Longitudinal Study of Teachers
- Clive Beck, Clive BeckUniversity of Toronto
- Clare KosnikClare KosnikUniversity of Toronto
- and Elizabeth RosalesElizabeth RosalesUniversity of Toronto
The longitudinal study of teachers gives a time perspective on the life and work of teachers, instead of just a snapshot at a particular point. The time period in question may be just a few intense months, as in some ethnographic research, or several decades, as in some life-history research. Longitudinal research is useful in exploring such topics as how teachers change and grow over their careers, changes in teachers’ professional satisfaction over the years, patterns of teacher retention and drop-out, the impact of teachers on their students over time, and the influence of preservice and/or in-service teacher education on teachers.
Continuous study of the same teachers over many years is challenging and accordingly not common. It is typically expensive and time-consuming, and extends beyond the time span of most research funding; moreover, many participants either leave the profession or move to other locations, making it difficult to keep in touch with them. Accordingly, additional ways to do longitudinal research need to be found: for example, studying teachers intensively for a shorter period; asking teachers to recall earlier phases in their life and/or career; or studying different cohorts of teachers at various career points (as in the classic Huberman study and parts of the U.K. VITAE research). Each of these methods has limitations but maintains the valuable outcome of providing a time perspective.
Where it can be arranged, however, interviewing the same teachers at intervals over several years has the advantage of enabling researchers to get to know the participants well. As a result, the researchers are in a better position to understand what the participants are saying in the interviews, and assess the veracity of their self-reporting about their views and practices, past and present. Also, a degree of trust is established such that the teachers are more likely to be frank about their feelings, challenges, and concerns. But one danger of the emerging relationship is that the support the relationship it provides may positively impact the teachers’ experience (e.g., helping them fine-tune their practice and maintain their morale to an unusually high level). This limitation has to be weighed against the advantages in deciding whether or not to use this approach to the longitudinal study of teachers.