Identity projects: An ethogenic model of teacher professional learning

Year: 2021

Author: Martin, Jenny

Type of paper: Individual Paper

This paper addresses the need for a theory of teacher learning across the professional continuum centrally focused on teacher agency. Although there is consensus on the need for tailored provision of professional learning opportunities across the professional continuum, how experienced teachers develop in their expertise to improve the quality of their teaching is not well understood. For example, teachers with more than 10 years’ experience report rarely learning anything new or relevant from their participation in professional learning opportunities. Yet it is recognised that teachers need ‘agency’ over their professional learning in order to achieve impact on student learning. The model of Identity Projects is developed in this paper to address this gap by theorising teacher learning as a process whereby teachers effectively take over their own development. Identity Projects is model of personal development theorised by ethogenic social psychologist Rom Harré. The model is developed and illustrated using using data from an instrumental case study of two experienced teachers’ professional learning in primary science. These teachers participated in innovative site-based professional development at a school in Victoria, Australia, when the researcher was employed by their school as their Scientist in Residence. The program involved co-planning and co-teaching inquiry lessons in chemical science with the researcher over two school terms. The main data sources were field notes written during the program and recorded reflective interviews conducted after the conclusion of the program. Positioning Theory informed the definition of teacher agency in the research. This definition is elaborated in the paper and the Identity Projects model is used to explain how the different teachers engaged with the professional learning opportunity and took over their own development. The discussion, drawing on analysis from the study, illustrates how the model accounts for the experienced teachers’ agency, learning and practice development to effectively theorise teacher learning within a dialectic of person and culture. The paper concludes suggesting that Identity Projects supports design for effective professional learning across the professional continuum.