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Borderlands of Possibility: An Interpretive Case Study Exploring the Construction of Professional Identity with Intern Teachers

  • Author / Creator
    Allan, Sharon L
  • Students enrolled in Bachelor of Education degree programs engage in academic study and field experiences that both validate and challenge their existing understandings of who they are and who they are becoming: their professional identity. This interpretive case study explored the ways in which four intern teachers constructed professional understandings during the 15 weeks of their culminating field experience: a borderland space. Ecologically defined as an ecotone, this time in-between - of being a student and becoming a teacher - is a zone of transition, a crossroads of being and becoming. Using a series of conversational interviews where, together, the researcher and the participants explored the experience of living on the borderland, this study revealed the challenges of constructing a professional identity as well as the ways in which these intern teachers gradually, over time and in response to circumstances and professional opportunities, assumed the subject position: teacher. Four essential aspects of this borderland experience have been distilled from the findings of this inquiry and arranged into a conceptual framework to assist teacher educators as they craft curriculum capable of engaging student teachers, intentionally and purposefully, in the consideration of who they are becoming as teachers. Specific recommendations emerging from this inquiry are threefold: first, teacher educators need to explore the ways in which academic coursework prepares student teachers for the relational expectations of the classroom. Second, student teachers should be encouraged to become integrally involved in the life of the school and, more broadly, their educational community; and third, field experience supervisors need to purposefully invite and support conversations with mentor teachers about their critical role as the more capable colleague. This inquiry suggests two points of departure for further research. First, there is need to look more closely at the stories student teachers tell during their final field experience, especially narratives of difficulty, and the ways in which they work to integrate these experiences into the overarching narrative of their lives. Second, while this inquiry focused on student teachers during their final practicum, an essential aspect of their experience was the relationship between the novice and a more capable colleague. In order to deepen and extend our understanding of this in-between time of transition, a crossroads of being and becoming, more needs to be known about the nature of this crucial relationship on these borderlands of possibility.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2015-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3930P11W
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Elementary Education
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Dr. Jill McClay, Department of Elementary Education, University of Alberta
    • Dr. Leah Fowler, Faculty of Education, University of Lethbridge
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Dr. Patrick Lewis, Faculty of Education, University of Regina
    • Dr. Jerine Pegg, Department of Elementary Education, University of Alberta
    • Dr. Anna Kirova, Department of Elementary Education, University of Alberta