The rehearsal and the performance: Interaction of biographical and situational factors in beginning teacher enculturation

Year: 1994

Author: Nimmo, Graham, Smith, David

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teachers are enculturated into their profession in a variety of ways, through processes which begin in childhood and continue during their preservice education and their professional life. This study examines the enculturation process as experienced by two beginning secondary school teachers in Queensland State schools and evaluates the explanatory potential both of stage theory and teacher socialisation perspectives in accounting for the changes which occurred in the two teachers during their first year of teaching.

This longitudinal study utilises in-depth interviews, stimulated recall and observation of a sampling of lessons in an attempt to explore the nature of the enculturation process. While this triangulation process assists in authenticating data, the overarching conceptual framework for the study reflects a phenomenological perspective in which there is a strenuous effort to capture teacher voice.

The study concludes that socialisation perspectives and stage theory describe similar processes, but that both are inadequate, primarily because they give insufficient attention to the interplay of biographical and contextual factors which shape the enculturation process. Despite the idiosyncratic nature of significant aspects of the enculturation process, however, a number of themes emerge from the experiences of the two teachers involved in the investigation. Three such themes are discussed: viz., the interaction of personal biography and specific professional context to create an idiosyncratic teacher enculturation process; the non-linear nature of teacher development; and the concept of the first year of teaching as, in some sense, representing a dress rehearsal for "real" teaching.