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Shifting from Stories to Live By to Stories to Leave By: Conceptualizing Early Career Teacher Attrition as a Question of Shifting Identities Open Access


Other title
Early career teacher attrition
Narrative inquiry
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Schaefer, L M
Supervisor and department
Dr. Jean Clandinin, Elementary Education/ Dr. Florence Glanfield, Secondary Education
Examining committee member and department
Dr. Bonnie Watt-Malcolm, Secondary Education
Dr. Vera Caine, Faculty of Nursing
Dr. lisahunter, Sports and Leisure Studies
Dr. Julie Long, Elementary Education
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Up to 40 per cent of early career teachers in Alberta, Canada, and elsewhere, leave teaching in Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in their first five years of teaching. My research puzzle was shaped by wonders about the experiences of 3 early career teacher leavers. I engaged with the participants over a six-month time span. As we engaged in a series of one-on-one conversations we explored their stories of who they imagined they would be as teachers before they began teaching, as they entered teaching, and as they left teaching. The field texts co-composed with participants were transcripts of conversations, annals, and stories composed around memory box artifacts. I inquired into their stories of teaching and was attentive to how their stories to live by, a narrative concept of identity, eventually shifted to what Clandinin, Downey and Huber (2010) call ‘stories to leave by.’ As I engaged with participants, I attended to how the shift from stories to live by to stories to leave by, that is, the fluid negotiation of teacher identity making, is a way to narratively understand the experiences of early career teacher leavers. It became apparent that their leaving was not an event or a moment, but a constant unfolding negotiation of their stories to live by as their embodied narrative threads, and imagined stories of teaching, intermingled with the contextual landscapes within which they lived. Being attentive to the unfolding of early career teachers’ lives allowed me to make visible, and to disrupt, the dominant stories around retaining early career teachers. I found that as they left K-12 classrooms to enter other professions, they were able to improvise ways to continue to live out their imagined stories of teaching, and were, in a sense, still teaching. This study provides insights into how we might think differently about pre-service teacher education and working with teachers within school landscapes.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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