10 SES 09 F, Research on Teacher Induction and Early Career Teachers
This paper discusses the notion of teachers’ agency as part of Initial Teacher Education (ITE) within the rhetoric of inclusive education. The view of a teacher as a change agent indicates a strong political view of the teaching role which, although not exclusively related to inclusive education, echoes themes that the international literature identifies in relation to the meaning and implementation of inclusive education. The idea of an empowered teacher who acts as a change agent and as an advocate for pupils’ rights coincides with the view of many scholars that the development of an inclusive education system constitutes a change process of the schooling system (see for example Ainscow, Dyson, et al., 2006; Norwich, 2008; Slee, 2010). Such change is framed by the interplay between the promotion of inclusive learning and that of overall school improvement.
Within this context, Pantik and Florian (2015, p.333) define that ‘agents of change work purposefully with others to challenge the status quo and develop social justice and inclusion’, and suggest that inclusive pedagogy and teacher agency frameworks are essential for preparing student teachers to act as agents of inclusion by suggesting the concept of relational agency as a tool for teachers to negotiate ambiguities and tensions of inclusive practice. However, the very concept of negotiation as a form of responsibility of teachers it can be seen as a product of a neo-liberal education process. Such an act is central in the view of the political identity of teachers’ practice. It has to be acknowledged that the idea of change agency is actualised within the limitations of existing policy and systemic constraints. Failing to recognise this risks positioning teachers as responsible for change management and ‘impli[es] that educational cultures are radically changeable if only teachers would change themselves and their practice’ (Done & Murphy, 2018, p. 151).
Nonetheless, the idea that ‘teacher education needs to work toward the development of teachers who are socially just in their beliefs and practices’ in order to tackle social and educational inequality increasingly informs relevant policy around the Western world (Mills and Ballantyne, 2016, p. 263). UNESCO (2017, p. 35), in the guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education, states that if teacher preparation programmes embed the core values of inclusive education as reflected in the European profile of inclusive teachers (EADSNE, 2012), it ‘helps to establish the potential of teacher education to be a high-leverage activity in bringing about change.’ However, how new teachers can act as agents of change in a system in which they have limited influence and/or leadership is a question that we need to explore critically. As MacIntyre explicitly suggests (2009, p.605) ‘we cannot expect beginning teachers – the teachers with the lowest status among a school staff – to be effective change agents’.
This paper looks at how ITE in Ireland expresses such an expectation of teachers and how trainee and newly qualified teachers (NQT) experience this role as part of their professional identity and practice. Although there is considerable work in the form of suggestions of how teacher preparation programmes should prepare teachers for bringing about change, there is limited research on what this means in practice for beginning teachers. This paper focuses on the views and experiences of beginner teachers (pre-service and newly qualified teachers) (ITE and NQT phases) as an important parameter for informing ITE programmes and problematising teachers agency within the context.
 The four core values: Valuing learner diversity, Supporting all learners,Working with others, Continuing personal professional development
This paper discusses the concept of teachers as change agents as it was captured as a theme across different data sources of a longitudinal study (see Hicks et al., 2018). The original study involved analysis of programme documentation of ITE providers in Ireland, students interviews (graduating in the summer of 2016) followed up by interviews during their first and second year as newly qualified teachers (NQT), teacher educators and student surveys, and school staff interviews. The paper will present data from document analysis and longitudinal interviews of student teachers and NQTs (a total of 47 students were interviewed in person or by Skype). Document analysis involved ITE provider documentation produced in response to the requirement that all ITE programmes in Ireland went through a process of re-accreditation, after the extension of programmes by one year. These documents provided us with an opportunity to examine aspects of preparation for inclusive education in terms of formal intentions and approaches developed by a range of ITE providers in Ireland. The documentary data reflected content of some 30 programmes (out of 59 nationally) from 13 ITE providers (out of 19 in total). Our epistemological position for the document analysis shared Atkinson and Coffey’s (2004, p. 77) view that documents cannot be examined as ‘transparent reflections’ of the context in which they were produced and in that case as a representation of the ITE programmes. Documents provide a kind of representation for the programme that they refer to but they cannot reveal all the aspects of the institutional reality. Nevertheless, they give one important, albeit far from universal, perspective on the nature, processes and outcomes of each programme. Document and interview data were analysed through a qualitative content approach. We focused on key themes as they were represented in a coding system (we used N-Vivo for analysis) that combined both a priori and emergent themes through an iterative process of engaging with the data, as the project progressed. It has to be noted that the concept of teachers as ‘agents of change’ was an emerging theme from the initial stage of our data analysis. As our methodological approach allowed us to identify emergent themes, the notion of teachers agency was further explored in relation to other theoretical concepts and practices (resilience, power, leadership).
Document analysis showed that ITE programmes tend to focus on the development of reflective skills and research-active practice as essential for enabling teachers to act as change agents empowered by professional development. However, it is not clear what is the nature of change that ITE providers envisage that NQTs will bring into the profession, and it appears that it remains with students to attribute their meaning in that role. While in ITE, the idea of change was conceived by students as a need to challenge conservative pedagogic practice. The idea was voiced of bringing change to a school system that was quite often perceived as relatively conservative and exclusive (Hick et al, 2018). However, our longitudinal data showed that there was a change in beginning teachers’ views in their second-year of practice, suggesting a shift in their understanding of how they act as potential change agents in relation to the school environment by re-visiting their role as change agents through notions of resilience, power, and leadership action at school level. Our data suggest that NQTs still engage with their role as potential change agents, but within the realms of collaborative rather than personal action. McIntyre (2009, p.602) stressed that ‘whatever is achieved in the university, the teaching practices and attitudes that student–teachers usually learn to adopt are those currently dominant in the schools.’ It seems that how NQTs experience their role as change agents depends upon the space they have to act with others in a community of practice, rather than through guiding and managing a change process. The paper concludes to a consideration of the need for teacher education programmes to work in collaboration with schools in ways that utilise the values, knowledge and skills that the new generation of teachers bring to schools as potential change agents.
Ainscow, M., Dyson, A., Booth, T., Farrell, P., Frankham, J., & Gallannaugh, F. (2006). Improving schools, developing inclusion: Routledge. Atkinson, P., & Coffey, A. (2004). Analysing Documentary Realities. In Silverman (ed.), Qualitative Research: Theory, Method and Practice (2nd ed.). Done, E. J., & Murphy, M. (2018). The responsibilisation of teachers: a neoliberal solution to the problem of inclusion. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 39(1), 142-155. EADSNE. (2012). Teacher education for inclusion: Profile of inclusive teachers. Odense, Denmark: European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. Hick, P., Solomon, Y., Mintz, J., Matziari, A., Ó Murchú, F., Hall, K., Cahill, K., Curtin, C. and Margariti, D. (2018). Initial Teacher Education for Inclusion: Phase 1 and 2 Final Report to the National Council for Special Education. NCSE Research Report No. 26. McIntyre, D. (2009). The difficulties of inclusive pedagogy for initial teacher education and some thoughts on the way forward. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(4), 602-608. Mills, C., & Ballantyne, J. (2016). Social justice and teacher education: A systematic review of empirical work in the field. Journal of Teacher Education, 67(4), 263-276. Norwich, B. (2008). Special schools: What future for special schools and inclusion? Conceptual and professional perspectives. British Journal of Special Education, 35(3), 136-143. Pantić, N., & Florian, L. (2015). Developing teachers as agents of inclusion and social justice. Education Inquiry, 6(3), 27311. Slee, R. (2010a). The irregular school: Exclusion, schooling and inclusive education. Oxford: Routledge. UNESCO. (2017). A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education.
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)
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Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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