'Support Our Networking and Help Us Belong!': Listening to Beginning Secondary School Science Teachers

Dec. 26, 2009

Source: Teachers and Teaching, Volume 15, Issue 6 (December 2009), pages 701 – 718.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

During the course of an Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programme, beginning teachers develop strong relationships. Important links are formed with lecturers, tutors and other students. During school placements, other vital links are made with school-based mentors, other teachers and support staff. Furthermore, new teachers also access resources available through government agencies, professional associations and teacher support websites which inform their developing practice. Finally, a further important source of support is links with family and friends, particularly previous employment contacts.

This study investigates the nature of these webs of relationships as networks, from a teacher's ego-centric perspective.

Three case studies, set within a wider sample of 11 secondary school science teachers leaving one UK university's PostGraduate Certificate in Education, were studied.

Research Questions

The questions being addressed were 'how are teachers drawing on networks for their own development?' and
'what are the issues teachers talk about that act as affordances or barriers to using their networks?'

The focus of the paper is on how the teachers used others to help shape their sense of belonging to this, their new workplace. The paper develops ideas from network theories to argue that membership of the communities are a subset of the professional inter-relationships teachers utilise for their professional development.

Research Design

During their first year of teaching, eight teachers were interviewed, completing 13 semi-structured interviews.

This was supplemented in Year 2 by a questionnaire survey of their experiences.

In the third year of the programme, 11 teachers (including the original sample of eight) were surveyed using a network mapping tool in which they represented their communications with people, groups and resources.

Finally, three of the teachers (common to both samples) were then interviewed specifically about their networking practices and experiences using the generation of their network map as a stimulated recall focus.


The implications of the analysis of these accounts are that these beginning teachers did not perceive of themselves wholly as novices. Furthermore, their personal aspirations to increase participation in practical science, develop a career or work for pupils holistically did not always sit comfortably with the school communities into which they were being accommodated.

While highlighting the importance of trust and respect in establishing relationships, these teachers' accounts highlight the importance of finding 'peers' from whom they can find support and with whom they can reflect and potentially collaborate towards developing practice. They also raise questions about who these 'peers' might be and where they might be found.

Updated: Jan. 31, 2010