Exploring liminality, teacher identity and socially just but ready teachers

Year: 2019

Author: Smith, Karyn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A review of government policy and discourse in the education sector suggests that questions are being raised about the readiness of teacher education graduates to assume a teaching role. As they move through their program of study students begin the transformation from student to preservice teacher and begin to establish their ‘teacher identity’. This period can be viewed as a period of liminality. Liminality refers to a time of change when one transitions from one state to another; a time of separation from a previous state to a new state of being and understanding (Meyer & Land, 2005; Turner, 1987). The liminal period can be confronting and unsettling for the preservice teacher and can result in reduced attendance or program withdrawal. Yet it also presents a potential space for questioning and challenging and therefore for moulding and forming teacher identity (Cook-Sather, 2006) as well as combining educational theory with professional practice (Rantatalo & Lindberg, 2018). Using a mixed method approach this study sought to investigate the perceptions of preservice teachers regarding their readiness for the teaching role with the purpose of using the data to explore ways initial teacher education (ITE) providers could support preservice teachers and use the period of liminality to assist them in their transition to professional work. The findings revealed that early in their preparatory programs preservice teachers felt confident that by the end of their courses they would be ready to teach. However, during the liminal period of their program their feelings of confidence decreased. Thus, there is an opportunity for ITE providers to take advantage of this period to challenge and support preservice teachers as they explore different teaching and learning approaches and begin to establish teacher identity. By acknowledging preservice teachers’ decreased feelings of confidence and exploiting this period of liminality to assist them as they begin to form their teacher identity, ITE providers can support student retention, deliver more socially just programs and consequently more confident, classroom ready teachers. Further research is needed to explore a variety of curriculum and teaching approaches that could support these initiatives.