University of Leicester
2011mcgillivraygphd.pdf (1.41 MB)

Practitioner to professional: de- and reconstructions of professional identities in the early years workforce

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posted on 2011-05-13, 12:06 authored by Gillian McGillivray
The use of the term ‘professional identities’ proliferates among those working in children’s services in England as recent policy has focused on workforce reform and integrated working. Subsequent debates reveal hegemonic discourses about ‘quality’, ‘professionalism’ and ‘professionalisation’ but these are contestable terms, shaped by multiple social, political and historical influences. For decades demands for increased pay and status have been made on behalf of, but not by, the early years workforce but to no avail. Agency, gender and power are thus significant forces in an ecological model of macro-, meso- and micro- levels of influence on how individual early years workers construct professional identities. The aim of this research was to explore how professional identities are constructed within the early years workforce in England, and to understand what factors contribute to the construction of such identities. It set out to investigate how members of the early years workforce themselves shape the construction of their professional identities, and how professional identities impact on practice. An interpretive paradigm, informed by feminist and Marxist perspectives, determined the methodological approach. Interviews, focus group conversations and documentary analysis generated discourse from early years workers, decision makers, students and texts for dialectic, hermeneutic analysis. Findings reveal multiple, recurring and competing professional identities for early years workers which are shaped by powerful forces in the home, the workplace and wider communities through subjugation and feminised, not feminist, performativities. The dialectical, multi-levelled positions of participants in the research were congruent with the multi-layered ecological model of professional identity construction. Through this model recurring identities as feminine child-carer and passive -resistant worker were evident in the data. These identities were reproduced by workers, their families and decision makers at meso- and macro-levels of influence. Early years workers’ identity of resistance to hegemonic professional identities is not futile however. Through resistance to imposed identities they have the agency to construct new professional identities for themselves.



Cooper, Paul

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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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