Critical Events, Emotional Episodes, and Teacher Attributions in the Development of Teacher Identities

  • Paul A. SchutzEmail author
  • Sharon L. Nichols
  • Samantha Schwenke


In this chapter, we explicate a framework for describing a process of teacher identity development. Informed by recent theory and research, we propose that teachers’ reflections on transactions among their critical events, emotional episodes, and attributions influence emergent teacher identities. We propose that how teachers talk about critical events and the emotions associated with those events offer an identity-generating pathway for teachers as they reflect upon their role and place in the classroom. We describe four key features of this pathway that emerged from teachers’ reflections of critical events in their first year of teaching: (1) goals, standards, and beliefs; (2) identity emotional episodes; (3) attributions, and (4) and identity adjustment. We use these key processes to talk about changes and development in teachers’ identities and to offer implications for teacher education and policy.


Idenity development Attribution theory Critical events Teacher emotion 


  1. Achinstein, B. (2006). New teacher and mentor political literacy: Reading, navigating and transforming induction contexts. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 12(2), 123–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akkerman, S. F., & Meijer, P. C. (2011). A dialogical approach to conceptualizing teacher identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(2), 308–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alsup, J. (2006). Teacher identity discourses. Negotiating personal and professional spaces. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  4. Aultman, L. P., Williams-Johnson, M. R., & Schutz, P. A. (2009). Boundary dilemmas in teacher-student relationships: Struggling with “the line”. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 636–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 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
  6. Beijaard, D., Meijer, P. C., & Verloop, N. (2004). Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20, 107–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carver, S. C., & Scheier, M. F. (2000). On the structure of behavioral self-regulation. In M. Boekaerts, P. R. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (pp. 41–84). San Diego, CA: Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clarke, M. (2009). The ethico-politics of teacher identity. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 41(2), 185–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cross, D. I., & Hong, J. Y. (2009). Beliefs and professional identity: Critical constructs in examining the impact of reform on the emotional experiences of teachers. In P. A. Schutz & M. Zembylas (Eds.), Advances in teacher emotion research: The impact on teachers’ lives (pp. 273–296). New York: Springer Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Darling-Hammond, L. (1999). Solving the dilemmas of teacher supply, demand, and standards: How we can ensure a competent, caring, and qualified teacher for every child. New York: National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.Google Scholar
  11. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fives, H., & Gill, M. G. (Eds.). (2015). International handbook of research on teacher beliefs. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Flores, M. A., & Day, C. (2006). Contexts which shape and reshape new teachers’ identities: A multi-perspective study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22, 219–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Flum, H., & Kaplan, A. (2012). Identity formation in educational settings: A contextualized view of theory and research in practice. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 37, 240–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ford, M. E. (1992). Motivating humans: Goals, emotions, and personal agency beliefs. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frenzel, A. C., Goetz, T., Lüdtke, O., Pekrun, R., & Sutton, R. E. (2009). Emotional transmission in the classroom: Exploring the relationship between teacher and student enjoyment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3), 705–716.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 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, 1530–1543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hsieh, B. (2015). The importance of orientation: Implications of professional identity on classroom practice for professional learning. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 21, 178. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Izadinia, M. (2013). A review of research on student teachers’ professional identity. British Educational Research Journal, 39(4), 694–713.Google Scholar
  20. Kaplan, A., & Flum, H. (2009). Motivation and identity: The relations of action and development in educational contexts—An introduction to the special issue. Educational Psychologist, 44(2), 73–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves: The interface between motivation and the self-concept. In Self and Identity: Psychosocial Perspectives (pp. 157–172). Oxford, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
  22. Maslow, A., & Arieti, S. (1961). Peak experiences as acute identity experiences. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 21(2), 254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McAdams, D. P. (1985). Power, intimacy, and the life story: Personological inquiries into identity. Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press.Google Scholar
