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Educational discourses and teaching identities : an ethnography of being taught to teach Taylor, John


Poststructuralism and discourse analysis have offered us new ways to research and understand human behaviour. Their contributions have been particularly useful for investigating individual identity or subjectivity. Poststructuralism suggests that we understand the individual as discursively positioned or constructed. When becoming who we are and acting how we do, we do so using already available discourses: ways of being, ways of knowing. We are constantly surrounded by multiple, contradictory discourses, and by consequence individual subjectivity is also changing, multiple, and contradictory. Using poststructuralism and critical discourse analysis I conducted a twelve-month ethnography of the experiences of being taught to teach. On the first of September, 1997 I began the twelve month, secondary English, teacher education program at the University of British Columbia. I employed autoethnographic and ethnographic techniques to explore some of the dominant and marginal discourses in teacher education, with a focus on my experiences and those of four other students. While there are many discourses operating in and around teacher education and schools, I examined only three: "Student Teacher as Technician," "Student Teacher as Child," and "Student Teacher as Agent for Change." The data gathered suggests a teacher education program which at its core is technocratic in nature. Students are kept so busy with largely trivial assignments and tasks that indepth engagement with educational theories and ideas is virtually impossible. Furthermore, the technocratic approach by its very nature appears to inhibit discourses related to social or educational change. In short, it could be said that students are not in a "teacher education program" but instead a "teacher training program." Perhaps one of the most significant contributions of this research is that it represents the only ethnography of teacher education conducted by a student of teacher education. This "inside" perspective may provide unique and valuable insights and offer a balance to the professorial perspective, which dominates the majority of discussions about contemporary teacher education. It is my hope that this research helps to clarify the various discourses that circulate throughout teacher education. If these discourses become more apparent to us, we can begin to understand how they act upon us to position us in particular ways as teachers and student teachers. It is also my hope that by representing a variety of ways of being a teacher, I will help to create a space in which a multiplicity of approaches to teaching are accepted and appreciated.

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