The Rocky Road: The Journey from Classroom Teacher to Teacher Educator

Apr. 30, 2010

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Vol. 6, No. 1, April 2010, 17–28.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This paper examines the transition that classroom teachers experience moving into the academy as teacher educators, considering the change in professional identity and the subsequent alignment of situational and substantial selves.


The authors outline the findings of a qualitative case study that utilised self-study and teacher narrative to explore the road travelled by a group of new teacher educators in a regional university in rural Australia.

The primary instrument used to collect data from participants was an adapted Life Story Exercise described by Boyatzis (1998, p. 68).

The Participants

The participants were four teacher educators who were experienced classroom teachers new to the academy (less than three years) and included both of the authors. Participants had taught across many disciplines and contexts and were invited to share their stories of transition.


The data analysed in this study led to conclusions that parallel the findings in the literature indicating that the road for new teacher educators can indeed be a rocky one as they struggle to align their situational and substantial selves (Southworth, 1995). The struggle is, in fact, ongoing and dependent on both context and individual resilience.

The data suggest that there are particular points in the transition process when a teacher educator is vulnerable to internal (aspects of personality, including coping mechanisms and personal resilience) and external (end-of-session student evaluations, emergent research demands and changing support networks) factors that may impede the development of a new professional identity.

The study suggests that there are also individual internal pressures that must be considered. Changes in the self and the way one perceives oneself contribute to the size of the peaks and troughs in the processes of career transition and
professional-identity alignment. The extent of self-knowledge and the support provided during the transition is vital if the alignment of situational and substantial selves is to be successful. It is the responsibility of both the organisation and the individual teacher educator to recognise the rockiness of the transition and to put in place strategies and processes to address the associated struggle.

The authors conclude that it is important to recognise both the context and process of the transition in order to retain teacher educators in higher education.

Boyatzis, R.E. (1998). Transforming qualitative information.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Southworth, G. (1995). Looking into primary headship: A research based interpretation. London: Blackwell.

Updated: Jun. 20, 2010