Teacher Educators: Their Identities, Sub-Identities and Implications for Professional Development

From Section:
Teacher Educators
Mar. 10, 2010

Source: Professional Development in Education, Volume 36, Issue 1 & 2 (March 2010), pages 131 - 148.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article the authors address the question: 'What sub-identities of teacher educators emerge from the research literature about teacher educators and what are the implications of the sub-identities for the professional development of teacher educators?' Like other professional identities, the identity of teacher educators is a construction of various aspects or facets, which the authors prefer to call sub-identities.

The authors are interested to learn what sub-identities might constitute the main identity of what we generically refer to as 'teacher educators' and, to achieve this, the authors set out to analyze the research literature relating to teacher educators to search for ways in which such sub-identities might be explicitly or implicitly described.

The study

To answer the research question, the authors analyzed 25 articles relating to teacher educators and their professional development. The articles cover themes such as beginning teacher educators and their transition from teachers to teacher educators; teacher educators as researchers (and learning to be researchers); and professional learning of teacher educators and teacher educators' (practical) knowledge.


Based on the research literature the authors found four sub-identities that are available for teacher educators: schoolteacher, teacher in Higher Education, teacher of teachers (or second order teacher) and researcher.

Teacher educators as school teachers
Although in some countries teacher educators are academics and hold a Ph.D. degree, most teacher educators worked as school teachers before they entered teacher education (Murray & Male, 2005; Zeichner, 2005) and as such they bring with them an identity as teachers.

Teacher educators as teachers in higher education
When teachers move from schools to become teachers in higher education they still need a period of induction as teacher educators, even though they may have a considerable number of years' experience in teaching. This area of professional development has been given some attention in research, with particular emphasis on the strategies and activities that are used to induct teacher educators in higher education.

Teacher educators as teachers of teachers (or second-order teachers)
The identity of teacher educators as teachers of teachers is explicitly or implicitly acknowledged by almost all studies the authors analyzed and is operationalised in the concept of teacher educators as models for their student-teachers. This notion of teachers as models and modelling is present in almost all articles the authors analyzed. As teachers of teachers, teacher educators always, consciously or unconsciously, model teaching and their values about teaching (Loughran & Berry, 2005; Swennen et al., 2008a).

Teacher educators as researchers
The sub-identity of researcher could be viewed as a part of the sub-identity of teacher in higher education, but in the literature the authors studied developing a research identity (Murray, 2008; Murray et al., 2009b) is seen by most authors as crucial for the development of teacher educators and the improvement of teacher education.

The authors also found a view on teacher educators as teachers in a more generic way.


There seems to be a broad understanding that teacher educators have to transform their identity as teachers to become 'teachers of teachers in Higher Education' and (increasingly) to become researchers of teaching and teacher education. The development of these sub-identities depends on the context of teacher education in various national and institutional contexts and the development of teacher educators over time.

Loughran, J. & Berry, A. (2005) Modelling by teacher educators, Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(2), 193–203.

Murray, J. (2008) Teacher educators’ induction into higher education: work-based learning in the micro communities of teacher education, European Journal of Teacher Education, 31(2), 117–133.

Murray, J. & Male, T. (2005) Becoming a teacher educator: evidence from the field, Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(2), 125–142.

Murray, J., Swennen, A. & Shagrir, L. (2009b) Understanding teacher educators’ work and identities, in: A. Swennen & M. van der Klink (Eds) Becoming a teacher educator: theory and practice for teacher educators (Dordrecht, Springer), 29–43.

Swennen, A., Lunenberg, M. & Korthagen, F. (2008a) Preach what you teach! Teacher educators and congruent teaching, Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 14(5), 531–542.

Zeichner, K. (2005) Becoming a teacher educator: a personal perspective, Teaching and Teacher Education, 21(2), 117–124.

Updated: Nov. 24, 2019
Professional development | Professional identity | Reviews of the literature | Teacher educators