Early Career Teachers Emotion and Emerging Teacher Identities

March, 2017

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 23, No. 4, 406–421, 2017
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aimed to better understand how teachers negotiate their emergent identities and the role emotional transactions play in this process.

The participants were eight first-year mathematics and science teachers teaching in eight different high schools across a large urban southwest city. The sample included three males and five females.
The authors interviewed the teachers and asked them to reflect on emotional episodes and talk about how those emotions informed their teaching identities

The authors organized the findings by four key features of what they call the process of ‘identity work’: (1) Incoming teacher beliefs; (2) Teacher identity emotional episodes; (3) Teacher attributions, and (4) and Identity adjustment.
All of the participants could identify episodes or experiences during which they had salient emotional responses. Some participants elaborated the ways that these emotional responses served to confirm or further teacher identities/expectations they brought with them into their first year of teaching. Others argued that these events triggered a process of questioning or exploration regarding what their incoming beliefs were.

The teachers identified emotional episodes that were signals for ‘identity work' –the active process of constructing/deconstructing understanding of what it means to be a teacher as one reflectively confronts the process/outcome of some emotionally laden classroom-based events. Frustration resulting from a perceived lack of control, or experiences that conflicted with incoming expectations often led to some type of identity work. Satisfaction resulting from successful teaching episodes often times confirmed teaching identities. Most of the participants said that feelings of happiness, joy, or satisfaction often accompanied successful teaching events/days defined as events in which students were engaged or demonstrably learned something.

The authors said that they learn the importance of emotional episodes in shaping the nature of teachers’ identities. These data suggest that emotional experiences that conflict with new teachers’ expectations of what it means to be a teacher have great potential to trigger ‘identity work.’ The data yielded a model of ‘identity work’ that includes (a) some beginning orientation of teacher identity beliefs, (b) the experience of pleasant/unpleasant emotional events, and (c) attribution work that may lead to some type of identity adjustment.
This model has the potential to provide paths for enhancing teacher education programs.

Updated: May. 17, 2018