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Title: Beginning teachers' identity and agency : a case study of L2 English teachers in South Korea
Author: Song, Minjeong
ISNI:       0000 0004 6501 0373
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Beginning teachers' first years of professional teaching have been extensively researched as a transformative time with a focus on their coping with praxis shock. Whilst the subtext of the literature often positions entrant teachers as in need of support and guidance at large, little research has concerned their agency at work, that is, how they create and recreate their opportunities for learning and development. The present study follows four beginning L2 English teachers' first year of teaching in two public high schools in South Korea and aims to understand how they navigate, make sense of, and act in and on the materialised worlds of teaching. To be specific, the study explores the thesis that beginning teachers' progression from university to work brings about their experiencing of consequential transition (Beach, 1999), that is, reshaping of identity, knowledge and skills. Drawing on Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner and Cain (1998), the study posits one's identity as objectified self-images which organise the person's actions in and on practices, hence a tool of agency, and applies the concept of identity as an analytic tool to examine the dialectic of person and practices. Also, Hedegaard's (2012) model, especially the notions of a social situation of development and an activity setting, is utilised to further delineate the dynamics entailed in beginning teachers' emergent identity and practices. The participants were interviewed prior to and at multiple time points throughout the school year 2013. Classroom observation was used to capture their emergent identity and practices and informed the interviews. The findings revealed some embedded contradictions which fuelled the beginning teachers' ambivalence towards how to objectify themselves as professionals. Their access to the world of teaching was granted based on the cultural logic that to be a teacher is to be proficient in subject matter, whilst their knowledge of pedagogy was almost ignored. In the classroom, however, their linguistic competence, that is, the core of their identity, was almost dismissed as irrelevant, since the virtue of subject teaching was gauged by its utility for test performance and achievement. Such a forceful motive of teaching to the test meant that the novice teachers all had to acquire the new identity of an exam coach. They also had to cope with other institutional demands, for which they had no prior formal training and structured guidance or support on site. They thus had to become self-reliant to improvise the kind of school identity expected of them. Especially, homeroom care duties were experienced as a make-or-break challenge for the new teachers. The findings point to suggestions for how to assist beginning teachers' transition to professional teaching in the South Korean context. First, the nation's initial teacher education (ITE) should expand how teaching and learning to teach are conceptualised in order to enhance the relevance of beginning teachers' initial identity to what happens in school practices. Second, ITE should incorporate more practice-oriented pedagogy to assist student teachers' development of true concepts for resilient initial identity. Finally, schools should promote teachers to engage with relational work (Edwards, 2010a) so that schools could create a culture in which inquiry and collaboration are nurtured for sustained professional dialogue and interaction, where new teachers also are invited and supported to question and clarify what matters in practices and pave their ways to become resilient professionals.
Supervisor: Thompson, Ian ; Burn, Katharine Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available