Teacher Identity Development Through Growth Mindset, Coping and Meaning Making: An Intepretive Case Study of Preservice Teachers in the Liminal Space of Simulated Parent Teacher Conferences

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Kilbourn, Emily
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The subject of teacher identity is problematized by a number of factors and is compounded by its relationship to various constructs, including liminality. To further explore the process of teacheridentity development in preservice teachers, this interpretive case study addresses what the contribution of liminal experiences are to teacher identity formation, within the observable context of a series of mixed reality simulations of parent-teacher conferences. Data collected for the study were from a demographic questionnaire, interviews, observations, and documents. Qualitative data analysis resulted in one finding statement featuring three key themes each of which were informed by the various ways in which the theme was manifested in the present study. The finding statement was: Preservice teachers whose identities developed in the liminal space of a series of mixed reality experiences simulating parent-teacher conferences, (a) adopted a growth mindset, (b) employed coping strategies in liminality, and (c) made meaning from experiences. A discussion of the findings demonstrates that adopting a growth mindset enabled preservice teachers to embrace simulations for learning purposes, to learn from peers, and to grapple with complexity; implications included positioning the mixed-reality experience as a mastery opportunity to enable preservice teachers to build perceived self-efficacy and practice resilience. Preservice teacher participants who employed coping strategies in liminality exercised different forms of coping, but the range of strategies was limited. Because emotional regulation is an important asset to teaching, an implication is that teacher preparation might be mobilized as a context to teach coping strategies. Finally, with respect to how preservice teachers made meaning from experiences, a significant factor was the role reflection played in this process and an implication involves the need for preservice teachers to be acquainted with a range of reflective practices, including reflecting on their own identities.
First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr. Jody Piro, my primary dissertation advisor. Words really do not do justice to the important presence Dr. Piro has in my life and the tremendous impact her guidance has had on my work. Jody, your patient and expert explanations, your immediate accessibility, and your attentive feedback have positively impacted me as a learner. Your encouragement, enthusiasm, humor, and advice have positively impacted me as a person. Because you have gone way above and beyond my expectations for you as my dissertation advisor, and because of your important role in my life, Jody, I am prompted to also call you a friend. I will be forever grateful to you. To my friends in Cohort 8, I feel lucky to have learned alongside you. Not only were we “doing it,” but now we’ve done it. Britany, Mykal, and Ashley: Thank you for your humor, friendship, and solidarity. Oh, and for all of those study sessions involving quantitative statistics…which at times felt like quantum mechanics! Our Thursday afternoons at El Coyote were everything. Ashley, I would not be here without you. You convinced me to join the program, you drove me to classes, and your humor and insight continued to buoy me. You have my heartfelt gratitude. Mom, dad, Alex, Laura, Spence, and Ming: Thank you for your patience, moral support, polite inquiries about my work, and humor. I love you all deeply and appreciate your presence alongside me during this journey. To my niece and nephews, Violet, Mason, and Eli, thank you for all of the laughs and the Zoom dance parties. To Tom and Maureen Kilbourn, my wonderful in-laws, thank you for your encouragement, care, the quiet space of your spare bedroom, your suggested reading, and for caring for Gray while I worked. You were instrumental in my ability to complete this work. I love you. To friends who feel like family: Susan Atwood-Stone, thank you for your questions and your love. To my ladies, Jenn DeJulio, Lori Peck, Molly Helmes, and Megan Osimanti, thank you for your love and support. For so many reasons, I could not have done this without my “heroes.” Next to Jody, the person most responsible for helping to get me to this point is my husband, Josh. Josh, you encouraged me to join the doctoral program and you supported me every step of the way. I know this journey was not always easy. Your love and your belief in me were the energy I needed to get here. Thank you for being the dad you are, and for making Thursday nights special for Gray. Josh, you already know this, but it bears repeating: you are my shelter from the storm. Gray, my son, thank you for your patience and your love. I know it wasn’t always easy to hear, “Momma has class,” or “Momma is working.” Thank you for coloring while I wrote, watching The Wild Kratts quietly enough to allow me to focus, and for assembling Legos while I edited my “project.” With humility and love, I say to you that I hope I’ve in some small way modeled for you what it means to set your mind to accomplish something, to work hard, and to see it through. You too will be able to do whatever you set your mind and heart on. And last but not least, to my dog, Lilly: You were my constant writing companion and an eager hiker when I needed to clear my head. Anyone who has ever known the love of a good dog would agree that our pets deserve our gratitude.