Professional Identities in Initial Teacher Education: The Narratives and Questions of Teacher Agency. Mifsud, D. (2018), Palgrave Macmillan ISBN 978-3-319-76173-2, 234 pp.

I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning. If you knew when you began a book what you would say at the end, do you think you would have the courage to write it?…The game is worthwhile in so far as we don’t know where it will end (Foucault 1988, p. 9)

The above quote reflects my lifeworld, the particular reason why I embrace the philosophy of post-structuralist/postmodernist French theorist Michel Foucault, with a particular affinity for his ‘trident’ espousing scepticism, critique, and problematization, moreover, when coupled with my particular interest in and experience of initial teacher education (ITE) along the various stages of my personal and professional trajectory in both local and international contexts.

The overall purpose of this research monograph is to explore the perception, construction and performance of professional identities in ITE. The concept of teacher identity is unanimously agreed to be pivotal to teacher development, with its construction being heavily influenced by the context in which it is perceived and performed. The instability of this identity contributes to its fragmentation, fluidity and mobility, which is mostly evident in the power struggle between personal and professional selves as they operate within distinct school and university settings, and simultaneously come in contact with the various stakeholders during the practicum component. This fashioning and refashioning of juxtaposed professional and personal identities is presented through a collection of narrative data from postgraduate ITE students.

ITE as presented in literature is nested within European policy narratives, thus bringing out the importance of the teacher’s professional profile for the European Union, together with the absence of the student teachers’ voices from the burgeoning visibility of the ITE research spectrum. Student teacher identity perception, construction and performance is examined through a number of related areas, namely: school placement; career choice motivations; the attractiveness of the teaching profession; their presentation of personal and professional selves; as well as the professional standards. This research narrative provides implications for theory, professional practice, and policy, as well as recommendations for further, larger scale research within the area of ITE.

Despite presenting a particular study set in a specific education context, its particularities can be translated across European and global dimensions, with identities transcending the local and being transported to the universal. What is perhaps noteworthy about this book is its particular use of narrative methodology in terms of data collection, analysis and representation, in addition to my implementation of a variety of theoretical frameworks, namely Bourdieu, Foucault, Goffman, and Actor-Network Theory, a stance which definitely provides the book with a wide appeal, ensuring that it does not become pigeonholed within a narrow discipline. Besides this, I insert my various selves within the research story as university lecturer, school placement tutor, researcher, and interpreter.

This short collection of small scale studies augurs well for a wide international appeal, as well as a certain degree of interdisciplinary interest. The primary market would be academic associations, more specifically, higher education institutions involved in ITE. This research narrative would be of interest to academics involved in ITE in terms of teaching and research, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students both enrolled in ITE courses, as well as PhD students and subsequently early career researchers with a particular research interest in the area. This book can easily adorn the reading lists of both undergraduate and postgraduate ITE courses.

The link below leads to a preview of each chapter: