Professional Identity

The development of the personal self and professional identity in learning to teach

Carol R. Rodgers University at Albany

Katherine H. Scott Independent scholar


The previous Handbook on Research in Teacher Education (Sikula, 1996) includes two

chapters dealing with the “inner life” of the teacher: Virginia Richardson’s review of

research on teacher attitudes and beliefs, and Kathy Carter and Walter Doyle’s review of

research on personal narrative and life history. Richardson dismisses attitudes as weak

indicators of teacher learning, while endorsing beliefs as important determinants of

action. She defines beliefs as “psychologically held understandings, premises, or propositions

about the world that are felt to be true,” (p. 103; Feiman-Nemser & Floden, 1986)

and that stem from personal experience, experience with school, and experience with

formal knowledge (Clandinin & Connelly, 1987; Elbaz, 1983). Given the tenacity of

beliefs that spring from previous life history and student teaching, she concludes that

teacher education is a relatively “weak intervention”. Although beliefs are clearly part

and parcel of who one is as a teacher, Richardson does not directly address issues of

identity and self.    

     Carter and Doyle take on the question of self and identity indirectly, through the lenses

of personal narrative and life history research. Their research rests on the premise that

“the process of learning to teach, the act of teaching and teachers’ experiences and

choices are deeply personal matters inexorably linked to their identity and life story”

(p. 120). Life history research highlights the social contexts that shape identity, while

personal narrative emphasizes the fact that learning, including learning to teach, involves

the construction of personal stories. Carter and Doyle conclude by stating that “from a

biographical frame . . . becoming a teacher means (a) transforming an identity, (b) adapting

personal understandings and ideals to institutional realities, and (c) deciding how to

express one’s self in classroom activity” (p. 139). Clearly teachers are people who bring

themselves into the classroom and the formation of their identities involves an interplay

between external and internal forces.

This chapter does not refute these findings and perspectives. Rather, it shows how

research over the past ten years has deepened and complicated our understanding of

the role of self and identity in learning to teach, particularly by critical theorists (e.g.

Britzman, 2003; Cochran-Smith, 2004; Giroux, 2005; Zembylas, 2003). Specifically,

identity and identity formation have taken center stage, subsuming the categories of

belief, attitude, life history, and personal narrative. In addition, research on the role of

emotion in learning to teach and the development of teacher identity has gained a foothold.

At the same time, the distinction and relationship between one’s self/ves and one’s

identity/ies remains murky. Finally, and importantly, there is a call from theorists for

teachers to become aware of their identities and the political, historical, and social forces

that shape them—in Britzman’s (1993) words, to “acknowledge the politics of identity.”

In addition, theorists exhort teachers to assume agency, find their voice, and take the

authority to shape their own professional paths and identities. Left largely unexplored by

this literature, however, is the black box of how—how teachers should go about making

the psychological shift from being authored by these forces to authoring their own stories,

and how teacher educators might facilitate this process. This black box represents a

psychological shift; it leads us to explore what developmental psychologists might contribute

to the discussion. In particular, we take into account the view of constructivist

developmental psychologists who offer a potentially useful way to think about this shift.

Many of the studies reviewed for this chapter were conceptual rather than empirical in

nature. We hope that the introduction of a psychological frame will move the field of

teacher education towards more empirical work in the development of self and identity in

learning to teach.

This chapter is divided into four parts. We begin by exploring contemporary conceptions

of identity and self, drawing on the teacher education and professional development

literature. We follow this with a discussion of how constructive-developmentalist might

illuminate our understanding of the development of self and identity. The third section

looks at some promising programs from the past and present that support the development

of teachers’ selves and identities. The final section concludes with a discussion

of these model programs in light of constructive-developmental theory, and suggests

directions for further research.

Definitions of self and identity

It is necessary to carve out of the vast literature on self and identity a workable set of

definitions.1 For the purposes of this chapter, we have drawn our definitions from within

the fields of teacher education and adult development.

The past ten years have seen a burgeoning of articles and books on teacher identity

development. At the same time, studies of identity have cast doubt on the very concept of

a “self,” which may explain why much less has been written about self as teacher. Still,

confusion between the terms remains. As Beijaard et al. (2004) note in their review of

research on teachers’ professional identity, “it remains unclear how exactly the concepts

of ‘identity’ and ‘self’ are related” (p. 124). We will first look at the larger field of identity

formation, followed by the more elusive notion of self.

Contemporary conceptions of identity share four basic assumptions: (1) that identity is

dependent upon and formed within multiple contexts which bring social, cultural, political,

and historical forces to bear upon that formation; (2) that identity is formed in

relationship with others and involves emotions; (3) that identity is shifting, unstable, and

multiple; and, (4) that identity involves the construction and reconstruction of meaning

through stories over time. Embedded in these assumptions is an implicit charge: that

teachers should work towards an awareness of their identity and the contexts, relationships,

and emotions that shape them, and (re)claim the authority of their own voice. This

calls upon teachers to make a psychological shift in how they think about themselves as

teachers. Contexts and relationships describe the external aspects of identity formation;

and stories and emotions, the internal, meaning-making aspects. Awareness and voice

represent the “contested” place where the normative demands of the external encounter

the internal meaning making and desires of the teacher.


Identity as contextual

Identity is dependent upon the contexts in which we immerse ourselves: schools, teacher

education programs, study groups, family, religious groups, political parties and so forth

(Gee, 2001; Fitzgerald, 1993; Coldron & Smith, 1999; Beijaard et al., 2000, 2004;

Britzman, 2003; Carter & Doyle, 1996; MacLure, 1993; Smagorinsky et al., 2004;

Clandinin & Huber, 2005; Agee, 2004). Clandinin and Huber (2005) refer to context as

“the landscapes past and present in which [a teacher] lives and works” (p. 4). Most

definitions of identity take into consideration all four assumptions named above. A few,

however, define identity solely as a matter of context. Fitzgerald (1993) writes that “. . .

identity is defined as the academic metaphor for self-in-context” (italics in original, p. 3).

Coldron & Smith (1999) speak of context as a matter of “space and location” and the

identity of a teacher as “a matter of where, within the professional pertinent array of

possibilities, a particular person is located” (p. 714). Contexts inevitably shape our

notions of who we perceive ourselves to be and how others perceive us. We do not

necessarily perceive contexts (which include ways of thinking and knowing) as much as

we absorb them, often taking them for granted as what is “real.” Britzman (1993) for

example, argues that contextual forces are normative and determined by those in authority

who have a vested interest in the compliance of those under their authority. Within

each context there exists a set of norms, and it is expected that these norms will be upheld

by the participants within the given community. Lack of awareness of these norms and

pressures to assimilate, keep teachers subject to contextual forces, robbing them of

agency, creativity and voice.

James Gee (2001) provides the most elaborate view of these contextual forces, identifying

four interrelated perspectives on identity: the nature perspective (N-identity, or those

parts of who we are that have their source in nature rather than society, e.g. a tall

person); the institutional perspective (I-identity, or those parts of who we are that have

their source in institutional authority, e.g. a school teacher); the discourse perspective

(D-identity, or those parts of who we are that have their source in the discourse or

dialogue of other people, e.g. someone who is deemed by others to be a “charismatic”

person); and the affinity perspective (A-identity, or those parts of who I am that have

their source in a “distinctive set of practices,” e.g. a Red Sox fan). Each of these perspectives

provides an “interpretive system underwriting the recognition of [one’s] identity”

by others:

The interpretive system may be people’s historically and culturally different views of

nature; it may be the norms, traditions and rules of institutions; it may be the discourse

and dialogue of others; or it may be the working of affinity groups. What is

important about identity is that almost any identity trait can be understood in terms

of any of these different interpretive systems.

(italics in original, p. 108)

Gee uses the example of a label like “African American.” This label, viewed through

different interpretive systems can be understood differently. Through the institutional

lens of school, for example, being an “African American” child might be equated with

being “at risk.” Alternatively, “African American” understood as an A-Identity, points

to an affiliation with groups who share certain practices. “Here,” writes Gee, “people do

not see themselves as African American primarily because of ‘blood’ (an N-Identity),

because of an institutional category (an I-Identity), or because others respond to them,

for better or worse, in certain distinctive ways (a D-Identity)” (p. 108). He suggests that

in this case, a “Black” person could claim that they have chosen not to be African

American and a “White” person could claim to be African American. In this way identities

are a matter of negotiation with others. “Thus,” writes Gee, “people can accept,

contest, and negotiate identities in terms of whether they will be seen primarily (or in

some foregrounded way) as N-, I-, D-, or A-Identities. What is at issue, though, is always

how and by whom a particular identity is to be recognized” (italics in original, p. 109).

