Professional Identity Tensions of Beginning Teachers

Oct. 01, 2013

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 19, No. 6, 660–678, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study presents an overview of the tensions regarding professional identity that was experienced by a group of beginning teachers.

A semi-structured interview was conducted with 24 beginning teachers to investigate what kind of professional identity tensions they had experienced.


Interviews with beginning teachers resulted in 59 tensions that could be classified into three themes: (1) The change in role from student to teacher, (2) conflicts between desired and actual support given to students, and (3) conflicting conceptions of learning to teach.


The professional identity tensions mentioned by the beginning teachers appeared on a regular basis. In many cases, they were quite severe. Most of the tensions experienced conform with those found in the literature. In most cases, feelings of helplessness, frustration, or anger were dominant in accompanying the tensions, and the teachers had a strong desire to learn to cope with them. Hence, it is important that teacher educators and mentors in schools pay serious attention to tensions like these that relate to beginning teachers’ professional identity.

Tensions are very personal and may not always come to the surface. Therefore, beginning teachers need to know that they are not the only ones to experience such tensions. Many beginning teachers in our study appeared to recognize the importance of sharing their tensions, because they often talked with significant others about their tensions. Sharing tensions may also lead to learning about different ways of coping with tensions. The accompanying negative feelings and possible severe consequences for their professional development, and the fact that beginning teachers want to work on their tensions, suggest that they would benefit from support in coping with their tensions.


Based on the findings showed that beginning teachers coped with their tensions in different ways, it would be interesting to gain insight into the ways of coping and the kinds of feelings experienced by teachers who have taught for a year or two. Such information would enable teacher educators and mentors in (practice) schools to support their student/beginning teachers in a better way.

Updated: Jun. 06, 2017