Developing Primary and Secondary Teachers' Identity in STEM

Year: 2017

Author: Sheffield, Rachel, Blackley, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

High attrition rates in the beginning few years of a teaching career of up to 50 % (in the United States) leads to a high level of disillusionment in teaching as a desirable and rewarding profession (Hayes, 2014; Jacques ). This situation is not new and it costs billions of dollars to countries' economies as they seek to address the attrition rates and prevent newly qualified teachers from leaving the profession. Despite changes to and the development of new initial teacher education programs there does not seem to have been any real inroads into the problem and so attrition rates remains high. An important element of becoming a member of a profession is the development of a sense of identity to both a particular group of people and a set of established practices (Trede & McEwen, 2012). Research has linked students' free-hand drawings of their possible self to the development of their professional identity as an educator (eg Beltman, Glass, Dinham, Chalk, & Nguyen, 2015).
This paper examines the developing STEM identity of pre-service teachers in both the primary and secondary initial education programs. It considers how the developing professional identity of pre-service teachers (PSTs) maps with their concerns (Hall & Hord, 1987). Two hundred and fifty PSTs were asked to draw themselves as a STEM (science or mathematics) teacher, describe their future selves, list characteristics of expert teachers and describe their major concerns as pre-service teachers on the threshold to becoming science teachers. Although the diverse group of PSTs included second year primary and secondary and graduate diploma students, unexpectedly many of the characteristics and concerns expressed were similar across the entire contingent. Pre-service teachers felt that successful educators were passionate, patient, knowledgeable and confident and used the words approachable, fun and engaging when describing themselves in their ideal classroom. Pre-service teachers from all cohorts listed a range of concerns including personal concerns (for example, will I get a job) to concerns about managing the behaviour of students and interacting with parents. The majority of PSTs also saw themselves in a teaching or a teacher leadership role in 10 years' time, suggesting that they did view teaching as a career - so what circumvents this from occurring?