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  • 2021mccronePhD

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Further Education lecturers’ early career development and identity: Policy, practice, and discourse

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2021
Number of pages366
Awarding Institution
Award date6/05/2021
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis focuses on policy and practice around professional development of Further Education (FE)lecturers. It situates the lived experience of recently qualified Early Career Lecturers (ECLs), employed across a range of institutions within North-West England, in the 2010-2018 FE policy environment. Mismatches between Government policy priorities are shown to shape elements of ECL development and practice, presenting barriers to acquisition of secure professional identities. Longstanding, deep-seated, systemic and structural factors are also argued to contribute to these barriers. Policy and practice around professional development are viewed through a Bourdieusian theoretical framework. A Critical Discourse Analysis(CDA)of the Education and Training Foundation(ETF)Professional Standards and Guidance documents(as disseminated policy) is compared with CDA of ECL interview discourse. This discourse, observed practice, and material artefact data are analysed within themes of professional development, pedagogic practices, social practices, and identity formation. Elements of Vygotsky’s Social Activity Theory, and Material Cultural Studies/Theory(MCS/T)(from the field of Archaeology)are used as part of an explanatory framework, with insights from Le Grand’s metaphorical knights, pawns, and knaves illuminating ECL development. The thesis argues that failure to acquire a secure professional identity makes pre-existing identities, habitus, and capital important to ECLs’ ability to exercise agency in the field. However, neither precarious new identities, nor pre-existing attributes, protect from performative and managerialist pressures or conflicting policy priorities. Despite some subject areas being afforded higher cultural capital, through training bursaries and favourable terms of employment, retention of ECLs is fragile. This is particularly relevant to retaining Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM)specialists with authentic industry experience required by the current policy intentions for new T-levels qualifications. A homogeneity in pedagogic practice with creativity thwarted by bureaucratic pressures and an embattled fledgling professional identity is shown to be the current paradigm for ECLs.