Drawing identity: Beginning pre-service teachers' professional identities
Judith Dinham, Beryl Chalk and Bich Nguyen
Developing a professional teacher identity can be complex as pre-service teachers engage with a process informed by their previous experiences of teachers and teaching, by learning in their pre-service course, by field placements, and by societal expectations. Using drawing as the method for gathering data, pre-service teachers in an Australian university were asked, prior to their first professional experience, to draw themselves as the teacher they hoped to become. Drawings (N=125) were coded according to the presence or absence of teacher, students and artefacts of teaching. Representations indicated that pre-service teachers identified themselves as teachers who would conduct enjoyable learning experiences, have positive relationships with their students and who were confident in themselves as a teacher. There was little evidence of the potential complexities or challenges of teaching, raising a dilemma for teacher educators in how to prepare pre-service teachers for the reality of the workplace while maintaining their positive approach.
This paper reports a study focusing on beginning pre-service teachers as they imagine, and graphically represent, the teacher they hope to become. It discusses the themes emerging from these drawings as teachers at the very beginning of their career journey imagine the identity they see for themselves. Teacher educators have been challenged "to recreate the space for construction of an individual, meaningful, resilient professional identity underpinned by strong beliefs and values" (Smethem, 2007, p. 478). Understanding early pre-service teachers' emerging identity may enable teacher educators to prepare pre-service teachers for their teaching career, through facilitating the development of a professional identity as teachers, and eventually the development of effective teachers who thrive in the profession.
The first common element in the literature about identity is that definitions of identity need to consider both personal and contextual factors. Gee (2000) illustrated this when stating that identity may be thought of as being seen by the self and others as a particular sort of person in a particular context at a particular time. Avalos and De Los Rios (2013) maintained that motivation and commitment, work demands and satisfaction, self-efficacy, and perception of society's views of teachers are key concepts in how teachers identify themselves as professionals. Individuals' beliefs and experiences as well as their perceptions of what is expected in a particular context are an important aspect of teacher identity, and influence their choice of certain teaching practices (Horn, Nolen, Ward & Campbell, 2008; Katz et al., 2011). Research on the developing identity of pre-service teachers outlines potential tensions between the personal and the professional (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009), especially in light of the many educational changes taking place which "may conflict with what teachers personally desire and experience as good" (Beijaard, Meijr & Verloop, 2004, p. 109).
A second common element in the literature is that personal and contextual factors interact in a reciprocal way to shape identity. McCaslin (2009), for example, proposed a co-regulation model "to capture the dynamics of reciprocal press of personal, cultural, and social sources of influence to understand the emergence of identity" (p. 134). Avalos and De Los Rios (2013) argued that teacher identity may be seen as "a co-construction involving one teacher and other significant agents, or teachers and the broader society to which they belong" (p. 156). Such relationships and reciprocity can vary between individuals and between local and national communities of practice (Czerniawski, 2011).
The third common element in understandings of identity is that personal and contextual factors interact in a dynamic way over an individual's lifetime. For example, it has been argued that the development of professional identity is a dynamic process (Day, Sammons, Stobart, Kington & Gu, 2007; Moore, 2004) and is often negotiated "through a rich and complex set of relations of practice" (Chong & Low, 2009, p. 70). Finding a balance between personal views and experiences and the professional or cultural expectations of what it means to be a teacher is an important aspect of developing a professional identity as a teacher (Pillen, Beijaard & Brok, 2013). As pre-service teachers navigate between potentially conflicting worlds, tensions can occur and the gap between their expectations and the reality shock they experience when they eventually begin teaching has been described as "shattered dreams" (Friedman, 2004, p. 312).