  24. McAdams, D. P. (2001). The psychology of life stories. Review of General Psychology, 5, 100–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McAdams, D. P., & McLean, K. C. (2013). Narrative identity. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(3), 233–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. McCaslin, M. (2009). Co-regulation of student motivation and emergent identity. Educational Psychologist, 44(2), 137–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1984). Qualitative data analysis: A sourcebook of new methods. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  28. Nichols, S. L., Schutz, P. A., Rodgers, K., & Bilica, K. (2017). Early career teachers’ emotion and emerging teacher identities. Teachers and Teaching, 23(4), 406–421.Google Scholar
  29. Powers, W. T. (1973). Behavior: The control of perception. Chicago, IL: Aldine.Google Scholar
  30. Rodgers, C., & Scott, C. (2008). The development of the personal self and professional identity in learning to teach. In M. Cochran-Smith, S. Feiman-Nemser, D. J. McIntyre, & K. E. Demers (Eds.), Handbook of research on teacher education (pp. 732–755). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Ryan, R. M., Huta, V., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 139–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schutz, P. A. (1991). Goals in self-directed behavior. Educational Psychologist, 26, 55–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schutz, P. A. (1994). Goals as the transactive point between motivation and cognition. In P. R. Pintrich, D. Brown, & C. E. Weinstein (Eds.), Perspectives on student motivation, cognition and learning: Essays in honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie (pp. 135–157). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  34. Schutz, P. A. (2014). Inquiry on teachers’ emotion. Educational Psychologist, 49(1), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schutz, P. A., & Zembylas, M. (Eds.). (2009). Advances in teacher emotion research: The impact on teachers’ lives. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.Google Scholar
  36. Schutz, P. A., Crowder, K. C., & White, V. E. (2001). The development of a goal to become a teacher. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 299–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schutz, P. A., Cross, D. I., Hong, J. Y., & Osbon, J. N. (2007). Teacher identities, beliefs and goals related to emotions in the classroom. In P. A. Schutz & R. Pekrun (Eds.), Emotion in education (pp. 223–241). San Diego, CA: Elsevier Inc.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schutz, P. A., Hong, J. Y., Cross, D. I., & Osbon, J. N. (2006). Reflections on investigating emotion in educational activity settings. Educational Psychology Review, 18(4), 343–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smagorinsky, P., Cook, L. S., Moore, C., Jackson, A. Y., & Fry, P. G. (2004). Tensions in learning to teach: Accommodations and the development of a teaching identity. Journal of Teacher Education, 55(1), 8–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stets, J. E., & Burke, P. J. (2014). The development of identity theory. In Advances in group processes (pp. 57–97). Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sutherland, L., Howard, S., & Markauskaite, L. (2010). Professional identity creation: Examining the development of beginning perservice teachers’ understanding of their work as teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26, 455–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Thorne, F. C. (1963). The clinical use of peak and nadir experience reports. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 19(2), 248–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tripp, D. (1994). Teachers’ lives, critical incidents, and professional practice. Qualitative Studies in Education, 7(1), 65–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weiner, B. (1994). Integrating social and personal theories of achievement striving. Review of Educational Research, 64, 557–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Weiner, B. (2007). Examining emotional diversity in the classroom: An attribution theorist considers the moral emotions. In P. A. Schutz & R. Pekrun (Eds.), Emotions in education (pp. 75–88). San Diego, CA: Elsevier Inc.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Weiner, B. (2010). The development of an attribution-based theory of motivation: A history of ideas. Educational Psychologist, 45(1), 28–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. William, P. R., & Wertsch, J. V. (1995). Vygotsky and identity formation: A sociocultural approach. Educational Psychologist, 30(2), 83–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zembylas, M., & Chubbuck, S. (2015). The intersection of identity, beliefs, and politics to conceptualizing ‘teacher identity. In H. Fives & M. Gill (Eds.), International handbook of research on teachers’ beliefs (pp. 173–190). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul A. Schutz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sharon L. Nichols
    • 1
  • Samantha Schwenke
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational Leadership and Policy StudiesUniversity of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA

Personalised recommendations