Negotiations of personal professional identities by newly qualified early childhood teachers through facilitated self-study
Warren, Alison Margaret
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
Early childhood teachers spend their professional lives in social interactions with children, families and colleagues. Social interactions shape how people understand themselves and each other through discourses. Teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand negotiate their subjectivities, or self-understandings, within initial teacher education (ITE), professional expectations, education and society. They are shaped by historical and contemporary discourses of early childhood teaching professionalism as they gain status as qualified and registered teachers. Early childhood teachers’ understandings of their personal professional identities influence self-understandings of everyone they encounter professionally, especially young children. This poststructural qualitative collective case study investigates five newly-qualified early childhood teachers’ negotiations of their personal professional identities. My research study is based in postmodern understandings of identities as multiple, complex and dynamic, and subjectivities as self-understandings formed within discourses. In contrast, institutionally-directed reflective writing in early childhood ITE can reflect modernist perspectives that assume essentialist, knowable identities. Tensions exist between my postmodern theoretical framework and my data collection strategy of facilitated self-study, an approach that is usually based on the modernist assumption that there is a self to investigate and know. My participants explored their subjectivities through focus group discussions, individual interviews, and reflective writing, including institutionally-directed reflective writing. Three dominant discourses of early childhood education emerged from data analysis that drew on Foucault’s theoretical ideas: the authority discourse, the relational professionalism discourse and the identity work discourse. Positioned in these discourses, all participants regarded themselves as qualified and knowledgeable, skilled at professional relationships and as reflective practitioners. They actively negotiated tensions between professional expectations and understandings of their multiple, complex and changing identities. I concluded that these participants negotiated understandings of their personal professional identities within three dominant discourses through discursive practices of discipline and governmentality, seeking pleasurable subject positions, and agentic negotiation of tensions and contradictions between available subjectivities.