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Discourses We Live By

Hazel R. Wright
Marianne Høyen

II. Discourses we work within: of the workplace

6. Shaping ‘the Good Teacher’ in Danish and Kenyan Teacher Education

Kari Kragh Blume Dahl


Kari Kragh Blume Dahl makes a widely theorized comparison of teacher education in Denmark and Kenya, seeking to show how institutions establish the notion of a ‘good’ teacher, how they convey this notion to their students and how students conform to expectations publicly whilst flouting them in private.

Texte intégral

  • 1 ‘Students’ means ‘student teachers’ throughout this chapter.
  • 2 ‘Teacher education’ in this chapter refers to all formal and informal notions of studying teaching. (...)

1This chapter examines informal discourses of teacher education in two diverse contexts, Denmark and Kenya, and considers what they mean for the students’1 professional ‘becoming’, the process whereby students begin to think and act like a teacher. Specifically, the chapter explores how local, moral worlds, using Kleinman’s conceptualization (1992), produce different contexts of shared experience in these teacher education settings,2 how students negotiate their everyday lives at college in relation to these two contexts, and what this means for their sense of belonging in the teaching profession. The chapter raises two significant questions about discursive life and becoming in institutional education contexts: firstly, what do informal, institutional norms look like in Danish and Kenyan teacher education institutions regarding professional standards and behaviour; and secondly, do these norms and practices influence student teachers’ professional becoming, for instance in relation to their sense of belonging in the teaching profession? The process of becoming refers to a constructionist way of understanding human change as something that is varied, multiple, unstable and thus always in process, as opposed to more traditional understandings of concepts of learning and development.

2The teaching profession is not a ‘value-free’ entity, but arises within teacher education institutions with distinctive cultural identities and local systems of beliefs, attitudes, understandings and meanings that shift over time, and where existing power and knowledge hierarchies are sometimes challenged and/or reinforced (Cochran-Smith & Boston College Evidence Team, 2009; Ladson-Billing, 2006). Seeking to better understand how identities are formed, the chapter explores linkages between institutional discursive power and individual identification. It does this by examining how students develop a sense of belonging in the teaching profession, as it is performed in diverse teacher education institutions. ‘Identification’ in relation to the teaching profession is taken as a culturally constructed and performed issue rather than an external, static and constant determinant (Levinson & Holland, 1996). Identification and belonging are seen as the results of a complex interplay between several concurrent conditions at the teacher education institution, whose physical forms, lively materialities (Jones, 2011) and norm formations also play a part in the bonds that exist and are negotiated between students and the institution.

3The study draws on different theoretical perspectives to match the complexity of the social processes, and includes discourse theory, cultural analysis and social anthropology to explore how different values and virtues embedded in the different institutional discourses produce human intentionality and belonging. Foucault’s (1989/1969) definition of discourse as a system of representations is useful to articulate meaning and the forms of social practice that are embedded in the two different institutional fields. According to a Foucauldian view, discourse constitutes knowledge and, together with social practices, it establishes forms of subjectivity and power relations that inhere in such knowledge and social relations (Weedon, 1987). Together with conceptualizations of morality and local moral worlds (Kleinman 1992; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999) discourse may expand our understanding of how students conceive of, negotiate and perform everyday practices in discursive teacher education fields. Local moral worlds are contexts of shared experience, which mediate macro-social forces and shape specific local effects, so they are particular, intersubjective and constitutive of the lived flow of experience in the micro-contexts of daily life (Kleinman, 1992). They may help us to see students’ learning as a pathway that does not have a beginning or an end; and as a process of becoming that is not only cognitive and resource-oriented but also socio-culturally and discursively produced.

4Conceptualizing teacher education institutions as distinct local moral worlds can shed light on the significance and changing form of morality in different social contexts, based on, for instance, socio-cultural environments and the historical-political context of the different settings of Danish and Kenyan teacher education. Finally, this study is informed by Bourdieu (1977, 1986), whose conceptualizations of habitus may shed light on how human life and meaning are produced within the objective structures of teacher education, as institutional structures and processes are negotiated by student teachers. The study draws on material from ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Denmark 2017 in two university colleges (UC) and in Kenya 2009–2011 in three teacher-training colleges (TTC), and quantitative data for Kenya. Participants’ names are changed to protect their anonymity.

