02 SES 04 A, VET-Teachers - Roles and Perspectives
Vocational teachers in Europe have recently been faced with several changes in their working lives resulting from the implementation of several concurrant educational reform policies (Kirpal, 2011). Moreover, the general trend recognized in European countries – the diversification of the target groups of vocational programmes - can be considered as a major factor leading to broadening and re-definition of the roles and competence requirements of vocational teachers (Kirpal, 2011) and ultimately re-definition of teachers´ work identities (Cort, 2011).
The central question in this article is how vocational teachers in Estonia have adapted to the changing demands on teachers´ work roles? Moreover, how can the teachers be supported in their identity negotiation and change adoption process?
Identity development is an on-going process of interpreting oneself as a certain kind of person and being recognized as such in a given context (Beijaard et al, 2004: 108). Teachers´ professional identity deals with how teachers perceive themselves based on their interpretations of their continuing interaction with their context (Canrinus et al, 2011:594). Sense of professional identity manifests itself in teachers´ job satisfaction, occupational commitment, self-efficacy and change in the level of motivation (Canrinus et al, 2011). However, as identity construction is a complex process characterised by continuous interpretation and re-interpretation of one´s experiences and encounters the professional identity is not attributable to similar fashion to all teachers. Previous studies have confirmed that teachers differ in the way they deal with professional knowledge and attitudes depending on the value they personally attach to them (Beijaard, 2004; Vähäsantanen & Etaläpelto, 2009 Canrinus et al, 2011). Thereby, we can argue that there is no one teaching culture in a school and that every teacher, although being constrained by the context, may to a certain extent construct his or her own teaching culture.
Professional identity is often treated in relation to the issue how teachers respond to educational changes (e.g. Vähäsantanen & Eteläpelto, 2009; Drake & Sherin, 2006; Day, 2002). Especially experienced teachers may experience a conflict in cases of changes in their immediate working environment. (Beijaard, 2004: 122) In order to adapt to changing requirements, teachers need to make sense of changes, on an individual and collective level (Drake & Sherin, 2006). Sense making is strongly related to identity (re)-construction (Louis, 2010) and teachers´ understandings on themselves and their professional role.
Several studies (e.g. Daly et al, 2010; Brouwer et al, 2012) have emphasised the role of collaborative professional communities at schools supporting the change adoption. Schools that nurture teachers´ professional communities can create resources such as norms promoting innovation, shared objectives and trust facilitating teachers to change their work. In addition to the fact that professional communities of teachers facilitate the change adoption, collaboration in professional networks contributes into competence development as well as work satisfaction. Teachers working in collaboration tend to possess wider set of skills, be more informed about the co-workers´ work and students´ performance and tend to be more satisfied with their professional work as teachers (Daly et al, 2010).
Beijaard, D.; Meijer, P. C.; Verloop, N. (2004), „Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity“, Teaching and Teacher Education, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 107–128. Brouwer, P.; Brekelmans, M.; Nieuwenhuis, L.; Simons, R.-J. (2012),"Communities of practice in the school workplace", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 50 Issue 3 pp. 346 – 364. Canrinus, E. T;Helms-Lorenz, M.; Beijaard, D.; Buitink, J.; Hofman, A.(2011) „Profiling teachers´ sense of professional identity“, Educational Studies, Vol 37, No 5, pp 593-608. Cort, P. (2011). “ Emerging Roles and Competence Requirements of Teaching and Training Practioners – A European Perspective” ”, in Simone R. Kirpal (ed.) National Pathways and European Dimensions of Trainers´ Professional Development, Peter Lang, pp. 45 - 62. Daly, A. J.; Nienke, M. M.; Bolivar, J. M.; Burke, P. (2010), Relationships in reform: the role of teachers´ social networks, Journal of Educational Administration, Vol 48, No 3; pp. 359-391. Day, C. (2002). School reform and transitions in teacher professionalism and identity. International Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 37, pp. 677– 692. Drake, C.; Sherin, M. G. (2006). „Practicing change: Curriculum adaptation and teacher narrative in the context of mathematics education reform“, Curriculum Inquiry, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp.153–187. Kirpal, S. (2011). Emerging Roles and Competence Requirements of Teaching and Training Practitioners – A European perspective. In: Simone R. Kirpal (ed.) National Pathways and European Dimensions of Trainers´ Professional Development, Peter Lang, pp 27-44. Louis, K. S. (2010). Better schools through better knowledge? New understanding, new uncertainty. In: Andy Hargraves, Ann Lieberman, Michael Fullan, and David Hopkins (eds.) Second international handbook of educational change, Dordrechd Heidelberg London New York: Springer. Vähäsantanen, K.; Eteläpelto, A. (2009), “Vocational teachers in the face of a major educational reform: individual ways of negotiating professional identities“, Journal of Education and Work, Vol 22, No 1, pp 15-33.
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