And this points to the second assumption of identity: that it is relational, and hence, also


Identity as relational and emotional

Within multiple contexts one forms multiple relationships, and brings forth multiple

aspects of oneself. Gee (2001) points out that relationship cuts across all four of his

perspectives on identity. Relationship is essential to identity primarily because to have an

identity one must be recognized as a particular “kind of person” by others.

Smagorinsky et al. (2004), in their study of identity formation among new teachers,

conclude that identity is co-constructed “through engagement with others in cultural

practice” (p. 21). Samuel and Stephens (2000) observe multiple layers of relationship and

negotiation in their work with black South African teachers, where teachers “walk a

tightrope in both developing a personal teacher identity which sits comfortably with their

own sense of self,” and satisfying state requirements, while at the same time embodying

reform by being “the impetus for change,” including acting as critics to the very teachers

who are assigned to be their mentors (p. 478). Complicated identities, indeed!

That the complex relationships between teacher, students, colleagues, mentor, school,

community and state would provoke emotion is no surprise. Emotions have been taken

up increasingly as a critical aspect of identity formation (Britzman, 1993; Hargreaves,

2001; Zembylas, 2002, 2003; Winograd, 2003). “Feelings,” Britzman asserts, “are made

in social relationships.” In particular, she cites the friction created between institutional

structures and expectations of how teachers should behave and feel and the actual “structure

of feelings” that teachers already hold because of who they are, and “the lives they

live” (p. 252).

In his discussion of “emotional geographies,” Hargreaves (2001) also takes up the

ways in which teachers’ emotions are “embedded in the conditions and interactions

of their work.” Emotional geographies consist of “the spatial and experiential patterns

of closeness and/or distance in human interactions and relationships that help create,

configure and color the feelings and emotions [he does not distinguish between the two]

we experience about ourselves, our world and each other” (p. 1061). In other words,

teachers’ emotions are shaped by the conditions of their work (for example, high-stakes

tests) and are then manifest in their interactions with students, parents, administrators

and others. In his interviews of 53 elementary and secondary Canadian schoolteachers,

Hargreaves identifies five different emotional geographies: socio-cultural,

moral, professional, political, and physical. Each involves either a closeness or a

distance—distance driving wedges between people, and closeness forming bonds. For

example, a socio-cultural distance might exist between a white middle-class teacher and

her less-economically secure students. Moral distance exists when “teachers feel their

purposes are being threatened or have been lost” by those around them (p. 1067), for

example, when a school’s priority is high test scores rather than student learning.

Hargreaves advocates a deeper understanding of these geographies as key to making the

relationships of school work, and, by implication, making teacher identity less fractured.

Zembylas (2002, 2004) echoes Hargreaves’ notion of distance when he speaks of the


“emotional labor” in which teachers must engage in an effort to conform to what is

deemed appropriate within schools (the “emotional rules” of school): “teacher identity

and emotion discourses are formed within specific school political arrangements, in relation

to certain expectations and requirements, ones that presume a teacher should conform

to particular emotional rules (e.g. teachers should leave their emotions ‘outside’ the

classroom . . .)” (p. 226). Winograd (2003), an education professor who returned to

elementary school teaching for a year, brought the theories of emotion outlined above to

bear on his experience back in the classroom. During his year as a teacher, Winograd

faced challenges, particularly in classroom management, that caused him to question his

own identity as an effective educator. He found himself caught in a cycle of self-blame,

often experienced by new teachers, where the school culture made it easy “to conclude

that failure or struggle is [teachers’] fault alone and that structural conditions are less

influential than the individual’s own failings” (p. 1669). Feelings of anger, for example,

were experienced as bad in the face of a culture that see teachers as restrained, gentle, and


Identity as shifting and multiple

As implied above, when teachers’ identities are shaped, at least in part, by the external

forces of context and relationships, identity necessarily becomes a multiple and shifting

affair, in process and changeable. As Gee writes, “The ‘kind of person’ one is recognized

as ‘being,’ at a given time and place, can change from moment to moment in the

interaction, can change from context to context, and of course, can be ambiguous or

unstable” (p. 99). Identity is therefore not only shifting but also multiple. Beijaard et al.

(2004) in their review of the research on teachers’ professional identity, note that because

identity is relational, it is also shifting, and constantly in the process of becoming.

[Identity] is not a fixed attribute of a person, but a relational phenomenon. Identity

development occurs in an intersubjective field and can be best characterized as an

ongoing process, a process of interpreting oneself as a certain kind of person and

being recognized as such in a given context. In this context then, identity can also be

seen as an answer to the recurrent question: “Who am I at this moment?.”

(p. 108)

What is important here is that identity: (1) is always “in the making,” rather than stable,

(2) shifts according to context and relationships, and (3) is therefore varied and multiple.

Identity as storied

Thus far, identities appear to be like a deck of cards spread out on a tabletop; any one

might be turned up at any time, depending upon the who, what, and where of circumstance.

Continuity and coherence suggested by the terms identity formation or identity

development feel elusive. There is a need for making sense—an internal arrangement and

control of things so that the shifting, multiple, constructed, contradictory, confusing,

cubistic thing called identity becomes useful. The most widely embraced way of making

sense is through the practice of narrative, or the telling of our stories. “Nowadays,” as

Beijaard et al. (2000) note, “identity formation is conceived as an ongoing process that

involves the interpretation and reinterpretation of experiences as one lives through them”

(Kerby, 1991, as cited in Beijaard et al., 2000). The foremost proponents of this point of

view are Michael Connelly and D. Jean Clandinin (1986, 1995, 1999, 2000). Based on


Spence’s (1984) notion of the narrative construction of the self (side-stepping for a

moment any definition of self), Connelly and Clandinin understand a teacher’s identity as

“a unique embodiment of his/her stories to live by, stories shaped by the landscapes past

and present in which s/he lives and works . . .” (as cited in Clandinin & Huber, p. 4).

Sfard and Prusak (2005), equate identity with the construction of stories. They parse the

process further by articulating a tripartite picture of identity: first-person identities (stories

a person tells himself about himself), second person identities (stories told about

oneself to oneself by a second person), and third person identities (stories told about

oneself by a second person to a third person). Identity, then, is both interpreted and

constructed through the stories that one tells oneself and that others tell. These stories

change over time, across contexts, and depend upon relationship.

Awareness and voice

The four assumptions described above address the nature of identity. Awareness and

voice, however, point to what theorists believe it is incumbent upon teachers to do in light

of those assumptions. Identities form and develop as a result of interactions, but not

necessarily as a result of awareness. Theorists, however, call for teachers to develop an

awareness of the normative contextual and relational forces that shape their identities.

They exhort new and experienced teachers alike to “resist” these normative forces, forces

which are “overburdened with the meanings of others,” and author their own identities

according to their own “deep convictions, investments, and desires” (Britzman, 1993,

p. 33). Voice, Britzman contends, struggles to emerge from the confluence of forces that

compete for a teacher’s allegiance: the schools and universities in which she works and

learns, her past experiences and identities as a learner, and her desires and images of

herself as a teacher. Finding one’s voice implies not having others (researchers, school

boards, text books) speak for us, not being silenced by authorities or normative notions

of who teachers should be, in effect, to be the author of one’s identity.

Like Britzman, Zembylas (2002, 2004) advocates developing an awareness of and

resistance to the normative forces of school, and encourages teachers to “try to think

differently, to ask themselves not only how discourses on emotions and the various

norms in their school have shielded them from their desires, but also how it [normative

discourse] has installed those desires as what they presume themselves to be” (p. 229).

Awareness of the emotions (as manifested in the body—e.g. facial gesture, the eyes, the

gut) that are triggered within the context of school, and the forces that bring them about,

he argues, prepares the road to voice, agency and self-transformation, especially when

done in the company of others.

Winograd (2003), reflecting on his year as an elementary school teacher, advocates

teachers forging relationships with other teachers in order to “study, share, and use their

emotions for social change,” by holding up for critique the kind of “emotional rules”

that schools can impose (p. 1670).

