The Importance of Being Aware: Developing Professional Identities in Educators and Researchers

Nov. 10, 2010

Source: Studying Teacher Education, Volume 6, Issue 3, November 2010 , pages 291 – 302.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In February 2007, three facilitators started their first joint self-study project in the Netherlands.
In this project, teacher educators carried out their individual studies, while supported by the group of colleagues and by the three facilitators. These facilitators also conducted a self-study of the whole project, particularly focusing on helping and hindering aspects of the facilitation process.

The Goals of the Project

The facilitators (Rosanne, Mieke, and Fred) had several goals in mind.
First, they sought to provide support to individual self-studies and to the development of insights valuable for participating teacher educators' own practices, while at the same time the teacher educators involved in the project would gain experience in performing research. Second, the three facilitators sought to discover what kind of support helps or hinders this process of working with the participants. The self-study conducted by the facilitators is also discussed.

In this article, the authors report two of the teacher educators' self-studies, one in the context of foreign language teaching and the other in the context of deepening student teacher reflection.
In addition, the authors describe the design and outcomes of the self-study carried out by the facilitators.

Outcomes: What did we learn?

The authors discuss what they have learnt from each of the three studies.
First, the teacher educators experienced friction on the one hand between a better understanding and development of their own practices and, on the other, staying objective.

Second, the teacher educators experienced tension between wanting to carry out very comprehensive and ambitious studies, yet having limited capacity to do so or facing lack of time. The facilitators guided the teacher educators in shaping their ambitions on the one hand, but on the other, provided enough space for the teacher educators to develop their researcher skills and find out what types of projects worked for them.

Third, friction was experienced between studying sometimes very personal aspects of one's own practices and going public with the results.

Going Beyond the Story

In addition, the authors also emphasize going beyond the story, drawing conclusions that may be of interest to the broader community of teacher educators.
First, the studies of the participants in the project confirm what we already know about the benefits of self-study research: self-studies support professional development and provide insight into one's own practices. Moreover, the participating teacher educators became more aware of the pitfalls faced by their students when carrying out research, and of the support they may need.

Second, creating a self-study group in which teacher educators and researchers work closely together to establish a sense of professional intimacy (see Fitzgerald, East, Heston, & Miller, 2002) turned out to be of great importance in this respect.

Third, working on self-studies in the context of teacher education academization opens up a whole new world of questions on performing research.

Finally, these self-studies have an important impact at the identity level: through their self-studies, the authors have changed as professionals. The authors have developed different and inspiring new insights into our own professional roles and new perspectives on who we are and can be in our work.

Updated: Feb. 20, 2011