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Urban Science Teachers: Exploring how their views and experiences can influence decisions to remain in post or not

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Teacher retention and attrition remain key education policy concerns. This PhD research explores the views and experiences of five urban science teachers working in one London secondary school. During this longitudinal study, the teachers were observed on one occasion and interviewed multiple times over a period of four years, resulting in 22 interviews, totalling over 12 hours of dialogue. The interviews were transcribed and coded, providing rich qualitative data.
The research questions which provide the line of argument for the thesis were:
1. What are the day-to-day experiences of five science teachers in one urban school?
2. How do the teachers construct their role as urban science teachers and what influence do the participants’ professional, situated and personal identities have on this role construction?
3. How do the participants’ experiences and role construction influence their career decisions and, in part, affect why some of them remain in post while others do not?
Two analytical approaches were used: firstly, teacher stories focusing on life histories and motivation were developed using qualitative data; secondly, three identity dimensions (professional, situated and personal identities) provided a frame to further to understand why the teachers made their various career decisions.
Only two of the participants remained in post at the end of the data collection period, and I argue that some teachers are more resilient than others. The findings suggest that each of the identity dimensions plays a part in generating (or weakening) this resilience: some teachers are able to recognise the factors contributing to a situation and then take appropriate action to address challenging scenarios, while others appear to be unable to either recognise or act, or both, in the same way. A further significant finding is that pragmatic matters matter: not all teachers had the luxury of choice available to them. In fact, I argue that, for some, staying in post might ultimately be a ‘non-choice’.
Based on these findings, I propose recommendations for teacher preparation and in-post support that might improve the current poor teacher retention rates in urban science teaching.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2017


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