Early school-leavers' microtransitions: towards a competent self
Purpose ‐ The purpose of this study is to discuss conditions in support of a Competent Self in the broader process of the school-work transition, particularly regarding early school-leavers. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A total of 233 early school-leavers were followed in innovative and successful vocational training courses. Using a "quali-quantitative" research model, longitudinal and multilevel, the comparison between contexts (previous/current school attended) and experiences (school failure/success) was adopted as the basic unit of analysis and considerable attention was given to the personal reflexivity stimulated by the transition undertaken. Findings ‐ The successful vocational training experience allowed the students to demonstrate commitment, competence and mastery motivation supported by the perception they were part of a project that was credible, shared and focused on a mutual investment in learning a job. The commitment and availability of the teachers and the testing of the "learning by doing" were the aspects that most strongly supported the construction of a Competent Self, in contrast with what the students perceived in the schools they had left. Research implications ‐ The findings support the relevance of studying school-failure by valorising the perceived quality of the school experience especially in relation to the teaching-learning models adopted. Practical implications ‐ Emphasis was placed on the conditions that could contribute to coping with the school failure phenomenon (especially regarding vocational school paths). Originality/value ‐ The theoretical-methodological measures adopted contributed to overcoming some ambiguities that characterised the research on school failure, questioning the supposed weakness of the early school-leavers and highlighting school factors that contributed to students' engagement/disengagement, making the "school" (not only the students) "protective" or "at risk".