Self-Concept of Teacher Identity in Northern Ireland

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Over the course of the first ten weeks of my study of education, I have developed a wide knowledge of the key aspect of Teacher Identity. This simple aspect permeates the entire study of education and plays an important role in many other aspects of the study. Through my study of education, it has become apparent that Teacher Identity is based solely on the individual and their values as well as emotions. Professional identity is defined as “one’s professional self-concept based on attributes, beliefs, values, motives and experiences” (Ibarra, 1999; Schein, 1978). Professional Identity is “shifting, unstable and multiple” (Beijaard et al., 2004: 108). Therefore it is not fixed for any individuals, instead it is formed through many past experiences. Teacher Identity is formed through experiences at school, at home, through family, culture, religion and many other factors. Thus, it is evident that Teacher Identity is unfixed.

In addition, I have developed the knowledge and understanding that over the course of one’s teaching career that your Identity as a teacher will undoubtedly change and develop as you progress from a student teacher to a teacher. There are many challenges associated with the endeavor of developing your Professional Identity. There are questions which must be asked in order for you to fully understand your approach to teaching which will form your Teacher Identity. These questions include why you want to be a teacher, what you will need to do as a teacher and ultimately who are you as a person?

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One of the most challenging aspects of developing your Teacher Professional Identity is forming your identity as a student teacher. This may prove difficult when considering your role within the workplace. More often than not, the endeavor of developing your Teacher Identity as a student teacher may be overpowered by the idea that you are not a member of staff or that you are not fully in charge of your class. Other significant obstacles include tutors and host teachers as these factors may affect how you develop your Teacher Identity. It is said that as a student teacher you enter into an “interim world” whereby you journey to find your teacher Identity.

Following this, Rollett claims that teachers should be “optimistic, outreach, loving personalities interested in children and concerned about their needs, able and happy in relating with them and willing to put in any amount of time and effort necessary to make a success of this”. Thus, Rollett’s ideals about the key aspect of Teacher identity is one of care, compassion and love. These values should be instilled in each teacher through the study of education and should form their Professional Identity. Rollett also places emphasis on emotions, reinforcing the intention of teaching as an emotive profession which in turn illustrates the idea of teacher identity forming through emotions. Likewise, it is apparent that in order to develop a Professional Identity, teachers must constantly engage in self-reflection, questioning and evaluation.

Furthermore, in order to develop your Teacher Professional Identity, an overwhelming factor is confidence. It is essential to develop your confidence through various different strategies. These strategies include: reading, thinking, working, immersing yourself and seeking advice. Firstly, reading helps to further your beliefs and understanding of education and thus forms what is known as your Teacher Identity. Additionally, thinking is another strategy whereby your Teacher Identity is formed. The thought process of teaching and education implements core values and beliefs which indeed furthers your knowledge and understanding of education, in turn forming your Teacher Identity. Teacher identity is also developed through immersing yourself in the practice of teaching. Through immersion, experience is gained which heightens and manipulates your Professional Identity. Continuing on from this, it is necessary to seek advice from individuals in the profession of teaching to contribute to your own Professional “persona”. Following this, this advice must be implemented and acted upon.

The ‘General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland’ refers to Teacher Identity on many different occasions. This publication outlines that teaching is an ethical and value based profession, therefore these attributes must stand at the core of your Teacher Identity. These values help to form and create a Professional Identity which has deep roots in religion and personal experiences. With reference to the ‘General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland’ there are many competences that teachers should employ which will help to shape their Teacher Identity. These competences have been set out under three broad headings. The first heading is considered to be “Professional Values and Practice” which states that teachers should “uphold the core values and commitments” as outlined in the Council’s “Code of Values and Professional Practice”. Furthermore, the second competence headline is “Professional Knowledge and Understanding” which focuses on the development of teachers. Teachers should present a knowledge and understanding of the learning areas that they teach. As an Irish medium student, it is also expected that I should develop bilingual contexts, sufficient linguistic and pedagogical knowledge to teach the curriculum. This forms another aspect of teacher identity which is enshrined with the Irish Language. The final competence is “Professional Skills and Application”. This competence concentrates on planning and leading, and teaching, and learning. As a result of these competences, teacher identity should be shaped with close reference to the codes outlined in the ‘General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland’.

