The reconstruction of primary teachers' identitities

Woods, Peter and Jeffery, Bob (2002). The reconstruction of primary teachers' identitities. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 23(1) pp. 89–106.



Primary teachers have had to reconstruct their identities in response to the reconstruction of the education system. The holism, humanism and vocationalism of the old Plowden self-identity has been challenged by a new assigned social identity signalled in the assault on child-centred philosophy, the diminution of elementary trust, and changes in the teacher role. These challenges have thrown up new dilemmas for teachers, and represent 'fateful moments' in the careers of their identities. In trying to resolve the dilemmas, teachers have engaged in identity work, characterised mainly by identity talk, and a number of emotional and intellectual strategies. The result has been a partitioning of the old Plowden self-identity, with the 'real self' being largely withheld from the new personal identity and the sense of vocationalism being set to one side. The new personal identity in teaching represents a more instrumental and situational outlook, with the substantial self finding more expression elsewhere. Identity work is still in progress and seems set to continue while teachers have to find ways of relating to two or more competing discourses.

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