Professional identities: contested discourses

Leonie Arthur, Kumara Ward, Beatriz Cardona, Kerry Staples, Son Truong

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


    This paper reports on an investigation of how values shape professional identity and how early childhood educators represent, understand and value their work. It builds on previous professional identity research conducted in Australia (Ortlipp, Arthur & Woodrow, 2011), England (Osgood, 2012) and Chile (Woodrow et al., in press). It sits within a sociocultural theoretical research framework which foregrounds collaborative learning communities (Wenger, 1998). The research employed an innovative, democratic methodology that involved auto-driven photo-elicitation to capture educators' everyday professional lives. Educators, in communities of practice, used this visual documentation to create photostories and generate and analyse their perceptions of their own professional identities. Standard university ethics processes, involving informed consent and confidentiality, framed the research. The findings highlight the competing discourses through which early childhood professionals are defined. They include the re-emerging dichotomy of carer/educator and the ways in which these aspects of practice intersect with the central, but contested, importance of play-based pedagogies and the documentation of children’s learning and with familial and legislative expectations. The research found that the national curriculum framework provides educators with a shared language and sense of solidarity, while also requiring educators to negotiate the tensions between mandated principles, practices and learning outcomes, as well as the need to create a curriculum that is locally, socially and culturally relevant to the children and families in their service. Photostory methodology, in the context of communities of practice, has the potential to foster educators’ critical reflection and their capacity to articulate the complexity and multilayered nature of their work.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publication25th European Early Childhood Education Research Association (EECERA). Annual Conference Proceedings
    PublisherEuropean Early Childhood Education Research Association
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    Event25th EECERA Annual Conference: 'Innovation, Experimentation and Adventure in Early Childhood' - Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
    Duration: 7 Sep 201510 Sep 2015
    Conference number: 25th


    Conference25th EECERA Annual Conference
    Abbreviated titleEECERA
    Internet address


    • professional identity
    • photostory
    • visual methodology
    • communities of practice
    • discourses


    Dive into the research topics of 'Professional identities: contested discourses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this