10 SES 09 C, Research on Professional Knowledge & Identity in Teacher Education
Paper/Ignite Talk Session
As governments across the globe have become increasingly reliant on international comparisons to judge the effectiveness of their education systems, transnational datasets such as PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS have become crucial influences on policy and practice. This has been particularly the case in Europe, where EU education policy has long been underpinned by the aspiration to become a global ‘knowledge-based’ economic superpower (Ertl, 2006; Dale & Robertson, 2009).
One result of this globalising tendency in measuring the success of education systems has been a growing consensus that teacher quality is a key determinant of system quality (OECD, 2005/2011; Barber & Mourshed, 2007; UNESCO 2011). However, for many countries, attempts to match the teacher quality seen in 'high-performing' systems such as Finland, Singapore and S.Korea are constrained by the perceived low status of teaching as a career by many graduates (Barber & Mourshed, 2007; Vegas, 2007; OECD, 2011), leading to a plethora of initiatives intended to widen the 'talent pool'. This has included targeting a range of 'non-traditional' (e.g. minority ethnic, working class) entrants to the profession (Ingersoll, 2016). However, for the most part, the focus on teacher quality has led to policy being driven by a discourse of the 'exceptionalism of elites'. This is reflected in the global spread of the Teach for All programme, in which supposedly 'elite' graduates serve two year ‘internships’ in schools serving socio-economically-disadvantaged communities, where teacher recruitment and retention is traditionally most problematic (Darling-Hammond, 2009; Ammermuller & Lauer, 2009; Little, 2010). Elsewhere, professional career-changers have been seen as a potential source of high-quality recruits to teaching (Kane et al., 2008; Muijs et al., 2010, AUTHOR, 2015).
In Ireland, teaching is seen as a relatively prestigious career (Sahlberg et al 2012), so has generally avoided both destabilising reforms of ITE and anxiety about teacher recruitment, so ITE policy has focused on the goals of increasing diversity in the teaching profession and improving the learning experience for all students (Higher Education Authority, Ireland (HEA), 2015) rather than realigning recruitment to focus solely on teacher quality and student performance (Heinz and Keane, 2016). While researchers have explored the experiences of other non-traditional ITE students (minority ethnic (Bhopal 2015), men in primary (Tucker 2015), and of 'elites' entering ITE (Straubhaar & Gottfried, 2016; AUTHOR, 2017), there is a dearth of literature exploring the experiences of mature working-class entrants' lived experiences of becoming a teacher and what they feel they may bring to the profession.
'Becoming' is a process of identity development. While there is no definitive definition for the concept of identity, this study’s perspective is framed by Stryker’s (1980 ) structural symbolic interactionism. Stryker views 'the self' as a mosaic of various social roles/identities that an individual enacts in society (Author 2018). Based on a history of social and personal interactions, 'the self' constructs accepted meanings which regulate the behaviours of various identities; for participants in this study, these identities include ‘first time mature student teacher’ and 'beginning teacher' - and their enactment of these identities is governed by a history of interactions with other social actors and the relationship between personal identities. However, these identities are never complete, but instead are in a constant flux of (re)construction (Author 2017; Author 2018).
This study explores the key motivations for becoming teachers for this distinctive group of atypical ITE students, and examines the complex process of identity (re)construction they experience during their ITE programmes. It also analyses the ways in which the 'cultural scripts', shaped by their own life history, influence their engagement with teaching and learning process during their ITE journey.
This study takes place in an Irish university which is the country’s largest supplier of post-primary teachers. The participants are enrolled on 4-year concurrent programmes with a particular focus on either STEM or physical education subjects. Due to the large proportion of male students on the technology, engineering and materials programmes, the overall gender ratio is skewed approximately 60-40 in favour of men, making these programmes nationally atypical for gender distribution in ITE. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) in Ireland (2015) recommends that each institution should be setting a target of 16% ‘first time mature entrants’ across all undergraduate programmes; currently, this ITE provider is short of this, with 6% ‘first time mature entrants’ registered on its concurrent programmes. This study consists of two data collection phases. In the first phase, first time mature student teachers will participate in semi-structured interviews, designed to gain an understanding of the motivations to become a teacher and their experiences of their ITE programme to date. Following this first phase, the participants of the semi-structured interview will be invited to partake in a focus group activity. They will be asked to bring to the group an image that represents their understanding (positive or negative) of teaching and learning. These cultural images will be used to stimulate discussion in the focus group in order to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural scripts which influence participants’ beliefs and practices during ITE, as well as insights into their lived perception of the role of a teacher in today’s Ireland. At the time of writing this proposal, the researchers were in the process of arranging the first phase of data collection (semi-structured interviews). As a result, a detailed breakdown of the participants - in terms of programme of study, gender, previous experiences prior to entry, etc. - is unavailable. The main criterion for participation in the study, however, is that they were at least 23 years of age prior to the calendar year in which they began their ITE studies. Both phases will be analysed using thematic analysis guided by Braun and Clarke’s (2006) approach. Codes will be generated by means of bottom-up coding (Lewins 2008). Relationships between codes will be identified and clustered into themes based on the researchers’ consensus. Emerging themes will then be reviewed and refined, to ensure that the themes accurately reflect the lived experiences communicated by the participants in both phases.
