Significant turning points in the formation of teacher professional identities in England
: a narrative inquiry

  • Alexander Ramiz

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This is a study of how teachers in England used narrative to make sense of and describe significant moments of change in the formation of their professional identities. It covers the thirty years following the 1988 Educational Reform Act, a time of a neoliberal policy agenda termed the ‘Global Educational Reform Movement’ (Sahlberg, 2012).

The following questions guided this research, one of which addressed concerns within the professional sphere of teaching, the other with making an original contribution within the broad methodology of narrative inquiry:

1. What experiences are significant in the formation of teachers’ professional identities, and do any patterns exist between generational cohorts in relation to changes in the educational system of England over the last thirty years?
2. How, and to what extent, can methods of critical literary analysis specifically focused on the different ways that significant episodes are structured, provide potentially richer understandings within narrative inquiry?

Twelve research participants across four generational cohorts contributed to this interpretive inquiry. They were drawn from publicly-funded primary, secondary and further education settings (pupil/student ages 7-18), with a variety of subject specialisms.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted and transcribed between 2015 and 2018. Each interview transcript was coded using a combination of thematic and structural literary analysis. To compare the development of the participants’ professional identities, findings were presented chronologically in four broad stages: pre-career biographies; experiences of teacher training and probation; post-probation career; and moments of crisis, departure and resolution.

Amongst findings of the research was the dynamic interplay between the personal altruistic and intrinsic goals of the teachers and the extrinsic, external managerial cultures of accountability. Literary analysis also revealed patterns linked to the biographical and identity profiles of the research participants in how they had structured narratives. Potential implications for policy makers, practitioners and other researchers, including those relating to teacher professional autonomy and mentorship programmes, are discussed.

Until now, within social sciences research generally and qualitative Teacher Professional Identity research specifically, turning points have been widely recognised; however, research into the various ways in which they are structured is scant. The significant contribution of this research has been the attempt to tentatively categorise different types of turns that occur across different episodes in teachers’ careers in an organised way. Recourse to recent developments in literary criticism concerned with various ways in which literary works structurally turn has revealed further means to glean potentially richer and more detailed interpretive insights from narrative accounts.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorKeith Turvey (Supervisor), Michael Hayler (Supervisor) & Andrew Hobson (Supervisor)

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