01 SES 05 B, Perspectives on the Professional Learning of Science and Language Teachers
Second career teachers (SCTs) are known as ‘professionals who leave their jobs to become a teacher’ (Tigchelaar et al. 2010, p. 165). As university graduates, they are more educated and often exhibit high motivation and higher academic abilities (Donitsa-Schmidt & Zuzovsky 2016). Given the challenges SCTs potentially face in their training process and later in their socialization into school culture, it is crucial to gain greater understanding of their professional development in order to address their unique needs (Haggard et al. 2006; Lamming & Horne 2013). This study investigates SCTs' socialization into school culture.
The process in which teachers become members of an organization has been conceptualized as teacher socialization. In this phase, teachers learn the necessary knowledge and norms to participate in a particular school culture (Kelchtermans & Ballet, 2002; Nasser-Abu Alhija & Fresko, 2010;). Some research has defined it as a unique integration of both formal and informal, schooling norms, in relation to behavior and professional performance (Joiner & Edwards, 2008; Cherubini, 2009). Therefore, socialization involves a critical transition in which teachers may reject, accept, or adapt to the school culture, and its outcomes determine their decision of staying in an organization (Joiner & Edwards, 2008; Nasser-Abu Alhija & Fresko, 2010).
It is claimed that the culture of the school as a learning environment is vital for effective professional learning to take place (Griffith, 2011). However, second career teachers bring a range of work experiences, organizational skills and personal qualities of life into the environment (Morton, Williams & Brindley, 2012;Trent, 2018). This could benefit the school and students and yet provide challenges for SCTs due to rigidity of habits and the need to cross boundaries, having to develop new professional identities in becoming part of the school community. Thus, conditions of acculturation to teaching can be difficult even for experienced career switchers who sometimes have to rely more on their own adjustment strategies (Watters & Diezmann, 2012).
New teachers begin the process of ‘becoming a teacher’ by immersing themselves into social relations and professional roles inherent within school communities (Cherubini, 2009). It is their organizational socialization into professional school cultures that determine the nature of the relations they establish in the school. Thus, the school culture has a direct influence on novice teachers’ experiences during their socialization into the profession (Tomlinson, 2004).
In this sense, Lave and Wenger’s theory of ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation’ is found to be relevant to our research (Lave & Wenger, 1991). It describes how newcomers gradually become part of a community of practice through initial peripheral activities and as they gain more recognition their participation is more central. It also suggests issues of power relationships as access to the community is mediated by ‘the more experienced’ who confer legitimacy to the newcomer and access to the different practices of the community.
School culture often challenges new teachers’ idealism, and how they sink or swim and adapt to the culture influences their professional and social stability (Cherubini, 2009). An organization that supports their staff would create trust and a feeling that the organization cares about them. Neglecting to establish an organization that values staff leads to high levels of dissatisfaction and attrition (Watters & Diezmann, 2013). The professional cultures that encourage strong professional and social relationships is one where veterans and novice teachers work in collaboration or ‘an integrated professional culture’ (Kardos et al. 2001). For that matter, it is important that teacher education programmes working with SCTs would include opportunities for dialogue on the culture of teaching, the culture of their previous careers (Morton, Williams & Brindley, 2012) and their professional identities (Nielsen, 2016).
The research is a follow up of a previous study which investigated second career teachers’ knowledge transformation at the end of an accelerated retraining programme for English teachers in Israel in 2017 (Leshem et al, 2019). The research question of the study is: • What socialization processes into school culture do second career teachers experience in their first years of teaching? The research adopted an inductive research approach and its aim is not to generalize but to identify the experiences of a unique group of career switchers, teaching in different school cultures. It is grounded in data collected from in-depth interviews conducted with 15 English teachers. We were interested in following the same teachers who were involved in our previous research (see above) who are now teaching in different schools in the center of Israel. The process of interviewing entailed two phases. We first piloted the interview questions with four teachers. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and divided between the four researchers for analysis. The interview questions were reviewed and modified accordingly, to arrive at an agreed set of questions to be used with the rest of the teachers. Each interview lasted between 45-60 minutes. Interviews exposed participants' personal stories in order to identify different issues regarding their socialisation into school and teaching. Special attention was given to the language and choice of words used to describe different aspects in their ‘story’. The interviews focused on the support and assistance provided within the school by different task holders, the place of the school culture in their socialisation and the place of their previous career in the socialization process. All interviews were recorded and transcribed. Transcriptions of all interviews were read by each independent researcher in order to obtain a holistic view of the interviews. Recursive reading, discussions and constant comparison between researchers produced a common ground of themes. Further sorting and condensing of themes and categories generated a final analytic framework. Students were notified about the purpose of research and its voluntary basis. Anonymity was secured, and identification details of both interviewees and schools were not included. The research abides by all the ethical protocols certified by the Ethics Committee of the college.
Findings present three core categories: the school as a social system; teachers' peripheral participation; and participants' professional identity. Each category focuses on the teachers' socialization processes into school culture during their first year in teaching. The ‘school as a social system’ focuses on participants' views regarding the degree of support they received, and its impact on their teaching and sense of ‘belonging’. Those who have received support and guidance during the first year in teaching, experienced more teacher stability in the sense of permanence, strength and motivation. Teachers who felt that they have not been ‘seen enough’, expressed disappointment. Findings also show that participants' ‘peripheral participation’ influences their position (and status) at school and that greater involvement in various school activities has led teachers to gain more recognition among management and staff. With respect to teachers' ‘development of professional identity’, findings show that teachers are at different levels of boundary crossings regarding their sense of self that results from various factors such as opportunities to draw on prior experience and personal characteristics. The patterns of socialization in the different school cultures are discussed in reference to organizational socialization and school culture theories and legitimate peripheral participation theories of ‘communities of practice’. The practical implications support the need to create a school culture of collaboration for better socialisation processes and curriculum planning at the team level in order to provide ongoing assistance and opportunities for growth. The study has implication to an international context as it contributes to the wider extant of knowledge within the framework of Second Career Teachers’ socialization processes.
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