What it takes to move from being “authored by” to “authoring” oneself is not, however,

addressed in detail in the literature. It also begs the question of self in contrast to

identity. If one’s identities are to be “self-authored,” then who is the “self” doing the

authoring? It is at this juncture that discussion of an aware, active self is useful.

Self as maker of meaning and agent

The literature on the self reviewed here (Dewey, 1938; Kegan, 1983; Gee, 2001; Nias,

1989; Palmer, 1998) assumes that there is more to a self than simply an array of shifting


identities. There is a notion of continuity and coherence that signals a self, even as there

are discontinuities, shifts, and crises that signal an evolving self. In effect, the self can be

seen as the meaning maker, or teller of stories. If our identities are stories, then our selves

might be the storytellers. As a bridge to this notion of self, we again turn to Gee who, in

his discussion of identities, speaks briefly of a “core identity.” One’s “core identity,” he

writes, is different from one’s “identities” which are multiple and connected “not to

[one’s] ‘internal states’ but to [one’s] performances in society.” One’s core identity, in

contrast, is something “that holds more uniformly, for ourselves and others, across

contexts” (p. 99).

John Dewey references the importance of such coherence across contexts. He writes

that when coherence is lacking, a person, in a sense, “cracks up”:

A divided world, a world whose parts and aspects do not hang together [for a

person], is at once a sign and a cause of a divided personality. When the splitting-up

reaches a certain point we call the person insane. A fully integrated personality . . .

exists only when successive experiences are integrated with one another.

(p. 44)

The integration, he argues, is a matter of the meaning that is made of experience

through reflection. Similarly, Polkinghorne (as cited in Bruner, 1990) spoke of the self as

“a configuring of personal events into an historical unity” (p. 116).

Jennifer Nias (1989), citing Foulkes (1975) and Mead (1934) distinguishes between a

substantial self (I) and situational selves (me). The substantial self, formed primarily at,

and even before, birth and in the early years, is embodied in values shaped by family and

one’s immediate culture. The substantial self remains relatively impervious to change.

One’s situational selves can be thought of here as one’s identities. Our situational selves,

she argues, “incorporate those beliefs, values, and attitudes which we feel to be most selfdefining”

(p. 163). The I-substantial self is subject and the me-situational self, object. The

former is not knowable except as it becomes object. Reflection is the tool the self uses to

know one’s situational selves, which change over time. What Nias and others call the self

or the private self, Britzman refers to as “being” (personal communication, 2005). It is

both conscious and unconscious and therefore can really only “hint at itself:”

In my view, the self and identity are maybe two sides of the same coin. I have come to

believe that there is an unknowable core, something that resists sociality, and can

only hint at itself. I would not locate this core in identity, which I tend to think of as

the social clothing plus desire for recognition. Within this clash or conflict, there is

something called the private self, which I would call “being.” Here is where I would

locate interiority that may fuel the need for identity but in and of itself the self is not

coextensive with identity, or another way of saying this is the self is not identical to

itself as the philosophers might say.

(Personal communication, August 2005)

Parker Palmer (1998), educator and author of the popular book, The Courage to

Teach, distinguishes between identity and integrity in defining the self. Identity, he says, is

the “evolving nexus where all the forces that constitute life converge in the mystery of self

. . . In the midst of that complex field, identity is a moving intersection of the inner and

outer forces that make me who I am, converging in the irreducible mystery of being

human” (p. 13). Integrity differs from identity in that it suggests a conscious weaving

together of some kind of meaning out of the experiences that comprise one’s identity. It is


“whatever wholeness I am able to find within that nexus [of identity] as its vectors form

and re-form the pattern of my life. Integrity requires that I discern what is integral to my

selfhood, what fits and what does not—and that I choose life-giving ways of relating to

the forces that converge within me” (p. 13).

Psychologist Robert Kegan (1982), writing from a developmental-constructivist perspective,

holds that at every stage of development, the “self” coheres in an organized

system of meaning and meaning making. It coheres differently at each stage (something

which we explore more extensively below), but there is a balance in place that allows one

to be. “There is presumed to be a basic unity to personality, a unity best understood as a

process rather than an entity. This process, according to [Carl] Rogers’ conception, gives

rise to the ‘self,’ the meaning-making system with which the process gets identified”

(p. 5).

Self, then, might be thought of as the meaning maker and identity as the meaning

made, even as the self and identity evolve and transform over time. The self in its completeness,

however, remains unknowable. It is, as Palmer says, an elusive reality “that can

be caught only out of the corner of the eye.” Still, despite the inevitable discontinuities

and change and the intangible nature of self, there is a belief that there exists over time a

“Self” that is recognizable and a coherence that allows one to move in the world with a

certain confidence. For the purposes of this discussion, then, self will subsume identity(

ies) and will be understood as an evolving yet coherent being, that consciously and

unconsciously constructs and is constructed, reconstructs and is reconstructed, in interaction

with the cultural contexts, institutions, and people with which the self lives, learns,

and functions.

Looking at self and identity formation through a constructivedevelopmental


Because Kegan (1982, 1994) clearly articulates a process of growth and change as well as

distinct developmental stages in adulthood, his theoretical framework is a useful lens

with which to consider the hidden developmental demands that are at work in the literature

on teacher identity. How a teacher makes sense of her teacher identity evolves out of

the developmental capacities of the self. That is, lying underneath the four basic assumptions

about teacher identity is the question: how? How does the teacher make sense of

social, cultural, political, and historical forces? How does she make sense of her relationships

with others? How does she construct and reconstruct meaning through stories? It is

in the answer to this question, how, that we are able to identify qualitatively different

ways that teachers make sense of their experiences; these differences reflect the differing

developmental capacities of teachers’ selves, and therefore, color and shape how they

make sense of their identities.

The different ways in which teachers might answer these questions are reflected in

Table 40.1 below.


Kegan’s conception of self suggests that the way the teacher self makes sense of his/her

experience is, in fact, different at different developmental stages, and that it evolves over

time. These differences reflect teachers’ varying capacities to take a perspective on their

experiencing (i.e. on their developmental structure) as distinct from differences in the

content of their teaching (i.e. their discipline, teaching strategies, area of discipline),

teacher education experiences (the philosophy of the program, the expectations of the

program), or identity (i.e. sex, socio-economic status, religion, political position, etc.).

Developmental structure or stage reveals the specific ways in which individuals make

sense out of experiences that are seemingly similar.




Kegan delineates five developmental stages; however, for the purposes of this discussion,

we will only address stages two through four.2 At Kegan’s stage 2, or the Imperial

Balance (Kegan, 1982, 1994) one has the capacity to take the role of another person, and

to view oneself as distinct from the other. At this point in development, there is an

emergence of self-concept, a consistent notion of me, an enduring set of dispositions

(Kegan, 1982, p. 89). While the success of this developmental stage is that one is in a

“project for oneself” (p. 89), one is not yet able to coordinate the perspective of another

with one’s own perspective and one understands the world in highly concrete terms. The

teacher at this developmental stage is likely to conceive of the teacher role as a means to

fulfilling her own purposes (or her own project in some way—as a fulfillment of herself

[Scott, 1999]). Because she does not yet have a perspective on her own needs, desires or

interests, she is not able to articulate them. Her self is made up of these needs, desires, and

interests. As a result, any attempt to engage in self-reflection would be characterized by a

very concrete, black and white analysis.

At Kegan’s stage 3, or the Interpersonal Balance (also known as the “socialized self”),

the self “embodies a plurality of voices” (1982, p. 96). The teacher self at this developmental

stage is subject to the demands of her surround; as such, the notion of multiple

identities, may be a developmental notion. The self is authored by the context of relationship.

Teachers at this developmental stage are likely to enact the teacher role that is

ascribed by the culture generally, or the most significant contexts of which the teachers

are a part (i.e. teacher education program, school context). They take their cues from

the cultural surround and seek approval and feedback from their surround as a measure

of how well they are doing (Scott, 1999). Thus, their measurement of success or

well-being is defined according to external standards rather than according to internal

standards defined by them. Although they are able to engage in self-reflection, the

nature of their reflection is focused on the way they view their teaching in relationship to

the expectations or demands that are defined by the “authorities”—those who author or



define their experiences for them (i.e. the institution of school, teacher education


At Kegan’s stage 4, or the Institutional Balance (also known as the “self-authoring

self”), the self moves from being defined by external sources to being defined internally.

