The influence of chronotopes on pre-service teachers’ professional becoming in a school–university partnership

August, 2020

Source: Teachers and Teaching, 26:5-6, 475-489

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article explores the influence of chronotopes on pre-service teachers’ professional becoming in a school–university partnership model.
It draws upon dialogue from professional conversations which included multiple stakeholders in the partnership.

Materials and methods

Context of the TAPP professional experience partnership
The Teaching Academies of Professional Practice (TAPP) in Victoria and its predecessor, the School Centres for Teaching Excellence initiative have been developed as a site-based training model (Department of Education and Training, 2018) for the delivery of initial teacher education (ITE).
TAPP is described as a partnership ‘of a cluster of schools with one or more universities’ in order to ‘deliver innovative and effective initial teacher education’ (Department of Education and Training, 2015).
The model for this TAPP programme involves pre-service teachers (PSTs) spending more time in schools although the different Teaching Academies have established a range of models for this including one or more days a week or larger ‘block’ placements.

The TAPP in which this research was conducted was established as a partnership between one metropolitan university and eight cluster schools including three primary and five secondary schools.
There were eight PST participants who were in their final year of either a four-year Bachelor of Education (Primary) or a two-year Master of Teaching (Secondary) programme.
The professional experience included 16 weeks spread from the first week of the school year with blocks of up to 10 weeks during the year.
This was in addition to professional experience PSTs had completed in previous years of study.

Method tools

Research project overall
This qualitative research project collected various forms of data in five stages across a school year; before, during and immediately after the partnership placement programme.
The data set included start and endpoint surveys; recordings of two professional conversation meetings between the eight PSTs, their mentors (13), a lead staff member at the school and the university partnership representative (the first author); and one-hour semi-structured interviews with the individual PSTs, their mentors, lead staff at the school, the university representative and the system representative.
The professional conversations provided rich data and have been selected as the focus of this paper.

Results and discussion
The extracts from two professional conversations demonstrate contrasting experiences and the impact of chronotopes.
In the first conversation the PST is highly valued and demonstrates professional agency.
She makes clear links between academy and classroom practice, as is the intention of the professional conversations and she illustrates the ways she is developing a critically reflexive understanding of the teaching profession.
The mentors’ and University Representative’s chronotopes align and they build on each other’s comments to assist the PST in making connections between the multiple voices she can draw on.
In the primary example, the oppositional discourses relating to weaving together research and practice become a persuasive push and pull between the leadership team members and the University representatives.
The concept of chronotopic motif or a ‘congealed event’ (Morson & Emerson, 1990, p. 374) and chronotopic place which is described as ‘a sort of condensed reminder of the kind of time and space that typically functions there’ (ibid) is evident across this professional conversation.
The heightened tension shuts down the space for the PSTs, and the supervising teachers, to engage in the debate.
The conversations illustrate the ways a number of chronotopic motifs can combine to reveal chronotopic genres (Morson & Emerson, 1990, p. 375).
In the TAPP partnership, there are multiple stakeholders who have their own generic representations of what ITE should and can look like.
All stakeholders are motivated to create a new genre or a new representation of ITE.
Each has varying levels of power to influence change.
In the first conversation an integral way of understanding PST and in-service teacher growth across all stakeholders was to connect to a variety of voices from research and practice.
The other conversation represented chronotopic clashes between stakeholders with the representation of a ‘fossilized’ genre (Gerofsky, 2010) reflecting chronotopes from past representations of ‘Teacher College’ and apprenticeship style approaches to ITE, which clashed with emerging chronotopes around ‘third space’/’hybrid’ (Zeichner, 2010) genres of ITE.
The impact of the silencing of the PSTs in the second conversation on their professional becoming could have multiple outcomes.
It could reinforce the genre of Teacher Apprenticeship models to ITE and the respective chronotopes linked to this genre carried through time by the leadership team members, meaning they carry forward into their career a dichotomous view of theory and practice.
If the experience was to reflect Gorodetsky and Barak (2016) view that transformative journeys are often strengthened when experiencing conflict, the observation of dialogic tension between the leadership team members and the University representatives may lead to positive professional growth.
Interaction with conflicting voices may force the PSTs to critically assess their own views on connections between the academy and practice.
In this particular partnership, there were multiple stakeholders, and this selected professional conversation represents just one moment in time, and one level of interaction between a small number of stakeholders.
Despite the intention and efforts of various stakeholders in this partnership to develop what Furlong et al. (1996), Kruger et al. (2009), and Jones et al. (2016) describe as a collaborative and transformative partnership, the selected extracts illustrate the ways harmonising and opposing chronotopes interact in partnerships professional conversations to impact a transformative hybrid of ITE.
It also represents two sides of the professional becoming of the PSTs who may be invited to actively take charge of their growth or become relegated to be passive observers during moments of tension.
The data highlighted and raised questions around the kinds of conditions required, particularly in negotiated partnership models, for the professional becoming and increased agency of PSTs.
In particular to have the confidence to move from the boundary of fully mentored to becoming a more independent practitioner (and practitioner researcher), such as what appeared to be the case for the Highschool PST.
The unfinalizability of professional becoming is an important aspect of PSTs’ identity work, including their developing capacity to respond to the contextual and relational specificity of pedagogical practice.
While it is important for PSTs to critically reflect on tensions in education, it is also important that they are given affordances to engage dialogically rather than become silenced.
It is important that those with the power to dominate partnership professional conversations are critically aware of this power and dialogically support PSTs’ professional becoming rather than try to determine it.

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Updated: Oct. 13, 2021