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Alike Yet Different: The Challenges of Carrying Out Interviews With Teachers in Comparative Research

By: Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases in Education
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This case study considers some of the methodological challenges encountered when revisiting the professional lives of 27 mid-career teachers from cities in Germany, Norway, and England. I say “revisit” because these teachers were not strangers to me and I am still in touch with many of them today. For my PhD, I had, several years beforehand, spent 2 years interviewing them as they moved from student teacher to professional practitioner. Back then, I vowed that we would meet up again and talk about how their careers had developed. A longitudinal comparative study is rare within the literature on teachers' professional learning, and yet I considered this necessary. All too often international comparisons are used to legitimate claims and justify radical changes in education policy based on large-scale survey methods. Yet many such comparisons avoid the in-depth understanding of educational perspectives and practices in situ, gained when viewed through the eyes of professionals within their own cultural context. Exploring the variety and depth of experiences these teachers have had of professional learning, this study examined the extent to which these experiences addressed their professional needs and/or the professional needs of the institutions in which they worked. The findings revealed a disparity between the activities these teachers engage in and the value they place on their own professional development.

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