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Professional Life and Work

Studying Teachers' Lives

Studying Teachers' Lives - an emergent field of study


In his book Schoolteacher (1975), Dan Lortie summarized the relationship between teachers and educational research studies in the United States:

Schooling is long on prescription, short on description. That is nowhere more evident than in the case of the two million persons who teach in the public schools. It is widely conceded that the core transactions of formal education take place where teachers and students meet... But although books and articles instructing teachers on how they should behave are legion, empirical studies of teaching work - and the outlook of those who staff the schools - remain rare [i].

The general point with regard to knowledge/power that Lortie makes has been a continuing one in the research discourse as related to teachers: a good deal of prescription and implicit portrayal but very little serious study of, or collaboration with, those prescribed to or portrayed. Yet while there is continuity, there are also changes over time which exist at the intersection with social, political and economic history.

Introducing the book Teachers’ Lives and Careers (1983), Stephen Ball and I argued that British research on teachers had moved through a number of contemporary phases. 'In the 1960's teachers were shadowy figures on the educational landscape mainly known, or unknown through large scale surveys or historical analysis of their position in society, the key concept in approaching the practice of the teaching was that of role [ii]. Teachers, in short, were present in aggregate through imprecise statistics or were viewed as individuals only as formal role incumbents mechanistically and unproblematically responding to the powerful expectations of their role set.

[i] Lortie, D. (1975) Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. vii.

[ii] Ball, S. and Goodson, I.F. (eds) (1985) Teachers' Lives and Careers, London, Philadelphia and New York: Falmer, p. 6.

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Studying Teachers' Lives Ivor Goodson
  • Date of publication: 06/02/1992
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 272
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
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  • Appears in:
    Studying Teachers' Lives
  • Paperback
  • Price of book: £42.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-415-06858-1
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