10 SES 05 A, Professional Knowledge & Teacher Identity: Leadership
In the 21st Century, teachers’ work has become increasingly regulated and prescribed, with intensified bureaucratic responsibilities and keen public scrutiny (Hargreaves, 2010; Price & McCallum, 2015). At the same time, teaching remains fundamentally a caring profession, focussed on looking after other people and requiring high levels of social skills and emotional labour to successfully engage and motivate students, as well as maintain effective relationships with the broader school community (Aspfors & Bondas, 2013). The combination of these intense and at times competing occupational demands requires teachers to demonstrate both a well-developed capacity for resilience (Gu & Day, 2013; Mansfield, Beltman, Broadley & Weatherby-Fell, 2016) and a robust professional identity (Beltman, Glass, Dinham, Chalk & Nguyen, 2015; Day & Lee, 2011).
Internationally, the demographic profile of teachers has also changed with a growing proportion of aspiring teachers taking non-traditional pathways to teaching (see Tigchelaar, Brouwer, & Korthagen, 2008) notably these are people who are changing from other professions to teaching. While career changers to teaching have the potential to contribute significantly to the broader profession, their entry to teaching is often through shorter, alternate programs that provide limited time and opportunities to develop their identities as teachers. Experiencing contemporary classroom contexts during school-based professional experiences in preservice teacher education offers aspiring career change teachers the opportunity to ‘reality check’ their choice to become teachers and to test their personal assumptions about teaching against the realities of the classroom. School-based professional experience is often described as the most significant learning period (Ferrier-Kerr, 2009) and also the most stressful component (Chaplain, 2008) during teacher education. The capacity to be resilient and thrive in difficult circumstances can be enhanced or inhibited by the nature of the context, in which individuals are immersed, the people in those settings with whom individuals associate and the strength of an individual’s beliefs or aspirations (Day, Kington, Stobart & Sammons, 2006). As such, the professional experience context plays a critical role in the resilience of all aspiring teachers. It is argued that it is during professional experience that teacher identities are most unstable (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2011). Further, it is posited that teacher identity development is even more intense for career-changers, as they need to navigate the transition from their previous career identity to a new professional identity as a teacher (Williams, 2010).
This paper adopts a transactional–ecological theoretical framework to explore our research question: How do school-based professional experiences influence the evolving teacher identity and associated resilience of preservice teachers who are career-changers? Originally emerging from the field of developmental psychology (Sameroff, 2009, 2010) the transactional-ecological model has been used to better understand the ongoing transactions between the individual and the experiences provided by his or her social settings. The transactional-ecological framework has been used previously to investigate both teacher identity (Day, Sammons, Stobart, Kington & Gu, 2007) and teacher resilience (Day & Gu, 2014; Johnson, et al., 2014). From an ecological perspective, every social context or ‘ecology’ contains a number of social systems that an individual must understand and negotiate. The transactional–ecological framework comprises bidirectional, person-context transactions (Sameroff, 2010) in which the individual influences their environment and the environment reciprocally influences the individual. The development as teacher is a product of the continuous, dynamic and reciprocal interactions of the preservice teacher and their experiences within multiple contexts during teacher education and so is transactional and ecological in nature. In this paper, the focus is on the transactions between the preservice teachers and the schooling contexts during professional experience.
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