Professionalism and the Post-Performative Teacher: New Teachers Reflect on Autonomy and Accountability in the English School System

Jul. 01, 2011

Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 37, No. 3, July 2011, 389–409.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study explores the developing professional identity of a new generation of teachers, largely educated during the growth era of ‘performative schooling’ of the 1990s.
The article draws specifically on the English experience of reforms in the management of schools and teacher education.


Job satisfaction
The findings reveal that the teachers felt that the most satisfying aspect of their work was in their relationships with pupils, and the positive impact they had made on their intellectual and emotional development.

Furthermore, some of these teachers felt that this professional culture emphasised teaching as a vocation where professional ambition was viewed as ‘a distraction’.

The bureaucratic professional
The teachers mentioned that the paperwork was the least rewarding aspect of their job. However, although a minority suggested that their job entailed an unnecessary amount of paperwork, the majority were relatively sanguine.
These teachers saw the large amount of record-keeping required as something from which they gained little direct satisfaction but that improved their teaching as well as demonstrating accountability.

In addition, these new teachers do appear more comfortable with the competing demands and priorities of teaching.
Whilst virtually all the teachers (16 out of 18) directly identified constraints on their professional practice, they also considered that they had a very high degree of autonomy.

The post-performative professional identity?

The author concludes that these post-performative teachers are very aware of the need for continuing professional advancement, and most were already thinking about the possible direction they would like to take.

Furthermore, these teachers are aware of the potential conflicts between the demands of accountability and the desire for autonomy, but are generally comfortable with the balance they feel able to strike between these.

Updated: Jul. 01, 2013