The professional identity of the further education teacher in the UK : a case study

McGowan, Anita (2021) The professional identity of the further education teacher in the UK : a case study. (Ed.D thesis), Kingston University, .


The purpose of this research is to develop an understanding of how the professional identity of the Further Education (FE) teacher is formed within the UK with a particular emphasis on England. This involves examining the way in which their role and the context in which they work contributes to their identity and draws upon Bourdieu’s theories of habitus, capital and field (1986) in addition to the conceptual frameworks of professional identity from Millerson (1964), Furlong et al. (2000) and Briggs (2007). This research contributes knowledge to the field of professional identity FE by collecting and analysing qualitative data focussing upon the expectations and experiences of teachers employed in FE Colleges (FEC). Through an exploratory case study approach, data was collected using two sets of semi-structured interviews, participant diaries and a paper based questionnaire with the process of analysis informed by the literature review to develop overarching themes of professional identity. Coding was undertaken using a four-step process proposed by Harding (2013) which produced 19 categories and finally the themes relating to teacher role, student profile and qualifications. The thesis concludes that the way in which professional identity is formed is unique to other occupations due to the role of the FE teacher; the nature of their work and the environment in which they inhabit. Notably, this has evolved through legislative acts which are designed to align education into business concepts, where accountability and the importance of the client service relationship are seen as key concepts of new managerialism. These now dominate the day-to-day activities of the FE teacher involving, for example, administrative and welfare duties which were not previously undertaken by teachers. In addition, the relationship between the FE teacher and the non-traditional type of student in having a ‘second chance’ was a key element in the identity of the FE teacher in what has been described by some as the ‘Cinderella’ sector. Due to the unique formation of such an identity, a new term is proposed namely the ‘Morphed’ professional. This accounts for the ways in which FE teachers often have previous professional identities, sometimes more than one, in addition to being a teacher in FE. However, these other identities may interrelate to each other and effectively contribute to the uniqueness of the FE teacher rather than replace an identity from a previous career.

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