Assistant teachers' engagement in an external cross curricular project: impact on professional identity

Bradshaw, Peter and Younie, Sarah (2011). Assistant teachers' engagement in an external cross curricular project: impact on professional identity. In: BERA (British Educational Rresearch Association) 2011, 6-8 Sep 2011, London.


The professional identity of assistant teachers, that is teachers in training, is, in part, defined by their relationship to those who mentor and tutor them. As teachers in training they are in a role with less power than those who are responsible for their training, support and development.

This paper focuses on the impact of assistant teachers’ engagement in the BBC News School Report project on their professional identity. This is examined through the roles taken by assistant teachers in the project while on placement in schools, the activities they were consequently engaged in and the types of evidence generated for their assessment against the Standards for Qualified Teachers in England.

The research reported on is drawn from an evaluation of the project for Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), the government agency responsible for teacher training in England. This involved instruments of data collection - surveys, focus groups and written reports. Respondents included assistant teachers themselves, their tutors as representatives of teacher education providers and their mentors as representatives of schools in which they were placed.

The methodological approach was interpretative and phenomenological with qualitative and quantitative data being analysed for emergent themes.

The paper focuses on one of the themes found, that of the impact on the professional identity of assistant teachers exposed to taking up leadership roles. The research showed that their professional identity is enhanced through their being in a leading role in respect of curriculum and working with other staff. Their self perception of role was modified to one in which they saw themselves, and were seen, as equals to qualified staff rather than subservient or dependent on them. Furthermore, engagement in such projects led them to collecting richer, more holistic evidence for meeting the Standards as they took greater ownership for this process, situating it in their leading role in the project. Their identity became defined less by the articulation of Standards and by their relationship to others and more by their own notions of professionalism. A new more equal power relationship developed as they take on responsibility for the project.

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