Teacher identity in context : a comparison of Tanzanian with English primary school teachers
The last two decades has seen a plethora of literature from Anglophonic Western countries treating teachers as thinking, feeling, believing, doing human beings. By contrast, primary school teachers in Sub-Saharan Africa are often represented as input-output functions, both causes and casualties as poor quality. An exception is the literature that has explored how the material, systemic and socio-cultural context of low-income countries constrains teachers’ practice. This study sets out to open up a two-way conversation between Tanzanian primary school teachers’ constructs of their occupational identity and models of English teacher identity to be found in literature. In so doing it aims to combine the insights of literature on teacher identity, treated as being culturally situated, with comparativists’ alertness to context. A dialogic hermeneutic epistemological framework is used, within which knowledge creation is modelled as a conversation. Participants in the conversation include the inquirer (myself), individual research participants, the collective identities of Tanzanian and English primary teachers and academic literature. Borrowing from Hall’s conceptualisation of cultural identity, occupational identity is understood as non-essentialist, always in the process of being re-defined as it is negotiated between different individuals and groups within the teaching profession. Tanzanian teachers’ views on their responsibilities, the purpose of education and their relations to others were collected through interviews and discussion groups. These were supported by intensive observation of two schools and more extended conversation with and observation of three focus teachers. Findings are presented in the form of description of schools; personal narratives; teachers’ perceptions of their relations and responsibilities towards pupils, society and the state and teachers’ educational values discussed in relation to their classroom practice. These are drawn together into a theoretical model of the Tanzanian ‘teacher identity landscape’, which accommodates the difference amongst teachers and intergenerational movement in teacher identity. Bernstein’s competence and performance pedagogic modes and their extension to professionalism by Osborn, Broadfoot & McNess are applied to the Tanzanian case. Explicit comparison allows interrogation of the culturally-situated nature of theory developed for the English context to arrive at description of a Tanzanian competence and performance mode of professionalism.