The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 477–486 | Cite as

Pre-service Teachers’ Professional Identity Development Within the Context of School-Based Learning to Teach: An Exploratory Study in China

  • Qian Zhang
  • Anthony ClarkeEmail author
  • John Chi Kin Lee
Regular Article


This exploratory study examines the evolving nature of Chinese pre-service teachers’ identity in relation to their experiences of school-based learning to teach during an 8-week internship. The results suggest that the identities of the four Chinese pre-service teachers in this study are anchored by two dimensions: their commitment to teaching and their perception of the teacher’s role. After the internship, the four pre-service teachers’ identities all shifted with respect to these two dimensions. The findings address an issue of potential conceptual confusion about the relationship between identity and learning to teach, which is neither linear nor unidirectional, but reciprocal. Further, the outcomes of this study suggest that there is a need to be more sensitive and responsive to identity shifts as students negotiate the transition from being a pre-service teacher to practicing professional. Lastly, this study conducted in a non-Western professional context, that is, a Chinese Teacher Education and Chinese School context, offers a valuable but missing perspective on teacher identity in the Western literature.


Pre-service teacher Teaching practice Teacher identity China 



This paper is based on the Ph.D. study, supervised by Prof. N. Y. Wong of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, of the principal author.


  1. Akkerman, S. F., & Meijer, P. C. (2011). A dialogical approach to conceptualizing teacher identity. Teaching & Teacher Education, 27(2), 308–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arvaja, M. (2016). Building teacher identity through the process of positioning. Teaching & Teacher Education, 59, 392–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Avraamidou, L. (2014). Studying science teacher identity: Current insights and future research directions. Studies in Science Education, 50(2), 145–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beauchamp, C., & Thomas, L. (2009). Understanding teacher identity: An overview of issues in the literature and implications for teacher education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), 175–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beauregard, A. (2008). Family influences on the career life cycle. In M. F. Ozbilgin & A. Malach-Pines (Eds.), Career choice in management and entrepreneurship: A research companion (pp. 101–126). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  6. Beijaard, D. (1995). Teachers’ prior experiences and actual perceptions of professional identity. Teachers and Teaching, 1(2), 281–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beijaard, D., Meijer, P. C., & Verloop, N. (2004). Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20(2), 107–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beijarrd, D., Verloop, N., & Vermunt, J. D. (2000). Teachers’ perception of professional identity: An exploratory study from a personal knowledge perspective. Teaching and Teacher Education, 16(7), 749–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burn, K. (2007). Professional knowledge and identity in a contested discipline: Challenges from student teachers and teacher educators. Oxford Review of Education, 33(4), 445–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Connolly, M., Hadfield, M., Barnes, Y., & Snook, J. (2018). The accommodation of contested identities: The impact of participation in a practice-based masters programme on beginning teachers’ professional identity and sense of agency. Teaching & Teacher Education, 71, 241–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cooper, K., & Olson, M. R. (1996). The multiple ‘I’s of teacher identity. In M. Kompf, W. R. Bond, D. Dworet, & R. T. Boak (Eds.), Changing research and practice: Teachers’ professionalism, identities and knowledge (pp. 78–89). London/Washington, DC: The Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  12. Danielewicz, J. (2001). Teaching selves: Identity, pedagogy, and teacher education. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  13. Davies, P., Connolly, M., Nelson, J., Hulme, M., Kirkman, J., & Greenway, C. (2016). ‘Letting the right one in’: Provider contexts for recruitment to initial teacher education in the united kingdom. Teaching & Teacher Education, 60, 291–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Day, C., & Gu, Q. (2007). Variations in the conditions for teachers’ professional learning and development: Sustaining commitment and effectiveness over a career. Oxford Review of Education, 33(4), 423–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Day, C., Kington, A., Stobart, G., & Sammons, P. (2006). The personal and professional selves of teachers: Stable and unstable identities. British Educational Research Journal, 32(4), 601–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dolton, P., & Marcenaro-Gutierrez, O. (2013). 2013 global teacher status index. Retrieved November 21, 2016, from
