Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Journeys toward Becoming a Teacher: Charting the Course of Professional Development

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Journeys toward Becoming a Teacher: Charting the Course of Professional Development

Article excerpt

Introduction

Teacher education programs challenge students' beliefs about teaching and learning in hope of creating a pedagogical awareness that will inform teaching practices and guide the professional transformation from student to teacher (Bird, Anderson, Sullivan & Swindler, 1993; Graber, 1996; Tabachnick & Zeichner, 1984; Tom, 1997; Stooksberry, 2002; Korthagen, 2004; Zeichner, 1999). The process of becoming a teacher is referred to variously as teacher development (see Burden, 1990; Gilles, McCart Cramer, & Hwang, 2001; Ingvarson & Greenway, 1984; Jackson, 1992; Raymond, Butt, & Townsend, 1992; Reilley Freese, 1999; Zulich, Bean, & Herrick, 1992), professional growth and development (see Kagan, 1992; Sprinthall, Reiman, & Theis-Sprinthall, 1996), identity development/construction (see Graham & Young, 1998; Gratch, 2000; Walling & Lewis, 2000), and/or learning to teach (see Alexander, Muir & Chant, 1992; Carter, 1990; Feiman-Nemser, 1983; Sumara & Luce-Kapler, 1996; Wideen, Mayer-Smith, & Moon, 1998). Reviews of teacher development literature (e.g., Kagan, 1992; Richardson & Roosevelt, 2004; Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005) have illustrated the complexity involved in this developmental journey.

In most teacher preparation programs, there is a mix of university coursework and field (classroom/practicum) experience, which affords preservice teachers opportunities to be both students and teachers. Nevertheless, the aim of teacher education programs is one of professional development--for students to emerge as teachers. For example, a student coming into an education program may already have had experiences teaching in other contexts and might consider herself a teacher. Once immersed in her first-term courses, she may feel her identity is wrapped up more in a "student's role". As she embarks on her practicum, she is thrust back into a "pretend teacher's role" (Tom, 1997, p. 131), sometimes confident and sometimes doubtful about her readiness to assume the mantle of teacher. While in her practicum she may, at times, feel like a student again (e.g., when she is being evaluated or observing her sponsor teacher). Sometimes the practice teaching activities are so short that she may only "momentarily escape student status--the best the teacher-to-be can hope for is a brief role playing experience at being a teacher" (Tom, 1997, p. 136). Once again returning to the university, she may revert to a student's role, possibly holding onto some teacher identity from practicum experiences. Her first teaching position may be the first time she feels like a "real teacher" with her credentials in hand, embarking into the professional world of education. This example illustrates the recursive process inherent in the training of people to be teachers, which has emerged in the literature (e.g., Snyder & Spreitzer, 1984; Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004; Walkington, 2005; Luehmann, 2007; Troman, 2008). But how does this process happen at the individual level? More particularly, how are identity and commitment manifested in the journey from student to teacher?

To explore these issues we studied 23 students involved in a one-year teacher education program and examined their identity changes and commitment to teaching. We were interested in how students' beliefs and orientations influenced their evolving identity and commitment to teaching. Our approach provides a grounded look at the perceptions and expectations of the very people who experienced the process in situ.

This study is based on the rationale that "a view through the eyes of the pre-service teacher is essential for all clearly to understand the personalized and contextualized journey of learning" (Walkington, 2005, p. 56). In order to better understand participant's journey, discussions of teacher identity and commitment became the underlying constructs to help tell their stories. …

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