Building Professional Identity during Pre-Service Teacher Education


Source: Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal; Ljubljana Vol. 11, Iss. 3, pp. 35-54

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The research objective of this project is to study how the university learning process and the work placement assignments at schools may contribute to the development of the teaching identity.
This article is centred on the practicum, specifically within the training contexts of Physical Education and Inclusive Education and the more global and general perspective of the Bachelor’s Degree in Primary Education.
Eight students, eight school tutors, and eight university tutors took part in the research.
During seminars, tutoring sessions, and school visits, data were collected using work placement memoirs, individual interviews, written observations, field notes, meeting records, and a discussion group.

Methodological Decisions
The research question that guided the study, focused on the fourth school year work placement assignments, has been stated as follows:
what inherent elements to the development of teacher identities are manifested during the practicum, and how can the role of university tutors benefit their advancement?
The authors intend to understand and interpret the actions that university tutors carry out during the work placement assignments to accompany the complex social processes of the school.
In this spirit, the study objectives presented in this article are:
1. To identify the elements that contribute to the learning process of teacher identity during a work placement, as told by the involved agents: students, school teachers, and university tutors.
2. To propose guidelines that improve the role of university tutors in work placement and the links between university and school in the development of teacher identities.

The research team, made up of eight university tutors, was organised through a continuous training seminar and evaluation of the teacher’s practice.
Each of the eight researchers tutored a student during the 2016-17 school year.
In the end, eight students agreed to participate in the study while complying with all agreed commitments.
Data analysis has been structured around three axes, all related to the development of teacher identity:
the ‘teacher self ’, the relationship and practical intervention of the students and the educational community, and the link between school and university knowledge.
The dimensions emerged inductively from the data.
The participants expressed their perspectives, points of view, and meanings regarding the analysed dimensions.
Codified fragments have been interpreted in the light of the theoretical references that enable comprehending the complexity of the formative process and the educational actions carried out by the university tutors.

Results and discussion
Regarding the key elements identified in the analysed data, the authors highlight three results that contribute to the teacher identity learning process:

a) Supporting the learning of the ‘teacher self ’ during the work placement.
The university tutor should encourage the students’ development of reflexive strategies that can shed light on educational events from different points of view:
first, the sense a student makes of their intuition;
second, the sense the school teachers have given them from their performances;
and finally, what they have been able to share from the educational experiences that have presented them with challenges, conflict, uncertainty, surprise or even joy.
In this manner, the learning process of the teacher identity, as stated by Geijsel & Meijers (2005), requires a two-fold dialogue between the viewpoints and the objectives of the students and the conditions of the schools, which often come from the beliefs and actions of the school tutor.
It is necessary to promote a dialogue that allows the sharing of different perspectives in dealing with a particular educational situation (Mule, 2006).
This is a complex and uncertain process that cannot be solved by merely substituting the educational interventions of the student by those of the teacher.
A rich and complex development process of teacher identity will be possible, in as much as the modelling—to which the student aspires—is understood as a path of inquiry.

b) The seminar should be a keystone for sharing reflections at university; it is a space where students can share their emotions regarding the educational experience and develop reflective processes.
It is necessary that, out of the classroom experience, a global and deep reflection emerges intending to promote a more multifaceted view among students regarding their teacher role and the link between their profession’s theoretical and practical aspects.
This also implies fostering exchange processes between school and university tutors and the student, in addition to considering reflection as a process (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009; Geijsel & Meijers, 2005).
Research shows that, during the process, the spaces designated for joint reflection between all three agents (S, ST, UT) are scarce (limited exclusively to the initial and to the end-of-work-placement evaluations), although they are more common separately, be it in the school or in the university contexts.

c) Strengthening relationships between schools and the university.
The cooperative relationship between the three agents intends to overcome— not without great effort—the institutional conditions (Gairín-Sellán et al., 2019; Zabalza, 2011) that often make the work possibilities between schools and universities more difficult.
Thus, it is necessary that the legal, managerial, and labour factors enable a space where the three agents may negotiate professional, didactic, and personal factors.

The results have allowed the authors to identify the elements that contribute to the development of teacher identity and, based on these, to rethink various aspects of the practicum, making proposals for improvement.
The role of the university tutor is highlighted as a key element in the mediation between students and school contexts and communities.
They agree with Sancho-Gil et al. (2017, p. 322) in their assessment that, in recent decades, initial training in Spain has improved: ‘It has moved from a rather traditional, craft-oriented, and ideological model towards a more academic and professional one, reaching the status of a bachelor’s degree with the implementation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA)’.
Furthermore, the tasks performed by the university tutors need to be strengthened in order to improve the students’ learning process of their identity (Geijsel & Meijers, 2005).
Shaping future teachers within the complex context of the profession implies outgrowing the boundaries of technical and organisational knowledge and integrating elements of reflection and re-interpretation of the classroom and school experiences, as well as making collective sense of the practical experiences through processes of collaboration based on student-tutor trust.
Furthermore, the difficulty in coordinating the educational schedules of the schools and the university is added to the organisational complexity of all the involved agents.
However, this research has shown the importance of improving university training spaces and specifically the practicum period to demonstrate the importance of integrating reflective learning, understood as an emotional, bodily, and cognitive process (Hernández et al., 2020) that develops processes of self-knowledge as well as knowledge of others and the world (Akkerman & Meijer, 2011; Charlot, 2007).
Offering tools that encourage students’ reflection, negotiation, and decision making when confronted with the tensions of the teaching profession is crucial to the complex and dynamic development of the teaching identity through the practicum.

Akkerman, S. F., & Meijer, P. C. (2011). A dialogical approach to conceptualizing teacher identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(2), 308–319
Beauchamp, C., & Thomas, L. (2009). Understanding teacher identity: An overview of issues in the literature and implications for teacher education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), 175–189
Charlot, B. (2007). La relación con el saber: elementos para una teoría [The relationship with knowledge: Elements for a theory]. Libros del Zorzal.
Gairín-Sallán, J., Díaz-Vicario, A., del Arco Bravo, I., & Flores Alarcia, Ó. (2019). Efecto e impacto de las prácticas curriculares de los grados de educación infantil y primaria: la perspectiva de estudiantes, tutores y coordinadores [Effect and impact of the curricular practices of the infant and primary education grades: The perspective of students, tutors and coordinators]. Educación, XX1, 22(2), 17–43
Geijsel, F., & Meijers, F. (2005). Identity learning: The core process of educational change. Educational Studies, 31(4), 419–430
Hernández, F., Aberasturi, E., Sancho J. M., & Correa, J.M. (2020) ¿Cómo aprenden los docentes? Tránsitos entre cartografías, experiencias, corporeidades y afectos [How do teachers learn? Transits between cartography, experiences, corporeality and affections]. Octaedro.
Mule, L. (2006). Preservice teachers’ inquiry in a professional development school context: Implications for the practicum. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(2), 205–218
Sancho-Gil, J. M., Sánchez-Valero, J. A., & Domingo-Coscollola, M. (2017). Research-based insights on initial teacher education in Spain. European Journal of Teacher Education, 40(3), 310–325
Zabalza, M. A. (2011). El prácticum en la formación universitaria: Estado de la cuestión[Practicum in university education: State of the art]. Revista de Educación, 354, 21–43.

Updated: Jun. 13, 2022