'Now but not yetness’: Portraits of secondary English teachers in the making

Dutton, J. (Speaker), Jacqueline Manuel (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


This paper presents the key findings from a study that traced the process of ‘becoming’ (Britzman, 1991) inherent in learning to teach. The research explored the nature and role of prior experiences and initial beliefs about the self as English teacher in shaping the professional identity of four pre-service English teachers in New South Wales, Australia, as they made their journey through Initial Teacher Education (ITE). An innovative approach to reflective practice was employed with participants constructing and then annotating narratives written at key points in the ITE program. The annotative techniques unsettled the prior hegemonic beliefs and facilitated an imagined ‘conversation’ with self and the voices of significant others from the broader educational context (see also Brookfield, 2016). A strong body of research has noted the resilience of initial teacher beliefs (Goodwyn, 2012; Heinz, 2015; Klassen, Al-Dhafi, Hannok & Betts, 2011; Manuel & Hughes, 2006). The scaffolded narrative annotations utilized in this research investigated this tendency by offering a curated and creative borderline space in which pre-service teachers could make connections between who they are and what they know. In creating a qualitative space that was conducive to processes of experimentation, hypothesising and becoming (Batchelor, 2012), the annotated reflections offer a viable and effective alternative to more mundane and often formulaic approaches to narrative reflection in ITE. The research findings highlight the range of experiences that pre-service English teachers bring to their ITE and the significance of the internalised set of beliefs and assumptions about self as English teacher that inform their professional work and learning. English teaching is a career they have chosen for passionate reasons relating to their love of English, their belief in the importance of teaching and for the contributions they anticipate they will make to nurturing the learning and growth of their students. The findings offer insights into areas of commonality concerning pre-service English teacher motivations, development of professional identity as English teachers and the nature of the transition to teaching. Elements of the transition that were identified included a non-linear pattern whereby the gaze of the pre-service teachers moved both outwards from self (to an awareness of broader contextual factors and student needs) and also inwards to considerations of the teaching self (see also Conway & Clark, 2003). This ‘nimbleness of gaze’ involved the capacity to modify and re-direct gaze depending on contextual requirements. The research highlights how the pre-service teachers conceptualised their journey as an inevitable period of transition and embraced the ‘now-but-not-yetness’ of the process, confident that it is shaping necessary growth and laying the foundations for life-long professional and personal learning. Taken together, the participants’ narratives reveal a pattern of passion, altruism and thoughtful enthusiasm for subject English and teaching that is both rewarding and reassuring for the future of the profession. In the current context of curriculum debates, increasing teacher regulation and early career teacher attrition (Buchannan, Prescott, Schuck, Aubusson, & Louviere, 2013; Manuel & Carter, 2016), this research has implications for ITE and the broader English teaching profession in that it offers a detailed portrait of the pre-service teacher’s sense of self as English teacher and the role of ITE and government policy on teachers’ levels of commitment to and investment in their decision to teach.
Period23 Jun 2018
Held at2018 IFTE (International Federation for the Teaching of English)/NATE (National Association for Teaching of English) Annual Conference:
Event typeConference
LocationBirmingham, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational