My previous published research has focused on teachers' psychological characteristics (e.g., motivation). However, for my PhD, I want to change my focus to student learning. Thus, although the broader area remains the same, the participants (teachers vs. students), the specific topics (teachers' psychological make up vs. student learning), and maybe even the methodology (non-experimental vs. experimental) will be different. Is this a legitimate move or in any way common in academia, especially within the social sciences?
As I have previous publications in the former area, is it possible for the potential supervisor or the graduate admissions committee to think that I had better stuck to the area where I have actual research experience rather than try to enter a new one with new participants and methodology?
I, myself, believe that I can do it and I have become really interested in learning alongside my original interest. However, I am not sure whether this move is common or, on the other hand, if it could seem counterproductive and reduce my chances of acceptance?
If the latter, then I can save a lot of time by focusing on my original area of interest and keep student learning for later. So, I really appreciate any guidance/advice in this regard.