Trajectories of Teacher Identity Development Across Institutional Contexts: Constructing a Narrative Approach

Sep. 01, 2011

Source: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 9, 2011, p. 1863-1905.

Purpose of Study

This study conceptualizes the process of working with teacher candidates’ (TCs’) whose identity development trajectories pose troubling problems.
The authors explore the question, How can teacher educators (TEs) make informed, responsible, and compassionate decisions about intern identity development?
To do so, the authors offer narrative accounts of three secondary teacher candidates moving along identity trajectories with varying degrees and types of difficulty.
The inquiry traced the construction of first-, second-, and third-person narratives of TCs who experienced “problems” in a large teacher preparation program.

Research Design
This study employed a narrative design. 
The narratives focus on TCs as told by, to, or about university staff, mentor teachers, and TCs themselves. The authors constructed composite narratives about each of three TCs’ identity development using notes from face-to-face meetings, e-mail correspondence, course assignments, memos, TC evaluations, TC journals, and university course observation notes.


Two of the three narrative accounts represent TCs who ultimately were not successful in completing the program.
Kirk’s narratives reveal a TC who was unwilling or unable to integrate second- and third-person narratives into his own identity trajectory.
Sally’s narratives portray a TC who constructed varied, sometimes conflicting, first-person narratives in opposition to the second- and third-person narratives constructed by others about her.
Suzannah’s narratives detail how ideological differences with a mentor teacher caused conflicts that were ultimately resolved by a change in mentor and the alignment of narratives from different sources.

Conclusions and Recommendations

This narrative approach can help TEs understand TCs’ identity development as they move through the complex terrain of teacher preparation, anticipate issues that may arise, and better support TCs on this journey.
The authors argue that teacher preparation programs, as knowledge communities in which identity is shaped, should do explicit work that frames becoming a teacher as the negotiation among multiple, sometimes conflicting, narratives.
The authors recommend designing opportunities for TCs to examine, reflect on, and integrate narratives from multiple sources.

Updated: Oct. 27, 2011