The becoming colleague’s project: exploring narratives of early career teacher emerging professional identities in rural and remote Queensland schools.

Year: 2013

Author: Crosswell, Leanne, Willis, Jill, Morrison, Chad, Gibson, Andrew

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

For early career teachers, the first months of teaching is a time of enormous excitement and also high anxiety.  These early teaching experiences are critical as they influence early career teachers professional efficacy, job satisfaction, career length and future teaching quality (Day & Gu, 2010).  Exploring ways to support and retain high quality graduates continues to be an ongoing concern for the Australian teaching profession in general, and particularly for the rural and remote schools that are often their first places of employment.  Recent research indicates that early career teachers require ongoing support as they develop confidence in their own professional practice (Crosswell & Beutel, 2013) but more importantly, as they negotiate their emerging teacher identities (Morrison, 2012).  This paper outlines the design of an innovative project that is exploring the professional identity formation and resilience of early career teachers. These teachers have been part of a targeted pre-service program to prepare them for rural and remote teaching.  A previous paper reported on how QUT and Education Queensland have worked together with a cohort of pre-service teachers to illuminate challenges associated with early career teaching in rural and remote settings and better prepare them for it (see Willis et. al, 2012). This project has evolved to include research aimed at capturing the unfolding and formative experiences of these teachers by asking: What social and individual practices enhance early career teacher resilience and identity formation in rural and remote settings?
The project called Becoming Colleagues honours the voices and experiences of early career teachers.  From their first week of teaching in 2013 we have been gathering the perspectives and listening to the stories of seven beginning teachers. Five of these teachers have also been involved as co-researchers throughout research design and implementation. This paper will give an overview of the project purpose, design and progress and report on the emerging findings in relation to the negotiation of emerging teacher identify and resilience.   Implications of this project include enhanced understandings of what individual and contextual factors promote early career teacher resilience and identity formation that is productive and enduring. These outcomes will contribute to how we prepare future pre-service teachers, how the profession builds capacity in rural and remote school districts and across the workforce generally.