Understanding beginning teacher’s professional identity using a Foucauldian lens: the importance of networks of power and care of the self

Choudhury, Neela Begum (2023) Understanding beginning teacher’s professional identity using a Foucauldian lens: the importance of networks of power and care of the self. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Professional identity has been recognised as a significant area in the teaching profession for many years now. However, as concerns about the recruitment and retention of teachers in the UK increases, the need to ascertain why the profession is failing to recruit new teachers and keep existing ones is becoming increasingly important. The National Education Union (NEU) conducted a survey that found that one in three teachers planned to leave the profession within 5 years with ‘diminishing respect for the profession’ being cited as one of the causes (Weale, 2021). But what is it that is leading to the erosion of teacher’s professional identities? And how can teachers reclaim their professional identities so that the teaching profession is able to recruit and retain educators?

The present study has sought to answer these questions by interviewing four beginning teachers in England and six university staff who work in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in England and Scotland. Two major themes emerged from the interview data gathered: the care of the self and power. Participants spoke about the need to be reflective practitioners who are ethically driven and about the desire to have power over their own professional identities and the profession at large. Foucault’s writing on the care of the self and power has therefore been deployed in this study as a lens to explore how professional identity can be harnessed to create and sustain teaching professionals within schools in England and Scotland. Analysis of the findings using Foucault’s writing suggest that increasing the support afforded to beginning teachers to understand their ethical motivation for entering the profession and providing increased time for reflection would be beneficial in the creation and early developmental stages of teacher professional identity. In addition, discussion through a Foucauldian lens indicates that redistributing power within the teaching profession could lead to a greater sense of agency and enable teachers to reclaim their position within society.

This study has implications for the way that teachers in the UK are supported at the beginning of their careers, but also may be relevant to leaders responsible for professional development in schools who are looking to improve retention. Although this research was carried out in the UK, the findings of this study may also be applicable to other contexts where there are concerns about teacher retention. My findings suggest that greater support is needed to enable beginning teachers to develop professional identities, and that this support needs to be carefully planned to ensure that this support is implemented successfully. By supporting beginning teachers to develop secure professional identities, I argue that teachers can gain greater power and agency over their own sense of self, thereby providing them with opportunities to influence how the teaching profession is shaped.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Patrick, Dr. Fiona and Hedge, Dr. Nicki
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83973
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2023 09:44
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2023 13:36
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83973
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/83973

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