TEACHER PROFESSIONAL-IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT:
INITIAL YEARS OF TEACHING PRACTICE
Donna Marie Stout
B.A. University of Dubuque, 1967
M.A. University of Northern Colorado, 1981
Thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
by Donna Marie Stout
All rights reserved
This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
Donna Marie Stout
has been approved
Joanna C. Dunlap
Stout, Donna Marie (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Teacher Professional-Identity Development: Initial Years of Teaching Practice
Thesis directed by Associate Professor, Joanna C. Dunlap
The beginning years of teaching are an optimal time for teachers to begin evolving
their professional identity, who they are as a teacher. This qualitative descriptive
study explored the professional identity process and teachers perceptions of
professional identity as related to their first-, second-, and third-year of teaching.
Participants in this study, and their school districts, were located in rural areas of
Southern Colorado. The data was collected through in-depth individual interviews
with teachers and teacher focus groups. The findings that emerged during this study
indicate there are initial professional identity phases and professional identity
descriptive attributes associated with teachers in the initial years of their teaching
practice. These initial professional identity phases are personal-self, relational, and
professional expectations suggesting this phenomenon is an evolving, dynamic
process. The descriptive attributes are correlated with the three initial phases; thus
providing the contents for an interactive Teacher Professional-Identity Development
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
Joanna C. Dunlap
Definition of Terms......................................4
Purpose of Study.........................................5
Statement of the Problem.................................8
Concept of Teacher Professional Identity...........9
Framework and Model...............................10
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE...................................16
Framing the Review......................................19
Identity Theory Framework............................21
Social-Identity Theory Framework.....................28
Professional Identity Theory................................34
Professional Identity Theory Framework...............35
Comparative Analysis of the Three Theories..................47
Emerging Themes from Literature Review......................51
4. DESCRIPTION OF FINDINGS......................................75
5. CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS, AND
How Do Teachers Describe Their
How do Teachers Perceive the Influences
of Critical Incidents on their Professional
How Do Teachers' Perceptions of Various
Contexts of Their Initial Professional
Practice Experiences Affect Their TPED?............110
Conceptual Framework for Professional-
Supportive Environments Created By
Supportive Communities of Practice for
An Evolving Process of TPID.................121
Nested Model for TPID........................122
Further Studies in Urban and Suburban
School District Environments.................125
Explore Mid-Career Teacher Professional-
Partnerships Between District Induction
Programs and Teacher Education Programs......126
A. INVITLATION TO PARTICPATE MEMORANDUM:
B. PARTICIPANT CONSENT FORM.............................133
C. FIELD NOTES FORM.....................................135
D. PARTICIPANT INFORMATION FORM.........................136
E. PARTICIPANT PERSONAL DEMOGRAPHIC
F. PARTICIPANT'S SCHOOL DISTRICT AND
SCHOOL BUILDING INFORMATION...........................138
G. HUMAN SUBJECTS APPROVAL..............................139
1.1 Teacher pro fessional-identity development theoretical
5.1 Emerging conceptual framework for TPID process:
initial sub-themes, culminating themes, and attributes.................113
5.2 Nested TPID model depicting connections and
relationships between theories, phases, and attributes.................124
2.1 Theoretical Overview of Frameworks and Conceptual Schema..........22
3.1 Demographics of Teacher Participants..............................57
3.2 Demographics of Rural School Districts............................61
3.3 Data Analysis Framework...........................................71
The journey of identity development is a complex process of knowing and
discovering who you are in todays world (Gergen, 1991). This process is
complicated further with the addition of the specific context of professional identity
development. An optimal time for actively working with the identity development
process is during the beginning of any new endeavor, especially entry into a
profession, since the formative nature of this process may occur simultaneously with
the beginning of professional practice. This research focuses on beginning teachers
and their professional-identity development process during their first three years of
In the specific context of professional identity, several issues relevant to the
multifaceted nature of professional identity may contribute to the complexity of
teacher professional-identity development (TPID). One issue involves the
understanding of self (Markus & Kitayama, 1991) and the process of integration of
the personal and professional self (Goodson& Cole, 1994). A second issue includes
various influences that affect professional identity, such as historical, sociological,
psychological, and cultural factors (Cooper & Olson, 1996). The final issue,
formative development of professional identity, occurs: (a) as teachers acquire
knowledge about the profession in their teacher-education training, and (b) as they
enter into communities of practice during their beginning years teaching (Goodson &
Hargreaves, 1996). For example, teachers often identify themselves as teachers long
before completing teacher training, becoming licensed, and beginning teaching
practice in classrooms (Brickson, 2000; Britzman, 1992). However, after their
formative identity experiences, teachers may change previous perceptions about their
personal and professional self. These changes may be due to alterations in their self-
perceptions after actual teaching experiences with students in classrooms and
interactions with colleagues in their communities of practice.
Teachers entry into the professional world of teaching maybe similar to
other professionals (Arends, 1986) since all professionals experience an orientation
phase as they begin their practice. Bion (1991) believes that entering the teaching
profession is a multifaceted process due to the nature of teachers daily practice. The
nature of this professional practice includes: (a) planning and delivering instruction,
(b) working with increasingly diverse needs of students in classrooms, and (c)
participating in school, district, and community activities. Further, Bion describes
the teaching profession as unique due to teachers role and direct involvement with
various aspects of their communities of practice such as social and cultural factors
within school districts, school buildings, individual classrooms, and the surrounding
community. Thus, teachers initial entrance and orientation to the profession of
teaching maybe a complex process (Etheridge, 1988).
The orientation process during the beginning years of teaching provides
opportunities for teachers to develop and understand their sense of identity, who they
are, as well as professionally what it means to be a teacher. Bullough (1997)
explains, Teacher identitywhat beginning teachers believe about teaching and
learning as self-as-teacheris of vital concern as the basis for meaning making and
decision making (p. 21). Palmer (1998) maintains that teachers teach according to
who they are, a conscious process based on how teachers understand their identity.
As teachers professional identity evolves, the results of this process may
influence their professional decisions about: (a) choosing to continue in the
profession affecting teacher retention, (b) becoming a successful, effective teacher,
(c) choosing to participate in various school and district activities, (d) continuing to
pursue professional training and development, and (e) being active and participating
in professional organizations. This teacher professional development process may be
essential for teachers as they become effective, quality teachers.
How do teachers handle these changes as viewed through their perceptions
about personal-self, professional expectations, and various relationships within their
communities of practice? The research on teachers knowledge about professional
development focuses on many topics. In this study, I concentrate on their
perceptions about TPID and the factors that contribute to these perceptions. I chose
to confine this study to teachers at the beginning of their professional practice in
classrooms and in communities of practice. This TPID research study may
contribute additional findings about teachers perceptions of their professional
Definition of Terms
The specific terms used in this study include identity theory, social-identity
theory, teacher professional identity, emerging professional-identity development
theory, induction programs, evolvement, and attributes. The definitions of these
terms are as follows. First, identity theory refers to a conceptual explanation of the
micro-social levels of an individuals role-related behaviors. Second, social-identity
theory includes conceptual explanations of identity processes for inter-group
relations as a means of exploring within-group dynamics and across-group
dimensions. Third, in the context of identity and social-identity theories, teacher
professional identity refers to a teachers sense of a unique professional self as
differentiated from others. Fourth, the emerging professional-identity development
theory is grounded in constructivist developmental theorys objective reality (i.e.,
meaning-making constructed from interpretations of experiences). Fifth, induction
programs are professional-development, training, and mentor support opportunities
provided for beginning teachers. Sixth, evolvement refers to a natural process of
growth progressing through interrelated phenomenon, in this case teacher
professional identity. Finally, attributes are professional characteristics and qualities
used for identification associated with a persons role or position. These definitions
are included to establish clear meanings for these terms as applied in this study.
Purpose of Study
This study explores and documents various attributes, categories, and
dimensions of teachers professional identity that emerge during the beginning years
of their professional practice. Studies are needed that monitor and attempt to track
inductees attitudes as they begin full-time teaching during their first years.
Induction remains the least researched area in teacher education [italics added]
(Shaffer, Springfield, & Wolfe, 1992, p. 183). These authors speak to the need for
further research on teachers formative teaching experience with the added element
of exploring teacher professional-identity development.
Why study teacher professional-identity development during the beginning
years of practice? There are studies are available with findings about professional
identity development in other professions during professional practice and for
teachers at the end of their careers. However, studies are needed to explore findings
about, and descriptors for, teacher professional-identity development processes
during the beginning years of the profession of teaching. Thus, this study explores
the identity-development process at the beginning of the professional-practice
experience through inquiring about teachers descriptions of this phenomenon.
Several researchers have suggested the following as factors that may
influence teacher professional identity: (a) effects of teachers changing relationships
on others, especially within their reference group (Britzman, 1992, 1994), (b) rapid
growth and cultural diversity in schools (Scott, 1996), and (c) innovations and
reform efforts affecting the nature of educational environments (Hesse & Grantham,
1991). While these factors are wide ranging and could address many teaching
situations and phases in a teachers career, this study focuses on emerging factors
that affect teacher professional identity within the context of the initial three years of
Recent educational reforms along with the associated changes and
expectations for teachers may have implications for teacher professional identity
(Sachs, 2001), especially in terms of how policy development affects teachers
professional practice. For instance, education policy involved with the revised
Education Act, No Child Left Behind (2001) mandates teachers be highly qualified.
In this law, highly qualified includes these requirements: (a) teachers must hold a
bachelors degree, (b) teachers must have full state certification or licensure for the
area in which they teach, and (c) teachers must demonstrate competency in the core
academic subjects in which they teach. The various reforms and changes, due to
NCLB, may have an affect on new teachers professional practice in areas such as
design and delivery of instruction, students learning experiences in the classrooms,
and school performance issues and criteria.
In this study, I will focus on a broader, more inclusive descriptor teacher
quality. Kaplan and Owings (2000) state, There is significant research to indicate it
is the quality of the teacher and teaching that are the most powerful predictors of
student success (p. 1). These authors describe teacher quality as the inputs teachers
bring to their classrooms that include background, aptitudes, professional
preparation, college majors, teacher examination scores, teacher licensure and
certification, and prior professional experience. Further, teacher quality makes a
measurable difference in how well and how much students learn (Darling-Hammond,
Why is this type of study needed? I believe that TPID may be integral to teacher
quality and vice versa. Teacher quality might be affected when a teachers
professional-identity development is taken for granted (Britzman, 1994) and not directly
addressed during beginning years of teaching or through ongoing professional
development (Brickson, 2000; Britzman, 1992; Mitchell, 1997). Thus, how and
whether teacher professional identity evolves during beginning years in the profession
may directly affect teacher quality.
For example, I conducted a study with six beginning teachers at a suburban high
school exploring their teacher professional-identity development (Stout, 2001). Six
months later, many of the participants were involved in the following quality teaching
endeavors. Two teachers were completing masters degrees in their content areas, one
was conducting a research study on low-achieving algebra students, another teacher was
collaborating with other colleagues to design innovative literature courses for students
while writing a book, and a math teacher changed instruction delivery from lecture to a
more student-centered learning approach. The choices and changes that these teachers
made might have been connected to their heightened awareness of professional identity
due to their participation in this study.
Statement of the Problem
This study is confined to the problem of teachers perceptions of their
professional identity in the context of their initial years of teaching practice. In this
study, perceptions are defined as understanding of and personal knowledge about
how they perceive themselves as professionals. Since teachers day-to-day
experiences are very complex, I developed a multifaceted approach for studying this
problem that focuses on TPID during the beginning of their teaching experience.
This exploratory study explores how TPID evolves in this context.
The initial process of identity formation may be the basis for teachers
ongoing professional sense of self as well as informing and providing meaning for
their professional-practice experiences. For instance, the findings of this study may
inform teachers about factors essential to the development of teachers professional
identity and how their perceptions are essential to the ongoing development of their
professional identity. Beijaard, Verloop, and Vermunt (2004) state Teachers
perceptions of their own professional identity affect their efficacy and professional
development, their ability and willingness to cope with change, and implement
innovations into their own teaching practice (p. 750). Further, teachers awareness
of TPID factors may in turn affect the quality of their teaching practice such as: (a)
delivering classroom instruction, (b) learning experiences for students, (c) being
involved in or contributing to the school community, and (d) ongoing professional
The study is framed by the concept of teacher professional-identity
development process. This phenomenon is examined in the context of teachers
beginning years of teaching practice in classrooms.
