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Title: A comparative study of teachers' professional identities in state and private primary schools in China
Author: Liu, Haoran
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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Teacher professional identities (TPIs) need to be considered as crucial to link teachers' personal experiences with the social and professional changes needed for improved learning and developmental skills in schools. In the context of China's social transformation and educational reform, private schools have become increasingly popular among parents who seek educational opportunities for their children to improve their developments and life chances. The private sector has grown significantly with five times increase in numbers of students enrolled in private primary schools between 1996 to 2003 (Shanghai Education Science Research Institute, 2004: 3). Despite policy changes, the Chinese government began to improve its regulations on establishing private schools by providing policy support for non-profit private schools and prohibiting profit-led private schools and the controls of foreign entities for providing China's nine-year compulsory education (Ministry of Justice of People's Republic of China, 2018). Against this background, a growing number of college graduates and qualified teachers work in the non-state sectors1. Due to the limited knowledge of the nature and diversity of private schools, evidence of the roles and impact of private schools in developing countries remain insufficient (Ashley et al., 2014). Similarly, teachers' learning and professional experiences in private schools has been long-neglected topic in the field of teacher education and professionalism. In this research project, I aim to compare how teachers construct their identities to strategically negotiate the meaning of their work in both private and state schools in County Nanqi (a pseudonym) in China. I began this research project with a broad view of identity as a process through which a person understands his or her values, relationship to the world and possibilities for the future. I gradually developed the research aims by comparing how state school teachers and private school teachers draw on multiple personal, professional and cultural resources in forming their narratives to provide the distinctive and common features of their educational values and experiences. In particular, I focus on the notion of agency - teachers' strategic capacities to question and negotiate dominant discourses to achieve their own educational value and well-being in teaching. A constructivist perspective had guided the choice of a qualitative approach to inquiry in this study. From February to August 2016, I visited four schools (two state schools and two private) to conduct interviews with 16 teachers and 4 school managers in Nanqi. Employing the research strategy of narrative inquiry and comparative analysis in the tradition of grounded theory, I suggested a two-dimensional matrix that demonstrates the common features among the 16 participant teachers and identified different types and orientations of teachers' identities and commonalities across teacher cases in four different state and private schools in this research context: 1) transcendence; 2) determination; 3) enhancement; and 4) control. This research study found fewer differences in teachers' narratives between the four school cases; there were more differences among the 16 teachers in interpreting and reacting to changing school contexts in China. Meanwhile, ambiguities, tensions as well as culturally specific references coexisted in TPIs and individual teachers' pursuit of integrity and purpose at work. This study's unique contributions lie in its innovative design in investigating teachers in both state schools and private schools, and in embedding TPIs in different school contexts in China. The comparative typology from the matrix of TPIs could serve as a means to help teachers further identify, articulate and, if necessary, justify their sense of their professional identities. This study also provides some critical reflections on the issues of language and culture, as well as the researcher's identity in conducting an empirical study to better understand teachers' experiences and the formation of their professional identities in different school contexts in China.
Supervisor: Sammons, Pam ; Menter, Ian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available