Brian Irwin

  • Analysing the development of professional identity in blogging discourse

    Brian Irwin, Sheffield Hallam University and Helen Boulton, Nottingham Trent University

    Research paper

    Themes: teaching methods, skills development and lifelong learning

    Monday 7 September 2009, 15.45 - 16.45 in room 119

    Trainee teachers enrolled on education courses arrive as students, but leave as qualified professional teachers.  During the course trainees have to develop their identity as a professional teacher, moving away from an identity as a university student.  This research seeks to better understand the process by which trainee teachers develop their professional identity as a teacher through examination of the use of a community blog in a teacher training course, the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Initial Teacher Training Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) at Nottingham Trent University in England.  The community blog served as the primary course-sponsored communication method for the trainees during their placement periods.  As such, it can be studied as a representative sample of whole class peer-led course communication throughout the year.

    Through an analysis of the discourse in the course community blog, we attempt to reach understandings about how the trainees present and develop their situated identities, the identities an individual presents to others in a given situation (Gee, 2005), throughout the year by positioning themselves as students, teachers or a combination of the two.  It is hoped that greater understanding of the way students create a professional identity can be reached through studying trainees' online communication.

    This research follows some previous research on expressions of teacher trainee identities in online discussion boards by Skulstad (2005) and currently unpublished work on discussion board communication at Sheffield Hallam University (Irwin and Hramiak, in review).  This paper provides further evidence and insights into identity creation online, as well as specifically focusing on blogging communication.

    The methodology used is a discourse analysis, consisting of three approaches to analysing patterns of identity present in the trainees' communication: an analysis of blog communication genres developed and used by the trainees, the lexis chosen by them, and the pronouns used for themselves and others.  The use of language in online educational communication, particularly in new forms of online communication such as blogs, has not been researched as fully as the written and spoken word for the obvious reason that they are recent phenomenon.  Herring (2007) among others has suggested that online communication has different properties than either written or spoken discourse and needs to be classified and studied differently.  As such, part of this research is also exploring and testing what discourse analysis methods make sense to apply to online blogging communication, particularly in relation to examining the role of language in expressing identity.

    In the session we will share findings from our research and address the implications on structuring teacher training and other professional programmes, as well as the implications for examining blogging as a communication method.