Navigating staffroom stories: Beginning health and physical education teachers' micropolitical experiences of the staffroom

Year: 2012

Author: Christensen, Erin

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Within the burgeoning literature concerning beginning teacher transition, professional development and learning several studies have unpacked the micropolitical context of the school. However, clearly absent is any sense of the micropolitical context of the staffroom, the place in which teachers spend the majority of their non-teaching school time. This paper reports broadly on the findings and conclusions of a doctoral study, a narrative inquiry into beginning Health and Physical Education (HPE) teachers' experiences of the staffroom. It explores the often unintentional, unofficial and unspoken elements of the first year of teaching, the experience and navigation of what Sparkes' (1990) describes as the micropolitical context of the HPE staffroom.

Following the transition and first year of three beginning teachers in Australia, this study adopted Clandinin and Connelly's (2000) research methodology of narrative inquiry. As such, it embraced a particular view of micropolitical experience as a storied phenomenon, and narrative as the method for inquiring into the storied experiences of beginning teachers within the staffroom (Clandinin & Murphy, 2009). The study drew on Billet's (2001) understanding of workplace learning, Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, capital and field, and Clandinin and Connelly's (1995) notion of personal practical knowledge and professional knowledge landscapes to understand beginning teachers' experiences of the staffroom.

The significance of understanding beginning teachers' micropolitical experiences of the staffroom and the resonances emerging between and across their narrative accounts has implications for a variety of stakeholders in teacher education and induction. With the diverse manifestation and impact of the unintentional and unplanned elements of workplace learning for beginning teachers, this doctoral study has implications not only for beginning teachers, but also for teachers, staffrooms, schools, universities, policy makers, and employing and registration authorities. These implications relate not only to school induction practices, but also to the extent to which schools and other staffroom members are held accountable for the provision of a supportive workplace environment for beginning teachers.