The negotiations of teachers' professional identity in the socio-cultural context of work organisations

Vahasantanen, Katja; Hokka, Päivi; Eteläpelto, Anneli; Rasku-Puttonen, Helena and Littleton, Karen (2007). The negotiations of teachers' professional identity in the socio-cultural context of work organisations. In: Csapó, Benö and Csíkos, Csaba eds. Developing Potentials for Learning. Budapest, Hungary: EARLI, p. 637.


Recent studies within a socio-cultural framework have addressed teachers’ professional identity as the interplay between self, structure and human agency. However, we need to go beyond the existing research to gain a more elaborated understanding of the interdependence between work organizations and teachers’ identity negotiations. This paper focuses on the question of how professional identities are negotiated between individuals and work organizations. We analyze and describe identity negotiations in two different work organizations: a vocational institution and a university department of teacher education. The vocational institution is large with a hierarchical structure and there have been under way many reforms. The teacher education department is a relatively large and traditional work community with a sustainable work culture, and there have been no dramatic organizational reforms. The empirical data consist of two separate data sets from the two organizations. The data were gathered by open-ended interviews focusing on individual teachers’ own experiences. The data were analysed in accordance with various data-driven qualitative approaches. Our findings demonstrate how different organizations provide spaces and resources for teachers’ professional identity negotiations. Our results show, that teachers are more committed to their work organizations if they have enough professional autonomy in their organizations. Interaction and relations between the socio-cultural context of work organizations and teachers’ identity negotiations are discussed in terms of the meaning of professional autonomy and power relations.

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