Concept of Teacher Professional Identity
The concept, teacher professional identity, refers to the development of a
teachers unique view of self as differentiated from views of others (Britzman, 1992,
1994; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Triandis, Bontempo, Villareal, Asai, & Lucca,
1988) within the context of the professional practice of teaching. I contend that
describing who you are through the contextual lens of ones professionyour
identity as a teacher different from others viewsbecomes an essential component
of an ongoing professional-identity development process. This process involves
perceptions of self that my determine the ways (a) teachers teach, (b) develop as
teachers, and (c) form attitudes and beliefs toward educational change (Beijaard et.
al., 2004). Also, opportunities for reflection and self-evaluation are important for
further professional development (Cooper & Olson, 1996). Since this TP ID process
begins during pre-service and initial years of teaching, it may be important for
teachers during this time to be cognizant of and knowledgeable about the
professional identity development process.
Framework and Model
My conceptual framework for studying the phenomenon of teacher
professional identity has three parts: identity theory, social-identity theory, and
teacher professional identity (see Figure 1.1). The first concept in this model,
identity theory, is a sociological view of the self as a collection of identities derived
from roles or positions occupied by the person as reflected by the wider social
structure (Stryker, 1987). For instance, based on this perspective, a teachers identity
is influenced by her or his role as a classroom instructor and position based on grade
level, content area, and location of the school community (e.g., urban, suburban, or
The second concept in this model, social-identity theory, is based on a social
psychological view of dynamics that involve relationships between social groups and
organizational processes (Hogg, 1996). For example, teachers social identity
describes the effect that behaviors of other teachers have on defining ones
professional identity in relationship to other teachers. This relationship between the
group and the teachers evolving identity is fluid, flexible, and dynamic in nature.
The third concept in this model, professional-identity development, refers to
the essential identity question, Who am I as a professional? The emerging
professional identity theory is considered an evolving process (Beijaard et al., 2004;
Britzman, 1992, 1994; Sachs, 2001) that includes attributes or characteristics used to
describe professionals and their identity expectations. Such descriptions include
ascribed attributes and shared attributes by those outside of the profession and those
within the profession. Further, these attributes differentiate one professional group
from another and characterize who individuals are professionally within the
parameters of their specific profession. Finally, since the professional-identity
theory is emerging, the model shows it moving toward the other two theories to
become the third theory in the model as represented by the outlined circle. All three
concepts are encircled by professional practice, the environment where TPID occurs.
Teacher professional-identity development theoretical framework model.
Essentially, development of teacher professional identity is an ongoing,
evolving, continuous process that is modified and built on, as teachers make and
incorporate choices and changes. This process includes the following concepts (see
Fig. 1.1): (a) identity theorys emphasis on self and society; (b) social-identity
theorys emphasis on group process, relations, and membership; and (c)
professional-identity development theorys emphasis on the process of who I am in
this context. In this conceptual-framework model, teacher professional-identity
development (TPID) occupies the center area that is in common for all three
concepts, representing how the three theories converge and interface to form TPID.
The concept of professional identity is referred to in various ways in the
domains of teacher education and teaching practice according to a recent review of
studies about teacher professional identity (Beijaard et al., 2004). Several concepts
from these researchers study directly correlate with the emerging themes in this
study. These themes include: (a) teachers images of personal-self (Beijaard, Meijer,
& Verloop, 2004; Knowles, 1992); (b) teachers role expectations (Goodson &
Hargreaves, 1996); and (c) teachers relational experiences (Tickle, 2000). In this
study, the focus was on teachers perceptions of TPID as representations of their
understandings of professional identity and their personal knowledge about this
The following questions guide this research study. The overall research
question that provides focus for the study is this: How does teacher professional
identity develop during the beginning years of teaching? Three supporting questions
1. How do teachers describe their professional identity?
2. How do teachers perceive critical incidents that influence their professional-
3. How do teachers perceive various contexts of their initial professional
practice experiences affect their identity?
This qualitative study examines how teacher professional identity evolves
during the beginning years of a teachers full-time practice. Participants in this study
were drawn from teachers involved in two induction programs located in Southern
Colorado. Data-collection procedures included the following: (a) in-depth individual
interviews with each teacher participant; (b) teacher focus group including first-,
second-, and third-year teachers; and (c) researchers field note reflections and
documentation. The four phases of a descriptive phenomenology process (Patton,
1990, 2000) were used to analyze the participants responses and descriptions of
their perceptions and understandings of the phenomenon of teacher professional
The succeeding chapters of this dissertation are organized as follows.
Chapter 2, the review of the literature, provides an overview of the current literature
and theory frameworks for this phenomenon. Chapter 3 addresses the methods for
the study, including the design, participants, instruments, and procedures for data
collection and data analysis. Chapter 4 presents a discussion of the findings and
supportive data. Chapter 5 covers how the findings of this research might lead to
generating descriptions, attributes, and categories or domains that are specific to the
teacher professional-identity process, as well as conclusions, implications, and
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
The professional lives of teachers are a complex mixture that addresses
personal-self, professional expectations, professional identity as a teacher, and
professionally who they are in relationship with others. Teacher identity consists not
merely of these types of affiliations or alliances between self and others but also
includes fundamental differences in the way that identity is structured (Brewer &
Gardner, 1996). Teacher professional identity structure refers to the degree that
teachers professionally define or identify their relationships to self, to other
colleagues, and to their other relevant professional and social groups (Markus &
Kitayama, 1991; Triandis, Bontempo, Villareal, Asai, & Lucca, 1988).
Over the last two decades, teacher professional identity has emerged as a
separate research area (Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004; Bullough, 1997; Connelly
& Clandinin, 1999; and Knowles, 1992). The problem of teacher professional
identity, defined in this context as the sense of a unique professional self as
differentiated from others (Goodson & Hargreaves, 1996), has created a renewed
interest in how this phenomenon develops. Does this professional-identity process
begin when teachers start their initial training in teacher-education programs, in
teachers beginning years of teaching practice, or at other times during their teaching
career? This renewed interest is related to the belief that professional identity
provides a basis for teachers personal and professional sense of who they are.
Who people perceive themselves to be professionally has consequences for
the ways they experience and understand their work. Moya (2000) explains, Our
conceptions of who we are as social beings (our identity) influenceand in turn are
influenced byour understanding of how our society is structured and what our
particular experiences in that society are likely to be (p. 8). Further, Moya believes
that identities are often assumed or chosen for various subjective reasons that can be
objectively evaluated by observing actions and consequences. For instance,
teachers performance evaluations include the evaluators judgments that are based
on others personal perceptions and beliefs about who teachers are, their identity.
These types of professional evaluations can be justified (or not) with reference to
others or their own perceived identity.
Teacher-education training is an optimal time for initial formation of
professional identity (Mitchell, 1997). Often teacher-education students bring a
lifetime of personal and social learning experiences to their initial teacher education
that may become integrated into their teacher-training process. For example, in the
educational philosophy statements written during their coursework, students often
reveal how and when they began thinking of themselves as teachers. In these
philosophy statements, they refer to initial identity events, or critical incidents, that
occurred either during their elementary or secondary school years or during their
teacher-education training. Such critical incident events often happen long before
teacher-education students begin teaching, join a community of practice, and
continue with their ongoing professional development endeavors.
For instance, teacher candidates often perceive and refer to themselves as
educators and identify themselves as members of the profession before accepting
their first teaching position (Brickson, 2000; Britzman, 1992). During this formative
process of identifying themselves with the profession, teachers may encounter
thoughts, feelings, ideas, and expectations of other educators that are different from
their own. Thus, their beginning perceptions about who they aretheir professional
identity as teachermay not match various realities of their pre-service experiences
during teacher-education training and student teaching or actual experiences in their
initial years of teaching. In essence, such variables may affect their ongoing
professional-identity adjustment (Stevens, personal communication, March, 2004).
Thus, issues about teacher identification and teachers perceptions about who
they are professionally lead to the following inquiries. How and when does a teacher
come to form and develop her or his professional identity? How do the formative,
beginning years of a teachers practice affect the professional-identity development
process? How do variables, such as critical incidents and professional contexts,
affect the identity development process? This review of the literature addresses
these questions by exploring, examining, and describing the phenomenon of teacher
professional-identity development (TPID). This review examined and discussed the
research on perspectives that have informed further understanding about the
emerging process involved with TPID.
Framing the Review
The knowledge base for teacher professional identity is grounded in the
concept of identity development, a central theoretical construct specific to the social
sciences. The concept of identity development provides a common language for
conversations among the disciplinesanthropology, psychology, philosophy, and
sociologyin their ongoing theoretical evolvement (Fizgerald, 1993). Fizgerald
refers to each of these disciplines as concerned with theoretical understandings about
specific areas of identitys multifaceted constructs. For instance, the discipline of
philosophy typically considers personhood, whereas psychologists study ego,
personality, and self-actualization. Sociologists view social identity in group
contexts. Finally, anthropologists view identity from the context of culture.
Fizgerald uses the term identity-in-context to evoke the familiar metaphor of the
blind man and the elephant; in this case, the emphasis is on each disciplines
theoretical parts of the same metaphoric identity elephant.
Through an examination and identification of critical issues in the literature,
several themes emerged clarifying the importance of a teachers professional-identity
evolvement. These themes provide the main topics of this literature review: (a)
theoretical frameworks and conceptual schema for identity theory, social-identity
theory, and professional identity theory; (b) comparison of theories; (c) emerging
themes; and (d) conclusions.
Three theories create the framework for teacher professional identity: identity
theory, social-identity theory, and professional-identity theory. The first two
theories, identity theory and social-identity theory, are grounded in the disciplines of
social psychology and sociology respectively. Identity theory (Rosenberg, 1981;
Stryker, 1968,1980,1987; Stryker & Serpe, 1982) is concerned with social
formation of the person as reflected in wider social structures. Social-identity theory
(Hogg & Terry, 2000; Hogg, Terry, & White, 1995; Tajfel, 1959, 1969) addresses
group processes and intergroup relations in organizational contexts. The third
theory, professional-identity theory, is an emerging theory aligned with perceptions
about identity in a professional context (Melucci, 1996; Sachs, 2001; Wenger, 1998).
These theories serve as essential elements for a theoretical framework used to
explore the various elements specific to teacher professional identity. In addition, the
three theories are deeply interconnected and provide a way to gain meaning about
teacher professional-identity evolvement through the various educational
organization contexts of schools and classrooms where teachers practice. A
summary overview of the three theories is provided in Table 2.1. An overview of the
three theories summarizes the contents in each of the three theories.
The first theory, identity theory, is considered a micro-sociological theory
that focuses on explaining the micro social levels of an individuals relationships in
the context of role-related behaviors (Rosenberg, 1981; Stryker, 1968,1980,1987;
Stryker & Serpe, 1982). This theorys disciplinary roots are in social-psychology.
Identity theory explains individual social behavior as it relates to reciprocal relations
between self and society (Stryker, 1968, 1980, 1987; Stryker & Serpe, 1982) with a
focus on individual consequences of identity-related processes (Rosenberg, 1981).
Identity Theory Framework
Identity theorys framework was originally formulated by Stryker (1968,
1980,1987); however, the term currently refers to related theories that acknowledge
links between a multifaceted notion of the relationship between personal-self and the
wider social structures (Burke, 1980; McCall & Simmons, 1978; Turner, 1978).
Theoretical Overview of Frameworks and Conceptual Schema
Theory Framework Identity Theory Social-Identity Theory Professional- Identity Theory
Theory base Sociology Social Psychology Developmental
Relationship between self and group Labeling oneself as belonging to a social category Dynamic process of social construct mediates individuals and society Evolving process of identity in professional context of teaching
Conceptual schema 1. Role identity 2. Social nature of self 3. Commitment 4. Identity salience 1. Self-categorization 2. Group identity 3. Depersonalization 4. Organization 1. TP ID elements 2. Influence of critical incidents 3. TPID factors 4. Professional contexts of teacher training and practice
Often associated with symbolic interactionists views of societys effect on social
behavior through its influence on the self (Blummer, 1969; Mead, 1934), this theory
was developed to translate the main elements of symbolic interactionism into an
empirically testable hypothesis (Stryker, 1968,1980, 1987; Stryker & Serpe, 1982).
