Trajectories toward becoming a teacher : exploring the developmental processes of preservice teachers' conceptions of teaching and their teacher identities
“Becoming” is a natural phenomenon that is experienced throughout one’s life, and yet it does not appear to involve a simple process. This study was about how preservice teachers become teachers. As such, it was focused on the developmental processes that preservice teachers experience as their conceptions of teaching and their teacher identities change throughout their teacher education program. Although the two developmental aspects have been importantly considered by teacher educators when setting goals for teacher education and have been popular topics to educational researchers, few studies have explicitly observed how conceptions of teaching and teacher identities are related to each other in preservice teachers’ professional development trajectories. In a longitudinal study that tracked eight preservice teachers for three semesters of their teacher preparation, naturalistic observations of student teaching and semi-structured interviews served as the primary data sources. Data analysis was inductive and interpretative, using the qualitative methods of grounded theory.
All of the preservice teachers in the study experienced conceptual change in their conceptions of teaching toward the direction aligned with their teacher education program, though their developmental patterns varied in terms of nature, speed, and distinctiveness. In the process of conceptual development, preservice teachers’ attention shifted from a focus on self to a focus on students, which I called an outward journey. They also evolved their teacher identities throughout the program with increasing confidence in becoming a teacher every semester. The formation of their teacher identities began by recognizing self as a teacher as positioned by others and continued with self-cultivation as a teacher, a process I called an inward journey. Needing continuous validation and reflection, the two journeys were closely related, sharing some characteristics and mechanism of growth and reciprocally influencing each other. Through interpretation of the data, I concluded that these two journeys cannot be separated from each other but, instead, should be integrated into external and internal development of becoming a teacher. As lifelong learners, preservice teachers are beginning the continual journey of becoming a good teacher throughout their career.