionally successful. All three programs were commonly viewed as successful;five respondents reported professional development as successful, six reported orientation anddeparture programs as being successful, and four reported transition support teams as success-ful. Five respondents reported that their schools did not offer such professional development fortransition, four reported not offering orientation and departure programs, and seven reportednot utilizing transition support teams. Despite this, none of the 11 schools reported professionaldevelopment or transition support teams as problematic, and only one respondent reported ori-entation and departure programs as problematic.What helps or hinders implementation of programs?The study also sought to gather perspectives of school administrators about what factors help, orhinder, the implementation of transition programs in international school communities.Administrators were given an open-ended question asking about factors which helped or hinderedprofessional development for transition, in terms of professional development, orientation anddeparture programs, and the use of transition teams. Factors that appeared to prevent the imple-mentation of professional development in international schools were lack of funding and adequateresources; this was reported by four schools. Lack of awareness for the problems associated withtransition and TCKs was reported by two schools. Language barriers were reported as a hindranceto the implementation of professional development in one school. One respondent reported it beinga struggle to offer professional development for transition, owing to the demands for curricularprofessional development. Some factors aided in the development of professional development fortransition. For example, one school reported the size of their small school allowed for more flexi-bility and programmatic choices, and three schools reported the importance of having a strongfacilitator of professional development and a faculty skilled in collaborative efforts. It was reportedby one school that student interest contributed positively to the implementation of professionaldevelopment for transition.Participants reported on factors that were helpful to orientation and departure programs, as wellas detrimental factors. Although three schools reported that nothing helps or hinders orientation anddeparture programs, some contributing and limiting factors were reported. Efficient processing ofpaperwork at departure and parent involvement were each listed by at least one school as somethingthat helps in orientation and departure. Although not a controllable factor in schools, one schoolreported that their small school size improved their ability to foster orientation and departure pro-grams. As reported by two schools, student involvement and attitude were viewed as a potentialhelp, or hindrance, depending on the particular situation. Other hindrances to the implementation of
  15. 15. Bates 99orientation and departure programs included the transient nature of the school population, funding,lack of awareness, time constraints and student scheduling conflicts.Of schools that reported using transition teams to support students, responses about what helpsor hinders those teams were remarkably similar. One respondent referred to the need for the transi-tion team to be made up of ‘the right group of people’ (school administrator). Two schools notedthat the care and support of teachers is important to the transition support team. Small school sizeand communication and planning were also said to contribute positively to transition supportteams. Hindrances to the use of transition support teams were not suggested by any respondents.Critical analysisSeveral studies indicate the importance of transition programs for students in international schools(Davis et al., 2010; Langford, 2006; McKillop-Ostrom, 2000; Pollock and Van Reken 2009; Risch2008). Although most schools in this study reported a highly mobile student body, several interna-tional schools appeared to be lacking in transitional support available to students. Of the fourcomponents outlined in the survey (professional development, orientation programs, departureprograms and transition support teams), only two schools reported offering all four. Although threeschools offered three of the four, six schools reported no or one component offered. In the presentstudy, lack of awareness for the problems associated with transition and TCKs was indicated bytwo schools. This finding is somewhat consistent with that of Risch (2008), whose study indicatesa lack of awareness of programs in three schools.One school in the present study reported utilizing transition teams, three schools indicated onlypartially utilizing transition teams, and seven schools reported not using transition support teamsat all. McKillop-Ostrom (2000) outlined the importance of formal transition teams in internationalschools; the extent to which the schools offered formal or informal transition teams in this study isunclear from the responses gathered. What is clear is that transition teams may be underutilized ininternational schools.When asked about orientation and departure programs for students in transition, supports at orien-tation appeared to be much more widely implemented than supports at departure. This is consistentwith Risch (2008), who indicates interventions aimed at welcoming the student to the new commu-nity and support upon orientation as the most commonly used element of transition intervention. Themost commonly reported orientation support in the present study was the schools’ use of peer sup-port. Five schools reported linking the new student with a peer buddy for at least the first