In mid-December, I (Clive) received a nice holiday gift: word came that we had ethical approval from the University of Toronto to continue our longitudinal study of teachers for another 5 years (news of the extended funding by SSHRC came earlier). This is not a “high risk” study, but it is always a relief when the approval comes. We can now look forward to following the first cohort of 20 participants into their 16th year of teaching and the second cohort, also of 20, into their 13th year. This is a welcome development, as a longitudinal study obviously becomes more significant as the years pass.
This study, co-directed by Clare Kosnik (who also directs her SSHRC study of 28 teacher educators) – and involving a wonderful team of researchers – began in 2004 with 22 new teachers; the second cohort of 23 was added in 2007. Over the years, 3 participants have left the study but are still teaching, while another 2 have left teaching and hence the study; so the total is now 40. This is an unusually high retention rate both for teaching and for a longitudinal study.
It is likely the high retention is due in part to the teachers’ participation in the study itself, which they often tell us is very beneficial to them; sometimes they say it is the most useful PD they experience all year! This is a limitation of the study, since it means they are a relatively motivated group (although it is not something we could have avoided). However, it is interesting that teachers would find it so helpful to have someone listen to their experiences and views about teaching for an hour of so once a year. Perhaps it is a form of “PD” that should be used more often, as an alternative to top-down lectures by “experts” on how to teach!