The effect of alienation on the professional identity of student teachers

Thumbnail Image
Hasinoff, Shelley
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The education reform movement has turned its attention to teacher education in recognition of the key role played by teachers. For any reform of teacher education to be successful, it must address the fundamental divisions between universities and schools and the sociological ambivalence emanating from these two conflicting sources of knowledge and authority for student teachers. Some student teachers are unable to resolve this inherent conflict of normative expectations in their professional socialization and may develop feelings of alienation as a consequence. The role of sociological ambivalence and alienation in professional socialization and in the acquisition of professional identity is not well understood. This study was conducted to further our understanding of these processes and to provide a means of critically examining recommended teacher education reforms. A stratified random cluster sampling technique was used to select University of Manitoba Faculty of Education students from each year of the teacher education program. The data were collected in 1992 from the responses of 269 students to an instrument designed to test models and hypotheses related to student teachers' perceptions. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses were conducted on the data, including descriptive and multivariate analyses. Four questions guided this study: (1) Are student teachers alienated? (2) What is the relationship between alienation and professional identity? (3) What is the effect of university and social background variables on alienation? (4) What are the effects of university background, social background, alienation, and student effort on grade point average and professional identity? The study finds that, in answer to question one, to some degree student teachers are alienated along each of the five dimensions of alienation. Although many student teachers experience meaninglessness and normlessness, and some student teachers experience powerlessness and self-estrangement, fewer student teachers experience social isolation. Similarly, in answer to question two, alienation has an effect on professional identity, but the five dimensions of alienation do not equally affect professional identity. As expected, social isolation and self-estrangement have strong negative effects on professional identity, but, unexpectedly, normlessness has a strong positive effect. In answer to question three, the effects of the university and social background variables on alienation are not very large and offer little by way of explanation for alienation in student eachers. Based on the findings, there is some support, in answer to question four, for the argument that some of the alienation variables affect student effort, especially the number of hours that student teachers study. None of the alienation variables have significant effects on grade point average. Not surprisingly, this study found that more successful student teachers are those who are mature, who have already earned a degree, and who plan their university work. The general hypothesis that alienation has a negative effect on professional identity was partially supported, but the anomalous finding that normlessness has a positive effect on professional identity suggests that it is, nevertheless, a complex relationship.