Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies

Major Advisor

Jennifer L. Snow, Ph.D.


Richard Osguthorpe, Ph.D.


Keith W. Thiede, Ph.D.


Lindsey R. Turner, Ph.D.


Research in the field of teacher education has recently found that the formation of teacher candidate’s sense of professional identity is an integral part of their development as a future educator, yet few programs explicitly address it (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009). The purpose of this study was to examine teacher candidates’ ability to reflect on self and others, and the influence of psychological insight on the development of a professional identity. The study took place in the Pacific Northwest at an accredited university in the Northern Rocky Mountain region. The six participants selected for this study were undergraduate Elementary Education majors enrolled in their professional year during the Spring 2017 semester.

This dissertation was designed as a psychological case study using a phenomenological approach. A case study, as defined by Merriam (1988), provides a thorough description and analysis of a specific phenomenon, a phenomenon that is found within a bounded context (Miles & Huberman, 1994). The phenomenon examined was the ability of teacher candidates to reflect upon self and others with regard to their thoughts, emotions, and actions within a classroom context, and the influence their insight had upon the development of a professional identity.

Data were collected from all participants and interpreted by the researcher in order to describe commonalities found within their experiences (Moustakas, 1994). The Self-Reflection and Insight Scale (SRIS) and Teacher Efficacy Scale (TES) were quantitative measures used as baseline data for levels of psychological insight and teacher efficacy. The three primary data sources consisted of an initial interview, exit interview, and video observations. The initial and exit interviews were designed as a semi-structured interview to gain further understanding of the participant’s behavior within the classroom context, ability to reflect on self and others, their efficacy for teaching, and their philosophical beliefs regarding teaching and learning. The video observations of self and other gave participants the opportunity to reflect on a video recorded lesson conducted within the classroom context.

The data collected was examined using both a within-case and cross-case analysis. During the within-case analysis, emerging themes were identified through the interpretation of the data collected for each individual case. A summarized portrayal was created to describe the thoughts, feelings, and actions of each participant. A cross-case analysis was conducted to identify common themes that emerged across all cases by data source. Components influencing the development of a professional identity were identified and summarized based on these common themes. Warrantability was maintained during the collection and analysis process through triangulation, member checks, peer examinations, and a researcher’s journal.

Analysis of the three primary data sources identified five components that may have a potential impact on development of a teacher candidate’s professional identity. These components were labeled as internal negotiation, focus, attributions, psychological insight, and capacity for change. Findings of the study suggest that teacher candidates go through a cyclical process in the continuous development of a professional identity. As teacher candidates enter the classroom environment, with an already established frame of reference with regard to teaching and learning, they begin to internally negotiate the challenges and obstacles they face. The focus of the candidate, either on being a teacher or becoming a teacher, potentially impacts the internal and external attributions of the experience, application of insight, and capacity for change.

Implications for teacher education programs include identifying potential barriers teacher candidates may create through their internal negotiation that prevent transformational learning. Teacher candidates focus, on product or process, and how that may influence emotional state, teacher efficacy, psychological insight, and capacity for change are key components of developing a professional identity. As a result, candidates might benefit from establishing goals that focus on the process of becoming a teacher and highlighting personal progress to guide transformational learning.