The central characteristics of identity theory include (a) the representation of
a social-psychological model of self where social factors are seen to define self, (b)
the variation of the role identities proposed in regard to their salience, and (c) the
involvement of the social nature of the self in roles or positions that people occupy in
the social world (Hogg et al., 1995). Although identity theorists acknowledge that
reciprocal links exist between self and society, they are most interested in individual
outcomes of the identity-related process.
Identity theorists conceptualize society as complexly differentiated but
nevertheless organized (Stryker & Serpe, 1982). This differentiated but organized
concept of society forms the central proposition for identity theory as a reflection of
society where the self is regarded as a multifaceted and organized construct. The
multiple components of the self are referred to as identities. These identity concepts
include role identities, the social nature of self, commitment, and identity salience.
Identity theory addresses the self-defining roles that people hold in society
rather than attributes such as gender, race, or ethnicity. The central focus for role
identity is the selfa reflection of ones role in society that should be regarded as a
multifaceted and organized construct. Identity theorists refer to these multiple role
components and constructs of the self as role identities (Stryker, 1968, 1980; Stryker
& Serpe, 1982). Also, these theorists view the self not as an autonomous
psychological entity but as a multifaceted social construct that emerges from a
persons role in society with variations due to the different roles that a person may
occupy. As an example, a persons role identities may include being a mother or
father, a daughter or son, and a teacher or student.
Role identities are self-conceptions, self-referent cognitions, and self-
definitions that people apply to themselves as a consequence of the structural role
positions that they occupy and through the process of labeling or self-definition as a
member of a particular social category (Burke, 1980; Thoits, 1991). It is during the
social-interaction process that role identities actually acquire self-meaning; that is,
they are reflexive (Burke & Reitzes, 1981). Because a person often responds to
another person in relation to her or his role identity, these responses form the basis
for developing a social sense of self and self-meaning.
Social Nature of the Self
A defining description for the social nature of the self (Brewer & Gardner,
1996) includes the following self-orientation classifications of the self: as an
individual, as an interpersonal being, and as a group member. The three self-
classifications each have their own social motivations, types of significant self-
knowledge, and sources of self-worth. First, each identity orientation is associated
with a particular primary motivation among individualsthe desire to enhance their
social relationships or their groups well-being. Second, ones identity orientation is
in relation to the type of self-knowledge most relevant to individualstraits and
characteristics, roles in relation to significant others in specific contexts, or the
groups prototype. Finally, each identity orientation is associated with a frame of
reference that is used by individuals to evaluate their self-worthcomparing
themselves to other individuals, their own relationship to role performance, or their
group to another group. In essence, the elements of this self-orientation framework
are dynamic in that all people identify themselves as individuals, in relationships,
and as group members depending on the context of the situation.
Identity theory maintains that the salience of a particular identity is
determined by a persons role commitmentthe degree to which the individuals
relationships to particular others are dependent on being a given kind of person
(Stryker & Statham, 1985). Therefore, commitment to a particular role identity is
high if a person perceives that many of the important social relationships are
connected to occupying that role and if losing the role would mean loss of a social
network that is psychologically important. Two types of commitment are prevalent:
(a) interactional commitment, based on the number of roles associated with a
particular identity, and (b) affective commitment, based on the importance of the
relationships associated with the identity (Stryker, 1980). The stronger the
commitment a person has to her or his identityboth through interactional and
affective commitmentthe higher a level of identity salience.
Identity Salience: Role Behavior and Relationship Commitment
Identity theory refers to identity salience as the process whereby role
identities link to behavior and affective outcomes. Identity theory also
acknowledges that some identities have more self-relevance than others. Stryker
(1987) maintains that the process of identity salience is distinguishable from related
micro sociological constructs (e.g., role-person merger, psychological centrality, and
identity prominence) because it is defined behaviorally rather than psychologically
(Hogg et al., 1995). Identity salience is conceptualized to operate within diverse
behavioral and affective situations. The implications of the behavioral process of
identity salience are that identities positioned higher in the salience hierarchy are tied
more closely to behavior. For example, people with the same role identities (parents)
may behave differently in a given context (time spent with children either on week
days or on weekends) because of differences in their identity salience (Serpe, 1987).
In addition to behaviors, salient identities have affective outcomes. Affective
identity salience has more influence than do those identity elements lower in the
hierarchy of a persons sense of self-meaning, feeling of self-worth, and level of
psychological well-being (Callero, 1985; Thoits, 1991). Callero (1985) believes that
identity salience influences peoples relationships, particularly their perceptions and
positive evaluations of those who occupy the same role. Another possibility is that
the type, number, and significance of those social relationships based on a particular
role identity may influence the salience of that identity (Hogg et al., 1995; Stryker,
1987). For example, a secondary teacher licensed to teach social studies may also
coach basketball and serve as a vice principal. Each role has specific social
relationships and role identity involved that may affect the identity salience for this
Identity theory maintains that the self, as a collection of relational identities
derived from roles or positions occupied by the person, mirrors or reflects the wider
social structure. As a result, the roles and positions a person holds in society often
provide the individual with a sense of self-definition and self-meaning. The relative
salience of different identities, in turn, is based on the number and strength of
important social relationships that depend on individuals occupying specific roles
(Hogg et al., 1995). In essence, identity salience is due to behaviors, affective
responses, and social relationships that are mediated by self-referent role identities
and the person who occupies specific roles.
The second theory, social identity, is grounded in social psychology with a
focus on explaining group processes, intergroup relation, and the social self (Hogg &
Terry, 2000; Hogg et al., 1995; Tajfel, 1959, 1969). This theorys disciplinary roots
are in sociology. The theory may be most useful as a means of exploring group
dynamics and intergroup dimensions. Social-identity theory attempts to explain
group behavior as it relates to concepts that articulate societal and psychological
processes that recognize the primacy of society over the individual.
Social-Identity Theory Framework
Social-identity theory (Hogg et al., 1995) defines the individual partly in the
context of salient group membership. The theorys origins are credited to the early
work of Tajfel (1959,1969) on social factors in perception. The theorys basic
concept refers to a social category (e.g., nationality, member of a team or
profession). A social category is one to which a person feels he or she belongs
because it provides self-definition for the person using descriptive characteristics
specific to the categorya self-definition that is a part of her or his social identity.
For example, a teachers definition of others and the self are largely relational and
comparative (Tajfel & Turner, 1986)defining oneself relative to other individuals
in the same or other categories.
Significant social-identity theoretical developments since 1987 have focused
on self-categorization, group identity, depersonalization processes, organizational
identification, and identity salience. These developments have provided social
identity theorists with the means to extend the theorys conceptual and empirical
focus on intergroup phenomena to incorporate a focus on what happens within
designated groups. Thus, this field of study has become what could be called an
extended social-identity theory. As an example, recent research in social psychology
has explored the following areas: (a) social influence and norms; (b) solidarity and
cohesion; (c) attitudes, behaviors, and norms; (d) small groups; (e) group motivation;
and (f) group structure and leadership (Hogg et al., 1995). In essence, social identity
is highly dynamicresponsive in both type and content to intergroup and group
social contexts. This responsiveness to immediate social contexts is a central feature
of social identity and self-categorization theory.
In the early to mid 1980s, Turner (1985) introduced the concept of self-
categorization as a part of social-identity theory in that it elaborates on the
operations of the categorization process as the cognitive basis of group behavior.
The process of categorization focuses on both perceived similarities between
stimuliphysical objects or peoplebelonging to the same category and perceived
differences between stimuli belonging to different categories. He explained that
these self-categories were defined by prototypical characteristics abstracted from the
group members. For example, when feminists who believe that men are more
aggressive than women categorize themselves as feminists, they tend to exaggerate
mens aggressiveness, to see all men as more aggressive than all women, to see few
differences in aggressiveness among men, and to see little difference in non-
aggressiveness among women (Hogg et al., 1995).
Social identity appears to derive from the concept of group identification
(Tolman, 1943). In the literature on group identification, Ashforth and Mael (1989)
suggest that (a) group identification is viewed as a perceptual cognitive construct that
is not necessarily associated with any specific behaviors of an affective state; (b)
social or group identification is seen as personally experiencing the successes and
failures of the group; (c) social identification is distinguishable from internalization
(e. g., the incorporation of values and attitudes within the self as guiding principles);
and (d) identification with a group is similar to defining oneself within the context of
a social referent (e. g. parent-child, sports hero-fan, doctor-patient, or teacher-
Categorization of self and others into in-group and out-group defines
peoples social identity and accentuates their perceived similarity to peoples
cognitive representation of the defining features of the group (Hogg et al., 1995).
This process is called depersonalization. The depersonalization of the self is a basic
process that underlies group phenomena including social stereotyping, group
cohesion, collective behavior, and shared norms, beliefs, or values. In this process,
self-categorization brings the seifs perceptions and behaviors into line with the
contextually relevant in-group prototype and thus transforms individuals into group
members and individual actions into group behavior. Thus, people cognitively
represent social group prototypessubjective representation of the group-defining
attributes such as beliefs, attitudes, or behaviorsof a social category.
Since an individuals organizational affiliation may contribute to a persons
professional identity, organizational identification is considered a specific form of
social identification. Organizational identificationthe strength of members
psychological link to the organizationhas been associated with the degree to which
people are motivated to fulfill the organizations needs and goals, display
organizational citizenship through cooperative behaviors, and remain with the
organization (Wiesenfeld, Raghuram, & Guard, 2001). The research on
identification within organizations has found the following predictors of affiliation:
(a) extent of contact between the individual and the organization, (b) visibility of
organizational membership, and (c) attractiveness of the organizations identity
(Ashforth & Mael, 1989; Battacharya, Rao, & Glynn, 1995; Dutton, Dukerich, &
Hargquail, 1994; Mael & Ashforth, 1992). A variety of organizational structures and
processes that trigger and reinforce organizational identification include artifacts and
symbols (e.g., signs, logos, dress codes) as well as rituals, ceremonies, and customs
(Dutton et al., 1994; Pratt, 1998). Essentially, people within organizations decide
who they are by employing some collective, identifying classification schema and
then locating themselves within that schema.
Identity Salience: Category and Social Issues
The subjective salience of social identity categories includes the mechanics
of stimulus-category fit along with the motivation of and availability of social
categories (Hogg, 1996; Hogg & Mullin, 1999). However, salience is not a
mechanical product of accessibility and fit. This is due to social interaction that
involves the motivated manipulation of symbolsspeech, appearances, and
behaviorsby people who are interacting with one another in order to influence the
frame of reference within which accessibility and fit interact. When an interaction
exists between category accessibility and category fit, people draw on accessible
categories and investigate how well they fit the social group or organization. The
category that best fits these social categories becomes salient in that context (Oakes,
1994; Oakes & Turner, 1990). Hogg et al. (1995) provide the following identity
salience example. A nontraditional male is attending a feminist meeting. In an
effort to try to avoid the contextually negative implications of being self-categorized
as male, he focuses peoples attention by using contextually less negative self-
categorizations (i.e., using inclusive language and gender equity statements). In this
way, the man actively engages with renegotiating the male frame of reference in
order to achieve a self-categorization that is more favorable for the concept of the
self within the context of a feminist group.
The social identity concepts of group and organizational processes include
the following critical elements (Hogg et al., 1995). First, these concepts involve the
general theories of the social group that are not constrained by group size and
dispersion. Second, they incorporate the role of both the immediate and the more
enduring intergroup context of the groups collective behaviors. Third, they account
for the range of group behaviors (such as conformity, stereotyping, discrimination,
and ethnocentrism) that relate to a limited number of theoretically integrated
generative principles. Fourth, they are essentially a sociocognitive concept. Finally,
they do not construct group processes from interpersonal processes. Ultimately, the
contextual salience of specific social identities rests on how they render a particular
context to be meaningful. Thus, the social identity elements of groups and
organizational relationships are dynamically intertwined.
