Source: Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 41, No. 4, 426–440, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was to understand how a group of pre-service English language teachers constructed and negotiated their identities as teachers during a teaching practicum.
The primary participants were eight ethnic Chinese student teachers – four male and four female – who were enrolled in the third year of a 4-year Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) programme, majoring in teaching English as a second language, at a higher education institution in Hong Kong.
Multiple, in-depth interviews with student teachers were conducted during a 6-week practicum to understand the students’ experiences of becoming teachers.
The results of this study suggest that the identity work is an essential feature of student teachers’ experiences of a teaching practicum as they attempt to position themselves as particular types of teachers, not only within their placement schools, but also in relation to their understandings of what it means to be a language teacher, both within Hong Kong and beyond.
However, the study also highlighted the potential for identity conflict. This conflict can arise if there is a mismatch between the subject positions offered to pre-service teachers within teacher education programmes and practicum placement schools and the student teachers own self-positioning as teachers.
This mismatch played a crucial role in these teachers’ identity construction efforts because their inability to exercise teacher agency by claiming ownership of the meanings of teaching and learning that mattered to them.
This teachers' inability suggest that their preferred professional identities were marginalised throughout their experience of the teaching practicum.
Overcoming the potential for this mismatch requires a rethinking of the practicum. However, the experiences of the student teachers described here means that this rethinking must go beyond the establishment of reflective practices and collaborative endeavours if the identity conflicts described above are to be addressed.
In particular, a critical focus is needed to ensure that this reflection and collaboration does not merely reproduce and reinforce relations of power that underpin the antagonistic relations and marginalisation of identity described in this paper.
This critical perspective, grounded in an identity-theoretic understanding of pre-service teachers’ experiences of their practicum, is crucial to revealing how all stakeholders – teacher educators, school-based supporting teachers, and student teachers – are positioned as particular types of teachers within educational discourses and how such understandings can be used to negotiate these positionings.