Identity Shifts: Queering Teacher Education Research

Oct. 10, 2010

Source: The Teacher Educator, Volume 45, Issue 4, pages 257 – 272. (October 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This project began because the authors, as lesbians and teacher educators, were concerned with the climate in their teacher education program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) preservice teachers.

The authors initially interviewed five self-identified lesbian and bisexual preservice teachers who each noted that they had no place to talk about LGBT issues in education and teaching. The authors created a focus group that met monthly over a period of two years.

As the authors attempted to move the group to take LGBT-related activist stances based on their oral conversations, the authors engaged in and experimented with different kinds of text (e.g., academic research articles, critical theory, queer theory, multicultural children's literature, storytelling) to help promote that activism.

However, the authors noticed that their participants regularly resisted their carefully formulated research questions and suggestions for readings, and used the meeting time to talk about their experiences as lesbian or bisexual women/students/teachers, to tell stories, to worry about getting jobs, to ask the authors questions about their own experiences as former elementary teachers and current teacher educators.

The authors use queer theory and autoethnography to explore what queer research in teacher education could look like, and how research with queer subjects by queer subjects can inform teacher education practices. The authors' focus is not the identities of the participants, but how, through work with queer preservice teachers, the authors' identities as researchers and teachers were queered.

A Queer(ed) Research Design

This study highlights a small group of undergraduate elementary- and middle-school education students at a large midwestern research university who identify as lesbian, bisexual, or queer.

The authors collected narrative data—from their participants and themselves: stories told during the interview/conversations, stories told during focus group conversations, and stories that the researchers told each other about how the group conversation affected their own practice as teacher educators.

Final Thoughts

The authors have claimed that autoethnography helped them think about the researcher and the researched as equally open to change. Although this article was about telling a story about the authors' subjectivities in their work as researchers, and how their subjectivities were constructed and deconstructed by their participants, this story is also about the participants and how their shifting identities as teachers informed the authors' thinking about supporting and engaging queer teachers and queer teacher education students. Spaces for narrative exploration of teacher identity widened and deepened in this research because the participants deconstructed the authors' research practice.

Updated: Jan. 23, 2011