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Negotiating a Professional Self: The Shifting or Stability of Identity in Novice Teachers


California is in the midst of a teacher shortage crisis in part due to poor retention of new teachers and because of novice teacher attrition. In response to this crisis, some teacher education programs have emphasized equitable teaching practices in urban schools so that teachers can experience more success in the classroom. These programs produce teachers with a strong teacher identity towards reflection and student centered practices. This is important since teacher identity manifests in classroom practice and commitment to the field. However, studies show that teachers with strong identities are often confronted with different beliefs and practices during their early teaching years. New teachers often find that the contexts and cultures present in their new schools leave them feeling that they do not have the agency needed to operationalize the identity they have formed. Thus, new teachers often shift their identities in order to align them with the ideas present in their new schools. Using frame analysis, this qualitative study explores how novice teachers interpret their role as new teachers and how this affects identity development.

In this study, an analysis of digital video projects completed when the participants were near completion of their teacher education program was done in order to determine the nature of identity before the participants began their first year of teaching. Interviews were conducted to uncover teachers’ interpretations of how and why their identity developed over the course of their first year.

Analysis of the data revealed that the participants took on different archetypal patterns that were a combination of their personality, pre-service identity, disposition toward learning, and their notion of how to handle the insecurities of being a first year teacher. These factors led them to frame support structures at their school differently, and this framing led each teacher archetype to act in different ways within their school. This study’s contributions to research and theory, as well as implications for policy, practice, and future research are also discussed.

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