Monday, May 2, 2011

Coldron and Smith (1999) Active location in teachers’ construction of their professional identities

Coldron, J. and Smith R. (1999). Active location in teachers’ construction of their professional identities. Journal of Curriculum Studies. (31)6, 711-726. [link]


  • Identity as a teacher is partly given and partly achieved by active location in social space.
  • Social space is an array of possible relations that one person can have to others. Some of these relations are conferred by inherited social structures and categorizations and some are chosen or created by the individual.
  • Sets of practices (traditions) convey possibilities within social space.
  • The development of a teacher’s professional identity is largely dependent on the quality and availability of these varied factors.
  • Craft, scientific, moral and artistic traditions are four traditions that are significant in educational practice.

Identity should be seen as something that we use to justify, explain and make sense of ourselves in relation to other people, and to the context in which we operate (p712)

Traditions are repositories of possible or actual practices and structures (p713)

Traditions and practices are the means by which we become ourselves (p714)

Traditions and practices have an associated community. In various formal and informal ways members act as custodians of the tradition and determine judgements of quality. They also contribute to the tradition, transmitting and reshaping it.

C&S propose that we think of biography as a mixture of social biography and personal biography

Structure is used here to denote relatively intractable social constructs, including cognitive frameworks and affective templates as well as institutional practices. p715

An individual teacher’s choice is crucially determined by the array of possibilities he or she perceives as available.

C&S consider teachers as craftspersons in so far as they plan actions aimed at achieving a pre-determined end, the success of which depends on their spontaneous responses to contextual factors and on the exercise of acquirable skills.

Teaching requires moral judgements in at least three areas. First, each teacher has to evaluate what he or she is asked to do. Second, there are customs and habits that insidiously become part of a teacher’s practice as a result of the institutional culture of which he or she is a part. Third, despite the increasing external influences, many choices are exercised in the classroom and those choices have moral dimensions.

C&S contend that teachers generate additional resources through aesthetic response to professional experience - a particular example of how people in general create personal meaning of great significance for their actions and identity. It is a process that corresponds to the way artists create new resources in relation to existing discourses.

Conclusion and implications

  • Teaching requires mature practitioners who are active participants in a rich array of educational traditions
  • Teachers need to become aware of the plurality of approaches and ways of doing things
  • Teacher educators and others interested in encouraging continuing professional development should strive to engage teachers with this range of resources

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Joe!

    I want to read this article based on your notes, but I'm having trouble when I used the citation you have here. I'm not missing anything, right? There aren't any typos or anything, right? If not, then I'll go request it from our inter-library loan system, but I wanted to make sure that I had the citation correct.