A Narrative Approach to Professional Identity

  • Mary Dyer (Speaker)
  • Samantha McMahon (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


The construction of identity for early years practitioners in England – the workforce who support the care, learning and development of very young children - is potentially problematic because their roles lie at the intersection of care and education, shaped by the discourse of powerlessness. Historically, such employment was largely the preserve of working class women. Recent moves to professionalize this workforce include raising their qualification levels, a stronger emphasis on multi-agency working, and the introduction of job titles and workplace terminology that steers their roles towards educational outcomes (DfE, 2013). These moves are driven by the government bodies who fund and regulate the early years sector, rather than by the workforce themselves, and have the potential to stifle the development of an individual practitioner’s understanding of their professional identity (Osgood, 2006; Moss, 2006).

Our research takes a narrative approach to gathering data about how these practitioners define themselves and the nature of the professionalism they value, particularly exploring the tension between an identity as a skilled technician meeting externally set competences, and a values-based identity including reflective and critical thinking (Moss, 2006). Such an approach recognises the individual’s right to agency in defining themselves and the professional values and practices they consider central to their particular roles.

However, we recognize that in gathering and interpreting such idiosyncratic data, issues of validity and reliability arise in terms of the truth of our interpretations and the generalizability of our conclusions. By using multi-layered readings and presentations of our data (Mauthner and Doucet, 1998; Lewis, 1963) to maximize transparency in our analyses, we hope to address these. Our round table discussion will centre on this aspect of our work to explore how agency and individuality can be maintained in our data gathering, without compromising the reliability of our findings.
Period14 Aug 2014
Event titleEARLI SIG 14 Conference: Interaction, Learning and Professional Development
Event typeConference
LocationOslo, NorwayShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational