Emerging Teachers–emerging Identities: Trust and Accountability in the Construction of Newly Qualified Teachers in Norway, Germany, and England

Nov. 01, 2011

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 34, No. 4, November 2011, 431–447.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current article focuses on the construction of teacher identities in terms of trust and accountability.
The article provides a comparison of the perspectives of new teachers from Norway, Germany, and England about their relationships to significant ‘others’, and how these influence their lives as teachers.

The participants in this study were 32 begging teachers in the final weeks of their teacher education courses. Thirteen participants were Norwegian, 10 were German, and nine were English.
The three groups of teachers have been interviewed three times during the course of two years.


The Norwegian sample consisted of 13 BEd student teachers in a city in Norway in the last year of their four-year initial teacher education courses.
The trainee teachers were qualified to teach all ages, from 6–14.

The German sample included 10 student teachers from Munich attached to one of the Gymnasium training schools.

The English sample was taken from a cohort of Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) students on a one-year course at a university in London, after having completed their initial degrees. The nine trainees would be trained as subject specialists and expected to teach pupils aged 11–18.


The findings reveal that Norway does not have any formalized inspection system, no performance reviews took place, and there was no performance-related pay adopted.
Therefore, the Norwegian teachers are subject to professional form of accountability, in part related to the children they teach, their colleagues, and the parents of their pupils.
Most of the Norwegian teachers who interviewed, welcomed parental interest in the pupils they teach.

However, some teachers are not welcome the substantial roles in setting the educational agenda which is played by Norwegian parents.
In this national context trust, accountability and parental interest are interwoven, making parents highly significant others in terms of their impact on the identities of these Norwegian teachers.

In the German context, both internal and external forms of trust and accountability merge in the manner of professional responsibility to parents, although in considerably different ways to those of their Norwegian counterparts.

In contrast, the English parents played little or no part as significant others in the identities of the English teachers.
The findings from the interviews reveal that the educational system in England has external low-trust forms of accountability, based on direct forms of line management, and high-trust accountability, based on professional responsibility.

The hierarchical structures that exist in these schools place great emphasis on the role that managers play in the daily lives of the English sample.
Teacher identities in the English cohort emerge within tensions created when differentiating themselves from these others (e.g. inspectors and managers).
The high degree of accountability, at all levels, that English teachers are subjected to draws attention to bureaucratic management procedures that enforce these more formal types of monitoring.

The author concludes that this variation between the three national contexts is dependent on the ways in which trust and accountability impact identity, inflecting what it means to be a teacher as conveyed by the significant others in the lives of the teachers in this study.

Updated: Jan. 09, 2013