The self is its own system with a clearly defined set of values, a clear philosophy. One is

no longer pushed and pulled by the needs, wants, or expectations of others. Rather, the

self is able to take a perspective on information, evaluate it, and then decide how to act

upon it. Teacher identity at this stage is defined internally; it is no longer subject to the

demands/expectations of the cultural surround. Teachers at this stage are able to take a

perspective on their identities; it is at this developmental stage that they are able to

evaluate the ways in which the different aspects of their selves (i.e. their identities: socioeconomic

class, race, culture, history, etc.) are borne out in their teaching and in their

relationships with their students, and engage in a critique of their teaching according to

their own standards rather than by the standards of others.

Kegan’s view of an evolving self sheds new light on the literature on teacher identity. It

helps to illuminate the varying capacities of teachers to respond to the calls that they: (1)

become aware of their identities and the political, historical, and social forces that shape

them; (2) assume agency, find their voice, and take the authority to shape their own

professional paths and identities. Clearly, these calls assume that these teachers are selfauthoring

in their developmental orientation; in fact, this claim may put teachers at risk

for being “in over their heads” (Kegan, 1994). Nevertheless, what is revealed is that there

is a hidden developmental expectation that teachers do, in fact, possess these developmental

capacities. Returning to the question that we posed at the beginning of this

chapter: how should teachers go about making the psychological shift from being authored

by these forces to authoring their own stories and how should teacher educators

facilitate this process? we now give consideration to the necessary components of an

environment or program that does facilitate the ongoing growth and development of its

members so that they can successfully fulfill the expectations held of them. First, we will

consider the importance of a good developmental match between program and student,

and then we will explore model teacher education programs that do seek to support the

growth and development of their students, or the emergence of a teacher’s voice.

The way that teachers construct their relationship to their teacher role does not by

itself indicate how teachers will fare in teacher education, nor how they will fare as

beginning teachers. Rather, there is an interaction between how teachers make sense of

their role, the norms/values of the culture in which they are situated (the culture of the

graduate school curriculum, the culture of the school in which they are teaching), and the

available supports. To be at a higher developmental stage could be an asset or a risk.

Likewise, to be at a lower developmental stage could be an asset or a risk. To determine

whether developmental capacity, or the way that a teacher makes sense of his/her experience

is an asset or a risk, consideration must be given to the developmental demands of

the context (teacher education program, the culture of school) and the available supports

(Berger, 2002; Daloz, 1999; Drago-Severson, 2004; Kegan, 1982, 1994; Scott, 1999). In

this regard, Kegan states,

If I were to stand on one leg, like Hillel, and summarize my readings of centuries of

wise reflection on what is required of an environment for it to facilitate the growth of

its members, I would say this: people grow best where they continuously experience

an ingenious blend of support and challenge; the rest is commentary. Environments

that are weighed too heavily in the direction of challenge without adequate support

are toxic; they promote defensiveness and constriction. Those weighed too heavily


toward support without adequate challenge are ultimately boring; they promote

devitalization. Both kinds of imbalance lead to withdrawal or dissociation from the

context. In contrast, the balance of support and challenge lead to vital engagement.

(1994, p. 42)

Daloz (1999) illustrates this relationship between support and challenge to engagement

or disengagement in the following diagram:


Daloz states that the function of support is “to affirm the validity of one’s senses” and the

function of challenge is to “open a gap between students and environment, a gap that

creates tension in the student—calling out for closure” (p. 213). Like Kegan, he suggests

that a balance of support and challenge is what will best promote the growth or evolution

of the student’s or the teacher’s self. Both Kegan (1994) and Daloz (1999), however,

caution that what one person (teacher) may experience as support may be experienced as

challenge by another, and vice versa. Thus, from a developmental perspective, an effective

teacher education program must take into account the goodness of fit between how its

students are making sense (developmental structure) and the developmental demands of

the curriculum. If the program assumes that all teachers make sense in one way—that

they all have the same developmental perspective—some students will likely meet with

success and others will not. However, their success or failure will have as much to do with

the developmental demands of the program, as with the effort, motivation, or determination

of the students. In other words, a student could be very motivated to participate in

the program, but because there is a mismatch between her way of knowing (developmental

stage), and the developmental demands of the environment, she could become

disengaged. Without attention given to the goodness of fit between the developmental

demands of teacher education programs, and the developmental capacities of prospective

teachers, we will fail to understand why teacher education programs are successful in

promoting/supporting the development of the teacher self for some students, while they

are not for others (Berger, 2002).

Figure 40.1 Daloz’s matrix of support and change.




The programs outlined below, both historical and current, offer examples of ways in

which teachers can be both challenged to become aware of the ways in which their

identities are shaped by their contexts and relationships, and supported in reflection upon

those forces in order to become more self-determining. We look at four historical teacher

education programs that explicitly educated the personal/critical/social self, and current

efforts to educate awareness of self and identity.

A short history of teacher education and the personal/critical/

social self

In Feiman-Nemser’s (1990) outline of conceptual orientations in teacher education, the

personal and critical/social orientations (which are most closely aligned with work on self

and identity) are included along with the academic, practical, technological orientations.

Where the practical and technical orientations emphasize “additive” knowledge and

skills, the personal and critical/social orientations demand awareness and a transformation

of the “self,” (of the meanings one makes and the internal and external forces that

shape those meanings), and encourage teachers to take action based on their learning.

The programs described below affirm the unique humanity of the teacher, but also ask

new and prospective teachers to take a critical look at themselves and the privileges

and inequities of their own and their students’ lives. In this section we describe how

four early, alternative teacher education programs, the teacher center movement and

several contemporary efforts sought/seek to support teachers in the development of selfawareness

and voice, or to make that psychological shift from being authored by external

forces (e.g. historical, political, social) to authoring their own teacher identities.

Leading teacher education programs regarded the growth of teachers as inseparable

from the growth of persons, in both humanistic and critical/social terms. Among the

teacher education programs embodying this stance were Bank Street College, (started in

1930 under Lucy Sprague Mitchell), The Prospect School Teacher Education Program

(1968–1990, initially under the direction of Patricia Carini), New College (1932–1939)

of Columbia Teachers College, and the Putney Graduate School of Teacher Education

(1950–1965, under the direction of Morris R. Mitchell). These private programs operated

with small numbers of students. Variously influenced by the thinking of John

Dewey, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Alfred North Whitehead, and Theodore Brameld, they

had well-articulated philosophies and values regarding teaching and learning, which

included the importance of self-knowledge. One might say they had strong programmatic

identities. They valued close observation of and inquiry into children’s learning as well as

the world around them and recognized the role that the teacher’s perceptions and preconceptions

played in learning to see children and their learning. As Morris Mitchell

wrote, “A teacher teaches who he is.” In other words, since a teacher teaches from

herself, self-awareness is an ethical necessity. It is also the source of her power. These

programs also emphasized the teachers’ role as citizen and educator of citizens in a

democracy. As Jaime Grinberg (2002) noted of Bank Street, it “assume[d] a need for

teachers’ own social perspectives to be explored and the need for teachers to engage

actively as participants in social and civic responsibilities” (p. 1430).


Teacher education programs

These programs shared several characteristics which influenced the ways in which they

challenged new teachers to become aware of and to interrogate their past experiences,

their beliefs and assumptions about school, schooling, and the contexts within which

they lived and worked, while offering them the necessary support to make a transition

from old perspectives to new ones. First, each program had a clearly defined mission that

saw education as a key to a democratic society. They linked teachers’ personal and

professional identities to the larger societal causes that reached beyond the circumscribed

world of the classroom or their personal lives (e.g. social justice, racial equality). Second,

as progressive programs, their approach to learning and teaching was experiential and

necessarily included both experience and reflection. The experiences included one’s own

past, one’s existing perspectives on learning, teaching, and school, and the decisions

made in one’s teaching present. As such, reflection on experience was meant to lead to


Mission: all these programs, but most clearly the Putney Graduate School and New

College of Columbia, saw their purpose as the building of a better society. The development

of the person was not their end goal. Rather such development was in service of

the larger goals of children’s own learning and development and eventual transformation

of society. New College, which suffered an early demise (Teachers College News,

2001), was an experimental undergraduate, four-year teacher education program within

Columbia Teachers College. It combined a liberal arts curriculum with a focus on social

problems which future teachers were expected to address. Students spent their time

between New York City and the New College Community, a student-run farm in Ashville,

North Carolina. They also studied abroad for at least a summer in an effort to experience

peoples and cultures different from their own.

