Social class, habitus and reflexivity: an analysis of trainee teachers’ understandings

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the relationship between trainee teachers’ social class backgrounds and their early professional identity development in placement schools. Reasons why they seek to train in specific schools and how trainees’ social class backgrounds affect their choice of placement schools is explored. The concepts of dispositional understanding and habitus are used to develop an understanding of the social class values trainee teachers bring to an initial teacher training course and consequently, how these concepts are made manifest during training placements. My epistemological position as a qualitative researcher defines the framework for how I gather and interpret my data. Using interviews that explore social backgrounds and details of placement experiences provides data that is rich in personal detail, as well as giving insight into how trainees perceive their training placements and early career professional identity development. The findings indicate that trainees research their school-based placements in order to ensure that they have an increased chance of successfully completing their training. This leads to trainees preferring placements in what they perceive to be successful schools. Making such choices reduces the potential for failure through coming into contact with school students who may, through the trainees’ perceptions of such students, disrupt trainees’ progress. In doing so, they seek to detach themselves from students whom they perceive may damage their chances of successfully completing placements and ultimately, their entry into teaching. Analysis of trainees’ recall of taught elements of their training reveals that they privilege information relating to ethnicity, race, gender or religion over students’ socio-economic status. Finally, analysis of policy shows that with future changes to initial teacher training there are implications for courses due to elimination and recruitment to schools in areas of social deprivation.
Date of AwardFeb 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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