Each year, approximately two thousand newly qualified primary teachers graduate from a range of initial teacher education programmes in the Republic of Ireland.
Possessing the potential to deepen learning that has already taken place in initial teacher education, as well as preparing the beginning teacher for continuing professional development, the first year of teaching, post-graduation, represents a crucial juncture in the continuum of teacher education. Accordingly, the issue with international and national overtones, of direct relevance to this study, relates to the shaping of beginning teachers’ identities in the workplace.
The study focuses on the transformative search by nine beginning primary teachers for their teaching identities, throughout the course of their initial year of occupational experience, post-graduation.
Part of a larger doctoral study, where the shaping of beginning teacher identity is conceived of in dimensional terms - namely: temporo-spatial; emotional; contextual – the current presentation focuses on the temporo-spatial dimension of beginning teacher identity shaping.
Overarchingly, research questions seek to determine what aspects of the temporo-spatial dimension of early-career experience prove revealing with respect to the shaping of beginning teacher identity.
In researching the shaping of beginning identity over time [one school-year], and across contexts [nine beginning teachers, in nine varied workplace settings], a multiple-case study research design is employed. Individual, face-to-face semi-structured interviews, and the maintenance of solicited e-mail logs, are the principal methods of data collection employed.
Informed by principles derived from sociocultural theories generally, and figured worlds theory particularly (see Holland et al. 1998), the shaping of identity is conceived of as dynamic, plural and fluid. Thus, the ongoing renegotiation of beginning teacher identity places participation in practices in a temporal context. Additionally, conceived of as a ‘space of authoring’ (Holland et al. 1998) for emergent professional selves, the initial year of teaching represents an important liminal or boundary space wherein the shaping of beginning teacher identity occurs.
In communicating a sense of how beginning teachers wrestle with the complexities of practice, findings relate to two ‘twisting paths’ journeyed by beginners as they learn to teach. Charting these two, interrelated and overlapping, developmental journeys involves investigating, firstly, beginners’ evolving sense of the complexity of teaching, and, secondly, examining the developmental nature of significant beginning experiences.
As a result of applying the foci of an international literature to an under-researched aspect of Irish education, my study is offered as a context-specific contribution to the knowledge base on beginning teaching.