Conceptualizing ‘Discursive Becoming’

5Some studies suggest that the teacher profession and teacher education (Dahl, 2014; Moos, 2017) are entangled in discursive practices. Drawing on conceptualizations such as categorization and positioning (Davies, 1990; Davies & Harré, 1990), discourse (Foucault, 1977), habitus (Bourdieu, 1977, 1986), and morality (Kleinman, 1992), this chapter addresses relational, dynamic and partly unstable processes of professional becoming — becoming as something that changes and is difficult to locate (Khawaja, 2013). Social categories can be defined as something a person does, not something a person is or has. They are ‘not the cause of certain behavior but rather the effect of certain behavior’ (Staunæs, 2003, p. 104). Categories therefore become tools for selecting and ordering, for inclusion and exclusion, and for positioning and making hierarchies, hence they can be spoken of as ‘shaping’ the student body and determining what constitutes professionalism in college. Exploring categories makes it possible to discuss what is regarded as appropriate in different fields; by adopting the perspective of Bourdieu (1986) and employing a cultural analytical view of human agency as embedded, intentional and directed (Levinson & Holland, 1996) we can acknowledge that students actively negotiate institutionally produced categories in relation to their daily lives.

6Davies (1990) argues that being an individual person in the modern world involves taking on the discursive practices through which a person is constituted. This resonates with Foucault’s (1977) concept of self-technology, which describes how people internalize external power technologies and how institutions exercise power over individuals through their own self-surveillance, thereby becoming an agent of their own subjectification. In other words, people take up discursive practices as their own, rather than seeing them as external and coercive (Davies, 1990). According to this perspective, becoming is a process of positioning and locating oneself within different categories that are made available to one; it is associated with learning to participate in the discursive practices that give meaning to those categories, for instance in relation to the local moral worlds of teacher education. People take up their subject position (Davies & Harré, 1990) and make it their own within discursive fields.

7Subjectivity is the post-structural concept that describes a person’s sense of self, and it can be used to grasp, for instance, stability as well as change and rupture (Staunæs, 2003). From a post-structural perspective, this means that a person is a subject who has been categorized and positioned (by others) and therefore changed, for instance in relation to their sense of belonging. Students’ sense of belonging in the teaching profession thus also depends on historical, political and cultural categorizations, which are also objects of analysis. Categorization may be viewed as a kind of positioning that is an ongoing and dynamic process (Davies & Harré, 1990). In relation to institutional categorization, this means exploring students’ use of the positions and categories made available to them. Douglas (1966) highlights the fundamental role played by conceptual boundaries in constructing ideas of Self against those of the Other. In relation to institutional becoming and categorizations, this means exploring boundaries for students’ control and examining how transgressing the social order might construct or tear down the sense of belonging that comes with being a teacher. Institutional frames demarcate spaces of individual people’s possibilities (Douglas, 1986), and thus give rise to different versions of morality, gender, class, ethnicity and professionalism, which emerge and become cultivated in the daily life of teacher education college.

Professionalism and the Sense of Belonging

8As a concept, ‘belonging’ has been addressed through different theoretical perspectives, for instance psychodynamic theory (Yuval-Davies, 2006) and social anthropological and postcolonial research (Khawaja, 2013). Belonging is a term that contains ‘longing’ (Khawaja, 2013), which addresses a kind of ‘drive’ towards or desire for something. Belonging has been conceptualized through its emotional aspects, by Yuval-Davies (2006), who sees it as being about emotional attachment, feeling at home and feeling safe, and by Davies (1990, p. 506) who describes it as about becoming emotionally committed to a category of membership and to an experience of ‘belonging or not belonging in moral terms’. In relation to communalities such as teacher education institutions, morality addresses contexts of shared experience that shape local effects (Kleinman, 1992), for instance the morality of student teachers. This means that student teachers’ morality may be seen as linked to a sense of belonging to (or longing for) being a member of a certain community, or longing for, or desiring teaching professionalism in specific ways.

