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Teacher identity and power relationships in contexts of change : a case study of teachers

Overton, Jennifer L. (now known as Johnston, Jennifer Louise) (2006). Teacher identity and power relationships in contexts of change : a case study of teachers. PhD Thesis, Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Thesis
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Author Overton, Jennifer L. (now known as Johnston, Jennifer Louise)
Title Teacher identity and power relationships in contexts of change : a case study of teachers
Institution Charles Darwin University
Publication Date 2006
Thesis Type PhD
Subjects 1301 - Education Systems
1399 - Other Education
Abstract This qualitative research project employs a critical case study approach to examine the effects of change on teachers. It uses the concept of identity to investigate the deeper personal and professional implications of change. Open-ended interviews with eight early childhood teachers provide the data, which are analysed using a three-tiered approach.

The first level of analysis utilises a narrative approach, storying the interviews. This summarises the information for the reader and provides background understandings about each of the teachers. The second level of analysis interrogates the data using a grounded theory approach and arrives at three themes of change, power and identity, with their accompanying categories and sub-categories. The third level of analysis expands on the previous analyses and employs a discourse analytic approach using Gee’s (1999) framework of 18 analytical questions, in conjunction with the research questions, to develop further understandings from the teachers’ perceptions of their identities in contexts of change.

The key findings relate to the interconnected issues of teacher professionalism, the actions of the education system towards teachers, and the relationship between teachers’ identity and change. The study has evidenced the ways in which the actions of the educational system shape the value that teachers assign to themselves and their working lives and corrode teachers’ sense of value to their employer. In contexts of ongoing educational change, teachers experience some degree of personal and professional uncertainty and instability. This puts teachers at risk of eroding the residual goodwill that exists between teachers and the education system. Marked disparities in how issues of professionalism are understood also place teachers in a position of uncertainty and conflict and create the need for self-protective behaviours on their part. In turn, this can diminish teachers’ commitment to teaching tasks and has direct implications for teacher effectiveness and student learning.

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