Beginner teachers’ identities are formed by past school experiences, the ideas, and approaches promoted by their teacher education programmes and an ideal of teachers they hope to become (Beauchamp and Thomas, 2011; Anspal, Eisenschmidt and Löfström, 2012). The focus of this study was to understand the possible influence of two different teacher education programmes on beginner teacher identity and the forming thereof during the early years of teaching.
This study was underpinned by an Interpretivist epistemological paradigm, in line with the reiterative process of understanding which marks the fluid progressions of beginner teachers’ identities. The conceptual lens employed in this study consisted of the Possible Selves Theory (Markus and Nurius, 1986), combined with the metaphorical use of “threads”. This study employed a qualitative methodological paradigm, with a comparative case study as research design (Zartman and Goodrick, 2005). Participants were selected by purposive sampling and involved six beginner teachers within their first three years of teaching; three from each teacher education programme (full-time and part-time). Selection criteria stipulated participants had to be within their first three years of teaching, have graduated from either a full-time or part-time teacher education programme, and that part-time participants had to be employed full-time at a school while studying to be selected. Data collection methods comprised of semi-structured interviews, researcher’s journal and field notes. The process of data analysis was guided by thematic content analysis.
Findings from this study attest that beginner teacher identities are unstable; classroom reality differs vastly from teacher education programme curricula; and teaching practice plays a significant role in the preparation of student teachers. The main finding of this study was that full-time participants only comprehended the reality of teaching once full-time employment commenced, compared to part-time participants who realised the realities of teaching considerably earlier. Recommendations were made regarding practice, policy, and future research.