chapter  13
21 Pages

The invention of teachers: How beginning teachers learn

ByIAN STRONACH

I thought PGCE was a steep learning curve, but God, this is vertical.

It wasn’t my style and I didn’t know what my style was, so there was all that, what am I going to be like?

This chapter develops a theory of early professional learning based on a study of Scottish and English beginning teachers. It draws on data from 2004 and 2005, involving 25 teachers in Scotland and 20 in England. The Scottish sample were interviewed up to 11 times in their first year by teacher-researchers from the same school as the beginning teachers. The account builds on work on the nature of professionalism (Stronach et al. 2002), as well as on earlier work on initial teacher experiences and competences (Stronach et al. 1994; McNally et al. 1997). We earlier argued that professionalism was a fraught ‘juggling’ between various ‘economies of performance’ (exam results, league tables, prescribed curriculum and pedagogy, set pace of learning) and ‘ecologies of practice’ (such as vocational commitments, sense of identity, institutional ethos). These tensions mobilized a shifting, plural and contradictory sense of the professional self as an ‘uncertain being’ and focused on the performative nature of professional acts. Since the research was based on experienced teacher and nurse identities, we had little to say about the ‘becoming’ rather than the ‘being’ of professional identities, and our hope in this chapter is that we can cast further light on professional identity by looking at how it is created in the first two years of occupational experience.