Professional Identity Theory
Next, the third theory reviewed is an emerging theoryprofessional
identitywhich refers to the dynamics occurring between the internal personal-self
and the external professional and relational issues. In the profession of teaching,
professional identity may have a greater influence on teachers practice, their
students performance, and the schools effectiveness than has been previously
acknowledged in the literature and research.
This third theory, professional identity, includes a set of externally ascribed
attributes used to differentiate one group from another (Sachs, 2001). Also,
professional identity may be described by shared attributes, imposed on a profession
either by outsiders or those who belong to the profession itself, that enable the
differentiation of one group from another. MacLure (1993) explains that
professional identity should not be seen as a stable entity but as something that is
used to justify, explain, and make sense of oneself in professional relationships and
within the contexts or communities where professionals practice. Because these
relationships change over time, professional identity evolves.
The literature sources for this review refer to the term professional identity
but not specifically to a theory for this concept. However, this emerging theory is
closely aligned with developmental theory elements of professional development.
Thus, I am proposing contents for a theoretical framework that is based on the
review of the literature for professional identity.
Professional-Identity Theory Framework
The emerging theory of professional identity is defined by professional-
identity expectations. Two concepts are involved with these expectations,
professional and identity. The first concept, professional, has been defined as
something that describes and articulates both the quality and the character of
peoples actions within a group (Goodson & Hargreaves, 1996), such as a profession,
and in their work or practice. These professional actions are called attributes. For
the teaching profession, the meaning of professional teacher is experiential, not
generally agreed to or understood. For instance, often what counts as professional
knowledge, professional actions, and professional best practices is open to various
and different interpretations by colleagues, administrators, parents, and students.
The second concept, identity, has been described by Epstein (1978) as a
process of synthesis, integration, and action where persons seek to integrate various
statuses and roles as well as diverse experiences into a coherent image of selfwho
one is. The concepts of identity derive from theoretical assumptions about
experience, knowledge, and the possibility and nature of objectivity (Moya, 2000).
In this context, identity cannot be seen as fixed; it is open, shifting, negotiated, and
ambiguous. Kondo (1990) explains that identity is the result of culturally available
meanings and the enactment of those meanings in professional or other situations.
This theoretical approach goes beyond those concepts usually accepted within the
social sciences and has the potential for engaging in conversations with the social
and natural sciences.
Third, the combined term professional identity refers to who people are
within a professional group as exemplified by attributes and expectations. It defines
the capacity to speak and act autonomously and allows for the differentiation of one
profession from other professions while continuing to be the same person (Melucci,
1996). The development of a strong professional identity is what distinguishes the
expertise of teachers as teachers and also differentiates them from other
The proposed content for TPIDs conceptual schema includes the following:
constructivist theory, conceptual contexts, elements, factors, critical incidents, and
teacher preparation programs. TPID is grounded in constructivist developmental
theory. This theory adheres to the philosophy of constructivism by assuming that we
are in a growth process by connecting our experiences within the self and in relation
to others (Grigoriu, 1997). Grigoriu explains, This theory recognizes that multiple
systems of meaning exits and are often contradictory; but can be held in relation to
each other simultaneously and synthesized to transformnot just createbut
transcend the multiple systems of meaning (p. 6).
One constructivist-developmental theory is Robert Kegans (1982, 1994)
meta-psychological theory of self-development. This self-development theory
focuses on meaning-making that includes: (a) cognitive structuremental
organization, (b) intrapersonalmeaning within self, and (c) interpersonal
meaningbetween self and other (Grigoriu, 1997). The theory of meaning-making
development is a conceptualization of how human beings make meaning for
themselves, others, and their experiences throughout their life-span. Meaning-
making theory is characterized by how people respond according to their meaning
system (Kegan & Lahey, 1984) to actively construct their own sense of reality.
Meaning is created between the event and the individuals reactions to it. Kegan
(1984) refers to this as the zone of mediationthe place where the event is privately
composed, made sense of and actually becomes a critical incident event for that
personwhere meaning is made. This process is also referred to by personality
psychologists as the self, the ego, or the person.
Further this meaning-making theory assumes that we are in a growth process
of how we put together our experiences within self and in relation to others. It also
recognizes that multiple systems of meaning exist and are often contradictory.
However, these systems can be held in relation to each other simultaneously and
synthesized to transformnot just createbut transcend the multiple systems. For
instance, how we are able to organize our meaning-making becomes increasingly
complex as we develop. Thus purpose of the theorys organizational structures is to
allow people to function at each level or phase of development, continuing to make
meaning as they evolve.
The concept of professional identity and the context of professional practice
mirror each other. Wenger (1998) sees a profound connection between identity and
communities of practice. In this context, he has identified the following five
dimensions of identity:
1. negotiated experiencesdefining who we are by the ways we
experience ourselves through participation as well as the way
others reify ourselves;
2. community membershipdefining who we are by the familiar
and the unfamiliar;
3. learning trajectorydefining who we are by where we have been
and where we are going;
4. nexus of multi-membershipsdefining who we are by the ways
we reconcile our various forms of identity into one identity; and
5. relation between the local and the globaldefining who we are
by negotiating local ways of belonging to broader constellations
and manifesting broader styles and discourses, (p. 149)
Even though Wengers dimensions are specific to identity, these concepts may have
implications for professional identity formation and development that differentiates
the professional identity of one profession from that of another. Further, his
dimensions of identity are essential for teacher professional identity, especially for
the individual and group aspects of identity formation (Sachs, 2001).
Russo (1998) conducted a study to examine the organizational and
professional identification among a group of professionals-journalists at a daily
metropolitan newspaper. The study found that (a) respondents reported a higher
identification with the profession than with the newspaper for which they worked;
(b) they reflected that the profession, the organization, and the job were interwoven
and interdependent, rather than mutually exclusive entities; (c) their comments about
identification and commitment demonstrated consistently that the profession and its
values and ideals were primary and foundational in their daily work; (d) their job
satisfaction was strongly related to identification with the newspaper; (e) their role
fulfillment contributed to identification with the profession; and (f) journalists
professional values and identification among the group served as a source of
collective inspiration, energy, and strength (pp. 99-102).
Russo (1998) suggested several future directions for research into
professional identity and its relationship to other identification targets. Included
among his suggestions are (a) longitudinal research might reveal the extent to which
changes in environment or changes in career stage affect identification, (b) studies
might compare identification levels in small to large organizations, and (c) similar
investigations of professional identity among members of other professions might
examine the extent to which factors, such as anticipatory and vocational socialization
and work groups, may be affected (p. 106).
Teacher Professional Identity Elements
The professional identity of teachers includes elements that are specific to a
teachers professional identity. For example, Britzman (1992) indicates, that
throughout the ongoing deliberations about the phenomenon of identity, it is usually
taken for granted that professional identity is in some prior way an outcome of
acquired skills specific to professional practice involving role and function. Teacher
identity is often considered synonymous with the teachers role and function;
however, role and function are not synonymous with identity. Whereas role may be
assigned, teacher professional identity is a dynamic, socially negotiated function
In addition, acquiring and then redefining professional identity is a socially
legitimated process (Coldron & Smith, 1999; Lave & Wenger, 1991). This process
involves students, colleagues, and parents reacting to and relating to teachers
socially negotiated and legitimated role. Thus, teachers are continually engaged in
the process of revising and developing their professional teacher identity.
The phenomenon of teacher professional identity was addressed in a study
conducted by Mitchell (1997) that focused on recently retired public school teachers
and their interpretations of professional identity. This study examined three areas of
teacher professional identity: representation, preparation, and dedication. Its
findings about teacher professional identity are summarized as follows:
1. teachers represented themselves in relation to their interaction
with students and colleagues
2. teacher preparation experiences included teacher education and
3. teachers reasons for entering the profession
4. teachers perceived levels of commitment for engaging with
schools on a personal level and in collaborative activities, (pp. 4-
Mitchell found that teacher expectations revolved around subjective realities of what
it means to be a teacher (p. 9). For example, teachers have expectations of
themselves, their students, and their colleagues. These combined expectations create
a shared sense of their professional identity. Since teachers are not a homogeneous
group, according to Mitchell it may not be possible to have a shared definition of
professional identity; in fact, strength my lie in difference among definitions.
However, cohesion does exists among teachers when they share common norms and
values about teaching, learning, and roles that teachers play (Little, 1993)all
critical elements of teacher professional identity.
Influence of Critical Incidents
Teachers social perceptions of who they are professionally are related
through critical incidents in their life stories that influenced their decision to be a
teacher. First, teacher identity is grounded within Connelly and Clandinins (1999)
narrative concepts of identity as a story to live by. They reveal how teachers tell
life stories to define who they are and what they dotheir profession. These
multiple storylines interweave and interconnect as we come to understand our selves
and our stories that reflect personal lives and social milieu or contexts where teachers
live (p. 382). In this way, teachers shape and are shaped by their profession.
Second, critical incidents in these life stories are those events or situations
that hold significance and influence decisions. When teachers review their own life
stories, they recall critical incidents involved with their own lived experiences
during the learning process and their relationships with others. These lived
experiences do not tell them who they are (Britzman, 1994). Rather, they are the
tellers of the experiences that are transposed by their own story, those social markers
that they bear, as well as commitments and notions of what constitutes truth, power,
authority, and knowledge. Thus, critical incidents are important life story events that
influence teachers perceptions about their professional identity.
Finally, a teachers professional identity is determined biographically and
socially (Coldron & Smith, 1999). In this context, biography is a mixture of personal
and social. The personal acknowledges the influence of significant events in a
persons life, and the social refers to a persons location in the array of professional
situations. Both have an effect on the teacher professional identity that teachers
manifest in their daily practice with students in classrooms.
Teacher Professional-Identity Factors
Several important factors may affect the teacher professional-identity
development process. These factors include (a) rapid growth of student diversity in
schools (Scott, 1996); (b) effects of economics on the profession and teachers
changing relationships with others, especially within their reference group (Brickson,
2000; Britzman; 1992); and (c) innovation and reform efforts that impact the nature
of educational environments (Hesse & Grantham, 1991). First, the increasing
diverse needs of students (cognitive, behavioral, emotional, social, cultural, and
linguistic) may affect students ability to learn content and demonstrate levels of
mastery and teachers instruction modifications that provide for students successful
Second, economic factors affect issues such as teachers job stability, status
of the students families and the immediate community, and teachers choices about
entering the profession as a second career. Third, current innovations like standards-
based educational reform efforts have an effect on teachers instruction planning and
delivery as well as issues with student performance levels and expectations. Finally,
these issues may be factors involved with teacher effectiveness in their daily practice
of instructing students and in their interactions with colleagues.
Professional-Identity Development in Teacher Preparation
As prospective teachers consider whether to enter the profession, their
decision may be affected by professional-identity factors as well as the complexity of
professional practice. These challenging issues may cause prospective teachers to
question who they are and reflect on whether they have the right stuff to be a teacher.
This concept of personal self-perceptions or identities of people deciding whether to
enter the profession of teaching have been addressed in the recent research on
teacher education (Brickson, 1998; Britzman, 1992; Hogg et al., 1996; Sachs, 2001).
These researchers emphasized that teacher identity evolvement and the nature of
learning are concepts that must be blended with teacher-education candidates
growing professional knowledge base as they acquire skills for their professional
An essential theme in the preparation of students for the profession of
teaching refers to the prospective teacher as an evolving person who is in the process
of becoming whoever he or she will be as a teacher. Teacher education may be
viewed as a becoming process (Palmer, 2003) where students are engaged in making
meaning, constructing knowledge, and beginning to shape their professional
identities. During this becoming process, the simple unidimensional image of the
teacher-education studentwho is compliantly waiting to be filled with professional
knowledge and skillswill be replaced by a complex multifaceted individual
actively engaged in the practice of teaching (McLean, 1999).
In the context of initial teacher-education training, teacher educators are
calling for revisions in the contents of traditional teacher-education programs in
order to train teachers effectively for dealing with the increasingly complex and
diverse issues associated with the profession of teaching (Rhodes & Bellamy, 1999).