  17. Eren, A., & Söylemez, A. R. (2017). Pre-service teachers’ ethical stances on unethical professional behaviors: The roles of professional identity goals and efficacy beliefs. Teaching & Teacher Education, 68, 114–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gee, J. (1990). Social linguistics and literacies: ideology in discourse. London: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  19. Guarino, C. M., Santibanez, L., & Daley, G. A. (2006). Teacher recruitment and retention: A review of recent empirical literature. Review of Educational Research, 76(2), 173–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hobson, A. J., Malderez, A., & Tracey, L. (2009). Navigating initial teacher training: Becoming a teacher. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Hong, J., Greene, B., & Lowery, J. (2017). Multiple dimensions of teacher identity development from pre-service to early years of teaching: A longitudinal study. Journal of Education for Teaching International Research & Pedagogy, 43, 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hong, J. Y. (2010). Pre-service and beginning teachers’ professional identity and its relation to dropping out of the profession. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26(8), 1530–1543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Horvath, M., Goodell, J. E., & Kosteas, V. D. (2018). Decisions to enter and continue in the teaching profession: Evidence from a sample of U.S. secondary stem teacher candidates. Teaching & Teacher Education, 71, 57–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Izadinia, M. (2013). A review of research on student teachers’ professional identity. British Educational Research Journal, 39(4), 694–713.Google Scholar
  25. Johnson, K. A. (2003). Every experience is a moving force: Identity and growth through mentoring. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19(8), 787–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lamote, C., & Engels, N. (2010). The development of student teachers’ professional identity. European Journal of Teacher Education, 33(1), 3–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lee, S. A., & Schallert, D. L. (2016). Becoming a teacher: Coordinating past, present, and future selves with perspectival understandings about teaching. Teaching & Teacher Education, 56, 72–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Löfström, E., Poom-Valickis, K., Markku, S., Hannula, M. S., & Mathews, S. (2010). Supporting emerging teacher identities: Can we identify teacher potential among students? European Journal of Teacher Education, 33(2), 167–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Luehmann, A. L. (2007). Identity development as a lens to science teacher preparation. Science Education, 91(5), 822–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Musset, P. (2010). Initial teacher education and continuing training policies in a comparative perspective: Current practices in OECD countries and a literature review on potential effects. OECD Education Working Papers, No. 48, OECD PublishingGoogle Scholar
  31. Nichols, S. L., Schutz, P. A., Rodgers, K., & Bilica, K. (2016). Early career teachers’ emotion and emerging teacher identities. Teachers & Teaching: Theory & Practice, 23, 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). (2013). Teaching and Learning International Survey: TALIS 2013. OECD Publishing
  33. Rodgers, C. R., & Scott, K. H. (2008). The development of the personal self and professional identity in learning to teach. In M. Cochran-Smith, S. Freiman-Nemser, D. J. McIntyre & K. E. Demers (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education (3 ed., pp. 732–755). New York, Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Ruohotie-Lyhty, M., & Moate, J. (2016). Who and how? Preservice teachers as active agents developing professional identities. Teaching & Teacher Education, 55, 318–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sachs, J. (2016). Teacher professionalism: Why are we still talking about it? Teachers & Teaching: Theory & Practice g, 22(4), 413–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schaefer, L. (2013). Beginning teacher attrition: A question of identity making and identity shifting. Teachers & Teaching: Theory & Practice, 19(3), 260–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sinclair, C. (2008). Initial and changing student teacher motivation and commitment to teaching. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 36(2), 79–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  39. Su, Z., Hawkins, J. N., Huang, T., & Zhao, Z. (2001). Choices and commitment: A comparison of teacher candidates’ profiles and perspectives in China and the United States. International Review of Education, 47(6), 611–635.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sui, Y. (2013). Unpublished research report on national research project titled “Research on the Mission and Models of Chinese Local Normal Universities”. Retrieved from
  41. Thomson, M. M., & Palermo, C. (2014). Preservice teachers’ understanding of their professional goals: Case studies from three different typologies. Teaching & Teacher Education, 44(44), 56–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Timoštšuk, I., & Ugaste, A. (2010). Student teachers’ professional identity. Teaching & Teacher Education, 26(8), 1563–1570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Trent, J. (2010). “My two masters”: Conflict, contestation, and identity construction within a teaching practicum. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35(7), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wang, D., & Gao, M. (2013). Educational equality or social mobility: The value conflict between preservice teachers and the Free Teacher Education Program in China. Teaching and Teacher Education, 32, 66–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Zumwalt, K., & Craig, E. (2005). Teachers’ characteristics: Research on the demographic profile. In M. Cochran-Smith & K. M. Zeichner (Eds.), Studying teacher education: The report of the AERA panel on research and teacher education (pp. 111–156). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© De La Salle University 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationCapital Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Faculty of EducationUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Department of Curriculum and InstructionThe Education University of Hong KongTai PoHong Kong

Personalised recommendations