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Trajectories of Teacher Identity Development Across Institutional Contexts: Constructing a Narrative Approach

by Gail Richmond, Mary M. Juzwik & Michael D. Steele - 2011

Background/Context: Teacher preparation programs are built on knowledge, practices, habits of mind, and professional standards that teacher educators (TEs) intend teachers to possess. Some foundations are explicitly manifest in standards, mission statements, and policies, whereas others are embedded in coursework, field experiences, and social contexts that influence teacher candidates’ (TCs’) developing teacher identities.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This study conceptualizes the process of working with TCs whose identity development trajectories pose troubling problems. We explore the question, How can TEs make informed, responsible, and compassionate decisions about intern identity development? To do so, we offer narrative accounts of three secondary teacher candidates moving along identity trajectories with varying degrees and types of difficulty. Our inquiry traced the construction of first-, second-, and third-person narratives of TCs who experienced “problems” in a large teacher preparation program.

Research Design: This study employed a narrative design. We define narrative as the temporal sequencing of events, told from an interpreted point of view. We use (a) narratives that persons tell about themselves, (b) narratives told to the identified person, and (c) narratives told about the identified person by a third party to a third party to plot TCs’ identity trajectories. The narratives we present focus on TCs as told by, to, or about university staff, mentor teachers, and TCs themselves. We constructed composite narratives about each of three TCs’ identity development using notes from face-to-face meetings, e-mail correspondence, course assignments, memos, TC evaluations, TC journals, and university course observation notes.

Findings/Results: Two of the three narrative accounts represent TCs who ultimately were not successful in completing the program. Kirk’s narratives reveal a TC who was unwilling or unable to integrate second- and third-person narratives into his own identity trajectory. Sally’s narratives portray a TC who constructed varied, sometimes conflicting, first-person narratives in opposition to the second- and third-person narratives constructed by others about her. Suzannah’s narratives detail how ideological differences with a mentor teacher caused conflicts that were ultimately resolved by a change in mentor and the alignment of narratives from different sources.

Conclusions/Recommendations: This narrative approach can help TEs understand TCs’ identity development as they move through the complex terrain of teacher preparation, anticipate issues that may arise, and better support TCs on this journey. We argue that teacher preparation programs, as knowledge communities in which identity is shaped, should do explicit work that frames becoming a teacher as the negotiation among multiple, sometimes conflicting, narratives. We recommend designing opportunities for TCs to examine, reflect on, and integrate narratives from multiple sources.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 9, 2011, p. 1863-1905
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16177, Date Accessed: 9/19/2021 12:31:25 PM

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About the Author
  • Gail Richmond
    Michigan State University
    GAIL RICHMOND is an associate professor of science and teacher education at Michigan State University. Her research interests include the development of critical knowledge and practices for scientific inquiry and teaching, the structure and development of teacher identity, and the role of professional learning communities in sustaining teacher growth. Her recent peer-reviewed publications include articles in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching and CBE Life Sciences Education, and several conference proceedings.
  • Mary Juzwik
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    MARY M. JUZWIK is an associate professor of language and literacy at Michigan State University. Her research interests include narrative discourse theory and methodology, classroom discourse analysis, and English teaching in culturally and linguistically diverse contexts. Recent publications include a book, The Rhetoric of Teaching: Understanding the Dynamics of Holocaust Narratives in an English Classroom, and articles in American Educational Research Journal, English Education, and Teaching and Teacher Education.
  • Michael Steele
    Michigan State University
    MICHAEL D. STEELE is an assistant professor of mathematics education at Michigan State University. His research interests include the form and development of mathematical knowledge for teaching, trajectories of teacher learning, and mentoring and induction. His work has recently appeared in Journal for Mathematics Teacher Education, the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators Monograph Series, and Cognition and Instruction.
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