For instance, one of these complexitiesstate and federal teacher standardshas
required many teacher-education programs to address specific teacher standards
that are associated with teachers self-perceptions and their ongoing professional-
identity evolvement. The revised teacher-education program contents must include
courses with a knowledge base and performance outcomes that include the ongoing
professional-identity process in order to prepare teacher-education students to be
quality teacher practitioners. Current program revisions and reform efforts are
expected to result in students gaining access to competent, caring, and qualified
teachers (Hirsch, Koppick, & Knapp, 2000). Ultimately, these reform efforts suggest
that teachers self-perceptions and professional identity may make a crucial
difference in what children learn in classrooms, according to National Commission
on Americas Teaching Effectiveness (NCATE).
The most promising teacher candidates bring with them various initial
foundational conceptual frameworks (Tusin, 1999). In the process of their teacher
education, they are able to build upon these formative professional knowledge
frameworks. These conceptual frameworks provide the knowledge needed to
become quality teachers who are able to handle the many complex and ongoing
challenges of their practice.
Teacher-education programs provide teacher candidates with opportunities to
further their knowledge and participate in experiences that develop a more complex
multifaceted understanding of themselves, their chosen field, and their own
professional identity (Pistole & Roberts, 2002). Initially, the development of
teachers self-knowledge about their own professional identity begins with their first
thoughts about becoming a teacher and continues throughout their career. Thus,
current understanding about self-perceptions of teacher candidates might benefit
from a broader perspective that is inclusive of both the current teacher-identity
research and the emerging teacher professional-identity research. Teacher
professional identity may provide an essential component in a conceptual framework
that helps teachers make sense of who they are professionally as well as further a
sense of belonging within their professional community of practice.
Ultimately, in order to understand the processes involved with becoming a
teacher and developing a professional identity, it is necessary to consider the
essential elements of these processes and how they are constructed. The elements
involved with the professional identity process are context dependent. These
elements are the internal or personal understandings for individuals, the interactive
process of becoming a teacher, and the self-perceptions about the whole process. In
essence, teachers are engaged in the ongoing, dynamic process of constructing their
professional identity that begins with an initial identity event and continues evolving
during the teacher training process and ongoing professional development
throughout the course of their career. The research on womens identity refers to this
process as revising oneself (Josselson, 1996), an identity process that continues to be
modified throughout life as it builds on and incorporates earlier choices. Josselson
describes this process of constructing ones identity by revising oneself as both
product and process, embodying both continuity and change.
Palmer (1998) believes good teachers share one trait, a strong sense of
identity that infuses their practice as they join self and subject and students into the
fabric of life. He relates that, when he comes face to face with his students, only one
resource is at his immediate command, My identity, my selfhood, my sense of the
I who teacheswithout which I have no sense of the Thou who learns (p. 10).
Next, an analysis of the theories compares the similarities and differences specific to
and among the three perspectives.
Comparative Analysis of the Three Theories
The three theoriesidentity, social identity, and professional identityhave
similarities and differences. These theories are grounded in different social science
disciplines: identity theory in sociological theory, social-identity theory in social
psychological theory, and professional identity in developmental theory. However,
some essential similarities and differences can be understood in the wider context of
social science. Thus, I propose that these theories are similar in structure and
function and that they differ conceptually by degrees and types of context.
The three theories are similar in that each is grounded in a general theory
base. Social-identity theory originates in social psychology with an emphasis on
explaining behavioral concepts that relate to peoples membership in groups (Hogg
& Terry, 2000; Hogg et al., 1995; Tajfel, 1959,1969). Identity theorys origins are
in sociology with an emphasis on social behavior as it relates to identity related
processes of reciprocal relations between self and society (Rosenberg, 1981; Stryker,
1968,1980, 1987; Stryker & Serpe, 1982). The emerging professional identity
theory is aligned with developmental psychology with an emphasis on attributes and
expectations that allow for differentiation of the self professionally (Epstein, 1998;
Goodson & Hargreaves, 1996; McClure, 1993).
Both social-identity theory and identity theory address the structure and
function of the socially constructed self as a dynamic process that mediates the
relationship between social structure or society and an individuals behavior. While
reciprocal links between society and self are acknowledged by all three theories, an
individuals behavior is structured into specific units that are encompassed within
each theorys definitions of identity. For instance, identity theory discusses the
organization of behavior as it relates to the roles one plays. Social-identity theory
addresses norms, stereotypes, and prototypes. Professional identity theory allows for
the differentiation of oneself from other professions through meaning-making as
The differences between the theories are conceptually interesting regarding
various degrees and types of contextual responsiveness assigned to identity. First,
social-identity theory uses the term social identification and the process of self-
categorization (Hogg et al., 1995) to describe the ways identities are internalized and
used to define the self. Whereas identity theory discusses the process of labeling or
naming oneself as a member of a social category or of commitment (Stryker &
Statham, 1985), professional identity emphasizes relationships to others explained in
the context of professional community (Sachs, 2001; Wenger, 1998).
Second, social-identity theory elaborates the sociocognitive generative
processesinternalized contextual factors that make identities salient and produce
identity consistent behaviors (Hogg et al., 1995). In contrast, identity theory has the
advantage of focusing more explicitly on interindividual social interaction and its
influence on identity (Trajfel & Turner, 1986). Further, professional identity focuses
on processes of action, integration, and synthesis (Sachs, 2001) involved in meaning-
Third, identity theory is concerned with behavioral roles and role identities
whereas social-identity theory looks at the broader social category of membership
and professional identity that objectively attends to integrated meanings and
enactments in professional situations. For example, identity theory emphasizes the
relationships between the roles people play in society and the identities those roles
confer with a focus on the individual behavior as it is mediated by the various role
identities (Stryker & Serpe, 1982). However, social-identity theory emphasizes
intergroup relations and group processes, with a focus on the generative role of
identity of the in-group and intergroup aspects of behavior (Hogg et al, 1995). While
professional identity emphasizes synthesizing status, roles, and experiences into a
coherent, evolving identity image (Wilson, 2001).
Finally, social-identity theory views identity as dynamic, responding to
changes in the long-term intergroup relations and their immediate interactive
contexts, and then elaborates on the underlying sociocognitive mechanism (Hogg et
al., 1995). Identity theory describes identity as a relatively static property of roles,
focusing on the relational dynamics of interpersonal social interactive contexts that
influence the construction and reconstruction of roles (Burke, 1980; Thoits, 1991).
The professional-identity development process evolves by nature through shifting,
revising, and negotiating meaning-making and enactment of those meanings in
professional situations (Josselson, 1996; Kegan, 1994; Sachs, 2001).
This comparative analysis of the three theories focuses on differing
perspectives about the dynamic mediation between individual social behavior and
social structure of the socially constructed self (Hogg et al., 1995). Identity theory,
based in sociology, emphasizes the process of labeling oneself as belonging to a
particular social category. For instance, it acknowledges the role that others play in
supporting this social categorization. On the other hand, social-identity theory as a
psychological approach provides an elaborate and dynamic perspective that
systematically articulates a psychological level of analysis with the sociological level
of inter-group relations (Lorenzi-Cioldi & Doise, 1990). In this way, social identity
is considered a social construct that mediates individuals and society. The emerging
professional identity theory, a developmental approach, addresses differentiating
oneself from those in other professions.
Emerging Themes from Literature Review
This review of the literature explored the phenomenon of teacher professional
identity. The contents included a knowledge base that covered theoretical
frameworks and conceptual schema for the three theories, comparison of theories,
discussion of emerging themes, and conclusions. The following themes emerged
from this review. First, professional identity is a multifaceted phenomenon that
influences identity salience of both personal and professional self. Second, the
professional identity-development process consists of both static and dynamic
aspects that are driven by various factors at all levels of analysis. Third, individual
teachers play an important part in shaping or forming their professional-identity
development process. Fourth, agreement in the literature shows how the individual
teachers professional identity evolvement process may have an affect on both the
teachers well-being and professional-practice experiences. Finally, professional-
identity development may be an essential component of teacher performance,
including teacher quality, instructional effectiveness, and professional satisfaction.
Teachers professional identities are rich and complex (Wenger, 1998)
because this identity evolves among rich and complex interactions (Cooper & Olson,
1996) and connections within professional communities where teachers practice.
Therefore, a multifaceted research approach is needed to study the complex nature of
teachers professional identity. Additional inquiry into the dynamics of teachers
professional identity may further define and clarify this process.
The essential research question guiding this study is: How does teacher
professional identity develop? The next chapter on methods describes this studys
design, participants, data collection procedures, and data analysis process. The
research questions and methods used in this study generated findings based on
teachers perceptions about professional identity development of teachers within their
communities of practice.
The development of teacher professional identity during the initial years of
teaching is a complex phenomenon. Research has not yet addressed the person-
specific and the context-specific nature of professional-identity development that
teachers experience during their beginning years of teaching. This study examines
teacher participants perceptions of their professional identity process as it occurred
during the first-, second-, or third-year of teaching. The overall research question
guiding this study is: How does teacher professional identity develop during the
beginning years of teaching? The three supporting questions were as follows:
1. How do teachers describe their professional identity?
2. How do teachers perceive critical incidents that influence their
3. How do teachers perceive various contexts of their initial professional
practice experiences affect their identity?
This chapter covers the studys design that includes description of participants and
procedures involving data collection and data analysis.
This qualitative descriptive study explored the phenomenon of teachers
perceptions of their professional-identity development. Patton (1990, 2001) and
Krathwohl (1998) indicated that descriptive studies label, define, and name a
phenomenon through inquiring into how people perceive their experiencestheir
reality. Data were collected with interviews, focus groups, and field notes. Because
of limitations, such as number of participants, the exploratory nature of this research
study must be emphasized.
In this study, teachers beginning years of teaching practice in classrooms
serve as the context for their perceptions of professional-identity experiences. The
phenomenon of teachers orientation and enculturation into professional practice
may best be studied within the parameters of their professional environment and the
effects these formative experiences have on their perceptions about identity. In this
study, the professional practice environment included classrooms, schools, rural
communities, mentors, and teachers involved in induction programs.
The participants for this study included beginning classroom teachers. The
sample was drawn from twenty-seven teachers who were participants in two rural-
area induction programs; one program was based in a school district, and the other
program was held at a local four-year college. All teachers were contacted, and ten
teachers agreed to be participants in this study. The following sections describe the
teacher participants who were full-time classroom teachers in schools located in
rural, Southern Colorado.
The sample group of teachers was drawn from twenty-seven participants in
induction programs provided for teachers who were in their first three years of
teaching in preK-12 classrooms. As participants in induction programs, the teachers
were a part of a teacher-support group and had the guidance of a mentor during their
initial years of teaching practice. The teachers also received professional
development training that focused on beginning teachers issues and concerns. In
addition, these teachers had the option of receiving continuing education credits for
their participation in these induction programs.
All teachers in the sample group were contacted and invited to participate in
the study. Initially, a phone contact was made to verify their personal contact
information, briefly explain the study, and request their participation. Then an
Invitation to Participate memo (Appendix A) was mailed to each teacher. This
memo included the following information about the study: a brief description of the
study, its purpose, and a request asking for their agreement to be a participant.
The teachers who responded and indicated their willingness to participate
were then informed in writing about the following conditions of the study: (a) every
effort will be made to protect subjects identity in all reporting of this research
through use of pseudonyms and coding of responses that led to combining the
narrative data into general themes; (b) research data and results will not be shared
outside of the completed dissertation, conference presentations, and journal articles;
and (c) further information will be available to them upon completion of the study.
After being informed about these conditions, all participants were then asked to sign
a Participant Consent Form (Appendix B) and returned this form to the researcher as
Ten teachers agreed to be participants in this study. The participants included
four first-year teachers, three second-year teachers, and three third-year teachers (see
Table 3.1). Three participants in the first-year group were women (Jane, Cathy, and
Diane) and one was man (Hank). Jane teaches kindergarten in an elementary school
that has only primary grade students (kindergarteners and first graders) in the
building. Cathy teaches art in an elementary school that has fourth and fifth grade
students. Diane teaches home arts in a middle school that includes sixth, seventh,
and eighth graders. Hank teaches math in a middle school that also has sixth,
seventh, and eighth graders. Diane and Hank were both teaching in subject areas
other than the initial content-area endorsement for their secondary licensure.
