Constructing New Professional Identities through Self-Study: From Teacher to Teacher Educator

Mar. 10, 2010

Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 36, Nos. 1–2, March–June 2010, p. 77–92. (Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, two beginning teacher educators discuss their experiences of professional learning and identity construction during the first years of their work as academics.

Context of the study

The two teacher educators featured in this paper came into teacher education after teaching in the classroom for varying amounts of time.
Judy taught in primary schools in Australia for approximately 25 years, while Jason taught in secondary schools in the United States for three years.
Although their teaching backgrounds and the sociocultural contexts in which they worked were quite different, their experiences of making the transition to teacher education revealed similar themes in terms of how they navigated the processes of becoming teacher educators.


This paper explores the processes of teacher educator professional learning and identity through self-study. It involves a brief review of relevant literature and an examination of the personal experiences of two beginning teacher educators.

Data sources include findings from the literature, entries made in research journals, email correspondence with self-study colleagues, and student-teacher feedback and evaluations.

It appears from the literature, and from the authors’ experiences, that there is little research into the professional development processes and needs of teacher educators, and that there is an assumption that competent, experienced school teachers will automatically become proficient teacher educators. Using a self-study methodology, the authors explore their experiences of constructing new professional identities as teacher educators. They use the analytical framework of ‘communities of practice’ as articulated by Lave and Wenger.


When reflecting on their experiences, Judy and Jason became aware of how many of the issues raised in the literature concerning professional learning and identity mirrored their own experiences. More specifically, significant challenges that they identified in their first years of being new teacher educators included: making professional connections with other teacher educators; and negotiating new professional relationships with students.


Entering the world of self-study has enabled the authors of this paper, to establish a teaching/research nexus, and to legitimize their identities as school-teachers as integral to their identities as teacher educators. One identity is not discarded in favor of the other, but utilized in ways that will help former classroom teachers to ‘repackage’ who they are as teacher educators.

During their professional journey into academia, the authors discovered that becoming teacher educators represents an ongoing process fraught with competing and constantly changing tensions. The authors are acutely aware that their professional development as teacher educators is intimately bound up with their professional identities, and that self-study is a valuable avenue through which to explore these dimensions of their personal and intellectual growth.
The self-study community of practice into which the authors have been accepted has played a vital role in facilitating their new professional identities as teacher educators.

Furthemore, the authors strongly believe that collegiality, conversation and collaboration in multiple forums is essential for the professional development of new teacher educators, and for all teacher educators.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Updated: Mar. 21, 2010