The Experience of Being a Lay Teacher in Catholic Schools: An Approach for Investigating the History of an Under-researched Field

Tom O'Donoghue


Internationally, there has been a major output of empirical research on Catholic education over the last two decades. However, it has not been accompanied by a similar corpus of related work indicating possible new directions such research could take, including those that could be undertaken by using a diverse range of methodologies on a wide range of topics neglected to date. This paper indicates one such direction that could be taken in relation to historical research on lay teachers in Catholic schools from the 1940s to the present. First, the historiographical work that has been undertaken on the history of teachers more broadly is considered. An overview on the official status of the laity and the lay teacher historically within the Church is then considered. Finally, an argument for the use of a «life story» research approach for the generation of research questions to investigate the experience of being a lay teacher in Catholic schools. The approach is suitable for «insider research», where the focus is on investigating issues that were of concern for participants, rather than on pursuing pre-ordained questions of interest to the researcher and which usually arise primarily from a reading of the relevant background literature only.


Catholic education; schools; lay teachers; life story; innovative research

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