Once a faculty member at New College, Morris Mitchell, who later directed the Putney

Graduate School of Teacher Education, wrote that education should “become a dynamic

for peace” in the world. This was accomplished, he believed, by immersing students in

a variety of experiences that awakened them to problems of poverty, war, and racial

injustice. This usually involved a long trip, or Study Tour, South, often to sites of what

Mitchell termed, “quiet revolution,” where people involved in the Civil Rights movement

and sustainable land development were working.

Bank Street and Prospect also adhered to purposes beyond the bounds of school and

test results, and saw education as linked to principles of democracy. Bank Street took

teachers into the streets of New York City to explore the workings of the city and on

Long Trips to explore the larger issues of the nation. As Grinberg (2002) notes, “Bank

Street . . . emphasized that teachers ought to engage in systematic investigation of communities

and social relations as an integral part of learning to teach . . . [and that] issues

of social justice not only have to be studied but also must be experienced, lived”

(p. 1431).

While Prospect’s mission was less overtly attuned to broad political and social issues, it

was grounded in questions that mattered. What makes us human? How can teaching

bring forth and nurture the humanity of a child? What resources and activities manifest

the complexity and humanness of the child? How are universal human themes reflected

in the disciplines? These commitments lifted the sense of oneself above the particular. Yet

deep knowledge of the particulars of experience (as revealed through reflection)

grounded teachers’ (and students’) investigations.3


Experiential learning, reflection, and self-awareness

In each program, awareness of oneself was developed through recollection of past

experience, interaction with the “stuff” of the world, and observation of children’s interactions.

At Prospect and Bank Street, especially, teacher-students were asked to recall

their own experiences as children, to play with blocks, clay, and wax, for example, and to

closely observe children on a daily basis. They were asked to both describe their own and

others’ experiences with awareness of the potential interference of pre-conceptions, and

to reflect on the meaning of what they had observed (either from childhood or in the

present). Carini (like Dewey) believed that a human being is knowable in his or her

interactions with the world. It is therefore important to observe those interactions closely

and carefully. In the observing of the other, one gains knowledge of one’s own self. Carini

(1979) writes:

When the perception of the other person is based on direct access through the expressiveness

of the body in its engagement with things-in-the-world, there is an assumption

of co-extensive beings united through the shared world setting. From that

assumption, it can be derived that self-knowledge and knowledge of others are

achieved reciprocally and intersubjectively.

(p. 29)

At Bank Street, student teachers “engaged in treating their own learning experiences

as a subject matter of study” (Grinberg, 2002, p. 1429). Bank Street sought “to promote

the development of personal powers . . . to treat the student-teachers as we should treat

children—only on a higher level” (Lucy Sprague Mitchell, 1931, as quoted in Grinberg,

2002, p. 1430). As Grinberg (2002) explains,

the purpose was to further the connections with children’s learning. After the student

teachers learned the content, understood relationships [through reflection], and

had a powerful personal experience that helped them construct personal meanings,

they had to plan the environment to provide their own students in their particular

classrooms with concrete experiences that would further learning.

(p. 1435)

New College and Putney also relied on experience and reflection as the vehicles of

learning. In each case, students would come up against themselves and the assumptions

and prejudices that resulted from their own particular histories. Putney students began

the year by writing an autobiography that was read aloud to their fellow students.

“Writing the autobiography was one way of sorting through what brought students to

the Graduate School and getting at what was termed ‘felt needs.’ . . . Once uncovered,

these needs or desires served as the impetus for study” (Rodgers, 1998, p. 102). To a large

extent, though not exclusively, students at Putney determined their own course of study.

Throughout their time in the program, they kept reflective journals of their experiences,

met regularly with director, Morris Mitchell, and with his guidance, structured and

restructured their course of study, as well as their stories of their experiences—in short,

their identities.

Each of these progressive teacher education programs relied heavily upon advising

systems that allowed students to explore in depth their personal experiences as both

learners and teachers, one-on-one and in small groups with a faculty advisor. In large

part, these sessions were forums for reflection, which, coupled with their experiences,

provided a bridge that carried teachers from a place of being authored by their past,


(e.g. traditional school systems, a racist society, or a world of privilege) to one where

they might question these systems and assumptions and begin to construct a learning

environment that resonated with their own emerging voice. For the most part, these

private programs sent teachers into private schools where teachers’ emerging voice

resonated with the song of the institution they had chosen, and which had chosen them.

Contemporary approaches and programs

Echoing these older programs contemporary progressive programs (e.g. Cook-Sather, in

press; Smulyan, 2004; Elbaz-Luwisch, 2002; Korthagen and Vasalos, 2005; Featherstone,

1993; Abu El-Haj, 2003; Palmer, 1998; Intrator, 2002) advocate creating time and

space for reflection, creating communities of trust and making sense of experience

through stories. They, too, ask teachers to confront and speak back to the external forces

that shape and limit who and what a teacher is, that is, using the language of today,

to become aware of one’s various identities and to cultivate a teaching self that is


As we have already mentioned, most of the studies reviewed for this chapter were

theoretical in nature, and either speculated about practices that might support teachers’

identity formation, contained first person teacher reports on identity transformations, or

exhorted teacher education and professional development programs to address teacher

identity. Empirical studies are relatively scarce. Of the more than 40 articles and books

reviewed, only about a third reported on courses or programs that worked explicitly with

teachers’ identity formation. Many of those were self-reports. Of these, three reported on

isolated courses and seven described substantial programs. Nonetheless, promising contemporary

programmatic efforts rely on familiar tools, techniques, and structures like

journals and autobiographies, teacher study groups and book groups, action research

and collaborative research. In addition, some initiatives embed these strategies in a larger

mission and set of beliefs that may potentially provide the kind of developmental bridge

of challenge and support of which Kegan and Daloz speak. However, it is important to

note that none of them addresses the fact that developmentally, not all new teachers may

be ready to cross that bridge. A description of a selection of these efforts follows.

One useful concept that resonates with Kegan’s idea of a developmental bridge, is the

idea of “liminal” time and space. Alison Cook-Sather (2005), drawing on the work of

anthropologist Victor Turner, describes liminality as “outside of standard, hierarchical

structures of institutional relationship, power, and action,” and between one way of

being and another, new way (p. 7). In Cook-Sather’s program pre-service teachers work

with experienced teacher partners in a liminal time and space created by e-mail. The

experienced teachers are not students’ cooperating teachers but participate actively in the

design and delivery of the teacher education program. The outside-of-time-and-space

aspect of the e-mail environment provides an opportunity “both for initial processing

and then dialogue” that allows new teachers to “re-imagine” and “transform” themselves

from students to teachers in an unpressured environment, hearing their own voices

against the backdrop of the normative voices they hear so loudly in the context of school.

Smulyan (2004), in her ten-year study of female graduates of an elite liberal arts

college, speaks of the college experience in general as a time and space where her students

were encouraged by the institution as a whole to redefine what it means to be a “successful”

woman. Students came to this college with the externally crafted notion that success

meant a lucrative career as a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. Through the course of their

education, their concept of success changed to a more internally defined set of criteria.

This happened through a process of reflection on “social and internalized frameworks,”


and included a reframing of teaching not merely as a helping, woman’s profession, but as

a means to “change a society that they see as inequitable and unjust” (p. 535). Smulyan

attributed this shift in part to the knowledge, skills, and language the college provided to

describe and explain students’ gendered experiences as teachers.

Another example comes from Elbaz-Luwisch’s (2002) work with “storying the

teacher-self in writing workshops.” Elbaz-Luwisch sees autobiography as a place, again,

in the liminal space between identity as student and that as teacher, for the persuasive

inner voice (the self?) to counter authoritative social discourse (Britzman, 2005, personal

communication). Through describing, storying, and questioning in small groups of

trusted colleagues, the self reframes experience and begins to assume the authority of his

or her identity instead of ceding it to external forces. Writing, Elbaz-Luwisch says, acts as

mid-wife to the teacher’s own “becoming.”

