10 SES 06 JS, Professional (Teacher) Identities and Digital Technology
Paper Session, Joint Session with NW 06
Teacher professional identity is highly individualistic while at the same time collective in scope. From this perspective, teachers need space and opportunity to develop personal and professional identities, a process that requires them to “engage in the complex integration of personal self, and the taking on of a culturally scripted, often narrowly defined professional role while maintaining individuality” (Alsup, 2006, p. 4). By considering this process from the foundations of situated learning theory and communities of practice, this paper discusses the case of EdCommons, an initiative designed to build professional networks amongst pre-service teachers, novice and experienced teachers, administrators, directors, academics and other key education stakeholders synchronously and asynchronously. From research data collected as part of the ongoing evaluation of the EdCommons initiative, this paper presents a model of workforce capacity building that privileges the notion of collective agency within context.
In a regional Australian university, an initiative was initially established to help pre-service teachers network and engage with professional educators in a global context from the outset of their university study. While the initial focus was on building a pedagogy of professional induction from the commencement of their studies in education, very quickly the professional learning opportunities for the broader community of educators became apparent. The EdCommons, as a professional community of practice, builds professional networks amongst key education stakeholders locally and globally, engaging participants in discussions about relevant and current educational topics.
Initially, EdCommons was designed as a process of professional induction for pre-service teachers in a face-to-face context. However, very quickly the online community site also began to emerge – providing students at a distance parity of experience with their on-campus counterparts. Feedback from participants and stakeholders indicated benefits for all involved, with participation helping pre-service teachers to build a professional identity and a sense of belonging to the profession and to feel optimistic about their future careers (Savickas, 2005). Likewise, the more experienced educators working in the field of education championed the informal professional learning opportunities afforded, while also associating engagement with heightened professional engagement and optimism with regards to their future contribution to the field.
The research associated with this initiative provides insights that will be of relevance to educational researchers from any context where issues around professional induction, professional identity and global connections are important. The theoretical framework, as explained in a later section, drew on evolutionary epistemology (Campbell, 1969) and highlights the research-practice nexus of the project and its intent. In evaluating the initiative, the research began with the folllowing questions:
What benefits are identified by participants about their involvement in Education Commons? What are the challenges that participants face within the community of practice framework? How does a collective approach to building professional identity affect workforce capacity and career optimism?
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