Critical Considerations of Teacher Identity, Performativity and ‘Perform-ability’ and their Significance for Initial Teacher Education

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes have traditionally focussed more on knowledge, skills and competencies, than on areas such as identity formation. This thesis argues that developing teacher identity is integral for teacher agency and integrity and that ITE providers should ensure time is given to develop these areas with students. The prevalent neoliberal performative focus in education is argued to have a debilitating impact on teachers and teacher identity, impacting their wellbeing and ability to retain their integrity as professionals. This study suggests that critical engagement in ITE around political, neoliberal influences in education, in tandem with engagement with approaches to education, such as Critical Pedagogy and Philosophy for Children (P4C), might encourage a resilience and even resistance to current performative narratives. This thesis considers how the writings of Paulo Freire (1994, 1996, 1998) combined with Critical P4C (Funston, 2017), could provide a message of possibility and hope to counter the neoliberal agenda’s normalising narrative of accountability and performability for schools, teachers and ITE. Participants were undergraduate Primary Education students in England who were in the final year of their programme. The research adopts a qualitative approach using Communities of Enquiry (CoE) and a Focus Group and explores the use of a CoE as an emerging area of study in the context of research methods. In addition, the study brings contributions to the exploration of teacher identity of ITE students in a performative culture, considering the impact that engaging in alternative pedagogies might bring to the retention and wellbeing of new teachers.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorVictoria Randall (Supervisor), Janice De Sousa (Supervisor) & Joanna Haynes (Supervisor)


  • Neoliberal
  • Performative
  • Teacher identity
  • initial teacher education
  • Freire
  • Critical Pedagogy
  • Philosophy for Children
  • Community of Enquiry
  • ITE
  • ITT
  • P4C

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