Supporting beginner teacher identity development: external mentors and the third space

Joanna McIntyre, Andrew Hobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper reports findings from a study of support provided by non-school based mentors of secondary science teachers in England. It focuses on the identity development of beginning teachers of physics, some of the recipients of the mentoring. Drawing on the analysis of interview and case study data, and utilizing third space theory, the authors show how external mentors (experienced, subject specialist teachers who were not based in the same schools as the teachers they were supporting) facilitated opportunities for mentees to negotiate and shape their professional identities, and made valuable contributions to three distinct and important aspects of beginning teachers’ identity development. The paper argues that non-judgemental support from external mentors enhances beginner teachers’ professional learning and identity development through the creation of a discursive ‘third’ space in which mentees are able to openly discuss professional learning and development needs, discuss alternatives to performative norms and take risks in classrooms. Opportunities for beginner teachers to engage in such activities are often restricted in and by the current climate of schooling and teacher education within England.Key words: beginning teachers, external mentoring, teacher identity, teaching physics, third space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-158
Number of pages26
JournalResearch Papers in Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Research Papers in Education, 2015, 31(2), available online:


  • beginning teachers
  • external mentoring
  • teacher identity
  • teaching physics
  • third space


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