Professional identity and pedagogical space: Negotiating difference in teacher workplaces

Year: 2004

Author: Peeler, Eleanor, Kostogriz, Alex

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper explores ‘spatial struggle’ in the formation of professional identities of overseas born teachers. The basis of this struggle arises from a limited number of subject positions available for them in pedagogical spaces of the Australian system of education. We argue that relations of power/professional knowledge in teacher workplaces as well as the binary strategy of ‘us’ and ‘them’ generate marginal locations for overseas born teachers within schools. This construction of marginality is informed not only by discourses of what counts as being a professional but also by the conception of workplace – spaces of the school, staffroom and classroom – as monocultural, pre-given and bounded entities (McGregor, 2003). By rethinking workplaces as relational, as spaces that are connected to other sociocultural places as well as spaces of semiotic flows, we can also rethink the professional becoming of overseas born teachers. This involves a critical understanding of their positionality, which can be conceptualised as a struggle for voice within “a cacophony of past and present voices, lived experiences and available practices” (Britzman, 1991, p. 8). It is because of this polyphony of voices and multiplicity of experiences that the process of professional identity formation for ‘alien’ teachers should be seen as becoming in continual negotiation of power/knowledge relations within workplaces. Recognising this dynamic is important for re-constructing our pedagogical spaces and, in turn, for a more equitable workplace practices.