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Teacher agency: a case study of Mauritius.

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2022

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Abstract

A narrative inquiry methodology within an interpretivist paradigm was adopted to immerse in teachers’ multi-layered experiences. Data was produced through various methods: interviews, classroom observations, informal conversations and artefact construction activities that triggered responses and provided insights into teachers’ biographical experiences, beliefs and practices. The data was re-presented through an ethnodrama of interlocuting participants. This creative form enabled me to co-construct three-dimensional characters inhabiting complex temporal and spatial dimensions. The fieldwork revealed that teachers' personal and professional experiences could not be isolated from an evolving broader global space grappling with digital pedagogical evolution. Furthermore, unique nationalistic strategies to enhance the country's small island developing state socioeconomic landscape exerted additional pressure on teachers’ choices of representation of their actions. Teachers' career experiences reflect divergent agencies and agendas characterised by fluid, complex and complementary contradictions and stabilities. An assessment and performativity regime of outputs of the schooling system featured prominently as a backdrop. The thesis developed a model of diffracted and entangled agencies that emphasise a kaleidoscope of possibilities of understanding teacher agency. Rather than being conceptualised as a stable characteristic trait of teachers, teacher agency was seen as constantly adapting to temporal and spatial changes, adopting new beliefs, revisiting past experiences and reconstructing their professional roles. Teacher agency was further considered as dialogical choices of representations amongst varied audiences, co-participants and role-players, with varied agendas. This study’s unique contextual policy reform parameters are potentially representative of any significant change that causes diffraction of a relational teacher agency. The thesis emphasises agentic responsiveness to space and time specificities that intersect with teachers’ personal and professional experiences. Teacher agency is not simply a singular identity and political construction, but also a strategic negotiated shifting set of performances of responsiveness to situational contexts that in themselves are not stable, or coherent. The report concludes with the theoretical, methodological and contextual implications of the proposed reconceptualised notion of teacher agency, discusses the study's limitations, and highlights the possibilities for future research.

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Doctoral Degrees. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

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