Professional development and identity (re)formation: the particularities of the experiences of teachers training to specialise in the areas of SEN

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

20 Downloads (Pure)


The UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that inclusive education provides the best educational environment for all learners and it has been recognised that such inclusion requires targeted training for teachers that imparts the necessary knowledge, skills and competencies to produce reflective, self-critical teachers (for example see European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2010; Forlin, 2010; Larrivee, 2000; Van Laarhoven et al, 2007). As well as influencing professional practice, investigations have been made into how teacher training has an impact on self-identity. Søreide (2006) contends that the construction of identity is a continually evolving, socially negotiated process, while Woods and Jeffrey (2002:98) suggest that self-identity is constantly ‘remade’ and ‘reformed’ through a reflexive process which they term ‘identity work’ (2002:98). Woods and Jeffrey define this work as involving teachers talking about what they do and who they are, in order that old identities can be dismantled and new ones embraced. In this paper I interweave ideas about ‘identity work’ with Lave and Wenger’s (1991) concept of ‘participation in communities of practice’ to investigate the ways in which engaging in professional development might impact upon how teachers perceive themselves as having professional identities that affiliate them with, or disassociate them from, the particular educational communities in which they work. The paper details research undertaken with teachers who are subject to English Educational policy (i.e. DfES, 2004; Rose, 2009) and working with children identified as having ‘Special Educational Needs’ (SEN) and/or ‘Specific Learning Differences’ (SpLD) such as Dyslexia. The data offered was gathered in two key strands. Firstly through a survey consisting of mainly quantitative questions, responded to by 211 individuals, and secondly through six focus groups and nine narrative life history interviews (Webster and Mertova, 2007) which were qualitative in approach. All those involved were working as qualified teachers throughout England while studying for one of two ‘inclusive education’ programmes: ‘Specialist Dyslexia Training for Teachers Programme’ and the ‘Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination (SENCOs)’. I detail my findings to show how the teachers undertaking these programmes identify themselves as different from other teachers; as having distinct personal attributes, different roles in school, and particular motivations for pursuing their chosen career paths. In the discussion of these findings I argue that professional development addressed to inclusive education can enable teachers to become better learners, develop their practice and feel integrated into the inclusive education community of practice. However, I also explore how tensions might arise from the teachers’ self positioning because of the ways in which they perceive themselves as distinct and separate from other communities of practices such as those defined by curriculum subject or the key stage / age phase of pupils. Although this research was conducted in an English context, the suggestion that inclusive educators continually negotiate their engagement with and commitment to colleagues and the diverse intersecting communities of practice in which work may be of interest to a broad European audience. I feel my findings can have resonance with teachers, teacher educators and the producers of inclusive education policy in a range of differing national contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012
EventEuropean Educational Research Association (EERA) European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) - Cadiz, Spain
Duration: 18 Sept 201221 Sept 2012


ConferenceEuropean Educational Research Association (EERA) European Conference on Educational Research (ECER)


Dive into the research topics of 'Professional development and identity (re)formation: the particularities of the experiences of teachers training to specialise in the areas of SEN'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this