While several programs refer to reflection as a necessary tool for making meaning,

questioning external authorities, and constructing identities, many left the actual process

of reflection undefined. A few, however, were specific in describing the reflective processes

to which they refer. Elbaz-Luwisch (2002), for example, outlines a clear process of

description, storying, and questioning, a process she calls “restorying.”

Korthagen and Vasalos (2005) describe a Dutch teacher education program that utilizes

“core reflection.” Core reflection aims at an awareness of the “core of one’s personality,”

namely, identity (the kind of teacher one wants to be) and mission (why a person teaches,

their calling) and the emotions that accompany such work. The teacher, in partnership

with an empathetic and skilled supervisor, goes through an iterative process of action,

looking back at action, developing awareness of the mission and identity played out in—

or missing from—that action, and devising plans for alternative actions. In the process,

the teacher becomes aware of the “less rational” sources of behavior: one’s self-concept,

fears, desires, and “deepest motives for becoming a teacher.” The authors argue that such

awareness can effect change in teacher behavior, and even in the school.

The reflective practices of groups like the Philadelphia Teachers Learning Cooperative

(PTLC) (Featherstone, 1998; El-Haj, 2003), affiliated with the Prospect Center for

Education and Research in North Bennington, Vermont and the Teacher Knowledge

Project of the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont are also clearly

spelled out. The PTLC has met as a group of new and experienced teachers once a week

for over 25 years. It (along with several other similar groups across the country) continues

to follow the descriptive processes developed at the Prospect School. These include

descriptive reviews of children, descriptions of student work and descriptions of practice.

The objective of these processes is to carefully gather evidence that allows a teacher to see

a child and his or her work without resorting to labels, or jumping to judgments based on

unexamined assumptions about the child. The Teacher Knowledge Project, which, like

the PTLC, works with teachers across subject areas and age groups, operates study

groups across the country (Rodgers, 2002). It, too, follows a process that moves from

description of experience to analysis to “intelligent action.” Based on Dewey’s conception

of reflection, teachers are encouraged to “slow down” to see students and their

learning. While the purpose of these two programs is not explicitly the development of

the teacher’s self and identity, by training teachers’ attention on what is, rather than what

they think should be or what they wish were so, these programs bring into focus the ways

in which the fears and desires of the self can make assumptions which might not be borne

out by evidence. They are then confronted with the gap between what is and what either

they or the system thinks should be. The challenge then becomes one of choice—to act

according to one’s own perceptions of what is necessary or according to the demands of

the system.


Finally, it seems important to include in this discussion the work of Parker Palmer.

With the Fetzer Foundation, Palmer has established a series of workshops and retreats

that ask, “Who is the self that teaches? How does the quality of my selfhood form—or

deform—the way I relate to my students, my subject, my colleagues, my world? How can

educational institutions sustain and deepen the selfhood from which good teaching

comes” (Intrator, 2002, p. 288). Palmer (1998), a college professor, writes, “In every

class I teach, my ability to connect with my students and to connect them with the subject

depends less on the method I use than on the degree to which I know and trust my own

selfhood—and am willing to make it available and vulnerable in the service of learning”

(p. 11). His workshops draw upon teachers’ “personal stories, reflections on classroom

practice, and insights from poets, storytellers, and various wisdom traditions” (Intrator,

2002, p. 288). Palmer views teacher formation as a spiritual (though not explicitly

religious) practice and intentionally structures his work with teachers along a retreat

model. Time and space is built in for contemplation and solitude within a context of

supportive community.


These model teacher education and professional development programs, share the following

expectations: (1) teachers must know themselves and their own frames of reference,

values and biases; (2) teachers should take a critical look at themselves and the

privileges and inequities of their own and their students’ lives; (3) teachers should explore

their own social perspectives; (4) teachers should reflect upon their educational experiences

as children, and recognize how these experiences impact upon how they think

about teaching; (5) teachers should be exposed to perspectives different from their own.

Some consider the capacity to engage in this kind of self-reflection to be an “ethical

necessity.” Each program offered processes that both challenged and supported teachers

in confronting and changing their practices and conceptions: i.e. in developing their

teacher selves and identities.

Constructive developmental theory helps us unpack the hidden developmental demands

of these teacher education programs. It reveals that even model programs may not be

good matches for all teachers who are enrolled (Berger, 2002, Drago-Severson, 2004,

Kegan, 1982, 1994) and it highlights the importance of attending to the developmental

diversity of students enrolled in such programs. As such, to assume that there is a static

notion of identity or self puts even the best teacher education programs at risk for

alienating certain groups of students.

These model teacher education programs may be best suited to the prospective teacher

who is making sense somewhere between a stage three and a stage four way of knowing.

For the stage three/stage four student, such programs provide the three necessary components

of a “holding environment” that is designed to support the growth/development

of its members’ selves.

A holding environment is a tricky transitional culture, an evolutionary bridge, a

context for crossing over. It fosters developmental transformation or the process by

which the whole (“how I am”) becomes gradually a part (“who I was”) of a new

whole (“how I am now”).

(Kegan, 1994, p. 43)

These programs provide support (“to affirm the validity” of one’s experiences), challenge

(to “open a gap between students and environment, a gap that creates tension in the


student—calling out for closure”) and vision (Daloz, 1999) suited to this subgroup of

students. In his discussion about the supportive function of mentors to adult learning

Daloz defines vision:

It [providing vision] is similar to Kegan’s idea of the confirming function. Mentors

hang around through transitions, a foot on either side of the gulf; they offer a hand to

help us swing across. By their very essence, mentors provide proof that the journey

can be made, the leap taken. In helping their charges look ahead, form a dream,

sketch their own maps, mentors offer a fair chance of ‘winning through’ as the Old

Man said to Telemakhos.

(p. 207)

These teacher education programs (to the stage three side of these students) provide

a context of affiliation by offering a defined set of values, a common purpose that generates

a common language, or a norm of which students can be a part. As such, there are

clear values, expectations, and purposes that are defined by the program. This creates

a safe space in which students can begin to define themselves and their own purposes.

The challenge function of these teacher education programs (appreciating the student’s

movement towards a more self-authoring self) is the encouragement for students to

engage in self-reflection, to know/understand the limits of their own thinking, values,

histories, and the ways in which these limitations could influence their teaching. As such,

there is encouragement/support for students to become self-authoring. Finally, the vision

function of these programs is the belief that students’ teaching holds a bigger purpose; it

is for the greater good of a democratic society.

If prospective teachers are making sense in a stage 3 way (the socialized self, according

to Kegan), they are likely to feel “in over their heads” (Kegan, 1994). As a result, they

may experience disappointment and frustration because the program did not provide the

degree of clarity or the specific guidelines and direction that the students felt they needed.

The teacher educators may also experience disappointment and frustration because, in

their view, their students should take more risks, be independently minded, and refrain

from leaning on them. Teacher educators may desire their students to be more “selfauthoring”

than they are capable of being. As such, there is a developmental mismatch

between the students and the developmental demands of the program. Using Daloz’s

model, the programs offer high challenge and low support. Unless supports are put

into place—a developmental bridge that attends to both who the teacher is now (her

current way of making meaning; stage three), and to who she may become (stage 4, a

more self-authored self)—students may disengage. (Daloz, 1999; Kegan, 1994).

It is also possible for prospective teachers operating in a stage four way (self-authoring)

or beyond to feel alienated in these model teacher education programs. While these

programs espouse values such as independence, self-motivation, and the capacity for selfreflection/

self-critique, they assume that students will espouse their values and beliefs

about teaching. Thus, a conflicting message is put forth. On the one hand, independence

and self-authoring are desired; yet, there is an unspoken expectation that students will

tow the party line (a stage three way of knowing). As a result, students who are

independent-minded, and hold a different set of values about teaching may, in fact,

challenge the very fabric of the program. These students may feel that asserting their

voice puts them at risk within the context of the program (i.e. maintaining the good

graces of their professors, achieving good grades, getting along with fellow students).

