Aims & methodA new arena, the preschool class, is arising between preschool and compulsory school. One can assume that new teacher identities are formed in this new borderland. This study, which is in its introduction phase, aims to search for answers about how the teachers chose to describe themselves as teachers in preschool class, how they are talking about themselves, who they are today and who they want to be tomorrow. In other words, which teacher identities these variations contain.
In the study the teacher identities will be investigated by their narratives in interaction with and between teachers in focus groups. Bruners (1986) starting point is that narratives creates and recreates relations and identities, and that narrative telling can be seen as an act of reality making. The narratives render possible definitions of identities in the social life.
The identities the teachers in preschool class assume is not static, instead they can change constantly on the basis of experiences and reflections. The identities constitute a part of the teachers aims to create meaning in their actions in the pedagogical practice, both historical, current and according to their goals for the future (Beijaard m.fl., 2004; Geijsel & Meijers, 2005). In the study the teacher identities are connected to their actions in the pedagogical practice (ex. Irisdotter, 2006; Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004 & Säljö, 2000).
The theoretical perspectives in the studyThe study is built on sociocultural theories, social constructionism and border theories. In sociocultural theories meaning making can be seen as mediated through language, where our meaning making processes can be seen as reactions on cultural, historical and social circumstances and where we create ourselves in a narrative praxis (ex. Bruner, 1990 & Rogoff, 2003).
The preschool class can be considered as a borderland between preschool and compulsory school, hence border theories can be productive in a study of teachers in preschool class. We all live in a world, where (invisible) borders control our lives. Frontiers, borders and borderlands used in geographical literature have a big relevance on our lives and social interactions. The borders creates transition zones to which people from both sides of the border are given permission and where hybrid groups with hybrid identities permits to grow (Newman, 2003). The individual narratives and identities are changing when an activity is transferred to a new territory. Thereby, when individuals are moving from one category or area to another they can experience a form of transition hybridity, where they has assimilated “the new” at the same time as they sustain a great part of “the old” (Newman, 2006b).
The contribution from the social constructionism to this study is the starting point that teacher identities can’t be found passively inside the teacher, instead the teacher identity is created in a social act and in a specific practice. Hence, the focus in this study is on what happens in the relations between people, and what is communicated and expressed in this communication (Shotter, 2005).
MethodsFocus groups are used as the research method. Approximately 15 teachers working in preschool class are participating, and they are divided into three focus groups. Each group is gathered three times, and each time a main theme for discussion is presented from me as the researcher and moderator of the groups. Data is produced via interaction between the teachers and their narratives are recorded by audio technique. The narratives are then analyzed with focus on the content in the discussions and with the aim to make the variation of the teacher’s identities in preschool class visible.
Expected outcomesThis study can make a contribution to the research on professional identities in general and teachers’ professional identities in particular. It has the potential to generate new hypothesis about the construction of “teachers”. Firstly by focusing on a “new” teacher profession, and secondly by connecting border theories to research on professional identities.