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The Personal and Professional Selves of Teachers: Stable and Unstable Identities

Day, C and Kington, A and Stobart, G and Sammons, P (2006) The Personal and Professional Selves of Teachers: Stable and Unstable Identities. British Educational Research Journal, 32 (4). pp. 601-616. ISSN 0141-1926

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Abstract

In much educational literature it is recognised that the broader social conditions in which teachers live and work, and the personal and professional elements of teachers' lives, experiences, beliefs and practices are integral to one another, and that there are often tensions between these which impact to a greater or lesser extent upon teachers' sense of self or identity. If identity is a key influencing factor on teachers' sense of purpose, self‐efficacy, motivation, commitment, job satisfaction and effectiveness, then investigation of those factors which influence positively and negatively, the contexts in which these occur and the consequences for practice, is essential. Surprisingly, although notions of ‘self’ and personal identity are much used in educational research and theory, critical engagement with individual teachers' cognitive and emotional ‘selves’ has been relatively rare. Yet such engagement is important to all with an interest in raising and sustaining standards of teaching, particularly in centralist reform contexts which threaten to destabilise long‐held beliefs and practices. This article addresses the issue of teacher identities by drawing together research which examines the nature of the relationships between social structures and individual agency; between notions of a socially constructed, and therefore contingent and ever‐remade, ‘self’, and a ‘self’ with dispositions, attitudes and behavioural responses which are durable and relatively stable; and between cognitive and emotional identities. Drawing upon existing research literature and findings from a four‐year Department for Education and Skills funded project with 300 teachers in 100 schools which investigated variations in teachers' work and lives and their effects on pupils (VITAE), it finds that identities are neither intrinsically stable nor intrinsically fragmented, as earlier literature suggests. Rather, teacher identities may be more, or less, stable and more or less fragmented at different times and in different ways according to a number of life, career and situational factors.

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Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Academic Departments > Institute of Education
Depositing User: Alison Kington
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2012 13:51
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2012 13:51
URI: https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/id/eprint/1899

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