The work of teachers at all stages is complex, and this complexity can increase as pre-service teachers encounter the content of their courses and begin to experience the work of teachers in their school field placements. A focus on the developing professional identity of pre-service teachers is timely given the issues of retention and resilience in beginning teachers (Beltman, Mansfield & Price, 2011). Developing a strong, coherent teacher identity in beginning teachers is related to teacher retention, teacher resilience and teacher effectiveness, particularly in the early years of the profession (Mansfield, Beltman & Price, 2014). Understanding how pre-service teacher professional identity develops over the duration of a teacher education program will assist teacher educators to better prepare pre-service teachers for the rigours of teaching and may shed light on how to engage in "a productive process of constructing their professional identities" (Izadinia, 2013, p. 695). The next section of the paper provides a brief overview of how teacher identity has been examined, particularly in its early stages during pre-service courses, including studies using drawings as a research method.
There have been some studies that have used drawings to research pre-service teacher identity. Brand and Dolloff (2002) asked music education students in China and North America, to draw their ideal teachers and themselves as teachers. There were some cultural differences with Chinese students, for example, having a more fluid view of the potentially competing identities of musician and of teacher, and North American pre-service teachers representing classrooms as organised and orderly, and ideal teachers with smiles and visible hearts. Drawings of the pre-service teachers' actual selves indicated uncertainties regarding classroom management, leading the authors to suggest that drawings can be valuable as starting points for reflection and discussion in class.
Dawn Bennett has also examined the potentially conflicting identities of musicians preparing to become teachers (Bennett, 2013; Freer & Bennet, 2012). Using surveys and drawings of music majors in Australia and the US, Freer and Bennett (2012) examined whether subjective (the way they see themselves) and objective (the way others see them) identities were congruent. Participants were asked three times to draw themselves as a musician and to describe this. The drawings occurred in the context of surveys that asked about them as musician, as music teachers and as teachers đ what kind of music teacher or musician they hoped as well as feared becoming. Participants were more confident about their longer established musical identities and some feared that their focus on music teaching would detract from their performance skills as musicians.
In a second study Bennett (2013) examined surveys, drawings and journals of a range of pre-service classroom music and music performance teachers over the semester of an education methods unit which included peer teaching activities. Asked to draw a 'teaching situation' rather than themselves as teachers, changes over the semester could be seen. For example, there was an increasing understanding of the role of teacher-student relationships, greater confidence about their ability to become a teacher and often less teacher-centred drawings.
Focusing on the teaching of mathematics, Utley and Showalter (2007) used drawings to find out how pre-service teachers viewed themselves as either teacher- or child-centred mathematics teachers. The research indicated that two thirds of the pre-service teachers drew a teacher-centred classroom while the other third were more student-centred. Changes over time were also evident when Katz et al. (2011) found a significant transformation of identity from a teacher-centred to a more student-centred approach to teaching, during a semester where pre-service teachers (first, second or third year students in a primary course) engaged in a voluntary after school science project. Coughlin (2001) analysed 40 pre-service teachers' drawings before and after a school based placement. The first drawing tended to be stereotypical, but post-placement the teacher was no longer the focal point with the inference being that they saw themselves differently after experiencing the reality of the classroom. In a one year postgraduate program in Australia a study used interviews, graphing and drawings to help bring beliefs about teachers and teaching to the surface (Glass, 2011). Later drawings in one case study showed greater complexity and in conjunction with other data demonstrated a complex inner struggle of "frustrations, disappointments, concerns, fears and joys" (p. 141) as the participant developed the teacher self he aspired to be.
In an interesting study, Murphy, Delli, Edwards and Meaghan (2004) compared the beliefs about good teaching of second graders, pre-service and inservice teachers using drawings, a survey and open ended questions. The results were similar across all groups and indicated that good teachers were seen as caring, polite and not boring and that, according to the drawings, good teachers and teaching are characterised by "student centred instruction, happy students, teachers who are standing or moving about, inferring that active teaching leads to active learning" (p. 87). The findings indicated that by the second grade students already had firm beliefs about good teachers and teaching, so by the time an individual is in a teacher education program they would have had many years of observation and experience to shape such beliefs.
