Professional Learning for Children's Centre Leaders
This thesis investigates the experiences of Children’s Centre leaders of the National Professional Qualification in Integrated Centre Leadership (NPQICL) who find themselves in a newly developed role and lacking a professional identity. Its aim is to explore the developing professional identities of NPQICL participants from their own perspectives, focusing on ways in which their professional identities are developing and how, correspondingly, these might be better supported on the NPQICL. Clarification of core ideas embedded in these aims theoretically and conceptually reveals that professions are publicly shaped in line with established traditions, and therefore often prescribed. Processes of professional development are correspondingly seen as largely publicly organised processes of professional learning and/or acculturation. However, a key area for research is the interface between publicly shaped expectations of those learning to be professionals and the particular needs and expectations of course participants themselves especially with regard to how they see themselves as Children’s Centre leaders. Because this area is fluid, uncertain and shaped partly by professionals themselves it is hard to investigate. A flexible Adaptive Theory research design is selected along with an array of conceptual tools (orienting concepts and a conceptual cluster) which can be modified, discarded or replaced according to the demands of data collected. Using a relatively open-ended data collection device also allows a wide range of potentially revealing data to be ‘storied’ for analysis in order to preserve their individualised nature. Although a process of subjective self-conceptualisation in role can be used to explain how NPQICL participants adapt to expectations from the wider professional community and social context, there is a need to explain how public influences and individual co-constructions of professional identity shaped by professionals themselves are synthesised in individual responses to fluid, uncertain professional identities. The research aims are met by modelling the process of developing a professional identity on the NPQICL as an ‘autobiography’. This conceptual device brings together public and individual influences into a synthesis and allows insight into the experiences of individuals. It explains some of the success of the NPQICL course and some of its dynamics including how the development of Children’s Centre leaders’ identities can be supported in a professional learning programme.