The professional identity formation of art teachers during their early career

1 September 2019 until 31 December 2024
Project type

Contemporary art and cultural education require enthusiastic teachers who have a highly-developed professional image. As a teacher trainer at ArtEZ University of the Arts and an external PhD candidate at the Radboud Teachers Academy, Maeve O’Brien conducts PhD research into the professional identity formation of new teachers of visual art and design. These teachers are trained in two professions, that of artist and teacher. During teacher training, a great deal of attention is paid to how these teachers develop both of their professional identity positions. But once they start working at a school, the relationship between these professional identity positions may sometimes become compromised.

Study 1 investigated how new teachers of visual art experienced subject-specific and generic professional identity dilemmas during their early career. This study showed that they experienced twice as many dilemmas as junior teachers of other school subjects, although dilemmas that were specific to the subject of art did not weigh more heavily in this experience. The status and position of art in school intensified their dilemma experience, but the generic dilemmas of emotional involvement with students, a sense of time constraints for the core task of teaching, as well as activities outside of school were significant dilemmas for new teachers of visual art.

The second and third studies followed 12 new teachers over a period of 12 months. Discussions with the researcher as well as discussions between the participants during focus groups will highlight how a personal motivation for the teaching profession, professional knowledge, professional discourse and the school environment influence professional teacher identity. It is expected that these authentic accounts of experiences with professional identity formation during one’s early career will clarify the understanding of multiple identity positions, which may ultimately contribute to our understanding of the hybrid teaching profession in an era of the flexibilisation of the paths into the teaching profession.


The Dutch Research Council Doctoral Grant for Teachers


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