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Learning to teach: a question of reciprocal ontological security

Blake, Allan and McNally, Jim (2009) Learning to teach: a question of reciprocal ontological security. In: Theory and Evidence in European Educational Research, EUROPEAN EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATION, 2009-09-28 - 2009-09-30. (Unpublished)

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Learning to teach has been seen by some as a matter of acquiring the requisite knowledge and skills and by others as more of an initiation of the beginner into a new and complex world (e.g. Eddy 1969). This paper addresses the question of which of these is closer to reality by drawing on evidence, both qualitative and quantitative, from a large scale project on the experience of new teachers in schools in Scotland and England (see EPL Project website). The paper also discusses this evidence in relation to the wider international literature, particularly in relation to emotion, identity and workplace (e.g. Bosma and Kunnen 2001; Hargreaves 1998; Hinchliffe 2004; Illeris 2002). Within a grounded theoretical framework of dimensions of early professional learning, that also draws on the data and the literature, the evidence suggests that the early formative process is one of emotional and relational engagement, with little indication of the cognitive. Other than coming to terms with real difference between children taught, there is little reference to the official standard, for example, to subject-specific or broader aspects of the curriculum (McNally et al 2006; 2008). Looking across the dimensions, a more holistic interpretation is that a new self-as-teacher identity is emerging. Applying Giddens'(1991) concepts of the pure relationship and ontological security to the particular context of the new teacher in the classroom, and Bakhtin's perspective on the self (Holquist 1990), it is argued that the experience of becoming a teacher is essentially about attaining a state of reciprocal ontological security.