On becoming a teacher : novice teachers' experiences of early professional learning.
This study explored the Early Professional Learning (EPL) of Novice Teachers (NTs) in the process of becoming a teacher within a South African context. The main purpose of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of Early Professional Learning acquired by Novice Teachers within the Initial Teacher Education (ITE) phase and the Novice Teacher Induction (NTI) phase in the first employing school. Research literature used in this study has indicated the divides and discontinuities between the world of university and the world of schooling. A systems thinking approach proved useful in helping to understand both the disconnectedness and the connectedness between learning spaces/phases of the university ITE programme and the school’s NTI environment. This research study was located within an interpretative case study design. Six Novice Teacher participants teaching in various schools were purposively selected for this study. All participants had studied for their professional qualification at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. A multiple method approach was used for the generation of data, including semi-structured interviews with each participant, which took place over a period of eighteen months. The process of data gathering and interpretation went through various stages to produce a story portrait of each participant. Using a visual interpretative representation technique in this study was a worthwhile research tool for validation and added another layer of meaning making to understanding EPL. The findings were that the two systems of university and school offered conflicting spaces that impacted on the NTs’ EPL. The university-site offered open protective spaces for learning that were underpinned by conditions of trust, that involved communities of learning, and that encouraged an individual voice. In contradiction, the schools seemed to operate on a deficit approach as they failed to provide useful formalised planned sources (opportunities) for the EPL of NTs. Workplace conditions were categorised by hierarchical power struggles, unhealthy staff conflicts and the lack of socialisation of the NT into the new workplace environment. The absence of and limitations in basic induction practices at a centralised or whole school level nonetheless generated professional agency and autonomy within the NT. Early Professional Learning took the form of personalised- professional learning as the NT-Self emerged as the connecting element within the learning system. The metaphor of the radar monitoring system is presented as a summative illustration of the NT-Self in navigating the EPL system.