10 SES 07 E, Research on Teacher Induction and Early Career Teachers
This paper presentation responds to one of the special calls for the 2019 ECER: Mapping Teacher Education across Europe and Beyond. The special call describes teachers as key actors for improving educational outcomes and pupil achievement and the contested position of teacher education. These and other aspects of the new educational policy landscape (Lingard 2013; Nilsson Lindström & Beach 2015) are highly relevant for my paper. The paper attempts to deepen the understanding of these international issues by using the Swedish case as an example. The study examines new teachers’ experiences of constructing professional identities in the new educational policy landscape: In what ways is the teacher education valuable or/and insufficient? How was the induction support at the first workplace? Which factors, policies and conditions influence the teaching? Building on professional identity theory, interviews with twenty new teachers are analyzed. Professional identity is crucial for teachers’ “sense of purpose, self-efficacy, motivation, commitment, job satisfaction and effectiveness” (Day et al. 2006).
In January, 2019, a new government was established in Sweden and in the key note speech the prime minister declared that “the teacher education will be reformed, the demands will be tightened and the admission requirements will be higher” (Swedish Government 2019, 9). The questioning of the teacher education is taken for granted and illustrates a policy context that may hamper the recruiting and retaining of teachers. At the same time, in Sweden as in many other OECD countries, there are difficulties to maintain “an adequate supply of good quality teachers” (Santiago 2002, 4). This is a cause for concern as the recruitment and retention of teachers “is key to the improvement of school systems” (p. 8). The National Agency for Education (2018) estimates that there will be a lack of 80.000 teachers in Sweden in 2031, with the present rate of graduations.
The last few decades’ of intensive reforming of the Swedish school system challenges teacher education and new teachers (Gustafsson et al. 2016; Lundström 2015; Nilsson Lindström & Beach 2015). This “struggle over the teacher’s soul” (Ball 2003, 217) is an international phenomenon. In most Western states the “classic public administration paradigm” (Homburg et al. 2007, 1) was challenged by the neoliberal ideas and the introduction of private sector management techniques, often denoted New Public Management, during the 1980s and onwards. Despite varying national policies and conditions, some of the characteristics are common: decentralization, marketization, management by objectives and results, managerialism and focus on outputs, measurement and standards (Homburg et al. 2007). The Swedish case is an interesting example as decentralization and marketization is more far-reaching than in many other countries (Lundahl, Erixon Arreman, Holm, & Lundström 2013) but also as it is regarded a crowded policy space in which interaction between various policies needs further examination (Lindgren, Hanberger & Lundström 2016). It is in such an educational policy landscape teachers have to find their direction and meaning.
The analysis of professional identity of teachers is broadly framed by an enactment perspective. It assumes that policy is enacted in practice by the profession’s interpretation and translation processes and that context is important (Ball, Maguire & Braun 2012). In a research overview, Day et al. (2006) show that teachers’ professional identity is constructed as a result of interaction between teachers’ personal experiences and their everyday social, cultural and institutional environment, at all levels (from the personal to macro level). That is, both structure and agency are important. Teachers’ meaning-making as professionals includes both cognitive and emotional aspects (McNally et al. 2008).
The empiric material emanates from semi-structured interviews with 20 new upper secondary teachers (year 7 – 9), who teach various subjects in two different Swedish municipalities. Variation concerning size, teacher education and political governance are considered in the selection of municipalities. There is a variation regarding gender and subject expertise among the individual interviewees. The classification ‘new teacher’ was restricted to four years work since graduation. Interviews are relevant to use when professional identity is in focus: “People construct narratives and narratives construct people, and our identities emerge through these processes” (Watson 2006, 510). The interviews focused upon the new teachers’ perceptions of four themes that intended to capture crucial aspects of their construction of professional identity: the importance of the teacher education (strengths and weaknesses, knowledge base); factors, policies and conditions that influence the teaching; the induction support at the first workplace; and the impact of educational policies on the work. The interview design made them open for narratives rather than for answers to distinct questions or attitude questions, which I think strengthens the reliability of the analysis. The analysis is based on professional identity theory, mainly represented by the themes mentioned in the previous paragraph. Shulman’s (2004) categories of the knowledge base are relevant for analyzing the new teachers’ knowledge base. A basic assumption that motivates the approach is in line with Watson’s (2006, 510) claim that “who we think we are influences what we do” and also that “professional action is doing professional identity” (Watson 2006, 510). The study follows the principles of research ethics for the human and social sciences provided by the Swedish Research Council.
