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Webb, M 2006, 'Becoming a secondary-school teacher: the challenges of making identity formation a conscious informed process', MEd thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright M Webb 2006


The formation of teacher identity is a critical issue for pre-service teachers as they negotiate choices about who they wish to become. Teachers need to be informed, not compliant, about the forces that shape them. Yet pre-service teachers often struggle to voice their concerns and opinions throughout their pre-service education, identifying more as students rather than teachers. In order to negotiate the dissonance between personal and professional expectations, pre-service teachers may benefit from processes that enable critical reflection. This research explores the challenges for pre-service teachers in making informed choices about their teacher identity through sustained critical reflection. The study takes as a point of departure the idea that secondary school teachers face particular issues in identitying as 'teacher' because of their prior identity as scientists, musicians, or other subject specializations. In order to make sense of their emerging identities, pre-service secondary teachers need time to explore the theories, practices and discourses integral to their work. This research tells the story of how four pre-service secondary teachers negotiated the individual and collective aspects of becoming a teacher during the final year of their teaching courses. Action research was used to allow the participants to reflect collaboratively and act upon both intuitive and pragmatic concerns about teaching. The learning journey sought ways to consciously link knowing, doing and being, within the dynamic process of becoming a secondary-school teacher. The study found that becoming a teacher involves a complex interplay of values, beliefs and assumptions that may be difficult to recognize. It also found that the emotional aspects of learning to teach are complex and challenging but often remain unconscious, particularly when time for reflection and evaluation are limited. By forming a group in which to voice concerns and insights about teaching participants became both witness and to some extent informed actor in their own development and identity formation.