Located in the Republic of Ireland, and drawing on figured worlds theory (Holland et al. 1998), the focus of this presentation relates to the shaping of positional identity among nine beginning primary teachers, during the course of their initial year of workplace practice, post-graduation.
In extending the tradition of merely focusing on beginning teachers’ acquisition of ‘assets’, such as knowledge, competences and skills, as the basis of professional development, identity studies go beyond learning ‘to know how to teach’ and focus on the beginner learning ‘to be someone who teaches’.
Premised on identity shaping as inseparable from the social and cultural practices in which individuals are engaged, the concept of figured worlds is chosen to help elucidate the manner in which the shaping of beginners’ positional identities occurs.
From a figured worlds perspective the concept of positional identity fundamentally relates to how individuals come to figure who they perceive themselves to be, through the worlds within which they participate, and how they relate to others within those worlds. Socially instanced and located in times and places, within the social encounters constituting figured worlds, participants’ positions matter. Therefore, in this study, accounts of positional identity shaping incorporate the positional significance of power differentials and the micro-political nature of workplaces.
Undertaken within the ambit of the constructivist paradigm, this multiple-case study employs individual, semi-structured interviews and solicited digital diaries (e-mail logs), as data collection methods. While professing no claims to representativeness, the nine research participants constitute key case subjects, manifested in their capacity to exemplify the analytical object of the inquiry. To attend to the dynamics of beginning teachers’ workplace interactions, a deductive, cross-case analysis approach is employed.
Teasing out the shaping of beginning identity demands a consideration of the ways research participants interacted with others within their figured worlds. In attending to the dynamics of beginning teachers’ workplace interactions, selected vignettes from the data set are discussed under three interrelated headings - class allocation decisions; degree and nature of school-based interactions; assessment inspired assistance - all directly bearing on the shaping of beginners’ positional identities in the workplace. Conclusions encapsulating participants’ developing sense of positional identity in the workplace are set in a wider context of theoretically informed current themes and preoccupations relating to beginning teaching in primary schools.