10 SES 04 C, Developing Teacher Competencies: The role of beliefs, values and goals
This paper considers ways in which pre-service teachers in a particular initial teacher education programme develop a sense of professional self and agency to support learners in culturally responsive and socially responsible ways.
Teaching and teacher preparation in Aotearoa New Zealand, as in Europe, is increasingly being undertaken in contexts that are shaped by neoliberal policies, which emphasise educational ‘improvement’, performance measurement, and standardisation. O’Neill and Snook (2015) describe an ongoing struggle in public policy in Aotearoa New Zealand between neoliberal and social democratic conceptions of a ‘good society’, with the neoliberal discourse currently being ascendant. European based research suggests that within such policy contexts, teacher agency is problematic and can be seen as both positive, where teachers act to improve educational quality and student performance, and negative, where teachers may challenge and resist performative policy and the conditions of schooling and assessment (Biesta, Priestley & Robinson, 2015).
For those engaged in teacher education, then, there is a challenge in preparing the next generation of teachers. This challenge relates to the negotiation of political expectations for teacher performance, which is linked in the minds of some polititicians and policy makers to proxy measures associated with international testing of school students, and social commitments to developing teachers who value and are responsive to the cultural diversity of learners and the educational aspirations of communities. For pre-service (novice) teachers, there is a challenge in negotiating their anticipated roles as agents of change within a neoliberal policy context, as participants in particular teacher education programmes, and as students on professional practice in particular schools and communities. At a personal level, pre-service teachers develop a sense of what is a desirable society, their purpose and role as new teachers, and how they can and should act and exert agency. This sense-making is similtaneously a negotiation of policy in time and place, the material and structural elements of work, and professional teacher identity and belief.
Theoretically, this paper speaks to questions of initial teacher agency and identity, which are seen as interconnected. The notion of teacher agency adopted is that of agency negotiated in context, through actor-situation transactions, rather than agency as a quality or property that is possessed and which teachers may or may not hold (Biesta, Priestly & Robinson, 2015; Priestly, Biesta & Robinson, 2012). This ecological view of agency acknowledges the importance of context in influencing (by enabling or limiting) what teachers do, but also presents teachers as agentic beings and potentially influential professionals. Agency is constantly negotiated. Teacher agency, though, is also tied to teachers’ sense of professional self, roles and responsibilities, to values and beliefs held about what it is to be a teacher. These are matters of identity. The concept of teacher identity adopted is that of the ‘valued professional self’ (Davey, 2013), which is in a constant state of development throughout a teacher’s career, beginning with initial teacher education and initiation into the profession. Professional teacher identity involves a sense of oneself as a professional, which is simultaneously personal and biographical and involves a sense of group membership. This membership creates affinities with a collective and a sense of being part of a purposeful occupational community (Hamilton, Pinnegar & Davey, 2016). The process of becoming a teacher is thus a process of identity formation and development of teacher agency.
Biesta, G., Priestley, M., & Robinson, S. (2015). The role of beliefs in teacher agency. Teachers and Teaching, 21(6), 624-640. Cochran-Smith, M., & Donnell, K. (2006). Practitioner inquiry: Blurring the boundaries of research and practice. In J. Green, G. Camillli & P. Elmore (Eds.), Handbook of Complementary Methods in Education Research (pp. 503-518). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Cochran-Smith, M., & Villegas, A.M. (2014). Studying teacher preparation: The questions that drive research. European Educational Research Journal, 14(5), 379-394. Davey, R. (2013). The professional identity of teacher educators: Career on the cusp? New York, NY: Routledge. Hamilton, M.L., Pinnegar, S., & Davey, R. (2016). Intimate scholarship: An examination of identity and inquiry in the work of teacher educators. In Loughran, J., & Hamilton, M.L. (Eds.), International Handbook of Teacher Education, Volume 2 (pp. 181-237). Springer: Singapore. O’Neill, J., & Snook, I. (2015). What will public education look like in the future and why? New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 50, 195-2019. Priestley, M., Biesta, G., & Robinson, S. (2012). Teachers as agents of change: An exploration of the concept of teacher agency. Working paper no. 1, Teacher Agency and Curriculum Change Project. Retrieved from http://dspace.stir.ac.uk/handle/1893/9266#.WG7h2bZ95ER
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