10 SES 02 A, Becoming a Teacher
This presentation endorses the ECER 2018 theme of inclusion and exclusion by confronting a major struggle for public education around the world: the attrition of teachers. ‘Western countries such as Ireland, Spain, Sweden and the USA are facing teaching gaps’ (Lindqvist et al. 2014, 94) and as well as the UK and Australia ‘the Netherlands also faces the problem of attrition among beginning teachers’ (den Brock et al. 2017, 893). Gallant and Riley’s study (2014) into the reasons why teachers in Australia leave the profession cite disillusionment and a mismatch between ideals and the reality of teaching as key factors. They suggest that such disillusionment is caused by a lack of opportunity for personal growth. The indication is that accountability measures and regulation can lead to a decrease in teachers’ motivation and commitment. Recently developed standards for teachers’ professional development in England (where this study took place) (Department for Education 2016) omit reference to the personal aspects of teaching and focus on pupil attainment and measurable outcomes. The current performative culture in England means that the personal and affective aspects of teaching such as emotions are being neglected in teacher education owing to the pressures of satisfying criteria for set standards and for meeting pupil progress targets (Author 2017, Korthagen 2004).
This research explores the reflections of four teachers who took part in an ethnographic study during their pre-service teacher education course and then discusses the findings of this and the teachers’ subsequent careers in interview with the researcher nine years later. Analysing the data generated over an extended period of time and through a Heideggerian lens encourages a view of the teacher as a temporal being operating within both authentic and inauthentic modes (Heidegger 1927). The study suggests that addressing an individual’s life experiences and personal aspirations plays an important part in understanding their appreciation of the teaching and learning process. The purpose of the study is to explore how teachers’ experiences of learning to teach affect their continued learning and involvement in the profession. It advocates teacher education courses considering new ways of enabling teachers to appreciate an understanding of their learning to teach. Recent trends of teachers leaving the profession in Europe and globally suggest that more can be done to support them in initial training and in subsequent professional development activities.
Using concepts from Heidegger’s philosophical enquiry into Being the study considers how people view themselves in relation to their experiences in teaching and focuses on thoughts and responses to understandings of one’s past, present and future. Concepts from Heidegger’s work on the nature of the existence of human beings (temporality and authenticity) are used as sensitising concepts in order to interpret research data: sensitising concepts are seen as provisional guides to a changing and complex reality (Willis 2013).
Teaching is a complex activity and has been shown to challenge novice teachers owing to the emotional and heightened nature of the activity (Sutton and Wheatley 2003). The experience of being a teacher in a Heideggerian sense revolves around the notion of authenticity (Brook 2009). Heidegger suggests that we de-structure the preconceptions about teaching as an idea (for example that it’s about teaching content, learning outcomes or students as objects). Then we ask what characteristics are fundamental after clearing away such perceptions about teaching. The data analysis questions what this means for my respondents in terms of becoming teachers and learning to teach.
The research questions ask:
- How did your experience of learning to teach affect your continued learning and your subsequent career?
- Have your opportunities to learn changed since taking the teaching course?
The initial research study (a year-long ethnography based in one secondary school undertaken in 2006) interviewed each pre-service teacher twice and observed them working with mentors and university tutors in the school setting (Author 2014). Four of the pre-service teachers were then interviewed for this follow up study in 2015. The findings reported here focus on how pre-service teachers spoke about their learning and how they felt this has influenced their careers. The interviews were semi-structured, qualitative and designed to find out what respondents thought about their experiences of learning to teach, and how these had developed over time. Interviews with the participants were an effective way of exploring their ideas. In focusing on understandings rather than checking accuracy of accounts, interviews were also an appropriate way of exploring the conceptual position taken by respondents with regards to their learning and their careers. Each interview lasted approximately an hour and they were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Prior to the interviews I sent the respondents an in depth account of the first ethnographic study in the form of a published research monograph (Author 2014). I highlighted the sections with particular relevance to pre-service teachers’ learning opportunities and each respondent agreed to read these. My aim was to revisit the respondents after a considerable period of time and record experienced consequences in order to gain some further understanding of their reflections on their learning to teach. I therefore considered the four respondents as case studies tracked in relation to the data initially generated in the year-long ethnography. In reading my book they were also made aware of my interpretations of their learning opportunities when on the teaching course. This was discussed early in the interviews after their initial explanations of how their careers had developed over the years since the course and since their last interview with me. A semi-structured and flexible interview strategy was adopted in order to create a guided conversation to elicit rich and detailed information for qualitative analysis. As interview consent was agreed after each respondent had read the monograph reporting the research in which they had previously participated, I was satisfied that they understood and were happy with my ethical approach to research work. More trusting relationships with better data being produced when participants feel confident in their engagement in research can be seen as a key foundation for a longitudinal approach to fieldwork (Pollard 2007, 13).
Initial data analysis considers respondents’ differing approaches to learning to teach. When reflecting on the experience of the teacher education course: “It’s like my whole life’s before me. It’s been a huge personal learning curve about what I am like and how I react and oh it’s just massive.” The two pre-service teachers still teaching emphasize the emotional aspect of learning and recognize this as integral to the experience of being a teacher: “It is that emotional investment I really savour. For me teaching is such an emotional profession.” One respondent explains how she values the opportunities in her teaching career which allow her to follow the possibilities of being herself. She is influenced by the anticipatory moments of what she can become: “[The teaching course was] something that had an extreme influence over not only my professional work but over me as a person and what I hold to be most valuable. I value it a lot more so many years down the line than I did then. It was influential and supportive while allowing you to be yourself.” However, another respondent who left teaching intentionally played down emotions about her work in the classroom: “I tend not to use my emotions. OK I am feeling this but it doesn't matter. This is what I have to do. I guess that is a character flaw or attribute, I don’t know.” In their reflections, respondents explain how the past contributes to shaping their future while the future is directing their present efforts. Data analysis considers respondents’ conceptions of their experiences and analyses their sense of themselves as beings-in-time (Heidegger 1927; Steiner 1987). This opens up questions around personal aspirations and what is seen as valuable to each individual. The study considers how this influences respondents’ desires to stay in teaching.
Author 2014 (removed for review) Author 2017 (removed for review) Den Brock, P., Wubbels, T. and Van Tartwijk (2017) Exploring beginning teachers attrition in the Netherlands, Teachers and Teaching 23(8) 881-895. Department for Education (2016) Standards for teachers’ professional development. London: Department for Education. Gallant, A. and Riley, P. (2014) Early career teacher attrition: new thoughts on an intractable problem, Teacher Development, 18(4) 562-580. Heidegger, M. (1927) Being and time. Oxford: Blackwell (1962 translation by J. Mcquarrie and E. Robinson). Korthagen F. A. J. (2004) In search of the essence of a good teacher: towards a more holistic approach in teacher education, Teaching and Teacher Education, 20(1) 77-97. Lindqvist, P., Nordanger, U. And Carlsson, R. (2014) Teacher attrition the first five years – A multi-faceted image, Teaching and Teacher Education 40 94-103 Pollard, A. (2007) The identity and learning programme: ‘principled pragmatism’ in a 12-year longitudinal ethnography, Ethnography and Education 2(1) 1-19. Sutton, R.E. and Wheatley, K.F. (2003) Teachers' emotions and teaching: a review of the literature and directions for future research, Educational Psychology Review 15(4) 327-358. Willis, P. 2000. The ethnographic imagination. Cambridge: Polity Press.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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