The Secrets of Successful Veteran Biology Teachers: Metaphors of Evolution, Regeneration, and Adaptation

Aug. 20, 2009

Source: Teachers and Teaching, Volume 15, Issue 4 August 2009 , pages 493 – 513.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Voices of veteran junior high and high school biology teachers are seldom heard. Yet, the unique characteristics of this subject-matter may shed some light on veteran teachers' lives in school and their possible contribution to educational systems anywhere.

Therefore, the objectives of the present study are (1) to enhance the understanding of personal and contextual factors influencing VTs' career choices; (2) based on this understanding, to create VTs profiles; (3) to examine VTs' survival strategies; and (4) to find out what the education system needs to do to enjoy successful VTs' possible contributions.

Research Questions

Specifically, the present article attempts to answer the following questions:
1. What are the biology VTs' perception of educational systems and their transformation?
2. How do biology VTs respond to changes in the educational systems, how do they cope with them, and how the various personal and contextual factors acting in this environment influenced VTs' career choices?
3. What kind of survival strategies are enacted by biology VTs' in their changing educational arenas?
4. What characterizes successful biology VTs' profiles?
5. How can educational systems enjoy successful biology VTs' contributions?


Eight female veteran teachers (VTs) were interviewed for this study. Three participants are
still-active teachers, five have already retired.
All eight teachers were trained as junior high and high school teachers, and taught a wide range of grades from 7th to 12th.

Four teachers have a BA degree, four have an MA degree, and one is currently studying for her PhD in science education.

They teach/taught for a range of 20 to 37 years, in various urban schools in northern and central Israel, except for two who teach/taught in relatively large regional settlement schools in the north.
The interviewed VTs held various educational roles within the context of their school or within the context of the educational district or national educational system.

Using metaphors from biology, the VTs unfolded their own journey through teaching, over their past and ongoing professional development, revealing diverse profiles in accordance with their educational and disciplinary orientations.

Analysis of these teachers' descriptions of their successful survival in the system, despite its evolution and many changes, revealed three types of survival strategies:

(1) adapting, transforming teachers;

(2) non-transforming teachers; and

(3) regenerated teachers.


The present article argues that, inasmuch as various knowledge domains and their instruction share some properties with the domain of biology and its instruction, teachers' profiles and strategies may be helpful for understanding teaching careers in other domains as well. Different profiles may all lead to successful teaching, and veteran teachers may serve to promote others in their own areas of strength.


Updated: Dec. 07, 2009