Conceptions of teacher commitment : a narrative inquiry of primary school teachers in township schools.
Makhanya, Percival Mandlakhe.
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This thesis explores teachers’ meanings of commitment in two township public primary schools. The purpose of exploring teacher commitment is to examine how teachers’ meanings of commitment inform what they do and how they do it in the classroom. In documenting the teachers’ conceptualisations of these meanings, I use re-constructed teacher stories to re-tell the teachers’ experiences of a committed teacher. In reconstructing the stories of teachers’ meanings of commitment, I use multiple methods of collecting data which includes artefact retrieval, collage inquiry, and unstructured interviews. This qualitative study is located within the interpretivist paradigm and uses narrative inquiry as a methodology. The four experienced teacher participants teaching in two township primary schools were purposively selected for this study. All the four teacher participants in this study have been in the teaching profession for more than fifteen years. This study employs the teacher identity theory to understand the sources of meanings that teachers give to commitment. In this study, I use the three types of perceptual relevance: interpretive, motivational and topical relevance (Schutz, 1970) to explore how personal and professional experiences enable teachers to form the meanings they give to commitment as well as their behaviour in the classroom. The findings in this study reveal that teachers’ meanings of commitment are varied and can also be the same. The analysis in this study revealed that teachers are aware that their roles as teachers go beyond the book. It further includes teaching beyond the classroom, for instance, engaging the learners in extra-mural activities and providing personal and professional well-being. In dealing with complexities and challenges in the teaching profession, the teacher participants draw energy from different sources, for instance, their families, significant others and being life-long learners. Through this study I became aware of the importance of personal lived experiences and the role played by being a life-long learner in understanding teacher commitment and in informing teacher behaviour. The use of identity theory in this study revealed that the personal informs the professional, and the personal and the professional are not fixed. However, in this study teacher further emphasises the importance of being intellectuals. In order to produce committed and caring learners, teachers need to be seen as committed and caring teachers (modelling theory, Lake et al., 2004). In understanding teacher participants engagement with learners in the classroom, the struggles that teachers face, drive teachers to engage in personal and professional well-being of self. The personal well-being is inculcated by drawing on personal beliefs, personal relationships and personal desires. The professional well-being of self is achieved through engaging in further learning.