Details of Thesis

TitleStories of Buoyancy and Despondency: five beginning teachers’ experiences in their first year in the teaching profession
AuthorMcKenzie, Meagan Louise
InstitutionAustralian Catholic University
Date2005
AbstractThis case study research explores the experiences of five beginning teachers within four Catholic secondary schools in Australia. The research employs a qualitative approach framed within an interpretative paradigm, drawing on perspectives of symbolic interaction to interpret interview and journal data. These perspectives are used, in conjunction with a conceptual framework derived from the relevant literature, to interpret the experiences of five new teachers against the relevant data. The literature typically investigates the stages of teacher development, where the first year is often seen by researchers as a survival year. Key literature themes include the development of self image and the impact school culture has on beginning teachers. There are two other features less often present in the literature but central in this research. One is the life history of the beginning teacher. A second, which is the major notion employed in this study, is that of professional identity and specifically how identity develops once the novice teacher is immersed within the school organisation. Each teacher was interviewed several times during their first year and each kept a journal. The discussion includes matters of comparison and contrast between the five teachers’ experiences. The symbolic interactionist framework seeks to identify the meanings individuals construct of their experiences. These meanings are located from the journal and interview data gathered. Each text is examined both independently, in relation to other texts and in the light of the conceptual framework. A key procedure is to identify critical events which are then analysed and connections made to the experience of other teachers and literature themes. The key findings of the research include developing a new model for understanding the experience of beginning teachers. The research suggests that the current literature on beginning teachers is limited. It neglects beginning teacher individuality and in particular agency and competency and centrally the dynamic and complex interaction between culture and identity. This research seeks to add significantly to the beginning teacher literature.
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