Case Studies: What counts after graduation?

Year: 2012

Author: Allard, Andrea, Doecke, Brenton, White, Simone, Hodder, Phillipa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The Studying the Effectiveness of Teacher Education (SETE) Project involves the construction of case studies of teachers who graduated 2010-2012. The purpose of the case studies is to explore the transition graduate teachers make from their teacher education programs into diverse school communities, thus adding a richly qualitative dimension to the survey findings. 50 case studies of selected schools with early career teachers are being carried out over three years, following the these teachers from their first year of teaching into their third year.

The teachers have been chosen according to the schools in which they are teaching in their first year. These are distributed across rural and urban settings in Victoria and Queensland, and they include both primary and secondary schools. The early career teachers involved are graduates of a range of teacher education programs. The data comprises: interviews with the graduate teachers and self-reports on their effectiveness; their sense of their professional trajectories and career achievements; interviews with the Principals of these teachers; interviews with senior staff responsible for inducting and mentoring the teachers; and a range of data regarding the learning outcomes of their students.

The case studies reported here draw on initial focus group discussions and interviews with teachers in regional schools with a range of induction and mentoring support for early career teachers. The major contrast between the schools is the economic circumstances of the diverse communities. The communities have been affected by significant changes in the Australian economy, producing in some communities economic prosperity and in others a marked decline in the employment opportunities available to young people on leaving school. The specific contexts in which these teachers find themselves shape the stories they tell about their induction into the profession in complex ways, raising important questions as to how school context might properly be acknowledged both by teacher educators and policy makers.

This paper does not, however, simply report on what we have encountered, but reflexively engages with the question as to how to construct cases that might grapple with the contradiction between the generalizations of standards-based reforms and the richly specific character of individual school communities. The experiences that these early career teachers narrate challenge the model of professional growth embodied in professional standards, prompting a reconsideration of the ways in which the institutional settings in which early career teachers mediate their experience.