Newsletter 14 Education Research - Novice Teachers

Teacher professional development has been a long and national discussion. Role-players have been at it for years. Soon the DBE will publish research on Initial Teacher Training with a focus on mentoring of teachers at schools. I am of the opinion that we should ask teachers more what it is best for teachers. Risking the minefield of subjectivity the voice of teachers must be heard more…research should manage this risk. My son is currently busy with research on just this question…how do novice teachers feel about mentoring of initial teacher training.

Derwin argues that “novice teachers very often have pre-conceived notions about what the profession entails before entering it and it is usually far removed from reality (Hatting & De Kock, 2008; Beijaard, Verloop & Vermunt, 2000; Jones, 2003). Policy expectations and what can realistically be achieved due to various constraints are also very often not aligned”. He continues that “teachers experience conflict between their professional and personal identities due to policy expectations restricting teachers from fulfilling their duties as they personally would. This lack of autonomy can lead to teachers feeling disempowered which can negatively affect the development of their teacher identities, especially in the early years (Jansen, 2001; Sachs, 2001; Coldron & Smith, 1999)”.

“The way teachers see themselves as teachers and the way others see them as teachers are important to shape teacher identity (Tsui, 2007). Teachers have to perform multiple roles to fulfil their duties, they have to experiment with their roles to adapt to different circumstances. This can make it difficult to develop a strong and positive teacher identity (Hattingh & De Kock, 2008; Thomas & Beauchamp, 2011). Difficulty in developing a strong and positive teacher identity can negatively affect a teacher’s sense of self within the context of the teaching profession. A negative self-concept due to a teacher’s personal identity can negatively affect the development of a teacher’s professional identity too (Hattingh & De Kock, 2008)”.

Furthering the concept of identity Derwin postulate that “to understand professional identity it is important to firstly understand what identity is (from a sociological or psychological perspective)”.

“The first issue is the multidimensionality or multifaceted nature of professional identity and the relationships between these dimensions or facets. Teachers have different roles they must experiment with that causes their multiple identities to conflict with each other which creates problems for developing a professional identity. The second issue is the relationship between the personal and social dimensions of identity formation. How teachers see themselves and how others in society see them are both important regarding the shaping of teacher identity. The third issue, which is closely related to the second, is the relationship between agency and structure in identity formation. Agency refers to teachers’ actions or choices constituting their teacher identities and structure refers to policies or institutions that require uniformity and conformity of teachers which affect teacher identity (Tsui, 2007)”.

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