Cantón, I., & Tardiff, M. (Eds.) (2018). Identidad profesional docente [Teachers’ professional identity]. (Mario Grande de Prado)

Cantón, I., & Tardiff, M. (Eds.) (2018)
Identidad profesional docente [Teachers’ professional identity].
Madrid: Narcea. 232 pp.

This collective work, edited by professors Cantón and Tardiff, is an in-depth examination of a complex construct that can be analysed from various perspectives: the professional identity of teachers. It poses a difficult question: what is a teacher? The answer includes vital issues such as teachers’ experiences, expectations, and competences in a society changing at a dizzying pace thanks to technological development.
The chapters can be grouped into two large blocks: the first considers different focuses on the identity of teachers, while the second analyses other aspects such as the particular features of different groups of teachers according to their level, the health of teachers, educational policies, and the situation of French-speaking teachers.
The first chapter, which follows an introduction that presents an overview of the topic and a clear and concise overview of the different contributions in the work, examines the identity of teachers regarded as a group from the sociological viewpoint. Special attention is paid to social changes, especially in the case of Canada, although the conclusions can be extrapolated to other Western countries. The authors observe obstacles in the role of teachers caused by suffering in their work and professional anxiety associated with exhaustion, depersonalisation, a sense of uselessness, tensions, leaving the profession, and conflicts and tensions at work, among other factors, that  currently characterise this profession. This opening text, therefore, features aspects that are common to both major blocks.
The second chapter goes on to underline the difficulty of evaluating the identity of teachers and its quality. To confront this difficulty, other aspects can be considered such as the satisfaction, expectations, and professional competences of the teachers. A business perspective from which the other models of educational quality derive is used to do this. The things that give teachers the most satisfaction are everyday work and personal commitment. In contrast, they are less satisfied with interaction with students,
lack of time, and collaboration with colleagues. Furthermore, their identity is shaped by other factors such as context, training, and the administrative element, creating different identities in the face of the homogenising tendency of the administration.
The third chapter, for its part, covers the development of the identity of teachers. This is a complex and labile process in which the teacher builds her personal and professional identity, the image she has of herself, from different personal, professional, and contextual elements. The doubts, effort, and tensions typical of people’s early stages in the profession lead to learning the craft itself and professional competence. The authors present two concepts for research into identity: lived experiences and the best of oneself, sketching from them different images of the school: rational, collegial, political, social, and cultural.


Chapter four focusses on the transition from student to teacher, analysing the relationship between knowledge and professional identity. This reflection illustrates the change from formal knowledge, typical of initial training, to experiential knowledge, the fruit of habit and reflection, and its influence on the professional identity of recently qualified teachers. These types of knowledge, while they do not in themselves explain the identity of teachers, are linked to values and beliefs that have an  influence on aspects such as discipline. The authors explain the professional identity of teachers as teachers’ self-representation and their representation of the teaching profession in relation to their social and professional milieu, including knowledge, values, and beliefs.


In the fifth chapter, the three types of identity are examined: professional, work, and teaching. The first comprises the teacher’s identification as a member of her professional group. Work identity reflects on the professional activity and teachers’ experiences as workers. Finally, the identity of teachers combines the types mentioned above, taking up the particular characteristics, knowledges, beliefs, etc. The importance of context and possible tensions or difficulties, among other factors, is emphasised, as is initial and ongoing training, and in the final part, the life-long existence of changes in the construction of this identity is noted.


Chapter six covers professional identity from social and personal perspectives, underlining its role as a resistance factor when faced with changes perceived as negative. Consequently, it is often ignored as a factor in educational policies, but it is vitally important if they are to be implemented adequately. Teachers apply identity strategies, and so it is interesting to consider Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) as a useful strategy in reworking professional identity to enable teachers to interact with changes in educational policy and evaluate their own competences from a comprehensive perspective.


Chapter seven covers the relationship between teachers’ identity and knowledge management. The contrast between considering public education centres as collaborative professional working communities or as mere formal structures for completing a preestablished task is considered here. The first option is clearly identified as much more rewarding for educators. Consequently, the existence of formative learning communities optimises the personal potential of the members of the educational organisation. This contribution shows the results of encouraging members of an organisation to identify with the institutional project, share in its work strategy, and become involved
with its execution, evaluation, and improvement. The trinity of innovation, organisational learning, and knowledge management —aspects that are intrinsically linked— undoubtedly has a strong influence on educational communities, their knowledge management, and the shaping of teacher identity.


The second block starts with chapter eight, the central figure of which is university teachers: a difficult question given the situation of universities and current changes. This results in organisational and academic differences, different teacher profiles, a heterogeneous student body, etc. All of this is in the midst of dichotomies that are hard to reconcile, such as teaching/research, functionaries/contracted staff, cooperation/competition, creativity/institutional management, etc. Basic personal factors such as wellbeing, commitment, and personal initiative are pushed into the background when confronting professional survival. Faced with this unstable and complex situation, two bodies responsible for professional improvement are identified: the administration, which must facilitate aspects such as training, and teachers themselves, who
must contribute willingness and capacity.


Chapter nine considers the identity of primary school teachers from their initial training to the end of their career. This group follows a path in its life and career in which personal and social aspects are added and subtracted in the construction of professional identity. Consequently, the text considers initial training, in
which teaching practice plays a vital role in the first contact with reality as a teacher, passing through the stress recently qualified teachers face and the help they receive from mentors, their subsequent confrontation with experience and ongoing training, their geographical dispersion, and finally their views of their entry into the profession; all of these stages are considered and briefly described, inviting all educational agents to confront the different challenges primary school teachers face.


The tenth contribution examines the destruction of the professional identity of secondary school teachers. To do so, it takes as its starting point a controversial television report from 2016 and a study of university students about university teachers by France’s ministry of education. In the programme, a journalist was hired as a maths teacher without any previous training and ended up resigning from her post. The management of the centre needed someone «in front of the students». The devaluation of the role of teachers, the difficulty of finding suitably trained teachers in some subjects, and the difficulties of substitute teachers are some of the issues analysed. Regarding
students’ perception of the profession, it is noted that while it is an attractive profession, it has limited prestige and requires a sense of vocation. The final section of this chapter reflects on the importance and current fragility of the pillars of the French school system (knowledge, student projects, and commitment from teachers), as well as the importance of education in our civilisation.


The penultimate chapter focusses on the occupational health of non-university teachers. Problems with the voice, muscular-skeletal problems, and stressrelated mental health problems are the most common ones among teachers, and are associated with various factors. The author notes the legislative framework and lines of action for revention. Ergonomics, the conditions of the post, healthy habits, prevention, and support with common health problems stand out among the proposed measures, as do measures relating to the voice and stress, and periodical recognition and palliative treatments. Finally, the last chapter analyses training plans for teachers at the Haute École Pédagogique in Valais, Switzerland, from the 19th century to the 20th, from a socio-political perspective. The core of  the chapter is the construction of professional
identity through syllabuses. The content of the syllabuses is examined in three categories, along with their development: training for the social role, professional training of teachers, and general training. Therefore, the author reflects on how educational plans are affected by the socio-political situation of a given moment. Consequently,  eachers’ identity is already influenced in its initial stage by educational policy. In conclusion, this is an enlightening and up-to-date review of the state of the question from a variety of perspectives, featuring international contributions, and it is of great value to educational analysts and trainers of future teachers, given that its reflections  hould help guide actions relating to the identity of teachers.


Mario Grande de Prado ■