Influences on Beginning Teacher Construing: Beliefs, Stories and Trajectories
This study focuses on the experiences of beginning teachers in the British Army’s training and education branch. The research sought to identity what influenced participants’ construing about teaching and learning, teacher identity, role, and trajectory during initial teacher education. By utilising Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) and Communities of Practice as analytical frameworks, the impact of influences on the construing of the research participants was identified. The research was underpinned by a constructivist and interpretive epistemology and utilised a collaborative, narrative-based case study approach. Interviews, Repertory Grids and Trajectory Targets were used to provide insight into the construing and experiences of the participants during their teacher education. The research was conducted by a former Army officer and data were collected from and analysed with five participants during their teacher education programme. Research data suggested that these beginning teachers were highly influenced by their previous experience as a student and this experience left strong personal biographies and images of teaching that appeared to be maintained throughout their early explorations of professional practice. The beginning teachers in this study appeared to rely heavily on these stable images and constructs during their early practice when classroom 'survival' was paramount and at this point attached little value to the pedagogical content of their teacher education programme. Data further suggested that it is only once these beginning teachers built a level of confidence, began to 'routinise' aspects of their practice, and had the opportunity to validate their initial images of teaching that they become more receptive to other influences such as their teacher education or their community of practice. This confirmed the findings of a number of other studies and, by utilising the theories that underpin PCP, a rationale for this situation was advanced. The implications of the research findings suggest that care must be taken to ensure that teacher education courses are designed to allow the opportunity for beginning teachers to critically analyse and validate their initial beliefs and constructs through the experience of practice before embarking on significant theoretical and practical pedagogical content. It is argued that this initial period of professional practice provides the opportunity for beginning teachers to develop the cognitive and emotive dissonance or 'anxiety' that appears to be required before they are willing to step away from the relative stability and safety of their personal biographies. Based on these research findings a '4-dimensional' pedagogical model (Do, Discover, Diversify, Deepen) is developed to underpin the design of practice-based teacher education programmes.