01 SES 03 B, Professional Status and Professional Identity
This paper presents data from a wider funded research project aimed at examining existing conditions for teacher leadership and professional development in adverse contexts.
The ways in which teachers learn and develop have been analysed taking into account the contexts in which these processes occur as well as teachers’ preferences, dispositions, and the variables that might hinder of facilitate them (Lieberman, 1996; Day, 2001; Collinson, et al., 2009). Teacher development implies some kind of learning and change (Forte & Flores, 2014) and these may be better explored if we look at the ways in which teachers understand teachers’ views and experiences as well as the complexity and variety of factors that influence them. Issues such as personal biography, career phase, preferences of learning, relevant professional opportunities, support in and out of school, self-efficacy, working conditions, school cultures, leadership and external influences may be identified in the literature (Day, 2001).
Existing literature also suggests that teacher resilience is a construct that is relative, developmental and dynamic; it is socially constructed and depends on personal and professional dispositions as well as on contextual factors. It entails a sense of purpose and meaningful actions particularly in adverse circumstances (Day & Gu, 2014) as it is the case of Portuguese teachers over the last years.
Drawing from the major research project, this paper addresses the following research questions:
- How do Portuguese teachers view their experience as teachers in challenging contexts?
- What kinds of factors influence their resilience and professionalism in adverse times?
- How do they look at opportunities for professional development in the workplace?
This paper draws upon a broader piece of research funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (PTDC/CPE-CED/112164/2009) aimed at investigating existing conditions for teacher leadership and professional development in challenging circumstances. The economic and financial crisis that has affected several sectors in the Portuguese society has led to increases in unemployment, salary cuts, and higher taxes. These have impacted upon teachers and the teaching profession. Along with these are also changes at a policy level amongst which are new mechanisms for teacher evaluation; new protocols for school governance; reduction in the school curriculum; introduction of national exams from the primary school upward, etc. In general, more pressure is placed on schools and teachers to increase teaching standards and student achievement. In addition, changes in their workload and working conditions have been implemented. A mixed-method research design was devised. The project included three phases of data collection, including a national survey in which 2702 teachers participated (I); semi-structured interviews to principals in 11 schools located in different regions of the country; focus group to 99 teachers and focus group to 108 students (II) and a professional development programme in 5 schools located in northern Portugal, in which 66 teachers participated (III). In the process of analysis, an inductive approach was used, and substantive themes were defined as they emerged from the data. The process of data analysis was undertaken according to a vertical analysis (Miles and Huberman, 1994) according to which each of the respondents’ interviews was analyzed separately and a comparative or horizontal analysis (cross-case analysis) (Miles and Huberman, 1994). This process was undertaken iteratively and adjustments in the coding process were made where necessary. Quantitative data were analysed statistically with the use of SPSS 18.0.
Findings highlight teachers’ strong professional values, their sense of professionalism and their capacity for resisting and for being resilient (despite negative policy environment). The relational and affective dimension of teaching was highlighted in teachers’ accounts and it was of paramount importance as a key source of motivation (despite the external factors leading to lack of motivation such as lack of career prospects, salary cuts, worsening of working conditions and unemployment), resilience and hope in teaching. Internal factors such as teacher collaboration, classroom work and the relationship with students were identified as factors and sources of personal and professional motivation which help teachers to remain in the teaching profession and to invest in their professional learning. Strong professional values, sense of professionalism as well as teacher resilience which is related to their sense of identity as teachers also emerged from the data. Resilient teachers spoke of positive atmosphere at school, encouraging leadership and supportive colleagues, but they also claim that their remaining in teaching is to be related to their strong professional values as teachers, to their sense of vocation and to their professionalism and identity as teachers. Implications for teacher professional development are examined further in the paper.
Collinson, V., et al. (2009). Professional development for teachers: a world of change, European Journal of Teacher Education, 32 (1), 3-19. Day, C. & Gu, Q. (2014) Resilient Teachers, Resilient Schools, London: Routledge Day, C. (2001). Desenvolvimento Profissional de Professores. Os desafios da aprendizagem permanente.Porto: Porto Editora Forte, A. & Flores, M. A. (2014) Teacher collaboration and professional development in the workplace: A study of Portuguese teachers, European Journal of Teacher Education, 37 (1), 91- 105. Lieberman, A. (1996). Practices That Support Teacher Development. Transforming Conceptions of Professional Learning. In Teacher Learning. New Policies, New Practices, ed. M. W. McLaughlin and I. Oberman, 185-201. New York: Teachers College Press. Miles, M., & Huberman, M. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis. London: Sage.
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