ABSTRACT

Research on teachers has a long history in sociology and in education. From the 1950s to the 1980s, there were important changes in focus and shifts in emphasis which have been catalogued by Ball and Goodson (1985). In the 1950s and 60s the focus was on ‘role’ (Stiles, 1957; Wilson, 1962), on ‘professionalization’ (Lieberman, 1956; Etzioni, 1969) and on statistical analyses of the characteristics of teachers and their position in society (Tropp, 1957; Floud and Scott, 1961; Kelsall, 1963). Ball and Goodson claimed that in the 1970s the emphasis shifted to the constraints on teachers’ work (Hannam, Smyth and Stephenson, 1971). Some studies (Sharp and Green, 1975; Woods, 1979) focused on the societal and economic determinants of education and explained how constraints limited both the aims and the practice of teachers’ work. The 1970s also saw a revival of the interactionist theoretical perspective in research into the sociology of education and this continued in the 1980s. In such research the emphasis was on individuals’ construction of reality, on meaning, understanding and experience (Woods, 1983). In the 1970s and 80s the interactionist perspective was used extensively in research on teachers and teachers’ careers (Hammersley, 1977; Woods, 1980; Riseborough, 1981; Nias, 1984, 1985; Ball and Goodson, 1985; Sikes, Measor and Woods, 1985). These perspectives shifted the focus of research on teachers to the immediate practical problems of being a teacher and coping day-to-day in schools and classrooms. Ball and Goodson (1985) have claimed that in the 1980s there were fruitful exchanges between interactionist approaches and researchers emphasizing the wider societal, economic and cultural constraints on teachers. These exchanges have resulted in teachers’ experiences increasingly being placed in the wider political, social and economic contexts within which they operate and which influence their work and careers.