Pedagogy, Performativity and Profit: The influence of privatized contexts on the professional identity of teachers.

Milner, Alison (2014) Pedagogy, Performativity and Profit: The influence of privatized contexts on the professional identity of teachers. [Dissertation (University of Nottingham only)]

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Free schools have been a part of the Swedish educational landscape for over twenty years and now

represent a quarter of all schools in Sweden. Despite their steady growth, there is no qualitative

research examining how teachers’ professional identities are transformed as a result of these new

privatized contexts. This study explores how seven teachers negotiate their professional identities in

for-profit free schools in Sweden. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted via Skype

and recorded digitally; interview transcripts were then analyzed interpretively. Four main themes

were identified: identity negotiation, with subthemes of identifying a self through others,

pedagogical identities, cultural similarities and differences, qualified and unqualified others,

institutional identities, and public and private sector identities; agency, with subthemes of individual

and collective agency; structure, with subthemes of the productive self, the model teacher,

leadership, the moral agent, unstable contexts, temporary selves; and personal and professional

change, with subthemes of performativity, stable selves and profit. The findings from the research

indicate that each teacher’s experience of for-profit schools is unique and so therefore is the

negotiation of a professional identity. Teachers’ substantive selves remain fairly intact despite the

challenges of the environment in which they work; these teachers are student-centred,

pedagogically-focused, and place high importance on moral professionalism. However, a culture of

competition and comparison resulting from performativity within a vulnerable educational market

means that teachers’ situated selves are less stable and opportunities for a collective professional

identity are undermined. Much is dependent on a supportive, trusting leadership and a sense of

belonging which relates to social recognition and teacher-work environment fit. When teachers are

esteemed and individual and school values align, identities are more stable. When teachers do not

feel acknowledged and there is tension between individual and school values, identities are less

stable and compromises might be made for personal or professional reasons. Although limited in

scale, the findings raise important issues for leadership at school, system and policy level; they reveal

how the results-audit agenda can be misappropriated by companies to drive up performance and

profit, how teachers’ professional identities can be determined at local rather than national level,

and how the teaching community as a whole can be fragmented by entrepreneurialism. Arguably,

further research is required to investigate the extent of these claims and compare the experiences of

teachers across the non-profit free school and municipal school contexts.

Item Type: Dissertation (University of Nottingham only)
Depositing User: Gigg, Diane
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2015 09:07
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2017 00:08

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