01 SES 06 A, Professional Identity
The objective of this paper is to explore three research questions: how can teacher identity be characterised and understood in the rapidly changing Post Soviet context of Kazakhstan; what theoretical framework is best used to explore this; and what methodological issues are there behind this. Towards this, the paper will specifically draw upon two key theoretical framings of teacher professional identity, contrast them for fitness of purpose in the specific context described and then suggest steps forward.
Firstly, Beijaard, Meijer and Verloop (2004, p122), in their overview of teacher professional identity literature, suggest that teacher identity covers the four elements of: being ‘an ongoing process’; including ‘the person and context’; containing several ‘sub-identities’; and, operating dynamically through ‘agency’. Beijaard, Meijer and Verloop (2004) potentially allow change such as the societal upheaval experienced in Kazakhstan to be represented through one person (and this person’s construct of teacher identity) having past, current and future sub-identities based upon time, context and their dynamic response to wider events; all set against a ‘professional landscape’ (p126). Thus, individual teachers’ professional identities, whether across subject specialism, time, societal context or any other identifiable sub-identities, can build towards an overall group identity. The building blocks for a professional identity are therefore formed from a collection of individuals’ personally constructed, meaningful and integrated narratives; best extracted through adopting an open but structured methodology. The ensuing collective response dataset is then examined for commonalities to be bound together as a group level representation of teachers’ professional identity.
The second theoretical basis examined, Korthagen (2004), represents teacher identity diagrammatically as an onion with layers that correspond to a central core of mission followed, in an outwardly direction, by: identity; beliefs; competences; and behaviour. In this framework, mission is critical and capturing this is paramount; particularly with a situation such as that found in Kazakhstan where older teachers will have lived through a major philosophical transition in the purposes of education from Soviet to post-independent eras. The essential mission of teachers though their drive for students to learn alongside the beliefs they have about this plus the means of checking this process are seen to essentially inform upon their identity. This is a simpler approach than Beijaard, Meijer and Verloop (2004) but cuts to the essentialism of the teacher profession which has appeal in the context of this paper as exploratory research upon teachers’ historic and current professional identities in Kazakhstan.
Implicit within both of the theoretical frameworks described above, is the psychological underpinning of Dialogical Self Theory (Herman & Dimaggio, 2007) which postulates that individuals effectively talk themselves through life to form a narrative of experiences; located in the cultural norms and physical environment they encounter. This then acts as a useful cognitive tool in representing the experiential side of identity; at firstly an individualistic but then agreed social level. Although much of the literature pertaining to teacher professional identity takes a sociological perspective, such as the structural interactionist approach (e.g. Stryker, 2008), the emphasis on individual agency and dialectic between person and self suggests that psychological approaches (e.g. Deaux & Martin, 2003) that include self-perception as a component to identity may be usefully deployed to explore professional identity from a more fundamental, psychological perspective.
To inform upon future methodological approaches, seeking out the most applicable theoretical basis upon which to base future research in this area was an implicit underlying objective of the current research. Hence this paper is anticipated to serve to open up debate upon competing theoretical approaches towards teachers’ professional identity and the parts sociological and psychological perspectives may play in this.
Beauchamp, C., & Thomas, L. (2009). Understanding teacher identity: An overview of issues in the literature and implications for teacher education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), 175-189. Beijaard, D., P.C. Meijer, and N. Verloop. (2004). Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education. 20, 107–128. Deaux, K., & Martin, D. (2003). Interpersonal networks and social categories: specifying levels of context in identity processes, Social Psychology Quarterly, 66(2), 101-117. Herman, H. M., & Dimaggio, G. (2007). Self, identity, and globalization in times of uncertainty: A dialogical analysis. Review of General Psychology, 11(1), 31-61. James, M., & Pedder, D. (2006). Beyond method: assessment and learning practices and values, Curriculum Journal, 17(2), 109-138. Korthagen, F. (2004). In search of the essence of a good teacher: Towards a more holistic approach in teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20, 77–97. OECD (2008). OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) Teacher Questionnaire. Retrieved 21st January 2012 from http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/TALIS%202008%20Questionnaires.pdf Stryker, S. (2008). From Mead to a structural symbolic interactionism and beyond, Annual Review of Sociology, 34, pp. 15-31. Woolhouse, C., & Cochrane, M. (2010). ‘Now I think of myself as a physics teacher’: negotiating professional development and shifts in self‐identity, Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 11:5, 607-618
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