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Professional Life and Work

Studying Teachers' Lives

Studying Teachers' Lives - an emergent field of study


The conservative political renaissance of the 1980s rapidly affected the context of educational research. One of the incidental side-effects on studies of teachers' lives and careers was that work on the 'context' of the teacher's work became less common and certainly less fundable (although some work continued to be funded by teacher unions). As a result, contextualist studies of teachers' lives particularly from a fuller life history perspective became more difficult. Having reached such a promising plateau in the early 1980s, and with serious life history work beginning, the promise and potential of such work was rapidly affected by the new climates in which educational research had to be undertaken.

The crucial focus for life history work is to locate the teacher's own life story alongside a broader contextual analysis, to tell in Stenhouse's words 'a story of action, within a theory of context'. The distinction between the life story and the life history is therefore absolutely basic. The life story is the 'story we tell about our life'; the life history is a collaborative venture, reviewing a wider range of evidence. The life story teller and another (or others) collaborate in developing this wider account by interviews and discussions and by scrutiny of texts and contexts. The life history is the life story located within its historical context. By making contextual research more difficult, the new climate of research meant that in many cases life history work and collaborative inter-textual and inter-contextual inquiry was discouraged while more individual and specific life story work could none the less continue. A great deal of valuable work on teacher's stories or narratives was carried out in the 1980s by academics but much of it did not embrace contextual or inter-contextual analysis.

In the new climate of the 1980s, the teacher life story teller was therefore located between the power of resurgent political bureaucracy on the one side and the mediating power of the academy through whom their stories were transmitted on the other. To say the least, this is a peculiar 'place of tension' in which to undertake the intimate and ethically perilous collaboration through which the teacher's life might be reconstructed and made textual. 

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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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