Demographics of Teacher Participants, n = 10 (organized by years of teaching experience)
Year of Teaching Gender (F=female, M=male) Age Range Ethnicity Degrees Teaching Levels Licensure
1st year F: Cathy, 26-30 Hispanic BA Elementary Art
n = 4 Dianne, 31-35 Caucasian BA + hours Middle School Home Arts
Jane, 21-25 Caucasian BA + hours Elementary Elementary
M: Hank 21-25 Caucasian BA Middle School Math
2nd year F: Alta, 36-40 Hispanic BA + hours Elementary Elementary, ELL
n = 3 Mary 26-30 Caucasian BA + hours High School Science
M: Gary 41-45 Caucasian BA + hours Middle School Math
3 rd year F: Beth, 26-30 Caucasian BA PreK-12 Physical Education
n = 3 Ellen, 41-45 Caucasian MA + hours: 1 High School Science: 1
Lynn 41-45 Hispanic BA + hours Elementary Elementary, ELL
Hank was taking college coursework in math for endorsement in this content area
and for retention in his position.
The second-year teacher group consisted of three teachers, two women (Alta
and Mary) and one man (Gary). Alta teaches fourth grade in an elementary school
that has fourth and fifth graders. In her second year, Mary taught high school
Science classes (her content area for secondary license) but was planning to teach
math her third year, so she was taking college math courses for this endorsement.
Gary teaches math in a middle school and wants to pursue becoming a school
The third-year teacher group had three women teachers (Lynn, Ellen, and
Beth). Lynn works with first graders in a primary school that has only
kindergarteners and first graders. Ellen teaches science in an alternative high school
setting and also taught computer courses in her districts professional development
program. Beth is a physical education teacher who teaches elementary, middle
school, and high school students.
Demographics of Teacher Participants
The demographics of the ten participants, summarized in Table 3.1, provides
details about the teachers gender, age ranges, ethnicity, degrees, teaching levels, and
licensure areas. Eight females and two males participated in the study. The age
range for first-year teachers was 21 to 35 years and 26 to 45 years for second- and
The school districts in the rural areas of Southern Colorado represented in
this study have student populations belonging to the following ethnic groups:
Hispanic, 53%; Caucasian, 43%; and other, 4%. However, the teachers ethnicity in
these districts was as follows: Caucasian, 65%; Hispanic, 34%; and other, 1%. In
this study, the ethnic make-up of teachersseven Caucasian (70 %) and three
Hispanic (30%)closely mirrored the representation of teachers in the school
districts but not the ethnicity of students.
The teachers level of degrees earned was predictable: four with a BA degree,
five with a BA degree plus hours (with two of the five completing Masters degree
work), and one with an MA degree plus 42 hours. In addition, four levels of
teaching were represented in this study: (a) elementarythree teachers; (b) middle
schoolthree teachers; (c) high schooltwo teachers; and (d) K-12 specialists (Art
and PE)two teachers.
All teachers in this study were licensed and currently teaching full-time in
classrooms. Eight were teaching at the level and in the content areas of their initial
endorsement. Two first-year teachers were in teaching assignments other than their
content area endorsement.
Of the ten participants, four were traditional or novice teachers and six were
non-traditional teachers. The non-traditional teachers chose to enter into the
profession of teaching after previous experience in other areas such as business,
military, and retail. Cathy, Alta, Diane, and Ellen worked in business, while Gary
was in the military, and Lynn worked in retail.
Demographics of Districts and Schools
The demographics of the four school districts represented by the teacher
participants in this study are described in Table 3.2. The districts shared a common
amount of Per Pupil Allotment (PPA) monies, ranging from $5,600 to $6,100. All
teachers in these districts were supported through each districts PPA monies for
students in their classrooms.
Three stages formed the methods for this study as follows:
1. Development interview protocol of questions for individual
teacher interviews and questions for focus groups
2. Data collection via teacher interviews, focus groups, and field
3. Data analysis through descriptive phenomenology
The data collection procedures for this study involved several steps including teacher
interviews, focus groups, and field notes (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Patton, 1990,
2001). All three data-gathering processes provided means for triangulating findings
across information and data sources as well as for testing reliability and validity.
Demographics of Rural School Districts, n = 4
School Student ethnicity
Districts (by districts)
Class size ratios
African Asian Caucasian Hispanic Native
#1 8 6 248 67 6 200-400 Middle 15-20 @ 4 Elementary and 1 Alternative High
#2 2 1 333 324 10 500-700 Low School
#3 7 2 554 631 3 1000-2000 Low 21-25 @ 3 Middle Schools
#4 16 27 927 1,417 24 2000-3000 Low (Middle SES @ High School) 25-30 @ 2 High Schools
The primary data-gathering instrument for this study was an interview
protocol. For both individual interviews and the focus groups, I used a protocol
made up of questions that were developed from the research questions. Different
interview questions were designed for the individual teacher interviews and for the
teacher focus groups. I also categorized the questions by areas derived from the
literature (i.e., emerging themes, conceptual frameworks, and theories). Further
explanation of the categories (critical incidents, role models, predictions, and
perceptions) and reference sources are addressed within the narratives in the
respective interview questions sections that follow. The narrative contents for each
category include explanations and reference sources for each of the categories. A
copy of the narrative explanation and interview questions was given to participants
in order to provide them with background and context for the questions during the
teacher interviews and focus groups. The categories for the interview questions were
also used for the initial sorting process during the data analysis.
Data Collection Process
The first step in data collection was individual teacher interviews. The
individual interview was selected to determine how participants perceived their
professional identity, how it develops, and words used to describe themselves
professionally (Krathwahl, 1998). A protocol with interview questions guided the
actual interview process and provided for consistency across interviews. Each
teacher interviewee was contacted and scheduled for the interview with the
researcher at an agreed-upon date, time, and location. Each individual interview
lasted approximately 90 minutes, was audio taped, and then was transcribed.
An essential concept in social-identity theory refers to groups and how the
interaction within these groups affects identity. Therefore, the second data collection
step, a focus group, was chosen in order to gather richer, interactive responses from
participants in a group setting (Patton, 1990). In this study, the focus group of
teacher participants included eight membersseven women and one man. Those
who participated were four first-year teachers (Cathy, Diane, Hank, and Jane), one
second-year teacher (Mary), and three third-year teachers (Beth, Ellen, and Lynn).
Two second-year teachers were invited, but did not attend or participate in the group.
The initial plan was to meet in three focus groups organized by the years of
teaching experience. However, after the first focus-group meeting with the third-year
teachers for ninety minutes and during my review of the transcription, it became
clear that three teachers were not enough of a critical mass for in-depth conversations
and responses to the focus-group questions. Thus, I combined the first- and second-
year teachers for the next focus group and met with this combined group once for
two hours. This combined focus group proved to be helpful in generating richer
responses as well as more interaction among group members. The focus-group
interview questions were used to guide the discussions; both sessions were audio
taped and then transcribed.
I recorded my reflections during the research process using field notes and
reconstructed reflections. Field notes provided the means for capturing and
documenting researchers reflections on, and observations about, the research
process (Miles & Huberman, 1994). These free-form, descriptive, reflection notes
were recorded either on the spot in field notes or in lengthier (perhaps more detailed)
reconstructed written reflections. For instance, I recorded field note comments and
reflections immediately following each individual teacher interview and the two
teacher focus groups. Patton (1990) refers to this process as being simultaneously
aware of events in the site, and of your own feelings, reactions, insights, and
interpretations. My reflections included thoughts about teachers body language,
quick or slow to respond, brief responses that required further probing questions or
explanations, and reactions to other focus group members comments. I designed a
form for use in recording my research field notes and reflections during the data
collection process (Appendix C).
Individual Teacher Interview Questions
Interview questions for the individual teacher interviews were designed to
discern the teachers perceptions about professional-identity development. I chose
four sub-categories to organize and guide my questioning process during the teacher
interviews. The sub-categories included critical incidents (Cl), role models (RM),
predictions (PD), and perceptions (PC).
Critical incidents. The first sub-category, critical incidents (Cl), was a
qualitative narrative method that focused on incidents that occurred in the contexts
that have meaning for the participants. The use of critical incidents questions
provided a way to discover what was meaningful for the participants from their point
of view or perceptions (Frankel & Devers, 2000). For instance, teachers in an initial
identity study (Stout, 2001) often referred to critical incidents in the context of their
own school or learning experiences that resulted in their decision to become a
CI-1. What were important or influential incidents during your
years as a student (i.e., pre-K, elementary, middle school, high
school, or college) that influenced who you are as a teacher?
Role models. The second category, role models (RM), has its basis in identity
theorys concept of role identity as self-defining roles that people hold in society
(Stryker, 1982; Stryker & Statham, 1985). In this case, role models referred to those
people who provide concepts and images of who a teacher is specific to role
definition. A teachers role models may be influential in developing meaning around
her or his professional identity.
RM-1. How did teachers or other role models influence or motivate
you to become a teacher?
RM-2. Of all these teachers or role models, whom did you most want
to be like? Why? In what ways?
RM-3. How have you become like them as a teacher?
RM-4. Of all the teachers or role models that you know now, who
would you want to be most like and why?
Predictions. The third category, predictions (PD), referred to indications
about how participants imagine themselves as a teacher. These predictions were
time referenced by past, present, and future. In the context of social-identity theory,
the ways in which teachers develop their professional identity over time may have an
impact on identity salience that includes thoughts, behaviors, feelings, and social or
group associations (Hogg et al., 1995, 1996; Oaks & Turner, 1990).
PD-1. Before you began your teaching practice, how did you
imagine yourself as a teacher?
PD-2. Currently, what is your image of yourself as a teacher?
PD-3. How do you imagine yourself as a teacher in the future? (i.e.,
in five years, in ten years)
Perceptions. The fourth category, perceptions (PC), focused on teachers
points of view about the meaning of and descriptors for professional identity.
Perception descriptions were from the viewpoints of teachers themselves, their peer
teachers, or other professionals and friends. In professional-identity theorys
perceptions of identity, the professional-identity questions addressing teachers
perceptions about professional expectations and descriptions, were derived from
Brickson (1998) and Britzman (1992, 1994).
PC-1. What does being identified as a professional mean to you as a
PC-2. You are describing yourself as a teacher to another person;
what sorts of descriptors would you use to identify yourself as a
PC-3. How do other teachers, your colleagues, describe you as a
Focus-group questions. The focus-group questions were based on several
social-identity theory concepts, such as group identity, depersonalization, and
organizational identification (Hogg et al., 1995; Mael & Ashforth, 1992) that explore
within-group and across-group issues. These concepts addressed group identity as a
social reference and organizational identity as collective identity schema. The focus-
group questions were organized into two categories within professional group and
across professional groups. These two categories of questions provided the means
for gathering data on focus group members responses about the profession of
teaching and teacher professional-identity attributes as well as their responses about
their perceptions about how teachers differed from other professional groups.
1. Within professional group (WPG)
WPG-1. How do you describe the profession of teaching?
WPG-2. What are teacher professional-identity attributes or
elements? (Here, attributes refers to characteristics that describe you
as a professional teacher.)
2. Across professional groups (APG)
APG-1. How is the profession of teaching different from other
APG-2. How are teacher professional-identity attributes (or
characteristics) different from those of other professionals?
The selected data analysis process for this study was descriptive
phenomenology (Patton, 1990). This method describes what people experience by
inquiring into how and what they experienced. Patton references Husserls
definition of phenomenology as the study of how people describe things and
experience them based on the assumption we can only know what we experience
[italics added] by attending to perceptions and meanings that then must be described,
explicated, and interpreted (Patton, p. 69).
Initially, I began the analysis by organizing the interview questions according
to themes from the literature and conducted the first sort of the data based on these
categories. Then, working inductively, I used the descriptive phenomenology
process to discern patterns in the data. Phenomenological analysis differs from other
data-analysis procedures as there is an underlying assumption that shared
experiences may contain an essence or essences. Essences are the core meanings
mutually understood through the phenomenon commonly experienced (Patton,
1990). For instance, the essence of teachers mutually understood meanings and
shared experiences during their first three years of teaching experience become
essential to the phenomenon of their professional-identity development. The
assumption of essence, like an ethnographers assumptions about culture, becomes
the defining characteristic of a phenomenological study (Patton, 1999,2001). This
analysis method assumes the existence of commonalities in the essence of teachers
experiences. Thus, results obtained from this study may relate to, and integrate with,
those of other studies of the same phenomenon.
