Facilitating Teacher Critical Authenticity through Poetic Inquiry

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


The project I am working on problematises the concept of teacher authenticity and invites teachers to join in reframing its meaning, significance, feasibility, and plausibility through poetry writing in a workshop setting. In my proposed presentation, I will discuss how the concept of teacher authenticity (as well as other defining parameters of teacher identity) risks silencing teachers and pushing them into invisibility and how poetry supports the articulation of individual identities. The paper will engage with the intersections of power and subjectivity (Foucault, 1997), and current critical discourses on the role of poetry in articulating identities, undermining prevalent narratives, and taking ownership (Faulkner, 2020). As ‘an effective tool to talk back to power’ (Prendergast, 2009: xxxviii), the use of poetry in empirical studies allows participants to enter the games of representation, challenge the boundaries of definition, ‘expose, highlight and undermine power’ (Leavy, 2010:240).

The notion of authenticity is prevalent in discussions on teacher identity, efficacy and professional development (Bialystok, 2015). Authenticity is generally understood to refer to our conceptions of who we are, the existence of a primordial self and the place of that self in the world (Taylor, 1991 etc). When applied to teacher identity (as in the term ‘teacher authenticity’, used by Kreber et al., 2007; Kreber and Klampfleitner, 2013; Johnson and LaBelle, 2017 etc.), it becomes a definition for a homogenous group, implying that teacher selves could be classified and categorised. It is my position that accepting this narrative poses the risk of homogenising the identity of teachers, therefore diminishing the impact that teachers’ individual values, beliefs and identities bring to the classroom and the profession.
The concept of critical authenticity is posited in this paper to engage with the dynamic process of authenticity and the politics of expression. Critical authenticity is defined here as an on-going narrative construction of the self. It also refers to the process of self-reactions to the constraints and pressures systemically imposed or internally constructed (accountability culture of the educational institution or crisis of identities for instance). The term seeks to encapsulate the conception of embryonic and constructive responses, the speaking in-to-being of ideas and actions geared towards navigating beyond the isolated, constrained, and binary definitions of self. Since the writing or telling of one’s story is a critical act and can lead to self-awareness and/or emancipation (Lorde, 2017), critical authenticity can also be seen as a disposition – a kind of existential overflow – that irrupts as a result of confronting problematic constraints and obstacles that emanate from the external world and acts in problematic ways upon the self.
Period6 Sept 20228 Sept 2022
Held atBritish Educational Research Association, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Poetic Inquiry, arts-based research, philosophy of education

Public engagement types

  • Community Education