Specifically, the research question guiding the present study was: How do beginning pre-service teachers graphically represent the teacher they hope to become? Drawings were used as a method of data collection to enable insight into how beginning pre-service teachers envision themselves as the teacher. In choosing drawing as the method for collecting data about pre-service teachers' understandings of themselves as the teacher, we acknowledge that the drawings will not necessarily be works of art in themselves. It is not their capacity to draw that is of interest, rather what they draw in rendering their vision of themselves as the teacher.
Primary and early childhood pre-service teachers were in a combined first year program. Data collection for this group occurred in a performing arts unit and pre-service teachers in the unit were comfortable working in multimedia. Data collection occurred near the end of Semester One in the last 30 minutes of workshops. Secondary participants completed their drawings during workshops in a unit preparing them for their first school field placement. Drawings were collected in the first week of Semester Two in their first workshop entitled Uncovering the kind of teacher you plan to be: Expectations, assumptions and reflections. Workshop activities encouraged participants to think about their own personal teaching philosophy, and drawings were included with other activities such as discussing attitudes to and relationships with students, and relationships with colleagues, parents and carers.
All drawings were photocopied then given an individual identification number. The drawings were coded according to the content of what was drawn in them, in a similar way to Murphy et al, (2004) where drawings were analysed by using the unique features of each image and what was included in all drawings. This is consistent with the method of content analysis used by Rose (2012). That is, the drawings were coded inductively according to the key elements found in the drawings (teacher, students, artefacts) and irrespective of interpretations, the drawings contained or did not contain those elements. Artefacts, or physical objects related to teaching, ranged from a sketchy representation of a desk, to detailed representations of a whole classroom environment.
Authors 1 and 2 independently coded all the drawings according to whether they contained teachers, students or artefacts, or all possible combinations of those aspects. Discrepancies were discussed until agreement was reached. A postgraduate research student, with experience in visual coding, who had not been part of the previous coding discussions, recoded all drawings. An overall reliability of 0.89 was obtained which is above the suggestion that overall reliability of 0.80 is a "reasonable minimum" (Slavin, 2007, p. 193). The 13 discrepancies were re-examined by the first two researchers and the final coding confirmed. The use of multiple coders may also be seen as a form of triangulation (Berg, 1995). Triangulation in any form adds validity and credibility to an investigation (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984).
|Category name||Category description||Frequency|
|Teacher and students and artefacts||Drawing clearly includes a teacher, students and artefacts (objects related to teaching).||74|
|Teacher and students only||Drawing includes a teacher and one or more students. No artefacts of teaching are present.||22|
|Teacher only||Drawing is of a teacher alone; no students or artefacts.||14|
|Teacher and artefacts only||Drawing contains a teacher with some artefacts. No students are present.||4|
|Metaphors||Drawings (explained by accompanying text) represent teachers using metaphors. No teacher, students or artefacts are present.||4|
|Artefacts only||Drawing includes teaching artefacts only. No teacher or students are present.||3|
|Students only||Drawing only includes students.||1|
|Other||No clear artefacts, teacher or student or explanation.||3|
Figure 1: Teacher, students and artefacts category example
In less complex drawings which still included a teacher, students and artefacts, the depiction of the teacher was based on the notion of the teacher as an important focus for children and with some of the artefacts of teaching. In Figure 2, for example, the teacher is seen as a happy individual, smiling and telling jokes to maintain interest. His enactment of his teaching identity can be viewed as a capacity to encourage the enjoyment of learning in the sciences. He sees learning as fun and as the way to engage the students. The size of the teacher is relevant as he is in a position of authority in front of the class. The tie and collared shirt depicting the conservative nature of the way teachers might portray themselves is also indicative of the drawings in this category.
Figure 2: Teacher, students and artefacts category example
Figure 3: Teacher and students category example
Figure 4: Teacher only category example
Figure 5: Teacher and artefacts category example
Figure 6: Metaphor category example
Figure 7: Artefacts only category example
The large number of pre-service teachers involved in the study (N=125) provides an opportunity to add to the existing literature on emergent teacher identity using arts based methods to enable a greater 'voice' to the participants. Drawing allows for the expression of the self that may not be heard through surveys or questionnaires (Mitchell et al., 2011). The majority of drawings indicated a confident, caring, nurturing teacher without reference to what might be the reality of classrooms. Ganesh (2011, p. 238) suggested that "drawings can permit expression of feeling and imagery, and allow for defining and redefining shared attitudes", and the joy and positive expectation of their future work was evident in the drawings of these participants.
