Emerging professional teacher identity of early childhood development / foundation phase pre-service teachers : an interplay of dispositions.
Professional teacher identity features prominently in current debates on teacher education and teacher development. Arguments for the construction of a professional teacher identity emphasize its importance in bringing about a commitment to teaching and the culture of teaching in teachers (Hammerness, Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005). Development of a positive professional teacher identity is therefore useful in making teachers commit to their work. To cultivate a commitment to teaching and a culture of teaching and learning, supporting pre-service teachers in developing a positive professional teacher identity can be an option. In this regard, those responsible for educating teachers should understand how pre-service teacher construct professional teacher identity in order to provide the necessary support for developing a positive professional teacher identity. This study explored the emerging professional teacher identity of Early Childhood Development/ Foundation phase pre-service teachers to understand how they construct this identity. Six pre-service teachers drawn from an ECD/FP teacher education programme from a selected university in South Africa participated in the study. The study explored the pre-service teachers’ personal and professional identities and examined how they connect in the process of constructing professional teacher identity. The study made use of the narrative case study research within the qualitative interpretive approach. Data for this study were in form of narratives which were obtained from poster narratives, semi-structured interviews, reflective writings and teaching practice journals. Narrative analysis was used as a method of analyzing the data for emerging personal identities and professional teacher identities. To understand how their professional teacher identities emerge, two theories from a socio-cultural perspective; Habitus (Bourdieu, 1977) and Community of Practice (Wenger, 1998) were used as analytic frameworks. Through habitus, influences from the person that impacted on the emerging identity were identified, while modes of belonging provided lenses to examine how person (habitus) interacted with the context in the process of identity construction. The findings indicate that the contexts and contents of the pre-service teachers’ lives shaped dispositions of love, care, compassion, service and knowledge which they transformed into professional teacher identity. These dispositions interplayed in the process of becoming teachers resulting in the emerging self. The findings confirm that the personal is a crucial element in the construction of professional teacher identity. These findings have implications for Teacher Education programmes in preparing quality teachers. The influences of personal identities on their professional identities should be examined to find the kind of support needed by pre-service teachers for the development of a positive professional teacher identity.