Pre-service teacher education and the development of middle school teacher identity : an exploratory study

Uusimaki, Sirkka-Liisa Marjatta (2009) Pre-service teacher education and the development of middle school teacher identity : an exploratory study. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This research study investigated the factors that influenced the development of teacher identity in a small cohort of mature-aged graduate pre-service teachers over the course of a one-year Graduate Diploma program (Middle Years). It sought to illuminate the social and relational dynamics of these pre-service teachers’ experiences as they began new ways of being and learning during a newly introduced one-year Graduate Diploma program. A relational-ontological perspective underpinned the relational-cultural framework that was applied in a workshop program as an integral part of this research. A relational-ontological perspective suggests that the development of teacher identity is to be construed more as an ontological process than an epistemological one. Its focus is more on questions surrounding the person and their ‘becoming’ a teacher than about the knowledge they have or will come to have. Hence, drawing on work by researchers such as Alsup (2006), Gilligan, (1982), Isaacs, (2007), Miller (1976), Noddings, (2005), Stout (2001), and Taylor, (1989), teacher identity was defined as an individual pre-service teacher’s unique sense of self as a teacher that included his or her beliefs about teaching and learning (Alsup, 2006; Stout, 2001; Walkington, 2005). Case-study was the preferred methodology within which this research project was framed, and narrative research was used as a method to document the way teacher identity was shaped and negotiated in discursive environments such as teacher education programs, prior experiences, classroom settings and the practicum. The data that was collected included student narratives, student email written reflections, and focus group dialogue. The narrative approach applied in this research context provided the depth of data needed to understand the nature of the mature-aged pre-service teachers’ emerging teacher identities and experiences in the graduate diploma program. Findings indicated that most of the mature-aged graduate pre-service teachers came in to the one-year graduate diploma program with a strong sense of personal and professional selves and well-established reasons why they had chosen to teach Middle Years. Their choice of program involved an expectation of support and welcome to a middle-school community and culture. Two critical issues that emerged from the pre-service teachers’ narratives were the importance they placed on the human support including the affirmation of themselves and their emerging teacher identities. Evidence from this study suggests that the lack of recognition of preservice teachers’ personal and professional selves during the graduate diploma program inhibited the development of a positive middle-school teacher identity. However, a workshop program developed for the participants in this research and addressing a range of practical concerns to beginning teachers offered them a space where they felt both a sense of belonging to a community and where their thoughts and beliefs were recognized and valued. Thus, the workshops provided participants with the positive social and relational dynamics necessary to support them in their developing teacher identities. The overall findings of this research study strongly indicate a need for a relational support structure based on a relational-ontological perspective to be built into the overall course structure of Graduate Pre-service Diplomas in Education to support the development of teacher identity. Such a support structure acknowledges that the pre-service teacher’s learning and formation is socially embedded, relational, and a continual, lifelong process.

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ID Code: 34438
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Knight, John
Keywords: authentic, care, caring behaviour, environment, epistemology, factors, graduate pre-service teacher, Graduate Diploma program, integration, mature-aged, middle school, middle years, ontology, relational cultural theory, relational-ontology, teaching and learning, teacher identity
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 10 Sep 2010 02:56
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2011 13:52

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