A growing body of research in education shows that students’ opportunities for academic identity development impacts their academic achievement (Vassallo, 2014). However, despite a recognition of the importance of identity development and the myriad of initiatives to enhance students’ identity development and sense of belonging, students continue to fail to obtain an academic identity (Farrell, 1990), to the extent that many report a negative or insecure academic self-concept and identity.
In the current and future scenario, where the demand for students to be optimally prepared when entering increasingly complex professional workplaces, this is highly unfortunate and is shortchanging students in their preparedness. Indeed, Jensen and Jetten (2016) indicate that students feel the need to develop a professional identity to appreciate and understand the relevance of their studies, and the inability to develop it leads to uncertainty, stress, and perceived poor academic achievement.
Professional identity is comprised of two distinct professional paradigms: social and psychological. The socialization process is characterized by doing, while the psychological professional is characterized by being. Hence attitudes, behaviours and ethics are as necessary as knowledge, skills and competences. One without the other presents an incomplete conception of professional identity (McCammon & Brody, 2012; Crigger & Godfrey, 2011).
This presentation, focuses on the findings following the first stage of a three-year research study, looking into the students’ positionalities and perspectives of current and future self as they embark on a three-year VET initial teacher training degree.
Analysis of data revealed that personalities and life-long trajectories impact students’ perceptions and positionalities, both at a personal and professional level, and these may limit or enhance growth. Engaging into reflexive practices enhances awareness leading to liberation and further growth.