This research explores the processes of learning to teach Modern Languages (MLs) in the rapidly changing landscape of teacher education. It employs a postmodern critical ethnographic methodology (Lather, 1991) to examine the experiences of a group of student teachers and me, as their tutor, over the course of a one year PGCE programme. The focus is on how experiences in University and in School shape their emerging professional identities, in particular how these experiences encourage or discourage the development of a creative approach to the practice of language teaching. There is evidence which suggests that ML teaching is often mundane and does not inspire young people to study Languages (The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), 2011). However, the pressures of ‘performative’ requirements which privilege that which is measurable (Ball, 2003) act as a discouragement to creativity. This thesis finds that whilst student teachers express a desire to be more creative, they find it difficult to implement their ideas in School. I draw on postmodern interpretations of Marx and Freud to problematize the notion of ‘professional autonomy’ and to argue that the early formation of professional identity is a process of acquiescence to oppressive external structures over which individuals have no control, resulting in the alienation of the individual from the work they do. I also explore questions concerning the nature of subjectivity and the relationship between the individual and the external world through Romantic philosophy and poetry. As both subject and object of this ethnographic study, I employ a reflexive methodology to explore the evolution of my own professional identity. The critical narrative emerges from the data, which reveals how professional identities are simultaneously constructed and alienated.
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