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"You kind of have to be a bit superhuman" : early childhood teacher beliefs about what it takes to be a good teacher: A discourse analysis

The early childhood teaching profession has developed into a community with its own language and culture (Cumming & Sumsion, 2014). Early childhood teacher beliefs and discourses have been developed and sustained within this context which is both influenced by, and influences these beliefs and subsequent teacher practice. This study explores these beliefs within a New Zealand context, and the discourses shaping them, and considers how these discourses have the potential to enable or constrain teacher practice. Over the past 30 years, there has been growing interest in, and acknowledgement of, the importance of early childhood education (ECE) in New Zealand at both government and societal levels. While participation in ECE can lead to positive outcomes for children, the service must be of high quality. Recent reports however, have identified there is significant variability across ECE services. Teacher practice can make a significant impact on the level of quality children experience therefore this study explores this variability by the examining the espoused beliefs of qualified ECE teachers, working in English medium, teacher-led, ECE centres; particularly in relation to what makes a ‘good’ teacher. Teacher beliefs have a significant role in driving teacher decision-making and practice but are generally invisible. Using poststructural feminist and critical discourse analysis, this study identifies three discourses shaping and being shaped by these beliefs; the dominant essential maternal and neo-liberal discourses, and the marginalised discourse of democratic professionalism. It explores these discourses at both the micro level and the macro level of national policy and considers how these beliefs and discourses have the potential to constrain or enable teacher practice. Through a poststructural feminist lens, this analysis makes the invisible visible, providing provocation for individual teachers to examine the discourses constituting their professional lives and either claim them or resist them. In addition, a critical lens recommends structural and policy changes for government and teacher education to help address the constraining effects of these discourses.
Type of thesis
Ewens, S. J. (2019). ‘You kind of have to be a bit superhuman’ : early childhood teacher beliefs about what it takes to be a good teacher: A discourse analysis (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13135
The University of Waikato
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