9According to Yuval-Davies, people can ‘belong’ in many different ways and to many different objects of attachment; belonging can vary between particular people in a concrete or abstract way, or be an act of self-identification or identification by others, in a stable, contested or transient way (Yuval-Davies, 2006). In a social anthropological view, morality might involve the things that are considered good in specific contexts (Kleinman, 1992; Lakoff & Johnson, 1999) and how these are related to ideas about teaching and professionalism. In terms of student teachers’ ‘longing for belonging’ (Davies, 2000, cited in Khawaja, 2013, p. 533) in the teaching profession, this means exploring students’ desires for belonging and being acknowledged and recognized as teachers and professionals. It also means examining the different hegemonic forms of local moralities and norms that are associated with the teaching profession in a specific setting, for instance, as they are communicated in different teacher education institutions. Finally, it means exploring the changing forms of the morality of professionalism in teaching, as it is discursively produced.

10Morality and belonging are echoed in the professional literature that particularly employs the psychological perspectives of identity and identification as important categories of professionalism. Feelings of belonging or alienation may thus arise when student teachers become interwoven ‘into the fabrics of others’ lives’ (Beardwood & O’Shea, 2011, p. 36), i.e., when they identify with, become rejected by or reject the social groups surrounding them.

11Professional ideals are categorizations of what is considered ‘good’, for instance, regarding teaching. In Denmark and Kenya, professional ideals about teaching focus on promoting social equality, respect and independence (MOEST, 2002; Danmarks Lærerforening, 2002), yet they are negotiated differently by student teachers in the two national contexts (Dahl, 2018). In addition, ‘professionalism’ is an imprecise concept, but it can reflect an understanding of human agency and knowledge as contextual, embedded and directed, when linked with related concepts such as habitus, discourse and belonging. Teaching professionalism has been conceptualized as a matter of having a ‘mission’ (Korthagen, 2004) or feeling a ‘calling’ (Hansen, 1995) for teaching, which means that professionalism is also something that individuals may desire. Exploring teaching professionalism as a matter of professional longing therefore means addressing students’ aspirations to become teachers, and how their categories of a ‘good teacher’ correspond with those of the institution.

Context: Teacher Education in Denmark and Kenya

12Danish and Kenyan teacher education share many similarities: both draw on a curriculum focusing on subject matter and pedagogical practical training, and include specific sets of professional ideals which explicitly concern democratic classroom values (Danmarks Lærerforening, 2002; MOEST, 2004). In both settings, the teaching profession has lost prestige and is less attractive. In Denmark, it is difficult to recruit students for teacher education, and dropout rates are high (Nordic Council of Ministers, 2010). In Kenya, less than two-thirds of student teachers have teaching as their primary career aspiration (Dahl, 2017). This section explores the historical and socio-cultural contexts of teacher education in the two settings in order to locate discursive and institutionally embedded local moral worlds of teacher professionalism.

Denmark: Teacher Education as Civil Emancipation in a Neoliberal State

13Danish teacher education started in 1791, when the first teacher-training college offered a four-year pedagogical and theoretical training course (Laursen, 2011). In teacher education today, two political trends can be identified: teacher education as civil emancipation (see Brandt & Böwadt, 2009) and as neoliberalism (see Andersen et al., 2017). With the latest teacher education reforms in 2013, teacher-specific regulations were revoked, and teaching subsumed within a more generic set of requirements for professional education. Danish teacher education is presently decentralized in accordance with common legislation (Rasmussen & Bayer, 2014), and is a four-year professional Bachelor’s degree. The traditional division into subjects has been abolished and the content incorporated into four areas: professional aspects, teaching subjects, pedagogical training and Bachelor’s project (Uddannelses- og Forskningsministeriet, 2012).

