10 SES 09 A, Research in Teacher Education: Cultures and Methodologies
In the background of this discursively oriented study is a conception of identity formation approached as a multi-level social phenomenon (Harré & van Langenhove 1990; Pietikäinen & Mäntynen 2016). Macro-level representations of social identities, including that of teaching profession, are constructed in socio-cultural and societal contexts in official and public discourses. In Finnish discursive contexts, school teachers with a high professional autonomy are expected to exercise active responsibility, agency in questions of pedagogy and schooling. It requires a multifaceted understanding of responsibility individually and collectively in school communities (Niemi 2013; Toom & Husu 2012; Luukkainen 2004). Accordingly, on the meso-level, educational institutions through their discursive practices mediate conceptions of expected academic and professional identities. Students will grow into discursive practices within their studies and socialisation as members of their academic community (Ylijoki 1998; Vygotsky 1978; Wenger 1998). The focus of this study is on the micro-level discursive processes on identity formation, as reflected by third-year students in elementary teacher education. At that point, they are working on study modules that offer and require more responsibility than earlier studies. The third study year also means the completion of the bachelor’s degree and moving to master´s level studies.
The study is guided by the following questions: (1) What kind of student and teacher identities are formed? (2) How is responsibility reflected in students´ identity work? In the conceptualisation of responsibility, the study employs the conceptions of shared responsibility (May 1996), moral responsibility (Solbrekke & Englund 2011), and social responsibility (Edling & Frelin 2013). Along with these views, the study conducted in a Finnish context is linked with a larger policy discussion on professional responsibility and new forms of accountability in higher education (e.g. Solbrekke 2008; Solbrekke & Karseth 2006; Biesta 2009, 2010).
Research on teacher identity formation has been conducted through cognitive research perspectives (see e.g. Beijaard, Meijer & Verloop 2004). The present study uses a discursive approach and method emphasising the view of identity as a discursive construction. Methodologically, the study draws ideas and tools from the sources of discursive psychology (Davies & Harré 1990; Harré & van Langenhove 1991) and discourse research, e.g. the linguistic forms of language-in-use (Gee 2010; Pietikäinen & Mäntynen 2016). Professional responsibility is examined as a focal feature of teacher identity that students construe in their identity work. The data for the study include students´ individual writings gathered during the regular studies at the beginning (N=56) and end (N=58) of the third study year. Students produced their writings as a response to the following instruction: “Reflect yourself as a class teacher student in the current phase of your studies: what does responsibility mean to you.” Data analysis is focused on the use of linguistic resources and subject positioning in personal identity negotiations. These single situations of language use are seen interactively reflecting social identities and roles offered in macro- and meso-level discourses. (Pietikäinen & Mäntynen 2016.)
Given the structure of the curriculum in teacher education, it is expected that the elements referring to growing responsibility may become more visible and detailed in teacher students´ identity work during the challenges of the third-year studies. The findings of the study, as part of a larger longitudinal research project, will offer research-based information for pedagogical development in teacher education.
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