University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2012
EventATEE Winter Conference, Professional development of teacher educators: Bringing together policy, practice and research - Coimbra, Portugal
Duration: 2 Apr 20125 Apr 2012


ConferenceATEE Winter Conference, Professional development of teacher educators: Bringing together policy, practice and research


The experience of early career academics is receiving increasing attention and this presentation focuses on the professional learning of academics who are developing as ‘dual professionals’ in a university School of Education. This involves a transition from expertise in one context of professional practice in education to another, unfamiliar, one. This study is based on interviews with nine early career academics and contemporaneous records of a programme designed to support their continuing induction into the School of Education; these academics joined the School in two successive years. It indicates that just as collaborative learning in safe places has been recognised as important for self inquiry, so collaborative conversations with peers in safe places are important for new academics’ professional learning more generally, helping participants to develop a more secure identity, self efficacy and agency. The study also highlights the importance of understanding workplace complexity as a means to understand the nature of this process of development.
As in other studies, these new academics felt dislocated In Sfard’s and Prusak’s (2005) terms, their ‘actual’ identity relates to a different past, while they are not able to envision what their role will comprise if and when they become established in their role, so they cannot establish a clear and secure ‘designated’ identity for their future. The study indicates that this induction process should be characterised as one that takes time, involving affective change relating to participants’ identity and life as a whole rather than being a particular event or process embedded in the transition (Banks et al., 1992). While collaboration may be a powerful mode of learning, even in a School in which collaboration is valued and in which the development of learning communities is seen as a key resource for students’ and academics’ learning, the extent to which core responsibilities such as teaching is truly ‘collaborative’ seems limited. Indeed, the data suggest the personal dimension of participants’ biographies also deserves attention, including dispositions and the capacity to learn in a context of complexity derived from continuing change and the multidimensional diversity of the programmes on which participants teach, as well other role responsibilities they have, including working with a wide range of people beyond the university. This analysis concurs with Jarvis’s (2005) view that learning involves the ‘whole person’, including their beliefs and emotions
The teacher educators’ workplace is similarly complex: continuing changes in the role of academics and the nature of their work (Deem and Lucas, 2007; Whitchurch, 2007) are exacerbated by recent and continuing changes in the nature of and roles of universities and of Schools of Education in particular in England. In part, at least, because of the change and complexity of the work of the School, much working knowledge is tacit, which seems to be one reason why many participants found dialogue and reflection so valuable in making sense of practice and the work context. Here, the fact that participants were members of differing communities of practice may have been helpful in providing differing perspectives through which developing knowledge could be tested and adapted. Complexity theory has been found to be a valuable perspective to use, in that it represents organisations as processes of human relating, through which people engage with and construct organisational life, rather than as systems

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