week.In the present study, what is most notable in terms of professional development for transition ininternational schools is that the majority of schools did not offer it. Of those schools offering pro-fessional development, three schools reported using local and regional conferences and events asan avenue for learning about transition, instead of providing support within the school. Peer coun-seling, coaching or new teacher training programs for transition were reported by three schools.Collaboration among faculty, such as the development of transition strategies and the identificationof key stages of transition, was reported by two schools. On only two occasions did a school offermore than one type of professional development for transition.Although this study is quite small and results cannot be generalized across a larger population,the results still offer insights into the lack of transition program components within some schools.It is interesting to note that, of the responses, only one response indicated an extensive knowledgeof the importance of transition programs and how that knowledge was used to support transition.In contrast, most open-ended responses were limited in length and scope, despite the fact thatrespondents were offered access to a website providing more information on the nature of the
  16. 16. 100 Journal of Research in International Education 12(1)study, problems TCKs face, and about research on transition programs. It is also notable that only11 out of 41 schools responded, despite numerous reminders and personalized requests for partici-pation. There are several possibilities for the lack of response, including the possibility of flawswithin the overall research design, such as the initial sample size being too small. Of those respond-ing, feedback was also quite limited in many of the open-ended responses. Although this could bedue to time constraints, there is a possibility that there is a shocking lack of interest in the topic oftransition programs in international schools. If this is the case, the findings have several implica-tions for members within international school communities, the first being to increase awarenessof the impact of transition on TCKs in international schools.Suggestions for further researchBecause of a limited response rate, a suggestion for further research includes a larger study of theuse and implementation of transitional support in international schools, including – but not limitedto – the use of professional development, orientation programs, departure programs and transitionsupport teams. Another way to further enhance depth of understanding about the importance of thistopic would be to undertake a case study of a school offering all four components. This study iden-tified some variables among schools included in the study, such as school population size, and thesize of the faculty and administrative team. In further research it may be important to limit some ofthese variables. One smaller school, for example, reported that transitional support was unneces-sary because of the inherent close-knit community, while a response from one large school indi-cated a lack of awareness that transition programs are needed within international schools. Also, asimilar study with a longitudinal design would allow for greater analysis into the extent to whichtransitional supports are successful.ReferencesAl-Issa A (2004) Global nomads and the search for cultural identity: tips from the classroom. CollegeTeaching 52(1): 31–32.Allan M (2002) Cultural borderlands: a case study of cultural dissonance in an international school. Journalof Research in International Education 1(1): 63–90.Alspaugh JW (1998) Achievement loss associated with the transition to middle school and high school. TheJournal of Educational Research 92(1): 20–25.Association of Americans Resident Overseas (2011) 5.08 million Americans (excluding military) live in160-plus countries. Available at: (accessed 2September 2011).Berry JW, Poortinga YH, Segall MH and Dasen PR (2002) Cross-Cultural Psychology Research andApplications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Bonebright DA (2010) Adult third culture kids: HRD challenges and opportunities. Human ResourceDevelopment International 13(3): 351–359.Davis P, Headley K, Bazemore T, et al. (2010) Evaluating impact of transition seminars on missionary kids’depression, anxiety, stress, and well-being. Journal of Psychology and Theology 38(3): 186–194.Eakin KB (1998) According to My Passport, I’m Coming Home. Washington, DC: US Department of State.Available at: (accessed 19 February 2013).Gillies WD (1998) Children on the move: third culture kids. Childhood Education 75(1): 36–38.Grama JL (2011) Legal Issues In Information Security. Sudberry: Jones & Bartlett.Grimshaw T and Sears C (2008) ‘Where am I from? Where do I belong?’: the negotiation and maintenance ofidentity by international school students. Journal of Research in International Education 7(3): 259–278.
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  18. 18. 102 Journal of Research in International Education 12(1)Author biographyJessica Bates grew up in Maine, where she completed her undergraduate degree in Human Ecology at theCollege of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor Maine. She holds a Masters degree in Multicultural Education fromEastern University in St David’s, Pennsylvania. Jessica spent 2 years teaching Special Education in the innercity of Philadelphia before moving to Vermont to teach. She is currently employed as a Special Educator atColchester High School, in Colchester Vermont, where she is in her 7th year of employment. She has a keeninterest in international education, and has traveled extensively.