10 SES 16 A, Student Teachers and Professional Identity
This longitudinal practitioner research project examined how seven student teachers developed their teacher identities during their three-year undergraduate professional degree programme through a university-school partnership in England. Success on the programme results in the student being awarded an honours degree, alongside Qualified Teacher Status, which in England, is a formal warrant to teach.
Teacher identity is important because there are strong links with teacher beliefs, learning and retention within the profession (Day, Elliot & Kington, 2005, Day & Kington, 2008). Teacher identity issues including the shaping of personal educational histories, the influence of policy frameworks as well as local school context, and the emotional dimension of being a teacher (Day & Kington, 2008, Beijaard, Meijer & Verloop, 2004, Kelchtermans, 1996, 2009) are significant. Previous studies have focused on new teacher identity (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2011) and post-graduate student teacher identity (Johnson, 2010, 2016). Longitudinal studies of teacher identity are rare, this study followed student teachers for three years from admission to the programme until graduation. The research questions asked: how did the student teachers experience identity development; what impacted on their identity development; what kind of teacher identity did they develop; and the shape of their identity development trajectories.
The theoretical framework for the study constructed a model of student identity development informed by Wenger’s work on membership of a community of practice, modes of identification and landscapes of practice (Wenger, 1998; Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015) as well as previous research surrounding teacher identity development (Sachs, 2005; Anspal, 2012; Kelchtermans, 1996, 2009; Lamonte & Engles, 2010).
As tutors on the programme we had ‘noticed’ (Mason, 2002) problematic issues around student teacher identity. Students on the programme undertake practicum experience in each year, starting eight weeks after commencing the programme of study. During each of these practicum, student teachers are assessed by school based mentors in relation to the Teachers’ Standards (DfE, 2011). Data were collected throughout the students’ three year journey via two semi-structured interviews during each year of the programme; once before practicum and once after practicum. For the seven volunteer student teachers, the engagement in semi-structured interviews provided an opportunity to reflect, express their opinions and provide examples of their identity development alongside experiences which had impacted on their personal trajectory to becoming a teacher. This qualitative data was analysed using a hybridised thematic approach which involved identifying themes from literature alongside emerging aspects the students identified themselves as significant in their identity development (Braun & Clarke, 2006; Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). This approach allowed for the student voice to be captured and reported.
Development of the identity development model through data analysis led to a revised model with four significant themes: external membership requirements; multiple identities; affective relational elements; and contextually situated negotiation. Additionally, five significant dimensions, which linked these themes, were generated through data analysis, these were; relationships; boundary crossing; agency; expectations of others; and the nationally prescribed Teachers’ Standards (2011). Findings indicate similarity between developing an identity as an undergraduate student teacher to that identified in previous research on post-graduate student teachers and new teachers. What is evident, from the analysis, is that this identity development a complex and individualised undertaking, in which the undergraduate experience has the potential to support transformative teacher identity development, consolidation of normative teacher identity in line with the programme, or rejection by the student of a teacher identity. In terms of transformation, students go beyond programme expectations to identify individual changes in their values and beliefs about what it is to be a teacher and the type of teacher they wish to become. In terms of consolidation, students may build on initial ideas about their teacher identity in response to the programme, or they may not change from their initial beliefs about their identity and the teacher they wish to be. Students who reject a teacher identity either do this completely and qualify without qualified teacher status, or they partially reject a teacher identity, attaining qualified status but choosing not to pursue employment as a teacher. The implications of the study strongly suggest that identity work should be an embedded element of teacher education programmes. This work would include development of a pedagogy of identity (Jenlink, 2006) which explicitly surfaces beliefs and values, role models and images of students as teachers in the present and future.
Anspal, T, Eisenschmidt, E & Löfström, E (2012) Finding myself as a teacher: exploring the shaping of teacher identities through student teachers’ narratives, Teachers and Teaching, 18:2, 197-216, DOI: 10.1080/13540602.2012.632268 Beauchamp, C & Thomas (2011) New Teacher’s Identity Shifts at the Boundary of Teacher Education and Initial Practice, International Journal of Educational Research, 50 (2011) 6-13 Beijaard, D., Meijer, P., & Verloop, N. (2004). Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20(2), 107–128 Day, C, Elliot, B & Kington, A (2005) Reform, Standards and Teacher Identity: Challenges of sustaining commitment, Teaching and Teacher Education, 21 (2005) 563-577 Day, C & Kington, A (2008) identity, well-being & effectiveness: the emotional contexts of teaching, Pedagogy: Culture & Society, Vol 16, No.1, march 2008, 7-23 Flores, M.A & Day, C (2006) Contexts which Shape and Reshape New Teachers’ Identities: A Multi-perspective study, Teaching and Teacher Education 22 (2006) 219-232 Jenlink, P.M Editorial: learning our identity as teacher – Teacher identity as palimpsest in Teacher Education & Practice, Vol. 19, No.2/Spring 2006 Johnston, D.H (2010) ‘Losing the joy’: student teachers’ experiences of problematic relations with host teachers on school placement, Teacher Development, 14:3, 307- 320 Johnston, D.H (2016) ‘Sitting alone in the staffroom contemplating my future’: communities of practice, legitimate peripheral participation and student teachers’ experiences of problematic school placements as guests, Cambridge Journal of Education, 46:4, 533-551 Kelchtermans, G (2009) Who I am in how I teach is the message: self-understanding, vulnerability and reflection, Teachers and Teaching, 15:2 257-272 Lamote, C & Engels, N The development of student teachers’ professional identity European Journal of Teacher Education Vol. 33, No. 1, February 2010, 3–18 Nias, J (1996) Thinking about feeling: the emotions in teaching, Cambridge Journal of Education. Nov 1996, Vol. 26, Issue 3 293-306 Sachs, J (2005) Teacher education and the development of professional identity: Learning to be a teacher, in Kompf, M & Denicolo, P (2005) Connecting Policy and Practice Challenges for teaching and learning in schools and universities. London: Routledge Wenger, E (1998) Communities of Practice: learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, Learning in a landscape of practice. A Framework in Wenger-Trayner, E, Fenton-O’Creevy, M, Hutchinson, S, Kubiak, C & Wenger-Trayner, B (eds) (2015) Learning in Landscapes of Practice: Boundaries, identity and Knowledgeability in Practice-Based Learning. Oxon: Routledge
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