Using drawings to examine and reflect on identity can be easily incorporated into workshop activities and as part of the developing and sharing of experiences of teachers and teaching. The opportunities for reflection and discussion of what impinges upon individuals' beliefs about teaching and their developing identity can emerge from the drawings and reveal "the nuances and ambivalences in people's views of teachers, as well as the historical, social, cultural, and personal stereotypes that can inform our professional knowledge of teacher education" (Weber & Mitchell, 1996, p. 312). As suggested by Utley and Showalter (2007), "self-reflection can make clear existing beliefs about being a teacher and therefore has the potential to make changes in these perceptions and beliefs" (p. 10).
The use of drawings has enabled an exploration of beginning pre-service teachers' professional identity. The outcomes of the research indicate further questions to be answered in relation to the process. Identity is contextual (Gee, 2000) and shaped by interplay of the personal and the contextual, with potential conflict, for example, between the personal and the professional (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009). Pre-service teachers in other studies have reported a tension between the expectations of the school and the university and that the teacher they want to be is not valued in a school (Beijaard et al., 2004). The story of learning to teach is a difficult one and can by highly conflictual (Britzman, 2003), but in the drawings of the participants of this study, conflict and difficulties were not present.
For teacher educators, an important role could be one of supporting pre-service teachers to develop the awareness that the image they have of themselves and the reality of the classroom could be different. As suggested by Brand & Dolloff (2002), the examination of drawings by both pre-service teachers and educators may provide an appropriate way forward to understand the reality of the work of teachers. Post-placement reflection where any tensions and conflicts can be identified and pre-service teachers helped to make sense of their emergent teacher identity is an opportunity to use drawings to focus on the "images and ownership" of that identity (Bennett, 2013, p. 55). Such reflections and discussions would help pre-service teachers to apply knowledge acquired from teacher education programs into workplace situations in the future. Similarly, pre-service teachers could be made aware of the supportive and practical role that other adults play in the resilience of pre-service and early career teachers in discussions about the content of drawings.
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|Authors: Dr Susan Beltman is an Associate Professor in the School of Education at Curtin University. She worked for many years as a school psychologist and teaches undergraduates in special needs and mentoring units, and postgraduate research students. Current research interests include mentoring (university and community), and teacher resilience.
Dr Christine Glass is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, Murdoch University. Originally a primary teacher, she has taught and held leadership positions in schools and the University. Current research interests include developing understandings of why individuals choose teaching, teacher identity, and the use of art-based research methods. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://profiles.murdoch.edu.au/myprofile/christine-glass/
Dr Judith Dinham holds postgraduate qualifications in both education and arts practice. She is a Senior Lecturer at Curtin University where she has developed and leads the Arts Education program. Her current research interests relate to the role of the arts in the 21st century educational environment. Email: email@example.com Web: http://oasisapps.curtin.edu.au/staff/profile/view/J.Dinham
Dr Beryl Chalk's career spans many years teaching early childhood in primary schools in Western Australia in which she valued both performing arts and visual arts as a context for learning. At university level she has taught undergraduate literacy, drama, media and visual arts and performing arts. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Bich H. N. Nguyen, now a classroom teacher, was a research assistant in the School of Education at Curtin University. Her research interests include systemic functional linguistics, Aboriginal education, and language teaching methodology. She has worked as a research assistant on projects connected to teacher resilience and identity. Email: email@example.com
Please cite as: Beltman, S., Glass, C., Dinham, J., Chalk, B. & Nguyen, B. H. N. (2015). Drawing identity: Beginning pre-service teachers' professional identities. Issues in Educational Research, 25(3), 225-245. http://www.iier.org.au/iier25/beltman.html