Agency and aspiration in career narratives of men becoming teaching assistants

Meredith, Caroline Ann (2022) Agency and aspiration in career narratives of men becoming teaching assistants. EdD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

Concerns about gendered attainment-gaps and the scarcity of men teaching in England’s primary schools underlie a popular and political assumption that recruiting more men to the sector will help to counter perceived gender inequalities in teaching and learning. Nevertheless, of nearly 390,000 Teaching Assistants (TAs) recruited since 2003 fewer than 10% are men. To better understand the barriers and affordances to men becoming TAs this study investigates what motivates men to become TAs. It seeks to understand their experiences, and how becoming a TA might aid their career aspirations.

The narrative study utilised life-grid interviews to capture the career narratives of nine men who have become TAs. Graphic timelines illustrated and interpreted the narratives by plotting past events, present experiences and future aspirations which motivate and drive the careers of men becoming TAs. An iterative approach to analysis enabled investigation of the forces that influence careers, and the nature of self-directed, agential career-crafting.

The findings suggest that whilst the primary education work-sector is gender-concentrated, the TA role itself is not inevitably gendered. Frequently, participants were motivated by a sense of vocation and wanting to make a positive contribution, whilst seeking a sustainable, viable career. The study found a significant relationship between aspirational career-thinking and agential career-crafting. Together, these offer fertile ground for an ambitious career trajectory. This study argues that when combined with lifelong learning, TA work can encourage aspirational career-thinking and strengthen individuals’ agency to craft a self-directed career with increasingly ambitious goals. This is an important finding in the context of attracting men into primary education and nurturing their ambitions, to encourage them to remain in the sector.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (EdD)
Supervisors: Townsend, Andy
Medwell, Jane
Keywords: Teachers' assistants; Male teachers; Elementary schools, Great Britain; Vocational guidance
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 68441
Depositing User: Meredith, Caroline
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2022 04:41
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2022 04:41
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/68441

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