Because they hold a perspective on their conflict, they can make a conscious choice about

whether to “play the game” to get through the program successfully, to take the risk of


asserting their voice, or to leave the program. Teacher educators who themselves are not

stage 4 or beyond may experience these students as a threat to the program, resistant (to

upholding the values of the program), or self-absorbed. Using Daloz’s model there is low

challenge and low support; unless both support and challenge are increased, there is the

potential for disengagement.

Constructive developmental theory, then, helps us to better understand why some

students’ may fare better than others in these model teacher education programs (Berger,

2002; Drago-Severson, 2004; Kegan, 1982, 1994). This perspective suggests that if our

mission is to design teacher education programs that will support the growth and development

of teacher selves, we need to attend to the developmental diversity students

bring, as well as the developmental demands inherent in the program. A developmental

perspective helps us to “see more clearly” and to have greater compassion for prospective

teachers (Kegan, 1982). Rather, than focusing on behaviors (e.g. needy, resistant, etc.),

we can attend to the meaning that these behaviors have to the students who are displaying

them. This attention leads to better understanding of students and compels us to

develop teacher education programs that attend to the developmental diversity of its

students. In doing so, we are more likely to achieve the goal of graduating teachers who

have successfully developed their own voice, and who can take a critical perspective on

their teaching.

Finally, a note of caution. Implicit in this discussion is the notion that the growth and

development of teachers’ selves is a worthy goal. It is the mission of these programs for

students to become more self-authoring, self-motivated, and self-directed. However, prospective

teachers leave these programs to enter school contexts that may, in fact, value a

more stage three way of knowing. Schools, in fact, may prefer that their teachers enact a

role that has been defined by the system, rather than that they self-author their role (see

Achinstein and Ogawa, 2006 for an exploration of just this). Teachers who enter the

system hoping to define their role may be at risk for a developmental mismatch between

themselves and the context in which they find themselves teaching. Thus, teacher education

programs must also give consideration to the developmental demands of the educational

system and how to prepare students to negotiate that system in a way that is

productive for them and their students


In this chapter we have sorted through recent conceptions of teacher identity and teacher

self to arrive at a new definition of teacher identity and teacher self. As we stated earlier,

we define self to subsume teacher identities and to be an evolving, yet, coherent being

that consciously and unconsciously constructs and is constructed, reconstructs and is

reconstructed in interaction with cultural contexts, institutions, and people with which

the self lives, learns, and functions. Drawing upon the psychological literature of

constructive developmental theory, we highlight that the sense the self makes of her

experiences is distinctly different at different levels of meaning making (i.e. the varying

capacities to take a perspective on oneself), and that these differences color how the

teacher self makes sense of her teacher identity, emotions that are evoked for her within

the context of her teaching, and the level of connection or involvement that she may feel

as a participant in her teacher education program.

In the face of such developmental diversity, there is nevertheless a hidden developmental

expectation or assumption held by teacher educators and teacher education program

that teachers should, in fact, make sense of their experiences at a particular level

of development. They assume that prospective teachers should have the capacity to be


self-authoring, and self-critical. In our discussion, we have emphasized that without

attention given to the developmental diversity of students, both they and their professors

are at risk for disappointment, and even disengagement.

Clearly, what is still missing from the literature and the field is empirical work that

seeks to better understand the role of psychology in teacher education. While there is an

evolving literature on teacher emotion, the literature that brings in the psychological

development of the self to bear on the effectiveness of teacher education programs is in its

infancy. It is our hope that over the next decade this research will evolve so that we can

better answer the questions that we posed at the beginning of this chapter: (1) How might

teachers go about making the psychological shift from being authored by these forces to

authoring their own stories? (2) How might teacher educators facilitate this process? (3)

What is the impact on the practice of teachers who participate in such programs? And

finally, (4) What is the impact on their students’ learning?


1 It is well beyond the scope of this chapter to do this exhaustively. Conceptions of the self and

identity reside in nearly every field of study from psychology to philosophy, from literature to

cognitive science.

2 We exclude stage 1, the latency age child, and stage 5, a developmental achievement that is not

usually achieved until middle age or later.

3 Rodgers, (2006). Learning to teach as an art: John Dewey and the Prospect School Teacher

Education Program (1967–1991). Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American

Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, San Diego, California.


Abu El-Haj, T.R. (2003) Practicing for equity from the stand point of the particular: exploring the

work of the urban teacher network. Teachers College Record, 105(5), pp. 817–845.

Achinstein, B. & R.T. Ogawa (2006) (In)fidelity: what the resistance of new teachers reveals about

professional principles and prescriptive educational policies. Harvard Educational Review

76(1), pp. 80–109.

Agee, J.M. (2004) Negotiating a teacher identity: an African-American teacher’s struggle to teach

in test-driven contexts. Teachers College Record, 106(4), pp. 747–774.

Athanases, S.Z. & B. Achinstein (2003) Focusing new teachers on individual and low performing

students: the centrality of formative assessment in the mentor’s repertoire of practice. Teachers

College Record, 105(8), pp. 1486–1520.

Antonek, J.L., D.E. McCormack, & R. Donato (1997) The student teacher portfolio as autobiography:

developing a professional identity. Modern Language Journal, 81, pp. 15–27.

Barty, L. (2004) Embracing ambiguity in the artefacts [sic] of the past: teacher identity and pedagogy.

Canadian Social Studies, 38(3),

Beijaard, D., N. Verloop, & J.D. Vermunt (2000) Teachers’ perceptions of professional identity: an

exploratory study from a personal knowledge perspective. Teaching and Teacher Education, 16,

pp. 749–764.

Beijaard, D., P.C. Meijer, & N. Verloop (2004) Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional

identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20, pp. 107–128.

Benger, J. (2002) Exploring the connection between teacher education practice and adult development

theory. Unpublished dissertation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Graduate School

of Education.

Britzman, D. (1992) Structures of feeling in curriculum and teaching. Theory Into Practice, 31(3),

pp. 252–258.


Britzman, D.P. (1993) The terrible problem of knowing thyself: toward a poststructuralist account

of teacher identity. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 9, pp. 23–46.

Britzman, D. (2003) Practice makes practice: a critical study of learning to teach. Revised edition.

Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Brott, P.E. and L.T. Kajs (nd). Developing the professional identity of first year teachers through a

“working alliance.”

Bruner, J. (1990) Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Carini, P.F. (1979) The art of seeing and the visibility of the person. North Dakota Study Group on

Evaluation, Grand Forks: University of North Dakota.

Carini, P.F. (2002) Starting strong: a different look at children, schools, and standards. New York:

Teachers College Press.

Carter, K, & Doyle, W. (1996) Personal narrative and life history in learning to teach. In J. Sikula,

T.J. Buttery, & E. Guyton (eds.), Handbook on Research in Teacher Education. New York:

Simon & Schuster Macmillan.

Clandinin, D.J. & F.M. Connelly (1986) Classroom practice: teacher images in action. London:

Falmer Press.

Clandinin, D.J. & F.M. Connelly (1987) Teachers’ personal knowledge: what counts as “personal”

in studies of the personal. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 19(6), pp. 487–500.

Clandinin, D.J. & F.M. Connelly (1989) Developing rhythm in teaching: the narrative study of a

beginning teacher’s personal practical knowledge of classrooms. Curriculum Inquiry, 19(2),

pp. 121–141.

Clandinin, D.J. & F.M. Connelly (1995) Teachers’ professional knowledge landscapes. New York:

Teachers College Press.

Clandinin, D.J. & M. Huber (2005) Shifting stories to live by: interweaving the personal and the

professional in teachers’ lives. In D. Beijaard, P. Meijer, G. Morine-Dershimer & H. Tillema

(eds.) Teacher professional development in changing conditions. Dordrecht: Springer.

Cochran-Smith, M. (2004) Walking the road: race, diversity, and social justice in teacher education.

New York: Teachers College Press.

Coldron, J. & R. Smith (1999) Active location in teachers’ construction of their professional

identities. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31(6), pp. 711–726.

Connelly, F.M. and Clandinin, D.J. (1999) Shaping a professional identity: stories of educational

practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

Cook-Sather, A. (submitted) Newly betwixt and between: revising liminality in the context of a

contemporary rite of passage.

Daloz, L. (1999) Mentor: guiding the journey of adult learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Devaney, K. (1977) Surveying teachers’ centers: from grassroots beginnings to federal support.

Washington, DC: Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (Education Division),

National Institute of Education.