Phases of data analysis. The four phases of this descriptive,
phenomenological data-analysis process included initial, interim, emerging themes,
and structural synthesis. These phases provided a framework for the data analysis
process as summarized in Table 3.3. In the first phase of the analysis, I reviewed all
individual-participants and focus-group transcriptions, sorting through the narratives
for essential contents by noting and marking key words, phrases, and concepts. The
purpose of this initial phase was to determine essential content and reduce the size of
each transcript. I marked essential content and edited out non-essential words (i.e.,
you know, and, and umm).
Second, the interim phase involved looking across data sets and sorting by
categories. In this phase, I sorted the transcripts into documents by the categories
used for the interview questions: individual teacher interviews (Cl, RM, PD, and PC)
and focus groups (WPG, APG). This analysis process created documents for each of
the categories with participants transcribed responses combined, organized, and
sorted first by category, then by questions within each category, and finally by first-,
second-, or third-year teacher groupings within each question.
The third phase, emerging themes through patterns, included condensing
through extracting and clustering to determine themes for data coding. This phase
involved rereading transcripts within each of the categorized documents. Then, I
extracted lists of repeated words, phrases, or concepts. I reviewed these lists for
frequency of statements (a minimum of four times across participants in response to
the question, such as RM-1 or PC-1) within each category. Next, I clustered those
frequent statements together. Finally, I looked for common themes and patterns in
these clusters and identified initial themes. Some of these initial themes were
eliminated due to a lack of frequency across the participants narratives or lack of
other supporting evidence across the data.
After determining the themes, I assigned each an acronym code and then
proceeded with coding all narrative contents within each of the categorized
transcription documents. Upon completion of the transcript coding, I used NVivo to
select all narratives with a specific code and combined these coded narratives into
documents organized by codes. Finally, I then read and reviewed these documents
as another level of analysis.
Data Analysis Framework
Phases Data Analysis Description of Researchers Analysis
1. Initial 1. Analysis of transcribed data interviews (individual) focus groups field notes and reflections 1. Disclose what is essential to each persons perceptions while reducing transcripts using close approximations of persons words (key words, phrases, and concepts).
2. Interim 2. Development of documents sorted by categories 2. Sort transcriptions into documents by categories (individual interviews and focus groups) working across data sets
3. Emerging themes 3. General condensation 3. Extract and cluster content to discern themes compact description of themes and characteristics common to and across transcripts iterative process: analysis of transcript, extraction and listing, and then use of that profile on another set of transcripts coding data and inter-rater reliability of coding
4. Structural synthesis 4. General structures for conceptual knowledge 4. Analysis connected to conceptual framework through a body of knowledge outside of data set emergence of content elements for TPID conceptual framework model
Note: Adapted from Miles & Huberman (1994, pp. 86-87) and Patton (1990, pp. 407-410)
After I completed the coding of the transcripts, an experienced researcher
also coded the transcripts for inter-rater reliability (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Upon
completion of my coding and the other raters coding, I calculated the percent of
reliability by determining the number of agreements divided by the total of number
of agreements and disagreements (Miles & Huberman, 1994). This calculation for
reliability was 70% which is not considered in the acceptable range. So I revisited
the coding process to address the reliability issue. I began by asking the other rater
to read my review of the literature. Then, we met and discussed the themes and
meanings for each code to reach conceptual agreement about our understanding of
both the themes and codes. Next, we each coded several pages of text, discussed our
reasons for assigning the codes, and using the same formula calculated our reliability
which was in the acceptable range. Upon completing this reliability process, both of
us coded the transcripts again. After completing the second coding, I recalculated
the reliability. The reliability of these codes was somewhat assured because of the
1. Moderate degree of inter-rater agreement of 81 %
2. Steps taken to cross-check and triangulate the data during coding
The final phase, structural synthesis analysis, included the use of knowledge
structures to connect emerging themes with conceptual frameworks associated with a
body of knowledge outside of the data set. I began this final phase by rereading the
literature and theory research (identity, social identity, and professional identity) in
order to discern connections with that knowledge base in context of the themes from
the data set. In addition, I revisited common descriptor attributes for TPID provided
by the participants.
This process resulted in three general or summative categories that emerged
from the initial themes. These summative categories included personal-self,
relational, and professional expectations. Then, I realized that the various emergent
conceptsthemes, categories, and descriptive attributes-provided the essential
contents for a conceptual framework model.
Summary. The data gathered during this descriptive study were carefully
analyzed. The analysis phasesinitial, interim, emerging, and structuring
provided a framework for the step-by-step analysis process for discerning teacher
professional-identity themes and attributes that emerged from the data. This
systematic analysis of the data also assisted with discerning and describing those
themes that make meaning for teacher professional identity. In the context of this
study, meaning-making occurs for teachers as they participate in their professional-
identity development within the parameters of the beginning years of teaching
practice. This analysis process provided cross-checking devices or triangulation
through condensation, reiterative coding, and synthesis.
This study explored descriptions about teachers perceptions of their
professional-identity development processes and their descriptors for professional-
identity attributes occurring during the beginning three years of participant teachers
professional practice. This chapter provided a description of the studys design
elements and procedures. The design elements included information about
participants. Procedures addressed data collection and data analysis. Next, chapter
four discusses the findings that emerged from the data.
DESCRIPTION OF FINDINGS
This study explored teacher perceptions of professional identity as it develops
during the beginning years of teaching. The participants for this study were ten
teachers in their first three years of teaching practice in schools that were located in
rural southern Colorado. This chapter describes and further elaborates themes and
findings that emerged from the teacher participants data collected during this study.
Major themes for teacher professional-identity development (TPID) emerged
from the analysis of individual interviews with teacher participants, interviews with
the focus groups, and my field notes. Initially, nine themes emerged that were later
also referred to as sub-themes. Further analysis yielded three cumulative themes
derived from the initial themes.
Cumulative themes Initial sub-themes
1. Personal-self teachers role, role models influences
2. Relational making a difference, caring about students, motivating students
3. Professional professional communities of practice, passion for
expectations teaching, organization (managing instruction and classrooms)
The emergence of these themes was a direct result of careful analysis of the data
supplied by the participants (Alta, Beth, Cathy, Diane, Ellen, Gary, Hank, Jane,
Lynn, and Mary). Various themes were considered throughout the course of the
analysis process, specifically during data collection and data analysis. Some initial
themes were eliminated due to a lack of consensus or frequency among the
participants or lack of supporting evidence in the data.
Next, I describe these themes by first outlining the cumulative theme
followed by each themes associated initial sub-themes and attributes. In addition,
paraphrased statements or actual words from participants are provided to support and
further elucidate discussion of the themes. Relevant sources in the literature are cited
where applicable to the specific cumulative theme and initial sub-themes.
In this study, the personal-self cumulative theme refers to identity as dialogic
(Briztman, 1994) meaning between the individuals personal identity and the social
role experiences that are specific to identity and role. Britzman (1994) refers to
identity as socially negotiated professional situations and relationships that give
meaning to, and are influential for, the teacher from her or his perspective. On the
other hand, role indicates an assigned public function, that of being a teacher
(Britzman, 1994). Hank articulated his internal dialogue about identity and role.
My challenge is to teach students my content [math]. When do I stop
being the strict math teacher and be the open-armed advocate? I
know the equilibrium or balance between the two is a hard thing for
me to find. Thats something I am really struggling with in my
different classes, advising groups, and other students I see during the
day; a little closer with some and a little bit of distance with others. I
think my main charge or challenge is to reach them every day
whether it is in math, or the tissue to blow their noses, or even just to
talk. Yes, I show them math while they are there, but Im teaching
them. Im teaching people. Thats one thing that I think the
profession of teaching is that we are losing. It is the idea that were
there to teach people.
Hanks internal dialogue illustrates the tension between identity and role, affecting
personal self-definitions and role identity that in turn reflects on various perceptions
about professional identity.
Self is regarded as a multifaceted and organized construct with the multiple
components referred to as identities (Stryker & Serpe, 1982). Thus, in the specific
area of teacher professional identity, components of the personal-self include a
teachers role identity as well as descriptions of how role models influence teacher
identity development. Beth described how her parents were role models who
influenced her role identity as a teacher.
Ive always looked up to my mom. She is a physical education
teacher, too. I get a lot of ideas from her. My dad is a high school
teacher and coach. Hes very well liked [but] hes strict, a really
tough guy, but everybody somehow just likes him. I think he really
cares about people. Hes just kind hearted but yet he is a
professional. He has those boundaries. He wants to do a good job so
hes a little stem, but yet he has a sense of humor. As a teacher, I like
to have a sense of humor like that. I think thats a great way for kids
to learn. You get their attention and they pay attention more.
Her description illustrates the way a teachers perceptions about role models also
serve as a frame of reference for her or his evolving TPID process.
Also related to personal-self were teachers perceptions about critical
incidents. In the introductory question for the individual interviews, teachers were
asked about their perceptions about the influence of critical incidents on their TPID.
This question involved reflecting on important or influential incidents during their
years as students, followed by further inquiry about how these incidents influenced
their self-perceptions. Teachers responses fell into three categories: family
influences, personal learning experiences, and enjoyment of learning. Family
influences included formative childhood experiences with school, family members
who are teachers, and the familys emphasis on learning and education. Teachers
personal experiences (both positive and negative) during their own learning process
as a student that has influenced who they are as a teacher. Also, the teachers talked
about how as teachers they enjoy working with students, passing on what they know,
and learning from and with their students. Next, the initial sub-themes for personal-
self are teachers role and the influence of role models.
This sub-theme refers to role in reference to the teachers task of and
responsibility for teaching content knowledge to students as well as the teachers
social interactions with students. Two participants, Lynn and Mary, shared
perceptions about their role as teachers through the lens of responsibilities.
Lynn: I know it is my big responsibility to lead [students] to
understand that they have some serious learning that needs to take
place as far as literacy and math skills, and those basic elements need
to be grounded very well. [As a teacher] its a big responsibility to
guide and lead those twenty individuals. I have to help develop their
interests and skills; thats what I am responsible for.
Mary: I think you are trying to get students to learn something, but
thats not the only thing. You are also a counselor, a disciplinarian,
and sometimes you have to refer them to other services. There are so
many other things that go with teaching. There are just a lot of things
that go along with getting that knowledge to them.
Further, the teachers role acquires self-meaning and clarity during social interaction
processes with students in classrooms. Hank explained how self-meaning occurs
through his social interactions with students.
Im in it [teaching] for the students. What keeps me going is the fact
that I know theres going to be 60 students that come to that school
who are going to come to my classroom. They are going to be there
every day; a few of them will be gone. But every day I know there is
going to be at least one at times that learns something from me.
Jane and Ellen commented on their perceptions about their role as a parent to
students during their social interactions.
Jane: As a teacher at the primary level, youre the authority in the
room and you are the guide. But at the same time, we are like a
secondary parent. You are the parent in some sense.
Ellen: I think teachers are sometimes semi parents. I dont
necessarily like the role, and I dont like getting into personal issues
of students. But on the other hand, sometimes they need it, and you
need to provide a safe environment.
Finally, teachers role identities include such tasks as effective instruction
strategies through interactions with students to facilitate their learning. Altas
explanation of the way she taught a science lesson on electric circuits illustrates
effective instruction strategies. She began by introducing the task, reviewing
vocabulary words, and referring to contents on electricity in students books. Then
she handed out the materials for making circuits and asked the students, How are
you going to make this light bulb light? As Alta moved among the student groups,
She felt like an invisible person responding to their questions. Her role as a teacher
during this lesson was to facilitate students successful learning experience.
Role Models Influence
As a sub-theme, role model refers to those people who provide beginning
teachers with ideas about, and expectations for professional roles. The participant
teachers described their role models as being influential in developing their
professional identity as a teacher. Gary shared his memories about an influential role
model, General A.
General A. was a very, very quiet man, but very strong. He had a
strong presence about him. I admired him. It was his appearance [in]
the way he dressed, the way he walked, and the way he talked.
Everybody was treated equal. He was a very strong military leader,
but everybody was at his level of importance. He treated you as if
you were an important part of the strategy or important part of the
game. I try to take that up in my classroom [in terms of] economic
levels, were all the same level. [As teachers] we are all trying to
achieve the same goal, all trying to do the best that we can, and I
hope we are.
