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Caught in the middle: (Re)constructing beginning teachers' identities

Kuteyi, Olabisi (2013) Caught in the middle: (Re)constructing beginning teachers' identities. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This research investigates how beginning teachers (re)construct their teacher identities in the first year of teaching. The emphasis is on the various ways in which beginning teachers negotiate their new school contexts, with their norms and discursive practices, and the complex interplay between the contradictory discourses, beliefs and values arising from their own past experiences of schooling. Central to the thesis is the argument that, by illuminating the personal struggles of beginning teachers as they engage in the cultural negotiation of their teacher identities, we can be better placed to develop strategies to help teachers negotiate their first year of teaching.

Drawing on the tradition of critical ethnography, five beginning teachers in Western Australia were interviewed longitudinally over the first year of their teaching to gain a better understanding of their experience and the discursive practices that influenced the (re)construction of their teacher identities. This research shows, through narrative storytelling, the way teacher identity is shaped by a range of contextual, relational and autobiographical influences.

The research revealed that teacher identity (re)construction is a complex and contested process highly dependent on the contextual and relational dimensions of the first year of teaching. The research also revealed that beginning teachers actively negotiate norms and practices associated with classroom interactions with students in the school context. Thus, beginning teachers continually (re)construct their identities in relation to school context as well as to professional and student expectations.

Further, past informative experiences of schooling play a significant role in influencing teacher identity (re)construction. The beginning teachers in this study re-framed their past experiences of being students in their current roles as teachers. There is a transaction between past and present experiences as beginning teachers work out the best ways to deal with their students.

Finally, the distinctive contributions of this study is that it reveals the significant role that beginning teachers' relationships with their students play in teacher identity construction. Importantly, the research found that beginning teachers' identities were created in part as a result of the relationships they have with students, and in discovering the kinds of teachers they want to become with their students.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Supervisor(s): Down, Barry and Pearce, Jane
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