14In 2007, teacher-training colleges merged with other professional Bachelor’s education institutions into seven university colleges (UCs). From 2013, the new UCs were built as large complexes each serving around 10,000 students and 1,500 student teachers (Danske Professionshøjskoler, 2017). General education focusing on formative experiences was intended to ‘permeate the whole education’, so that the school could ‘prepare pupils for participation, co-responsibility, rights and obligations in a society with freedom and democracy’ (Uddannelses- og Forskningsministeriet, 2012, p. 1). For instance, one of the aims of UC Capital, the largest Danish UC with 10,087 students and 2,504 student teachers, is to educate teachers with ‘a strong professional identity who are critical and constructive in relation to the pedagogical and educational political practice’, so that teachers acquire ‘a professional approach to the school’s role as formative and educative institution’ (Professionshøjskolen UCC, 2017, pp. 3–4). Values that embrace the formative role of teacher education in the emancipation of civil society can be traced to the 1940s, when a teacher-training-college rector wrote that the school ‘through its whole atmosphere must educate for civil life and cooperation […] that is democracy’ (Christensen, 1945, p. 106, translated by author). Within this ‘formative discourse’, teachers’ professional experiences and knowledge, among other things, are seen as legitimizing a widespread autonomy (Moos, 2017, p. 55). By organizing teacher education institutions in today’s inclusive UCs, comprising teaching and research, UCs could appear consolidated and distinctive, and target development of a strong teacher identity (Hansén & Forsman, 2009; Andersen et. al., 2017). Yet, concerns have been raised that Danish teacher education during recent history appears to have been damaged and broken down by the many reforms and strict, detailed regulation that have been imposed on it, which have diminished its autonomous status and reduced the opportunity for self-definition (Andersen et al., 2017).

15Many of today’s UCs appear to be all-encompassing villages, with supermarkets, pharmacies, cafés, hotels, receptions, large cafeterias, social spaces and ‘base camps’ where staff work behind information desks from which they both advise students about their studies and physically direct them to other sites, on impersonal campuses characterized by ‘hard functionalism’ (Kirkeby, 2006, cited in Tanggaard & Szulewicz, 2013, p. 80). Spaces, and their usages, are clearly defined in ways that do not encourage flexibility or requests for alteration. In spite of an increased interest in relational and class-managerial competencies (Nordenbo et al., 2008), teaching studies have become more academic, with subject specializations and augmented admission criteria despite recruitment problems. It is easier for courses to adapt to market demands, due to the decentralized regulation of the UCs. Each of the seven UCs has the mandate to develop a distinctive profile; UCs can in many ways be seen as neoliberal institutions, created by the state as enterprising and competitive entrepreneurs (Olssen, 2003) practising freedom.

Kenya: Teacher Education as British Missionary History in Eastern Africa

16Until 1911, British missionaries controlled education in Kenya with the declared purpose of enlightening Africans ‘so that they could read the Bible and assist in spreading Christianity and western civilization to fellow Africans’ (Eshiwani, 1993, p. 17). Colonial African schooling has been described as ‘tools for colonial powers to educate and civilize the savage black population to become a submissive local workforce’ (Sifuna & Otiende, 2006, p. 192). By the beginning of the 1920s, teacher training was carried out as ‘training on the job’ (Sifuna & Otiende, 2006) by the Christian Church; however, the Phelps-Stoke Commission visited East Africa in 1924 and recommended a uniform education system with adequate teacher-training centres focusing on agricultural and industrial programmes to meet local needs. Moral concerns about how teachers were to be role models for the population were expressed in the Binns Commission’s worries about the ‘lack of dignity in the teaching profession’ (Sifuna & Otiende, 2006, p. 225) in 1952.

17Consequently, a plan to re-organize teacher training was initiated by the Christian Council of Kenya in 1956. Still, there were too few teachers and most of them were untrained when Kenya gained independence in 1963 (Eshiwani, 1993). Shortly after independence, the Kenyan government consolidated teacher education into the present eighteen public teacher-training colleges (TTCs) with a capacity of about 600 students each (Sifuna & Otiende, 2006). In addition, Kenya today has about 100 private TTCs. The stated aims for teacher education formally stress emancipation for civil society, since student teachers are meant to learn to ‘foster nationalism, and promote national and individual development, sound moral and religious values, social equality and responsibility, respect for and development of Kenya’s rich and varied culture, international consciousness, positive attitudes towards other nations, good health, and environmental protection’ (MOEST, 2004, pp. vi–viii).

