Social class and 'Becoming' a post-primary teacher in the Republic of Ireland
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This dissertation is about widening participation (WP) in initial teacher education (ITE) and the teaching profession, from a social class perspective. Set in the Irish context, this in-depth qualitative study explores the experiences of applicants and entrants to post-graduate, post-primary ITE programmes, analysing and giving voice to the similarities and differences in experience of those from working class compared to middle class backgrounds. The methodology employed in the study was Constructivist Grounded Theory (CGT), through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 34 participants. The CGT offers a framework and vocabulary for considering the particulars of what an educational lifespan perspective on WP in ITE and teaching might mean in practice. It demonstrates how social class based experiences of education, both in terms of affective and objective outcomes, intersect with financial and social realities to shape differences in what the participants from lower and higher socioeconomic groups a) thought was possible and b) experienced as possible in relation to pursuing a career in teaching. The process of ‘becoming’ a post-primary teacher is seen through three distinct sub-categories, namely 1) Imagining, 2) Investing, and 3) Sinking, Swimming, or Sailing in ITE and the Profession. The lived experience of these processes for the participants was highly mediated by their social class positioning. Drawing on the conceptual work of Bourdieu, but also considering the work of Giroux, Jung, and Keane, the study provides evidence of how social class based inequalities across the educational lifespan contribute to perpetuate the socioeconomic homogeneity of the teaching profession. The study’s author, however, also proposes that theories of reproduction in education are not fully sufficient to conceptualise the experience of the working class participants; rather, there is also evidence in the data of a potential fledgling resistance movement in Irish education that is motivated to reduce inequalities in the educational experience of marginalized populations. Given the contrast in experiences of the participant groups during and post-ITE, the unique educational and support needs of the working class group are considered, and recommendations for policy, practice and research are offered.
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