Study of Transitions into Teaching

Principal Investigators

Pamela Grossman, Stanford University
Sheila Valencia, University of Washington


This study investigated the ways in which the policy environment affects subject-specific teacher learning at the beginning of teachers' careers. Using individual case studies of five elementary and five secondary language arts teachers through the last year of teacher preparation and into the first three years of full-time teaching, the researchers analyzed explicit and implicit policies to determine how those policies influence teachers' thinking and practice in language arts.

This project for CTP, an offshoot of research supported by the national research Center on English Learning & Achievement (CELA), traced the ways the policy environment affects subject-specific teacher learning in the first years of their teaching careers. The study focused particularly on how policies support teachers' opportunities for learning in the first years of their careers and also on how policies regarding the subject matter (in this case, language arts) shape teachers' classroom practice.

Main Research Questions

  • How do stated and implied policies and practices in the teacher education program contribute to teachers' conceptual and pedagogical understanding of their subject matter and teaching in general?
  • How do the stated and implied policies and practices (e.g., mentoring, professional development, class assignment, school culture) of various schools and school districts facilitate or hinder teachers' transition from preservice to professional teaching?
  • How do different school contexts influence teachers' reconceptualization of concepts and pedagogy acquired during their teacher education program?
  • What beliefs about teaching and learning are reflected in schools' and school districts' policies and practices directed at beginning teaching?


Case study research


Research Completed

Publications to Date

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  1. Curriculum Materials: Scaffolds for New Teacher Learning?
    A Research Report by Pam Grossman and Clarissa Thompson, January 2004.

    Derived from a study of beginning language arts teachers (see District Policy and Beginning Teachers: Where the Twain Shall Meet, elsewhere on this web site), this Research Report captures the ways curriculum (or its absence) guides what is learned level about instructional practice, and how, by new language arts teachers in secondary schools. The report underscores how potent curriculum policy can be for shaping teachers' early attempts to establish a secure professional repertoire.

    PDFAbstractOriginal Study
  2. Related Article: Grossman, Pamela; Thompson, Clarissa; Valencia, Sheila (2002). District policy and beginning teachers ERS Spectrum: Journal of School Research and Information, 20,12-22.
  3. District Policy and Beginning Teachers: Where the Twain Shall Meet
    A Research Report by Pamela Grossman, Sheila Valencia, and Clarissa Thompson, June 2001.

    This Research Report looks at the role that policies concerning curriculum, professional development, and mentoring in two reform-active districts played in shaping the experiences and concerns of three first-year language arts teachers.

    PDFAbstractOriginal Study