18Teacher education today in Kenya is a two-year residential course, where students obtain the Primary Teacher Education (PTE) certificate based on a final exam prepared by the Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC). The PTE exam consists of eighteen different subjects, most of which are studied during the student’s second year at college, and assessment is conducted in the form of written, multiple-choice tests, emphasizing detailed, core-subject knowledge. The content of subjects and topics in the core curriculum and the PTE exam at the public and private TTCs is theoretically similar, but teacher-training institutions communicate value differently. Formally, Kenyan TTCs are regulated through the Education Act of 1980, which outlines the education system in general terms only (Republic of Kenya, 2012). At present, there is neither a policy paper nor act governing the primary sector specifically but the area is regulated by a locally appointed Board of Governors, many of whose members have a religious background. Strong Christian religious influence on local management committees has probably led to what has been termed informal, moralistic education in Kenyan public TTCs (Dahl, 2015).

Categorizing ‘the Good Student’ in Diverse Institutions

19This section explores how social order and moral boundaries in the two settings were maintained or transgressed (see Douglas, 1966) as the institutions promoted, and students negotiated, categories of being a ‘good student’. Discussing categories may inform us about how the different kinds of institution provide different possibilities for interaction and positioning, which students take up and make their own.

20Good students in Danish UCs displayed appropriate moral behaviour by attending classes with their homework done, not being late, and being active and critically engaged in class discussions initiated by the teacher. After the first semester, students’ attendance during class dropped dramatically so a class with thirty students could shrink to a handful of students. Students reported that tutors would often comment during classes on students who were late or did not come to class. Tutors, on the other hand, felt that it was difficult to maintain a coherent programme of study when the student population in a specific class was not consistent due to the irregular turnout. However, students claimed that many tutors did not read and correct their homework, leaving them without guidance regarding their academic performance. Tutors articulated the role of teacher education enabling students to develop independence and critical consciousness so they could locate and ‘identify with their own special teacher profile’. Yet many students found this a difficult task, since they felt they were left to their own devices to figure out what ‘kind of teacher’ they were. In many ways, the institutional demands from the tutors about developing professionalism did not match the students’ opportunities for doing so, as the following interview extract with a female student-teacher illustrates:

It was because I did not really participate in classes, so I was not ‘seen’ by my classmates. So, I think half a year passed by before I realized that this is not going to be easy. I had totally underestimated this […] It became hard, and I was also forced to find out, or to put my feelings into words on which kind of teacher I would like to become. It was a question we got quite fast. So, you were kind of, ‘I don’t know, I just want to become a teacher’. […] We were told over and over again that we should find out what was important for us so we could argue for why we did one thing instead of another. (Melissa, 28-year-old female student)

21Though students were aware of the institutional demands facing them, these demands appeared in an ‘empty’ space, where there seemed no reference points such as written guidance or concrete feedback to guide them in future. Tutors were busy and did not interact with individual students. Students, who had fewer fixed interactions with their peers, had difficulties in understanding what was appropriate student behaviour. At a first glance, the space for ‘becoming’ at Danish UCs appeared ungoverned; a place where ‘anything goes’ in a kind of ‘laissez-faire pedagogy’ (Jacobsen & Kristiansen, 2001, p. 112). Laissez-faire is a personal morality that builds on a conception of value nihilism (ibid., 2001) in a context of minimal state intervention and control. However, Danish teacher education was not a value-free entity without structures and rules, since classes, pedagogical training and exams were conducted according to strict regulations, albeit with a minimal effort by many of the students who, in return, often found that their homework was not marked by the tutor. In spite of tutors’ annoyance about late and unprepared students, many students felt left to their own devices by busy teachers and subsequently thought of the course as ‘an easy task’.

22According to Dean (2002), liberalism is not freedom, but another form of ‘conduct of conduct’ and government. In Dean’s view, the institutional government of students became self-government. Davies and Bansel for instance argue (2010, p. 5) that the single most important feature of a neoliberal government is ‘that it systematically dismantles the will to critique, thus potentially shifting the very nature of what a university is and the ways in which academics understand their work’. This means that the market becomes the singular discourse through which individual and institutional acceptability is recognized (Davies & Bansel, 2010). The market in this case being the audit technologies that ‘standardize and regularize expert knowledge so that they can be used to classify and diagnose populations of workers’ (Davies & Bansel, 2010, p. 7), such as students and tutors depending on how they deliver academic performance standards in the form of, for instance, pass percentages and academic achievements. Free will and choice seemingly did not result in more democracy but instead in institutional moulding, where new hierarchies regarding physical presence and the delivery of output on time became dominant categories for how ‘a good student’ was perceived.

