Transforming the self: a study of transition and teacher development

Brown, Tony (2001). Transforming the self: a study of transition and teacher development. PhD thesis The Open University.



Personal and professional development of teachers and trainees is studied through the training period and beyond in England. This is a study of the changing self during transition to teaching, reported through an interpretative narrative of the transitional experience.

Three contexts are used:

1. The early development of the author.

2. The author's teaching and research activities with primary trainees in HE.

3. A longitudinal study of secondary trainees.

A reflexive approach is used to discuss initial professional development, the growth of personal knowledge and the emergence of a teacher-self. Significant events are identified in the researcher's workplace: teaching episodes, informal meetings and interviews are analysed through a search for noticed themes. A single case study is piloted. Results are used to inform a longitudinal study, with data derived from semi-structured interviews and repertory grids.

Data analysis informs the construction of a narrative of transition for each participant using a psychodynamic perspective analyse the data for evidence of conscious influences and unconscious elements. The study draws on Winnicott's theory of transitional space and its application to classrooms. The construct of self is theorised from both intrapersonal and interpersonal perspectives. The emerging teacher-self is evidenced as complex, idiosyncratic and partly influenced by unconscious material from childhood and adolescence. Salient features of participants' transitions are used to extend the theory and elicit an account of each transition. The findings are interpreted from a holistic viewpoint that recognises cognitive, affective and psychic influences on the development of an emergent teacher-self, viewed in terms of agency, intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions.

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