An age at least to every part: A longitudinal perspective on the early professional learning of teachers
This chapter explores the professional development of those new teachers who took part in the longitudinal phase of the EPL project. This initial phase of ethnographic case study began in August 2004. It generated sets of sequential interviews with 25 new teachers in six Scottish secondary schools, and was supplemented by ethnographic observations of school culture as a context for learning to teach – equivalent, eventually, to some 540 pages of transcript. From the outset, it was apparent in the data collected that informal learning, emotions, context and identity formation were important dimensions of the experience. Studies which focus on the impact of induction programmes, as in, for example, the recent systematic review by Totterdell et al. (2004), tend to exclude such phenomena, perhaps highlighting a lack of empirically grounded evidence (Straka 2004). More generally, an enduring weakness in studies of the early professional development of teachers has been the absence of longitudinal data which might otherwise generate insights on the extent to which there may be stages of early development or indeed discontinuities at such key transitions as ‘student to inductee’ and ‘inductee to fully qualified teacher’. Such evidence would be important for the development of meaningful policy on induction with perhaps a direct bearing on policy relating to teacher retention and career development. It was in order to address this inconsistency in teacher research that the decision was taken to build a longitudinal study into the project’s design trajectory, and this chapter now examines the extent to which the dimensions of the EPL model remain true to the experience of beginning teachers
beyond the induction year itself. Of the 25 new teachers with whom the EPL project began in
2004, 12 continued to be interviewed until the conclusion of the study in 2007. By the end of the first year of the project, six of these new teachers had gained permanent posts within their induction schools, and another a post in a different school but within the same local education authority; a further four had gained permanent posts in schools in different authorities. By June 2007, only one of these new teachers had failed to find a permanent post; he was, however, in long-term temporary employment in a school in the local authority in which he had qualified. For the majority of these new teachers at least, the data suggested that the induction scheme was successful in its aim of ensuring that new teachers moved into the profession following successful qualification. The chapter begins, however, with the case study of the teacher for whom the scheme was least conclusive.