A Longitudinal Study of Teaching Practice and Early Career Decisions: A Cautionary Tale

Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Patrick McQuillan, Kara Mitchell, Dianna Gahlsdorf Terrell, Joan Barnatt, Lisa D'Souza, Cindy Jong, Karen Shakman, Karen Lam, Ann Marie Gleeson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Although the turnover rate among beginning teachers has been a major concern for some time, most studies do not link teacher retention with teaching practice. In contrast, this study looks specifically at career decisions coupled with practice. Guided by a view of teaching as social and cultural practice, the study used multiple qualitative data sources, including extensive observations, interviews, and samples of teachers' and students' work. Based on within- and cross-case analysis of 15 cases at four distinct time points within a 5-year period, the authors identified multiple patterns of teaching practice linked to early career decisions, which reflect considerable variation in quality of teaching and career trajectory. The authors argue that "stayers" and "leavers" are not homogeneous groups, as is often assumed in research and policy. Rather, there are multiple variations of practice coupled with career decisions, some desirable and others not, with different implications for policy and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)844-880
Number of pages37
JournalAmerican Educational Research Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • career development
  • retention
  • teacher characteristics
  • teacher education/development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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