Identity Expectations in Early Childhood Teacher Education: Preservice Teachers' Memories of Prior Experiences and Reasons for Entry into the Profession

Oct. 01, 2014

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 43, (October, 2014), p. 27-36.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article examines how prospective teachers link their memories of prior experiences to their reasons for entering the profession.

The research took place in Montreal, a large, urban, bilingual city in Quebec, Canada.
The participants were fifty three prospective teachers, who enrolled in an early childhood and elementary education program with stringent admission requirements.
The participants were full-time, first or second year undergraduate students.
Of the 53 participants, 48 were female and 5 were male. 53 narratives were analyzed.


The results indicate that the areas of prior experiences the pre-service teachers referred to included many school and work memories, as well as a fair number of family memories. Students with more positive reasons for entry communicated a higher number of expectations for themselves as future teachers.
In reviewing the life histories, reasons for entering the field and identity expectations recounted in the students' narratives, four implications have been drawn:

1. Emotional nature of memory pieces
The students' memory pieces were strongly described in evaluative terms, i.e., positive or negative.
The participants placed much more attention on the relational aspects of teaching, which are inherently emotional.
Hence, teacher educators need to appreciate that preservice teachers will pursue knowledge that they believe will enhance their identities as they are rather than threaten them.

2. Capacity to articulate expectations in teaching
The narratives on the more positive end included a significantly higher number of identity expectations.
What this implies is that these prospective teachers carried a more pronounced capacity to access and articulate their expectations about teaching.

Teacher educators can provide pre-service teachers with means and support to make their tacit and unexamined expectations explicit and open to examination.

3. Importance of the role model
The most frequently expressed expectation was to model oneself after one's favorite teachers.
The participants tended to describe positive memories of teachers.
Hence, the authors suggest that attention should be given to the positive or negative nature of prior experiences.

4. The political nature of convictions
While positive memories of past teachers affected prospective teachers' desires to act as role-models, negative memories seemed to affect prospective teachers' present convictions in political ways.
Individuals who sought to fulfill their convictions voiced certainty in their decision to become a teacher.
These individuals perceived teaching to be a means of promoting social responsibility, equity and justice-goals that are altruistic in nature.
In contrast, students who expressed weaker conviction tended to recall a positive memory, be it school, family or work.
There was a sense that these students were trying to convince themselves that they had made the right choice of profession, but this didn't necessarily come across in a compelling way.
Pre-service teachers who express a desire to find conviction may be more vulnerable and may need help in articulating their expectations about teaching.


The authors conclude that by understanding the powerful impact of memories on reasons for entry into the field, and by guiding the student to assume responsibility for the meaning of one's choices and memories, teacher educators can foster the student's authentic explorations of identity development and support the student in building confidence and resilience as a future teacher alongside the instructional paradigm of child development theories.

Updated: Jun. 01, 2015