University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 28 Feb 2015, Tertiary teachers with dyslexia as narrators of their professional life and identity (Burns)

Start date: Feb 28, 2015 12:00 PM

End date: Feb 28, 2015 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, Seminarium, Vanha juhlasali, S212

Eila BurnsMEd Eila Burns defends her doctoral dissertation in Education "Tertiary teachers with dyslexia as narrators of their professional life and identity". Opponent  Professor Sheila Riddell (University of Edinburgh) and custos Professor Timo Saloviita (University of Jyväskylä).

The overall purpose of the thesis is to shed light on and increase understanding of the professional lives of a small group of tertiary teachers with dyslexia. It aimed to explore these teachers’ experiences and perceptions of dyslexia in employment contexts, and to offer an alternative voice for professional teacher identity negotiation with dyslexia while meeting the challenges set by the profession. In this study professional identity negotiation was understood within the social constructionist understanding of knowledge and considered in line with the theoretical concepts of resilience and self-efficacy. These were concepts that were also found to be utilized in managing uncertainties posed by dyslexia. The methodological approach of narrative inquiry was applied with the priority given to the participants’ storied experiences of dyslexia. The data consisted of narrative interviews, constructed by way of personal experience stories of nine tertiary teachers with dyslexia, and a research diary kept by the researcher during the time of the study. The analysis of the interview data was carried out by utilizing narrative and qualitative thematic analysis as well as two-dimensional content analysis.

The findings revealed that experiences of dyslexia contributed to these tertiary teachers’ professional identity negotiation and a sense of self as a professional. The continuous negotiation process between themselves and their work environment entailed their professional identity being reconstructed in interaction with others. Despite their dyslexia the tertiary teachers showed competence and success in their current positions. This was achieved by internal processes resulting in heightened self-understanding, resilience and self-efficacy. That, as well as development of individual strategies appeared to be key to successful employment for the participants. Based on the findings it can be suggested that individuals with dyslexia can be successful employees contributing to the work environment with different set of skills. These contributions would be more effective in educational environments if all stakeholders cherish workforce diversity, thus, future investigations with educational managers and students would be encouraged.

Keywords: tertiary teacher, dyslexia, professional identity, professional experience, narrative inquiry

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