Interpreting Early Career Trajectories

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Career decisions of four teachers are explored through the concept of figured worlds in this qualitative, longitudinal case study. Participants were purposefully chosen for similarity at entry, with a range of career trajectories over time. Teacher career paths included remaining in one school, repeated changes in schools, attrition after relocation, and non-renewal of contract. Data included interviews, observations, participants’ assessments, and pupils’ work. Cross-case analysis suggests that no single teacher attribute or workplace condition determined teachers’ career decisions; rather, teachers’ ability to refigure their identity within the figured world of teaching shaped career trajectory. Key factors such as ability to address disequilibrium, teacher identity, agency, and collaborative capacity are examined. Implications call for pre-service preparation and professional development to navigate cultures of schools, amended administrative involvement in teacher retention, and policy reform acknowledging the complexity of teachers’ figured worlds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)992-1032
Number of pages41
JournalEducational Policy
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation and Ford Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016.


  • educational policy
  • qualitative research
  • teacher preparation
  • teacher retention and turnover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Interpreting Early Career Trajectories'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this