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Living forwards learning backwards: A reflective topical autobiography exploring the construction of art teacher identity
This thesis uses Reflective Topical Autobiography, as an adapted interpretation of narrative methodology, to investigate the influences on the construction of the identity of an art teacher‘s identity over time. The notion of human identity, and theorists who investigate this notion, initiates the study. The concept of teacher identity, and more specifically, art teacher identity, is explored. Teacher identity is acknowledged to be an integral part of the teaching and learning process, and so meaningful teaching, and more specifically, meaningful art teaching, is discussed. Questions that arise from this discussion provide the underpinning focus of the data analysis. What influences contribute to the construction of teacher identity? What role does knowledge play? What kinds of knowledge are important? How is that knowledge acquired? In this interpretive study, which is lodged in the qualitative paradigm of research, social constructionism provides a lens through which to investigate the life and the voice of an art teacher, as an interpretation of her professional identity construction. That life, and that voice, are my own. The purpose for this investigation is to attempt to trace the influences that construct the identity of an art teacher over an extended time, through reflecting on influential people, places and experiences in the educational and professional context,. Although I acknowledge that the personal and the professional are enmeshed, emphasis has been placed on the professional in order to invite greater reader resonance. Initially, an autobiography provides the broad data, from which incidents are selected that I believe have been important influences in the construction of my own teacher identity over time. Data analysis takes the form of further deep reflection on these incidents, in order to extract their significance and meaning. The methodology of Reflective Topical Autobiography is followed, reflecting on this carefully selected data, and these reflections are underpinned with a theoretical base. The construction of my own teacher identity over time is plotted, exploring significant educational and personal experiences that have contributed to making me the kind of teacher that I am. An attempt is made to extract principles of art teacher identity construction. The thesis concludes with recommendations for teacher education, in which my work is lodged, and with further recommendations to in-service teachers. This thesis uses the metaphor of a spiral, which is a process that begins at the centre, and moves outwards in a circular line. The reason for this choice is that reflection is a process that looks back, and with experience and new knowledge, enables one to come to a new understanding of the focus. The looking back, however, is from a different place on the spiral, and may in fact be from several different places on the spiral. Thus, the looking back, or reflection from a different place, offers a different perspective of the focus. Throughout the thesis, the poem Little Gidding, one of the Four Quartets, by T S Eliot (1942), is used and interpreted through the lens of this study. The use of artefacts, and in this case, photographs and mandalas that I have made over the years, offer a form of truth, a kind of substantiation for the written word. Education in South Africa has progressed through many years of difficulty, and amended or new curricula with various foci do not seem to address the problems appropriately. Perhaps a closer investigation of the identity of the teacher, and a stronger emphasis on nurturing this identity, will help to address some of the problems that seem to result in the poor preparation, for learners, for a meaningful place in the world beyond the classroom.