The formation of teaching identities among novice social science seminar tutors: A longitudinal study at the London School of Economics and Political Science

Mclean, Neil Duncan (2014). The formation of teaching identities among novice social science seminar tutors: A longitudinal study at the London School of Economics and Political Science. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000d5c4

Abstract

Research into academic identities has predominantly identified how social structures influence and constrain the agency of those involved in academic work (McLean, 2012). This reflects the predominantly sociological underpinnings of this research area (Clegg,200S). This study introduces psychological theory on identity formation to offer a complementary focus on individual agency and personal meaning making. This longitudinal case study investigates how five novice social science graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) formed identities as academic teachers during their first two years inservice. These tutors participated in the London School of Economics' Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCertHE) during these two years. Changing identity positioning over time (Wetherell, 2001) was captured in tutors' writing using discourse analysis developed in the Discursive Psychological tradition (Edley, 2001).

The findings of this study offer insight into academic identity formation. However, this study also contributes to research into the impact that participation on developmental courses, such as the LSE PGCertHE, can have on aspiring faculty as academic teachers. Impact has been assessed through pre- and post-testing (Gibbs & Coffey, 2004; Hanbury, Prosser, & Rickinson, 2008; Postareff, Lindblom-Ylanne, & Nevgi, 2007) and case studies (Butcher & Stoncel, 2012; Ho, Watkins, & Kelly, 2001). These studies have found impacts in terms of increased student focus and self-efficacy (Stes, Min-Leliveld, Gijbels, & Van Petegem, 2010). This study presents complementary findings. However, the longitudinal design offers an account of how the change identified in the larger, survey-ba~ed studies can come about. This shifting positioning is presented here in terms of initial 'idealism' becoming 'realism' with experience, but then leading to 'independence' as tutors developed 'pedagogic content knowledge' (Shulman, 1987).

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