Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Elementary preservice teachers' constructions of themselves as students and as teachers: A collaborative narrative autobiographical approach

Josephine Burnett, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Elementary preservice teachers often struggle with their relationships with their students. Research suggests that they have internalized robust teaching scripts that limit their learning of progressive pedagogical methods. As a result of these scripts and relational patterns learned in their family of origin they become progressively more authoritarian and controlling under the situational pressures of traditional classrooms. From the perspective of narrative psychology our sense of self is constructed from meanings that we attach to critical early childhood events, the stories we tell about ourselves, and the way we habitually position ourselves towards others. This critical phenomenological study explored with preservice teachers the ways in which the meanings they attached to early childhood events influence who they become as teachers and how they relate to students. Fourteen preservice elementary school teachers selected from a teacher education program shared their life stories during an interview prior to a two-day orientation circle meeting at the beginning of their prepracticum semester. Participants met in two support circles meeting four times during the semester. The interviews and circle meetings were tape-recorded. The data were analyzed to identify their stories and the way they navigated the discourses of power in their narratives and any emerging cultural themes. The data from five of the participants were analyzed in detail using Stanton Wortham's tools to determine how they were positioning themselves within their narratives and in the storytelling event. All the participants identified critical early childhood events that influence how they construct themselves as students and teachers. They employed the same discipline practices that they experienced in early childhood. Binary opposites of culturally valued concepts were used in self-construction. Their narratives revealed multiple, interwoven, mutually supportive, conflicted and contradictory stories and clashing societal discourses as they struggled to become teachers in relation to students. Implications for teacher education included using circles along with written collaborative autobiographies and case studies of young students to identify and critically analyze the discourses that interpellate themselves and their students. Further research is required to follow students through two years of teaching. More diverse groups should be studied.

Subject Area

Preschool education|Elementary education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Burnett, Josephine, "Elementary preservice teachers' constructions of themselves as students and as teachers: A collaborative narrative autobiographical approach" (2007). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3300413.