This study expects to offer a significant contribution to the field by exploring the motivations of a distinctive of atypical ITE students, and the process of identity (re)construction they experience as they transition towards becoming a beginning teacher. Anticipated insights to be revealed as a result of this study include: - In the context of a global preoccupation with raising teacher quality and maximising teacher retention, the Irish government's focus on widening participation in ITE runs counter to the prevailing focus on attracting 'elites' (either graduates or elites). Therefore, the cultural scripts and stories of ITE from recruits who are potentially ignored by international teacher recruitment policies are at the forefront of this study - Ireland has recently announced its emergence from a 10-year economic recession. While there is a wealth of literature exploring motivations to pursue teaching, there is a dearth of studies which cite economic factors of a nation as a motivation. The STEM and physical education orientation of the concurrent programmes on offer in this university could perhaps influence ‘first time mature entrants’ who worked in precarious trades prior to enrolment. - The use of structural symbolic interactionism as a lens to explore student teachers’ identity (re)construction is uncommon in the literature. However, it allows the personal lives of the participants in terms of their previous experiences of education, teaching and learning, the workplace, etc. to emerge while also crucially positioning their experiences in light of the broader contextual relevance of the economy, societal perceptions of social roles, national policies to prioritising diversification and also recent school based curriculum reforms in Ireland.
Ammermuller, A. & Lauer, C. (2009) ‘School quality and educational outcomes in Europe’, in: P. Dolton, R. Asplund & E. Barth (Eds) Education and inequality across Europe (London, Elgar). AUTHOR 2015 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx AUTHOR 2017 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx AUTHOR 2018 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Barber, M. & Mourshed, M. (2007) How the world’s best performing school systems come out on top (New York, McKinsey and Co.). Bhopal, K. 2015. Race, identity and support in initial teacher training, British Journal of Educational Studies, 63(3), 197-211. Braun, V. and Clarke, V. 2006 ‘Using thematic analysis in psychology’, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101. Dale, R. & Robertson, S. 2009 Globalisation and Europeanisation in education (London, Symposium Books). Darling-Hammond, L. 2009 Educational opportunity and alternative certification: New evidence and new questions (Stanford, SCOPE). Ertl, H. 2006 European Union policies in education and training: The Lisbon agenda as a turning point? Comparative Education, 42(1), 5–27. Higher Education Authority (HEA), Ireland 2015 National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015 – 2019. (Dublin, 2015). Heinz, M. and Keane, E. 2018 Socio-demographic composition of primary initial teacher education entrants in Ireland. Irish Educational Studies, 37(4), 523-543. Ingersoll, R.M. and May, H. 2016 Minority teacher recruitment, employment and retention, Learning Policy Institute. Kane, T.J., Rockoff, J. & Staiger, D. 2008 What does certification tell us about teacher effectiveness? Economics of Education Review, 27(6), 615–631. Lewins, A. 2008. ‘CAQDAS: Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis’ in Gilbert, N., ed., Researching social life (3rd edn), London: Sage. Little, J. 2010 The teacher workforce and educational equity, Review of Research in Education, 34(1), 285–328. Muijs, D., Chapman, C., Collins, A. & Armstrong, P. 2010 Maximum impact evaluation: The impact of Teach First teachers in schools (Manchester UK, University of Manchester). OECD 2005 Teachers matter: Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers (Paris, OECD). OECD 2011 Building a high-quality teaching profession: Lessons from around the world (Paris, OECD). Straubhaar, R., & Gottfried, M. 2016. Who joins Teach for America and why?: Insights into the "typical" recruit in an urban school district, Education and Urban Society, 1-23. Stryker, S. (1980) . Symbolic interactionism: A social structural version. Menlo Park: Benjamin Cummings. UNESCO 2011 Global education digest (Quebec, UNESCO). Vegas, E. 2007 Teacher Labor Markets in Developing Countries, The Future of Children 17(1): 219-232.
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