23‘Good students’ in Kenyan TTCs displayed appropriate ‘moral’ behaviour, which included obeying the Ten Commandments and keeping friendships with the opposite gender at a platonic level (see Dahl, 2014). ‘Immoral’ behaviour, however, on the other hand, included engaging in intimate relationships, partying during weekends, drinking alcohol and dressing in Western clothes, such as short dresses and tight jeans, all of which purportedly led to achieving low marks. However, it was the majority of students — and most of them female students — who were perceived as ‘spoilers’, ‘romantic ladies’ and ‘naughty ones’, as college staff and students categorized those students who behaved in what were considered immoral ways, illustrated in this male student’s account (as discussed in Dahl, 2017, p. 157):

It [immoral behaviour] lowers your dignity, because people could judge you, they say something must be wrong with you because we [male and female students] are not meant to relate in a cordially [sic] manner. […] It means bad reputation for you. It spoils your name. It makes people hate you […] If you have got that Biblical kind of brought up [sic] then it can help you, because the readings in the Bible are always very clear that if you fail to follow this, then retributions are there. Like the Bible says, the remedy for sin is death. So if you sin, you die. But if you do according to the commandment […] life is there. (Martin, 25-year-old male student)

24Achieving good marks also mattered, but much more importance was attached to moral behaviour. Immoral behaviour, such as engaging in intimate relations with students of the opposite gender, was sanctioned severely and meant that ‘The Dean’s eyes will now be on you’, as a student explained. Since many students secretly engaged in intimate premarital relations and had boyfriends or girlfriends, they all became ‘Other’ (Collins, 1998) in relation to the dominant matrix. Most students followed practices outside the norms of the civilized order of teacher training; practices considered illegitimate and inappropriate. Yet, many students seemingly took up the subject positions (Davies & Harré, 1990) available for them within the institutional space and made them their own. Students apparently internalized the dominant matrix and discipline as bodily gestures and would, for instance, appear in the public college space with lowered heads and voices, physically separated from one another according to gender. The institutional discipline was maintained without overt violence, and the controlled persons had in some ways become the source of their own control (Foucault, 1977).

25Generally, teacher education in the two contexts seems characterized by boundaries between what is considered ‘good’ and ‘pure’ student behaviour and what is considered dangerous and beyond the margins of teacher education, and probably teacher professionalism, paraphrasing Douglas (1966). In the Danish context, these boundaries are drawn by indefinite claims in relatively empty spaces for students’ self-preservation, and in the Kenyan context by a stricter boundary separating illicit and permitted student behaviour. Subjects, however, often handle their social realities in more complex ways than institutions think. Deterministic analyses of institutional power as something standardized and one-way must be transgressed (Staunæs, 2007) to include an empirical analysis of students’ lives. Danish Melissa’s and Kenyan Martin’s accounts of being student teachers illustrate how values and moralities became an integral part of the way they thought of themselves as teachers — Melissa in the way she became frustrated as she sensed the institutional pressure of navigating in an ungoverned yet controlled space, and Martin in the form of fear of diverging from the institutionally legitimized student behaviour and being positioned as an inappropriate ‘Other’ (see Collins, 1998). Overall, morality appeared to be an important aspect of students’ learning in both settings; students’ learning at teacher education institutions was in other words not only intellectual and cognitive but also recognized ‘underlying principles of ethics and moralities’ (LeVine & White, 1986), meaning that students’ professionalization had a socially constructed nature (see Phoenix, 2008).

Appropriating Categories and Achieving a Sense of Professional Belonging

26In Danish teacher education, value formation took place as informal learning (Eraut, 2004) in Kristendomskundskab, Livsoplysning og Medborgerskab (KLM, Religious Education, Life Education and Citizenship). The purpose of KLM was that students should gain a ‘critical sense of relation to their outlooks on life and value orientation’, focusing on strengthening the teaching profession by studying the meaning of Christianity for European values (Brandt & Böwadt, 2009, p. 5).

