Constructing teachers’ professional identities

Philippa Cordingley, Bart Crisp, Paige Johns, Thomas Perry, Carol Campbell, Miranda Bell and Megan Bradbury.

published 28 February 2019 updated 5 January 2022
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This study aims at examining how teachers’ professional identities are constructed in seven contrasting education systems. The jurisdictions - Berlin, Chile, Kenya, Ontario, Scotland, Singapore and Sweden - were selected to achieve an economic and geographical balance and a range of contexts in relation to educational performance and teacher supply and working conditions.

Key findings from this review highlighted a number of complex and overlapping factors, which coalesce into four broad issues and processes that are key to the construction of teachers’ professional identities:

  • Individual and contextual factors, within which teachers adopt, adapt and integrate professional characteristics to their working contexts in unique ways. The professional behaviours underpinning such adaptation and integration are embodied in expectations that teachers will think and behave professionally, by adopting professional characteristics, knowledge and attitudes, that are prescribed nationally, regionally and at school level and integrating these into their practice; and developing a personal professional pathway through these expectations and the demands of their roles.
  • Involvement in a constantly evolving, ongoing process of interpretation and reinterpretation of experiences.
  • The integration of a number of sub-identities flowing from different working contexts and professional relationships (and their implications for collective efficacy). These important professional contexts often include networks, partnerships and collaborative activities within and across schools, communities and across the system.
  • Agency, which requires teachers to be active in the process of developing professional knowledge and skills so that individual and collaborative learning is realised through the activity of the learner and, in turn, to individual and collective efficacy.