‘Four Years On, I’m Ready to Teach’: Teacher Education and the Construction of Teacher Identities

Oct. 01, 2011

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 17, No. 5, October 2011, 529–543.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes the results of a qualitative study that aimed to explore how one group of preservice English language teachers in Hong Kong constructed their identities as teachers.

The study was guided by the following research question:
How did one group of Hong Kong preservice English language teachers construct their teacher identities in practice and in discourse at the conclusion of their teacher education program?

The article examines the perspectives of six preservice teachers about teaching and teachers at the completion of their undergraduate teacher education program.

The participants in this study were six ethnic Chinese preservice English language teachers, three women and three men, who all spoke Cantonese as their mother tongue.
At the time of the study, each of the participants had completed the requirements of the Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) program, majoring in English language teaching, at a teacher education institution in Hong Kong.

Data were collected through semi-structured interviews, conducted with all six preservice teachers in June 2009, at the conclusion to their involvement in the BEd program.


The findings demonstrate that the preservice teachers constructed a picture of the world of teaching, and their place in it, through the connections they made across history, thus describing the trajectory of their own identity formation.
For example, the participants described teachers from their time as secondary school students who inspired them to become teachers and who they hoped to emulate.
The participants also foresaw the possibility of identification as, for instance, ‘inspiring teachers’.

In addition, the trajectory of the preservice teachers’ identity formation relied not only on connecting past and future but also on their perceptions of current English language teaching practices in Hong Kong schools.
However, the participants evaluated many of these practices negatively.
These negative evaluations resulted in a rigid division being discursively established between ‘traditional’ or ‘old-fashioned’ teachers on the one hand and ‘modern’ teachers on the other.

The author argues that this rigidity may lead to antagonistic relations between these preservice teachers and their more experienced colleagues as the participants move into teaching.

Overcoming antagonism
The author suggests that teacher education programs can play an important role in overcoming this antagonism by counteracting the certainty of teachers’ beliefs about different types of teachers and teaching.

Updated: Feb. 17, 2014