Exploring preservice teacher identity and its reciprocity with resilience and wellbeing during initial teacher education

Year: 2019

Author: McKay, Loraine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The second year of a university degree has a unique set of challenges that can contribute to a decline in academic self-perception and persistence. Furthermore, it is seen as a period where emerging identities that will play an important role in the successful transition into teaching, may be shaped and challenged. This study examines the experiences of eight female preservice teachers in the second year of their undergraduate degree. During this period, they experienced a wider curriculum as their learning extended to subject specialisations and beyond the university context, into schools. This presentation examines the reciprocity that exists between personal identity, professional identity and resilience during the second year of preservice teacher education. Data are taken from a wider study following the participants over the duration of their undergraduate degree. This data set, collected during a full day workshop includes photo narratives, concept maps and poems to explore the intersection of personal and professional identities and the resources that support resilience and wellbeing at this point of the degree. Analysis was undertaken using voice-centred relational methods. The four-step process is suitable for exploring the participants’ narrative accounts as it allows the voice of the individual to be heard while also exposing the role of relationships in shaping people’s experiences. Furthermore, the analysis process can expose how identity and resilience factors interplay within the cultural, political and social structures of the university and schools. Data showed evidence of resilient engagement when learners develop the capacity to manage and negotiate obstacles or barriers in and to learning. This results in higher levels of engagement in the learning process and a stronger sense of wellbeing and professional learning. Explanations of their professional identities had a strong emphasis on relationships, respect and nurturing others. The emphasis on academic achievement appeared to shift from performance orientation to mastery orientation as participants re-evaluated what they deemed to be important for their professional identity. Their sense of belonging at university and the profession was strengthened by collegiality with peers and staff. However, while frustration with institutional processes, and guilt linked with gendered responsibilities threatened their confidence, many participants were actively employing self-care strategies. This study contributes to the literature that suggests second year university students face a range of challenges but with support, it can be an important time for preservice teachers to begin to reconcile personal and professional identity including attention to self-care and wellbeing.