27Many students thought of KLM as a benchmark for their subsequent studies, since tutors continually referred to it during teacher education. In an informal way, the organization of classes as group work seemed to underline the institutional demands that students should be active, self-defining and skilled in argument. A female student described how the organization of tuition as group work was central to the students’ ability to gain recognition in the institution as ‘good students’ who were continually confronted by other students to learn to speak up as part of a civil emancipatory project, pressurizing them to reconsider their recognition of being teachers:

We started quite early during the studies being placed in groups to do group work. I never took the lead. In the beginning, I was the quiet mouse who sat in the corner and said nothing, unless I was asked. So when I came home I would think, ‘It’s annoying I didn’t say this or that’. […] [But tuition] was totally varied. There was never really anything of the same (no cohesion) […] It was very much running like with lectures, exercises, up and walk, walking around with exercises, brainstorm and then talk. (Laura, 27-year-old female student)

28Though the values of KLM were continuously referred to during subsequent classes, this only took place during class hours, initiated by tutors, so many students felt that their sense of belonging in the civil emancipatory project faded as they completed their studies. Though students felt that formal teaching in the first semester was permeated by explicit value formation, forcing them to reflect on their own values in relation to the teaching profession, they also felt the lack of social ‘glue’ in the institution, and this made them stick together to overcome feelings of isolation. Students felt that the former ‘spirit’ from teacher education in the smaller colleges, where tutors and students knew each other, had disappeared and they were left with the large, impersonal complexes, ‘which did not make sense to me as a human being’, as a female student explained. Yet traces of the students’ development of professional belonging remained, since KLM initiated reflections on what kind of teacher they wanted to be. Their sense of belonging in college was mostly linked to relations with student peers, and many students’ relationships with their colleges were reduced to attending classes; youth life and peer identification replaced the values of the civil emancipatory project ingrained in the institution. So, student teachers avoided the institutional control and stigma by constructing normative communalities of ‘kindred spirits’ with other students (see Jones, 2011). However, ‘good students’ received additional attention from tutors and, as a consequence, put more effort into relating to the teaching profession.

29In Kenyan TTCs, informal education, such as teaching with moralistic content (see Dahl, 2015) seemed highly characteristic of students’ spaces of becoming. During teacher education, students were subjected to a mix of different informal learning discourses that intermingled and represented complex spaces for students’ possible orientation. Informal education with moralistic content seemed to be the dominant discourse of meaning, meant to coerce students to become puritan, obedient subjects. Yet, the analysis demonstrates that though moral discipline conveyed by the institution impacted students’ meaning-making, so some students conformed to ‘biblical’ values and refrained from engaging in intimate relationships, many other students actively negotiated the categories intended to dominate them, creating new meaning. The institutional discipline of students was most successful when institutions also provided space for social and emotional attachment between students and the institution. In most TTCs, for instance, the deputy principal had the unpopular role of disciplining and controlling students. Consequently, the head of the institution, the principal, seldom criticized or scolded students, but was able to interact with them in a more friendly and symmetrical fashion and demonstrate a more forgiving way of handling their ‘misconducts’. This was, for instance, visible in TTCs who had institutionalized their surveillance of students into emotional ‘relationing’, asking older students to become ‘student mothers’ and ‘student fathers’, and appointing a specific lecturer to each student, a ‘personal’ lecturer, who through emotional attachment could closely monitor the specific student’s conduct.

30Following Bourdieu (1997), the personal charisma of tutors or more experienced students was therefore used to transform relations of dominance into emotional relations, thereby casting an emotional spell that controlled students in different ways. Power worked subtly, as tutors assisted students with ‘motherly advice’, lent them pocket money for travel home during the holidays, and in other ways sought to be ‘close’ to students. Students in these teacher education cultures felt devotion and connectedness to the persons who were appointed to be responsible for their studies, and came to appreciate that owing somebody something was to be understood as a feeling, and thereby perceived as a longer-lasting trait of the person who executed the generous action (Bourdieu, 1997). Relations of dominance and suppression were sometimes turned into emotional relations using charm and charisma; in these cases, the symbolic violence was gentler, and more hidden forms of violence (Bourdieu, 1977) were inflicted on students.

