English teachers in the making: portraits of pre-service teachers’ journeys to teaching

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This qualitative case study shapes a series of portraits of secondary English teachers in the making. It explores the narratives of four pre-service English teachers gathered at three key junctures of initial teacher education and traces the process of becoming (Britzman, 1991) inherent in learning to teach. In so doing it explores the nature and role of prior experiences in the initial shaping of beliefs about self as English teacher and investigates the continuities and shifts that are evident as the pre-service English teacher participants undertake their journey to English teaching.

Close textual analysis of the participants’ narratives, reflective annotations and teaching metaphors highlights the range of experiences that pre-service 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 not a default career for the pre-service English teachers in this study. It is a career they have chosen for passionate reasons relating to their love for the subject, 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 participants each reveal a sense of self as English teacher that includes a perception of English as subject capable of empowering individual student growth.

Whilst not generalisable, the findings offer insights into areas of commonality concerning pre-service teacher motivations, development of professional identity as English teacher and the nature of the transition to teaching. The research also sheds light on the use of textual annotations as a means of scaffolding critical reflection during ITE and on the potential use of the theory of Liminality as a conceptual frame for responding to the inevitable challenges and contestations which shape the pre-service teacher’s 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. This ‘nimbleness of gaze’ involves the capacity to modify and re-direct gaze depending on contextual requirements. In the current context of curriculum debates, increasing teacher regulation and early career teacher attrition, 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.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Sydney
  • Manuel, Jacqueline, Supervisor, External person
  • Ewing, Robyn, Advisor, External person
Award date7 Dec 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Initial Teacher Education
  • teacher identity
  • reflection
  • narrative inquiry
  • English teachers
  • pre-service teacher


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