Devaney, K. (1982) Networking on purpose: a reflective study of the Teachers’ Centers Exchange.

San Francisco: Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development.

Dewey, J. (1938) Experience and education. New York: Collier Macmillan.

Drago-Severson, E. (2004) Helping teachers learn: principal leadership for adult growth and

development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Elbaz-Luwisch, F. (2002) Writing as inquiry: storying the teaching self in writing workshops.

Curriculum Inquiry 32(4), pp. 403–428.

Featherstone, H. (1993) Learning from the first years of classroom teaching: the journey in, the

journey out. Teachers College Record, 95(1), pp. 93–112.

Feiman-Nemser, S. (1990) Teacher preparation: structural and conceptual alternatives. In

W.R. Houston (ed.), Handbook on teacher education, pp. 212–223. New York:


Feiman-Nemser, S. (2001) From preparation to practice: designing a continuum to strengthen and

sustain teaching. Teachers College Record, 103(6), pp. 1013–1055.

Feiman-Nemser, S. & Floden, R.E. (1986) The cultures of teaching. Handbook of research on

teaching, 3rd edition (ed. M.C. Wittrock), pp. 505–526. New York: Macmillan.


Fenstermacher, G.D. (2001) Manner in teaching: the study in four parts. Journal of Curriculum

Studies, 33(6), pp. 631–637.

Fitzgerald, T.K. (1993) Metaphors of identity. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Foulkes, S.H. (1975) A short outline of therapeutic processes in group analytic psychotherapy.

Group Analysis 8, pp. 59–63.

Gee, J. P. (2001) Identity as an analytic lens for research in education. In W.G. Secada (ed.) Review

of research in education, 25, 2000–2001. Washington, DC: American Educational Research


Gilligan, C. (2003) The birth of pleasure. New York: Vintage Books.

Giroux, H.A. (2005) Schooling and the struggle for public life: critical pedagogy in the modern age.

Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.

Greene, M. (1984) How do we think about our craft? Teachers College Record, 86(1), pp. 55–67.

Greene, M. (1995) Releasing the imagination: essays on education, the arts, and social change. San

Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Grinberg, J.G.A. (2002) “I had never been exposed to teaching like that”: progressive teacher

education at Bank Street during the 1930s. Teachers College Record, 104(7), pp. 1422–1460.

Hargreaves, A. (2001) The emotional geographies of teaching. Teachers College Record, 103(6),

pp. 1056–1080.

Hopper, T. & K. Sanford (2004) Representing multiple perspectives of self-as-teacher: integrated

teacher education and self-study.Teacher Education Quarterly 31(2), pp. 57–74.

Huberman, M. (1982) Making changes from exchanges: some frameworks for studying the

teachers’ centers exchange. In Networking on Purpose, San Francisco: Far West Laboratory.

Intrator, S. (2002) Stories of the courage to teach: honoring the teacher’s heart. San Francisco:


Jennings, L.B. & Smith, C.P. (2002) Examining the role of critical inquiry for transformative

practices: two joint case studies of multicultural teacher education. Teachers College Record,

104(3), pp. 456–481.

Johnson, K. (2003) “Every experience is a moving force:” Identity & growth through mentoring.

Teaching and Teacher Education, 19, pp. 787–800.

Kegan, R. (1982) The evolving self. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kegan, R. (1994) In over our heads. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Korthagen, F. & A. Vasalos (2005) Levels in reflection: core reflection as a means to enhance

professional growth. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 11(1), pp. 47–71.

Levine, K.P. (2004) The birth of the citizenship school: entwining the struggles for literacy and

freedom. History of Education Quarterly, 44(3), pp. 388–414.

MacLure, M. (1993) Arguing for yourself: identity as an organizing principle in teachers’ jobs and

lives. British Educational Research Journal, 19(4), pp. 311–323.

McGowen, K.R. & L.E. Hart (1990) Still different after all these years: gender differences

in professional identity formation. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 21(2),

pp. 118–123.

Marsh, M.M. (2002) Examining the discourses that shape our teacher identities. Curriculum

Inquiry, 32(4), pp. 453–469.

Mead, G.H. (1934) Mind, self and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mitchell, A. (1997) Teacher identity: a key to increased collaboration. Action in Teacher Education,

19, pp. 1–14.

Moore, A., G. Edwards, D. Halpin, & R. George (2002) Compliance, resistance and pragmatism:

the reconstruction of schoolteacher identities in a period of intensive educational reform. British

Educational Research Journal, 28(4), pp. 551–565.

Nias, J. (1989) Teaching and the self. In M.L. Holly & C.S. Mcloughlin (eds.), Perspectives on

teacher professional development, London: The Falmer Press, pp. 155–173.

Noddings, N. (2003) Caring: a feminine approach to ethics and moral education, Second edition.

Berkeley: University of California Press.

Palmer, P.J. (1998) The courage to teach: exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San

Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Rex, L. & M.C. Nelson (2004) How teachers’ professional identities position high-stakes test

preparation in their classrooms. Teachers College Record, 106(6), pp. 1288–1331.

Richardson, V. (1996) The role of attitudes and beliefs in learning to teach. In J. Sikula,

T.J. Buttery, & E. Guyton (eds.), Handbook of Research on Teacher Education. New York:

Simon & Schuster Macmillan.

Rodgers, C.R. (1998) Morris R. Mitchell and the Putney Graduate School of Teacher Education,

1950–1964. Unpublished dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Rodgers, C.R. (2002) Seeing student learning: teacher change and the role of reflection. Harvard

Educational Review, 72(2), pp. 230–253.

Rodgers, C.R. (in press) “The Turning of One’s Soul:” learning to teach for social justice: The

Putney Graduate School of Teacher Education (1950–1964). Teachers College Record, 108(7).

Samuel, M. & D. Stevens (2000) Critical dialogues with self: developing teacher identities and

roles—a case study of South African student teachers. International Journal of Educational

Research, 33, pp. 475–491.

Schoomaker, F. (1998) Promise and possibility: learning to teach. Teachers College Record, 99(3),

pp. 559–591.

Scott, K. (1999) Parenting boys identified as having learning disabilities: a meaning-making perspective.

Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of


Sfard, A. & A. Prusak (2005) Telling identities: in search of an analytic tool for investigating

learning as a culturally shaped activity. Educational Researcher, 34(4), pp. 14–22.

Sikula, J.P. (ed.) Handbook of research on teacher education, Second edition. New York:


Smagorinsky, P., L.S. Cook, C. Moore, A.Y. Jackson, & P.G. Fry (2004) Tensions in learning to

teach: accommodations and the development of a teaching identity. Journal of Teacher Education,

55(1), pp. 8–24.

Smulyan, L. (2004) Choosing to teach: reflections on gender and social change. Teachers College

Record, 106(3), pp. 513–543.

Spence, D. (1984) Narrative truth and historical truth: meaning and interpretation in psychoanalysis.

New York: Norton.

Stengle, B. & A.R. Tom (1995) Taking the moral nature of teaching seriously. The Educational

Forum 59(2), pp. 154–169.

Sterling, M. (2005) Influences on professional learning: five teachers’ stories. Unpublished doctoral

dissertation, Lesley University, pp. 24–57.

Van Manen, M. (1994) Pedagogy, virtue, and narrative identity in teaching. Curriculum Inquiry,

4(2), pp. 135–170.

Van Manen, M. (1999) The practice of practice. In M. Lange, J. Olson, H. Hansen, & W. Bünder

(eds.), Changing schools/changing practices: perspectives on educational reform and teacher

professionalism. Louvain, Belgium: Garant.

Van Manen, M. (2000) Moral language and pedagogical experience. Journal of Curriculum

Studies, 32(2), pp. 315–327.

Watts, H. (2005) The legacy of teachers’ centers. Unpublished Monograph, Keene, NH: Antioch

New England.

Williams, R. (1961) The long revolution. New York: Columbia University Press.

Winograd, K. (2003) The functions of teacher emotions: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Teachers

College Record, 105(9), pp. 1641–1673.

Zembylas, M. (2002) “Structures of feeling” in curriculum and teaching theorizing the emotional

rules. Educational Theory, 52(2), pp. 187–208.

Zembylas, M. (2003) Emotions and teacher identity: a poststructural perspective. Teachers and

Teaching: Theory and Practice, 9(3), pp. 214–238.