31A questionnaire distributed to 3,145 Kenyan student teachers found that though the vast majority of students entering TTC were seeking an education rather than to become a teacher, 64 % of first-year students and 65 % of second-year students indicated that given a second chance, they would still choose teaching as a career (Dahl, 2017). This indicates that a sense of professional belonging had developed in students during their teacher education. However, research also indicates that the sense of belonging was dependent on the kind of institutional culture the students belonged to. Since a sense of belonging contains both cognitive and affective elements in a person’s evaluation of his or her role in relation to a specific group, belonging also results in affective responses (Hurtado & Carter, 1997). Students’ sense of belonging was thus associated with receiving positive feedback, for instance in informal ‘relationing’ with tutors and fellow students. Institutional cultures that provided such spaces aroused positive emotions and thus a sense of belonging in the place and the teaching profession in students. Kenyan TTCs were, in spite of being overall spaces for communicating morality, also spaces for positive, social interaction between students and institutionally legitimized personnel such as tutors. This could possibly explain why students, in spite of their negative evaluations of the bodily and mental disciplining they experienced, developed a sense of belonging to the teaching profession during their stay at the TTC, since they also received moral instruction that increased their feeling of being professionally responsible (see Solbrekke & Englund, 2011).


32This chapter has discussed what it means to be a student teacher in diverse teacher education contexts, and how institutional moralities categorize and shape students’ identification and sense of belonging in the teaching profession through their being subjected to different spaces of becoming, cultivated in the two institutions. Findings suggest that, in both Denmark and Kenya, teacher education is not a totally open and power-neutral carrier of history and tradition, but rather informs future students’ stories about what it means to be a schoolteacher. Students in both settings are subjected to discursive practices that constitute them in different ways; yet the findings suggest that informal moralization emphasizing values such as democratic emancipation (in Danish teacher education) and Christian, religious education (in Kenyan teacher education) are present in both settings, and that students do become categorized according to their moral values in both settings. However, it appears that, compared to Kenya, Danish teacher education practices impacted on students’ professional becoming in different, rather than less pervasive, ways. In Kenya, value disciplining for some students remained external, since students’ peer culture critically negotiated and resisted the biblical messages conveyed by the institutions; in Denmark, value disciplining worked in more subtle ways, probably since students had a greater say in their student life and spare time compared to their Kenyan peers. However, being subjected to a seemingly empty space of ‘laissez-faire’ (Jacobsen & Kristiansen, 2001), with minimal intervention, systematically deconstructed students’ will to critique (see Dean, 2002). The very nature of the university as a reflective space disappeared.

33Having finished their teaching studies, Danish students subsequently struggled with their professional identities and many had difficulty in finding a sense of belonging in the profession. In contrast, the Kenyan students occupied a tight institutional space where values were clearly set out. Yet these values only partly penetrated students’ ideas about what a good teacher is, probably as the biblical and highly moralistic values sharply contrasted with their everyday lives, where independence and modern lifestyles were possible. Kenyan students and their Danish peers used student communities to negotiate categories of professionalism, and their sense of belonging was therefore created in relation to peer communities rather than solely the institution. Perhaps, through continually visualizing and reflecting on moral education in the institutional space, students can be enabled to develop their own version of professionalism and through this a sense of belonging in the profession.



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1 ‘Students’ means ‘student teachers’ throughout this chapter.

2 ‘Teacher education’ in this chapter refers to all formal and informal notions of studying teaching. However, though the term is widely used in a Danish context, in other contexts such as the Kenyan — and the English — the more customary term is ‘teacher training’.


Is an Associate Professor at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark. She is a Licensed Psychologist with a PhD in Education and her research interests are teacher education, teachers’ school practice, organizational learning and communality in teaching, which she explores through comparative, cultural analytical and critical psychological perspectives. Having published widely, her latest and third monograph is With the best of intentions: Becoming somebody in Kenyan teacher education (2017).


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