Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published in American Educational Research Journal Vol. 49


Copyright 2012 The Authors.


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.