Re-imagining teacher professional identity (formation): Using the palimpsest metaphor to frame social, personal and political complexity

Year: 2016

Author: Patrick, Rachel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teacher professional identity and its formation has been the focus of much research over the past 10-15 years, particularly in relation to early career teachers. Various attempts have been made to shift from structuralist and structuring ways of understanding professional identity to ways that account for the complexity in teachers’ work and identity. This paper explores the metaphor of palimpsest as a way of describing and analysing the multiple facets of teacher identity (Patrick 2010). The palimpsest (like a magic writing pad) is useful for illustrating the relationships between multiple, discursive inscriptions and meanings (including those current and those past) that occur in teachers’ identity work. Extending on Bjerrum Nielsen’s (1996) work in relation to young Norwegian women’s identity formation, I apply this metaphor to teachers. A discussion of understandings and representations of teacher professional identity will be followed by an exploration of the metaphor as a concept for re-imagining the concept and some possible applications for research and practice.