To what extent does UK Government policy discourse shape the professional identity of teachers in England?

Carabine, Paul Anthony James (2021) To what extent does UK Government policy discourse shape the professional identity of teachers in England? Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[img] PDF
Download (1MB)


A strong sense of professional identity is vital for a teacher’s understanding, engagement and commitment to their role and helps them make sense of their work and wider relationships. It is also a key element in the development of agency and career stability. Understanding teacher professional identity helps policymakers make sense of how teachers commit to, and engage with, policy making formulation and enhances implementation. This research study ascertains the main characteristics of teacher professional identity through a review of the existing literature. Guided by Michel Foucault’s theory of power, it uses critical discourse analysis of 32 policy texts to uncover the way that government policy discourse may shape this identity. Through semistructured interviews with 12 practising teachers, the study evaluates the extent to which policy discourse shapes teacher identity of secondary school teachers in England. Findings suggest four characteristics of teacher professional identity: the self; knowledge of the subject discipline and how to engage pupils in this; the impact of experience; and the centrality of emotions, both in seeing teaching as a vocation and engaging student emotions.

The critical discourse analysis indicates government policy discourse presents teachers in a negative light in a consistent and sustained manner. Far from being afforded professional status, teaching is presented as a technical skill with teachers charged with inadequacy and failing pupils through an unthinking enthralment to progressive pedagogies and an unwillingness to reform. Greater accountability within a reformed autonomous corporate structure with teachers taking more responsibility for social and economic policy are central planks of this reform agenda. Interviews with teachers suggest that teacher professional identity is indeed shaped by government policy discourse, but not in the way policymakers may hope. Teachers consistently push back on claims of inadequacy and embrace their professional status. Policymakers’ claims of the dominance of progressive ideologies is dismissed by a pragmatic approach to classroom practice. Far from shaping the teaching profession, policy discourse highlights deep misunderstandings between the profession and policymakers entrenching teacher identity further away from policy objectives.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Patrick, Dr. Fiona and Enslin, Dr. Penny
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82742
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2022 16:03
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2022 09:30
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82742

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year