This role model has influenced how Gary perceives his role as a teacher.
In identity theory, the term salience alludes to prominent behaviors and
outcomes. Such outcomes describe the influence specific relationships like role
models have on identity, especially for perceptions about, and positive evaluations
of, those who occupy the same role or position (Callero, 1985; Hogg et al, 1995;
Stryker, 1987). Alta and Lynn provided examples of those who are in the same role
through descriptions of supervising teachers during their student teaching
Alta: The lady I student taught with, she was just incredible, just
wonderful. She taught me everything I know and patience. She is my
hero and I go to her to this day. Because she taught me about making
learning fun and having students not know they are learning when
they really are.
Lynn: The teacher I student taught with was a very good role model
for me and a good example. She was disciplined in her practice and
the students did fairly well. She helped me grow a lot as a teacher
and as an individual and was very influential in that regard.
As a part of their induction program, participants were assigned a mentor
who was usually located in the same school building or at the same level. For the
secondary teachers, their mentor was not always licensed in the same content area.
These mentors act as coaches and give support to the mentee teachers during their
induction program experience. Diane commented on her mentors support.
I had a lot of positive feedback from the other teachers, like my
mentor. She knew how I struggled so much at the beginning
compared to the end. She mentioned towards the end of the year she
was talking with the principal and they were commenting on how
much Ive grown.
Interestingly, only two teachers portrayed their mentors as role models. However, all
teachers talked about their mentors as colleagues and as someone to have
conversations with about their teaching practice.
In addition, participants commented on how, as teachers, their role modeling
has affected students. Cathy and Ellen commented on how they perceive themselves
as role models for students.
Cathy: I take my profession very seriously because I am role
modeling for these students. A lot of them say, I want to be an art
teacher when I grow up. Do you like being an art teacher? I take it
seriously and personally because it is my profession, and its a
reflection on myself.
Ellen: One of the role modeling things that I think I find to be very
important is honesty, and the other one is mutual respect. I think
students need to learn that if you want to be treated a certain way,
you treat others that way, too. You can discuss with them and
express your expectation that they will have to be responsible for
their own behavior. [For example], we are role models for young
ladies. Generally speaking we deal with the alternative school young
ladies and they have some real self-esteem issues. I think we get the
girls whose self-image issues are major. Sometimes they dress in a
way to have young men look at them. Im pretty strict about dress
code and I usually give them a little talk about [how] you dont need
to dress in that way if you want to be respected. What you wear is
not what makes you beautiful; its not what is really important to
you. I think a lot of that is just being a role model to all the students,
but to the girls especially.
These teachers views about being a role model relates to identity theorys social
interaction concept. It is during social interaction processes between students and
teachers that role identities actually acquire self-meaning; that is, they are reflexive
(Burke & Reitzes, 1981). For example, Ellen experienced being reflexive as a role
model, when she interacted with her young ladies about their way of dressing and
about being respected. These types of social interactions that occur between teachers
and students provide experiences for students to further develop their social sense of
Various attributes teachers used to describe their personal-self identity
included reflective practice, creative self, enthusiasm, role model, honor, and
professional development. The reflection attribute involved thinking about, making
notes on, and journal writing about their teaching practice. Teachers creative self
explained different ways to present instruction and provide for the freedom of self-
expression. Enthusiasm implied having lots of energy and passion for their work,
being assertive, and doing what it takes for students.
In addition, they perceived the attribute of being a role model as (a) having
awareness of the image or professional demeanor presented to students, to other
colleagues, to parents, and to the community, or (b) assuming a parental role. Honor
alluded to the importance of the position as well as recognizing a teachers or a
students personal space and ways of being. Professional development focused on
their teaching goals, meeting expectations for other endorsements essential for
teaching assignments, acquiring skills to enhance student instruction and increase
their knowledge, and training in other areas of interest.
The theme personal-self refers to teachers role identity and teacher as a role
model. Professional identitys concepts about the personal-self describe teachers
role identity, how role models influence teacher identity development, and how
being a role model influences identity. Participants related how their role models
influenced and gave meaning to who they are as teachers (i.e., their professional
identity). In this way, personal self-concepts and self-descriptions provide teachers
with the means for creating a frame of reference for their ever-evolving professional
Two initial sub-themes were associated with personal-self, teachers role and
the influence of role models. First, a teachers role involves teacher knowledge,
interactions with students, and how both impact students learning experiences.
Second, a role models influence applies to people who affect teachers professional
identity perceptions as well as to teachers perceptions of themselves as role models
for their students. Also, the attributes included reflection, creative-self, enthusiasm,
role model, honor, and professional development. The next section provides the
studys findings about the second cumulative themerelationaland initial sub-
The second cumulative theme, relational, describes the social nature of
teachers interactions with the members of their professional community. For the
participants, these people include students (often called kids), colleagues, and
parents. First, Ellen shared her perceptions about students social relationships.
Education is not just what you learn out of books. Its a lot of social interactions.
Its a lot of learning about boundaries in relationships. Second, Lynn explained
how peer coaching influences social relationships with her colleagues.
In our district, we have peer coaching where we share ideas. We
have six teachers in our peer group that we are close with. We let go
of our inhibitions and are willing to observe each other. Not so much
for giving feedback, we observe each other and then state what we
observed, so its not a judgmental thing. It is so teachers being
observed can see their practice through another persons eyes
because we dont always see that.
Third, Cathy described some of the stress involved in her relationships with parents.
You are being more scrutinized. You have parents that you call out
of concern for their child. [Sometimes] the parents right away start
scrutinizing you, Heres what you are doing wrong. Why is my
child this and that? You are being scrutinized by the community
and everyone up the ladder for what you are doing. It is stressful!
You want to do a good job and put your best foot forward. You dont
really have a day where you can just slack off if you are having a bad
day or just dont feel good. You still have to go on.
Identity theory indicates that relationships with others affect professional identity
based on the psychological importance of these social relationships (Stryker &
Statham, 1985). Clandinin (1995) uses the term professional knowledge landscape
to describe the context of a teachers personal, practical knowledge of schools and
classrooms. She indicates relationships are an integral part of this concept. Further,
relationships suggest the quality of relating that occurs during in-classroom and
out-of-classroom places as well as the social matrix of a teachers other
Relational identity is encouraged by organizational structures that emphasize
integrated networks of relationships. These types of relationship networks occur
when the systems context promotes interpersonal cooperation and when groups of
individuals are not the overriding emphasis (Brickson, 2000). Also, the influence of
the integral nature of relationships alludes to the degree of interaction among groups
(Baker, 1992) that reduce tendencies to categorize group members. Gary described
how his classroom teacher, Ms. E., was open minded about relationships and
interactions among her students various ethnic groups.
I lived in the projects with a lot of low-income Hispanic and Cajun
students. [Our teacher] Ms. E. understood that and she never ever did
anything to the students to show them that one was better than the
other. She was very open-minded about everything that we did or
that we were. In third grade did I understand it like that? Probably
not. As a teacher, I hope that I can touch someone like she touched
me, not only in educating students but also about life itself.
Garys perceptions about this teachers approach imply that as a result the students
did not see themselves as distinct groups in the classroom, thus influencing how they
viewed themselves and related to each other. Moya (2000) explains this relational
identity process as how through social relationships others may be influenced by our
understandings about structures in society and how our experiences in those
structures might then influence us. Garys experience as a student with a teachers
approach towards social relationships has affected how, as a teacher, he relates to
students in his classrooms that are located in the same culturally diverse, rural area
where he attended school.
In the profession of teaching, relational-identity orientation involves
individuals being motivated by others welfare, based on trust and cooperation. This
leads to characteristics of deeper cognitive understanding and more positive affective
and behavioral outcomes (Batson, 1998; Lanzetta & Englis, 1989). Perspective
takingoccurring when one is motivated by anothers needsbecomes especially
important for teachers due to the ever-increasing diverse learning environments of
todays classrooms. Research (Brickson, 1998, 2000) indicates that a relational
identity orientation may also promote the extension of empathy and have a positive
effect beyond the interactants on other targets and perceivers through meaningful
relationships. In this study, the relational themes initial sub-themes were making a
difference, caring about students, and motivating students.
Making a Difference
The sub-theme making a difference refers to the capacity to care deeply about
something or someone in terms of affecting a change in peoples lives. Bethel
(1990) suggests several characteristics are inherent in those who make a difference,
including being aware of the needs of others, creating new opportunities, and
bettering yourself and others. The first characteristic, being aware of the needs of
others and the challenges that they face, was captured by Gary.
I became a better teacher because I knew what students needed, what
students expected, and what I expected out of myself. I want my
students to be the best they can be not only in mathematics but in all
parts of their lives.
Second, Janes comment exemplified the characteristic of creating opportunities and
making oneself and others better.
Ive always been connected with the young ones. I like to see their
excitement when they figure something out. Theres always a big
difference when they do something and it clicks in their minds; just
the gratification you feel knowing that you helped them to learn.
Alta ascribed to the third characteristic, bettering oneself and others, in the way that
she lives her life. I would hope that the way I live and how I live would help one
person to try to become a better person. As human service providers, the teacher
participants wanted to make a difference in their students lives.
Teachers who expressed their desire to make a difference in students lives
are effectively change agents. Rogers (1995) defines change agents as people who
use their skills and roles to influence others decisions towards making a difference.
Beth described being a change agent, I think as a teacher, you are actually doing
something, helping people to make changes in themselves or in society.
Fullan (1993,2001) proposed that teaching is a moral activity. Thus,
teachers must be able to combine moral purpose (or making a difference) with
change agentry skills. Cathy related a powerful story about making a difference with
high school students and her elementary art students.
When I was working with high school students in the Division of
Wildlife, I saw that I could make a difference. I wanted to go on
doing that job. I wanted to make sure I did try to make a difference
and was successful. I wanted them to learn not necessarily just the
stuff that I was teaching them, but I wanted them to carry on wanting
to learn. I wanted to stimulate their curiosity and wanted them to
grow and learn more on their own [and] have their own natural
desire to learn. I saw that I did actually make a difference in these
students. [They] told me that I inspired them to go on to college.
They wanted to do more with biology, and I was surprised and
pleased to know that I could make a difference. Now as an art
teacher I want to not necessarily make a difference for vanity
reasons, but I want students to be interested. I want them to leave
school saying, You know I learned something. I never liked
drawing until I took this art class. I want to continue to do this. I
want them to get something out of art, just enjoy the process.
As a change agent, Cathy provided communication links between the classroom and
various people affiliated with both the classroom and the school. Fullan (2001)
states that, when teachers use change agent skills, they are engaging in a moral
activity that affects both students learning experiences and their classroom
environments. In essence, teachers become effective change agents when using their
teacher quality skills such as inclusive instruction, knowledge of student learning
styles, and relating with their students in order to make a difference in students
Caring About Students
Noddings (1992) defines the caring relationship as a connection or encounter
between two human beings with all parties contributing to the relationship in
characteristic ways and with varied capacities. She puts great emphasis on caring as
a way of relating. Gary described the ways he made caring connections by relating
with his students.
I care about students, I like them, and Im very open with my
students. I sit down and talk to them. I tell them, This is what I gave
you. This is where I think you should be at, and this is where you are
now. Now do you think youve given me 100 percent? If youre
satisfied with this, then youre doing 100 percent, and thats fine.
From my point of view, I think you should be here because I see it in
your work. If they say, Maybe, Im not sure. Then I say, Okay,
then lets work on it. I give 100 percent of myself, and I expect the
students to give 100 percent of themselves. If I can find a way to
help bring it out, thats whats important. All students are different,
and I understand that. Can you teach to all the different ways of
learning? No, you cant. But I can sit down, visit with them, and go
According to Gary, in the process of teaching and teacher-learner relationships,
teachers create caring relationships.
In addition, Noddings (1992) believes teachers are charged with helping their
students develop the capacity to care for themselves and others. Hank commented
on his caring and his emphasis on students developing caring capacities through their
awareness about life.
Id have to say that Im caring. I really care about these students and
the fact that in eighth grade if I can get them to realize that the rest of
the life that they have is theirs and this is the time to decide to take it.