The preliminary findings indicate that the new teachers have strong personal commitment to their work but that many of them were initially left in a ‘sink or swim’ situation because of shortcomings of the teacher education and the induction support. Colleagues are often the only saviors and their support is both informal, such as ongoing dialogues between lessons, and formal, such as teacher teams and collaborative planning. Most of the interviewees are satisfied with their content knowledge, while general pedagogical knowledge and knowledge of educational contexts often seem to be inadequate (Shulman 2004). Pedagogical content knowledge vary depending on teacher education provider. The teaching practice is the most crucial part of the teacher education, according to several interviewees. However, a good supervisor and organization are necessary prerequisites that are often lacking. The study confirms previous findings such as the importance of cognitive, emotional and social dimensions, and the gap between teacher education and workplace learning (McNally et al. 2008). The national curriculum and the subject teacher teams are the most influential factors for the contents of the teaching. However, focus is primarily on the “core content” of the syllabuses, linked to grades. Thus, there is only potential for a reduced curriculum to be realized in the classroom. Broad goals, such as developing democratic citizens, fundamental values, critical thinking, creativity, historic and environmental perspectives are overshadowed by easily measurable goals. Thus, management by objectives and results constitutes a perceived safe base for the new teachers, but it is a base that reduces the enacted curriculum and devalues the teacher profession (Lundström 2019). Further, the concrete everyday demands seem to make it difficult for the new teachers to navigate among national policy changes and other demands from above. Their overview of the impact of macro- and meso-policies is limited.
Ball, Stephen. P. (2003) The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity, Journal of Education Policy, 18 (2): 215-228 Ball, Stephen P., Maguire, Meg. & Braun, Anette (2012). How Schools do Policy. Policy enactments in secondary schools. London: Routledge. Day, Christopher; Kington, Alison; Stobart, Gordon & Sammons, Pam (2006) The personal and professional selves of teachers: stable and unstable identities. In British Educational Research Journal, 32, (4), 601-616 Gustafsson, Jan-Erik, Sörlin, Sverker & Vlachos, Jonas (2016) Policyidéer för svensk skola. Stockholm: SNS Förlag Homburg V, Pollitt C and van Thiel S (2007) Introduction. In: Pollitt C, van Thiel S, Homburg V (Eds.) New Public Management in Europe. Adaption and Alternatives. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1–9. Lindgren, L., Hanberger, A. & Lundström, U. (2016). Evaluation Systems in a Crowded Policy Space: Implications for Local School Governance. Education Inquiry, 7(3), 237-258 Lingard, B. (2013). Historicizing and contextualizing global policy discourse: Test- and standards-based accountabilities. The International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 12 (2), 122-132 Lundahl Lisbeth, Erixon Arreman, Inger, Holm, Ann-Sofie, Lundström, Ulf (2014). Gymnasiet som marknad. Umeå: Boréa Bokförlag Lundström, Ulf (2015). Teacher autonomy in the era of New Public Management. Nordic Journal of Studies in Education Policy, 1(2), 73-85. Lundström, Ulf (2019) To measure what we value or to value what we can measure? Performance indicators as a basis for school choice. Accepted for publication in Christine Elde Mølstad & Daniel Pettersson (Eds.) Numbers and Knowledge in Education: New Practices of Comparison, Quantification and Expertise. London & New York: Routledge McNally, Jim; Blake, Allan; Corbin, Brian and Gray, Peter (2008) Finding an identity and meeting a standard: connecting the conflicting in teacher induction. Journal of Educational Policy, 23 (3), 287-298. National Agency for Education (2018). PM Lärarförsörjning. Stockholm: Skolverket Nilsson Lindström, Margareta & Dennis Beach, Dennis (2015) Changes in teacher education in Sweden in the neo-liberal education age: Toward an occupation in itself or a profession for itself? Education Inquiry, 6(3): 241-258 Santiago, P. (2002), “Teacher Demand and Supply: Improving Teaching Quality and Addressing Teacher Shortages”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 1, OECD. Shulman, Lee S. (2004). The Wisdom of Practice. Essays on Teaching, Learning, and Learning to Teach. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass Swedish Government (2019) Regeringsförklaringen. The Prime minister’s keynote speech Watson, C. (2006). Narratives of Practice and the construction of identity in teaching. Teachers and teaching: theory and practice, 12 (5), 509-526.
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