Navigating Teacher Identity in Evolving Technological Contexts in Irish Classrooms

  • Dara Cassidy

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

This research set out to explore how teachers are adapting to changes to the nature of the profession of teaching associated with the widespread permeation of information and communication technology (ICT) in schools and the wider society. ICT is changing the landscape of teaching in ways that present many enhancement opportunities, but the journey from policy statements and strategies to acceptance and implementation on the ground is a complex one. Such strategies are mediated by the complex web of diverse perspectives emerging from the individual lives and professional experiences of the teachers tasked with implementing them.

The sociocultural concept of identity was chosen as a framework to explore teachers’ responses to this changing environment from the context of the personal, political, and professional elements that constitute the landscape within which teachers operate. Within this research, teacher identity is conceptualised as part of a wider personal identity that is multi-dimensional and fluid. ICT is theorised as a tool that acts to mediate many of the processes involved in teaching.

The main questions the research sought to answer are:
1. How do teachers navigate their professional identities in an increasingly technology-mediated social and education context?
2. How do aspects of teacher identity mediate the integration of ICT into teachers’ practices?

In gathering the data, interviews with a biographical focus were employed to encourage teachers to recount their career journeys and their experience of, and engagement with, ICT over the course of their teaching careers.

Thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006) was used to analyse the teachers’ narratives in light of key themes identified in the teacher identity literature and emerging themes that were identified in the interviews themselves. Five themes were identified across the teacher narratives:
• Attitudes and beliefs
• Autonomy
• Teaching landscape
• Affective aspects
• Professional learning

The teachers in this study were found to experience the changing teaching and technological landscape in a variety of ways, spanning enthusiasm, overwhelm, concern, vulnerability, uncertainty and tension. These personal experiences and how they navigated them had implications for how they choose to engage with ICT in their professional lives.

The implications for approaches to teacher professional development that seek to embed the use of ICT in schools and foster a more student-centred and constructivist approaches to education is discussed.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorJoanne Hughes (Supervisor) & James Nelson (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Teacher professional identity
  • Teacher professional development
  • Teacher learning
  • ICT integration
  • Technology in the classroom
  • Teaching with technology
  • Social media
  • Smartphones
  • School environment
  • Teacher autonomy

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