With close reference to the idea that teaching is an ethical and value based profession, as outlined in the “General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland”. Another key aspect to Teacher Identity in Northern Ireland is Catholic Education. Any teacher who works within a Catholic maintained school, must have a Religious Education Certificate. As a teacher in a Catholic maintained school, each teacher must have an aspect of faith, morality and religion enshrined within their Teacher Identity. Sockett (1993) utilizes the charter and code to give the impression that “It is… impossible to talk extensively about teachers and teaching without a language of morality.” Thus, teacher identity should also be formed with the idea of morality, following with the key aspect of ethics. Catholic ethos plays a significant role in education across Northern Ireland. The ethos of a school lies at the heart of the educative process, initiated with the teacher’s professional identity. Catholic Education is often described as inclusive, person-centred and focuses on community, therefore, these values should be instilled within the Professional Identity of those who teach in these schools. Additionally, Teacher Identity is furthered developed by their own faith and ethos.

Moreover, Rodgers and Scott explore the view that “Contemporary conceptions of identity share four basic assumptions: (1) that identity is dependent upon and formed within multiple contexts which bring social, cultural, political, and historical forces to bear upon that formation; (2) that identity is formed in relationship with others and involves emotions; (3) that identity is shifting, unstable, and multiple; and, (4) that identity involves the construction and reconstruction of meaning through stories over time”. With close analysis to this extract, Rodgers and Scott portray the view that Professional Identity is different for every individual and is shaped through past experiences. The four assumptions as outlined above, certainly outline the nature of Professional Identity and “persona”. Kegan’s “Conception of self” is also outlined in Rodgers and Scott. Through the “Conception of self”, teachers reflect on their own personal experiences and the developmental stages of their Teacher Identity. Teachers may focus on their own teaching content such as their discipline and how they teach their area of study, they may reflect on their experiences throughout their teaching career or they may reflect on their identity.

However, despite Teacher Identity playing a prominent role in the educative process, it must coincide with the Northern Ireland Curriculum. Some of the key factors of the Northern Ireland Curriculum include: the idea that it focuses on the learning process and the outcomes of education, also, the curriculum is flexible in that schools and teachers can decide the topics and approaches that best suit their pupils, and it also gives equal emphasis to knowledge understanding and skills. With reference to these factors, the teacher must enshrine their Teacher Professional Identity with those factors outlined above. The flexible nature of the curriculum, as it does not outline mandatory topics, allows for the teacher to express their Teacher Identity in the classroom through their own approaches and experiences.

To conclude, Teacher Professional Identity is developed over the course of a teacher’s career. Professional Identity is also known as Professional “persona”. It cannot be fixed, nor can two individuals have the same Teacher Identity. Professional identity is formed through past experiences, values, beliefs and emotions. Although there are many challenges in the endeavour, Teacher Identity can be developed through reading, thinking, immersing and seeking advice. Overall, Teacher Identity plays one of the most prominent roles in the study of education. As a concluding statement, I have now developed a greater knowledge and understanding of the importance of Teacher Identity and what is required of me as a student in order to develop my Teacher Identity.


  1. Bartlett, S. and Burton , D. (Eds.) (2003), Education Studies: Essential Issues, London: Sage.
  2. Council for the curriculum for examination and assessment (2007), CCEA: Bangor
  3. General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland, (2006), Teaching: the Reflective Profession, Belfast: GTCNI
  4. Pollard, A. (Ed) (2014), Reflective Teaching in Schools, London: Bloomsbury
  5. Pollard, A. (Ed) (2014), Readings for Reflective Teaching in Schools, London: Bloomsbury
  6. Rogers, C. and Scott, K. (2008), The development of the personal self and professional identity in learning to teach, available at (accessed 23rd November 2019)
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Self-Concept of Teacher Identity in Northern Ireland. (2023, February 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
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