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Teachers from Diverse Backgrounds: 'Making a Different Kind of Difference'

Author Gareth Burns
Abstract The recent government investment in the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) and its aim of widening access to initial teacher education, has focused attention on the need for greater diversity in the teaching profession. Much of the research on the benefits of a diverse teaching profession focuses on the potential of teachers from under-represented groups to act as positive 'role models' for students from various socio-demographic backgrounds (Villegas & Irvine, 2010). This study adopted a narrative life history methodology grounded in phenomenology. Semistructured, life-history interviews were conducted with 18 early career teachers drawn from three urban designated disadvantaged primary schools. Significantly, the sample contained a balance of teachers drawn from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, which was very advantageous considering the emphasis the study placed on exploring teachers' habitus and its influence on idealised and realised teacher identities and practices. The very distinct and positive contribution early career teachers with strong childhood ties to working class communities are making in social justice terms, offers a window into the transformative influence a more diverse teaching population can have. However, the strength of this cohort's belief in the importance of students acting appropriately within prevailing, non-controversial and non-political discourses of meritocratic participation, points to the need to problematise the way in which the desirability of a more diverse and representative teaching force is framed in the policy discourse.
Keywords Teacher Diversity; Early Career Teachers; Initial Teacher Education, Teacher Identity, Teachers as Role Models, Education and Social Justice
Published In ICEP Proceedings
Year 2018
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