In Sweden, as in many other countries, the education of high-school physics teachers istypically carried out in three different environments; the education department, thephysics department and school itself during teaching practice. Trainee physics teachersare in the process of building their professional identity as they move between thesethree environments. Although much has been written about teacher professional identity(see overview in Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004) little is known about how encounterswith the potentially disparate notions of “what counts” in these three environments feedinto trainee physics teachers’ professional identity work.
In this paper we investigate the discourse models (Gee, 2005) that can be found in thethree environments and the potential effects these may have on the professional identitynarratives that trainee physics teachers can invoke. Here, our theoretical frameworkdraws from the ideas of Sfard and Pruzak (2005) who suggest that teacher identities maybe defined as collections of stories. In the words of Watson (2006: 510) “peopleconstruct narratives and narratives construct people, and our identities emerge throughthese processes”. For the purposes of this paper, then, we take professional identity asconsisting of the set of narratives trainee teachers collect about what it means to be aphysics teacher. Such narratives will not only be told and retold but also lived in thepractice of teaching (Connelly & Clandinin, 1999).
Our research questions are as follows:
1. What is signalled as valued (and not valued) by members of the three environmentsphysics teachers meet during their training (school, education department, physicsdepartment)?
2. What discourse models can be identified from these value statements?
3. What is the potential effect of these discourse models on the narratives traineephysics teachers can tell about themselves as professionals?We carried out semi-structured interviews with instructors from the three environments.
Our analysis involved iterative coding of the interview transcripts (Bogdan & Biklen,1992) to construct discourse models. We identify a number of competing discoursemodels and discuss the ways in which these models can be seen to be at work, dictatingwhich narratives are available and disallowed in the three environments. We illustrate ourfindings by relating the narratives of the informants themselves in the interviews to theavailable discourse models we found.
The study illustrates the problematic identity work needed to construct professionalphysics teacher identities from a disparate set of available narratives.
BERA 2014, British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, London, 23-25 September 2014