Vocational Education and Training Teacher Identity in the Context of Reform in Hong Kong: A multi-case study

Fanny Leung Ching Wai

Awarded: March 2017

University of Bristol

This dissertation examines how the professional and personal identities of vocational educational training (VET) teachers in Hong Kong have been influenced by changes to their work associated with the New Senior Secondary (NSS) reform. Teacher identity is dynamic and shaped by teachers themselves in interaction with their working context. Dynamic change in VET teacher identity in Hong Kong is happening in the context of the New Academic Structure (NAS) introduced by the NSS reform, which is bringing students into VET a year younger than previously. At the same time, the VET curriculum is changing to in response to  Hong Kong’s economy becoming more knowledge-based and an increasing proportion of staff at the Institute of Vocational Education (IVE) are hired on insecure short term contracts. This study explores personal and contextual influences on VET teachers’ own construction of their professional identities. Internationally, previous teacher identity research has mainly focused on primary and secondary school teachers and mainly been conducted in Western contexts. The identities of VET teachers are less frequently studied and there have been very few studies in Hong Kong.

This is a multiple case study of four VET teachers changing professional identity over the two-year period 2012-2014, during which NSS and NAS was introduced. The study adopts an interpretive approach. Four VET teachers were selected from four different subject areas. All four had taught for at least two years, both in the old and the new academic curriculum and had taught diverse learners in IVE during the NSS reform. Data was collected through face-to-face semi-structured interviews and observations.  Multiple forms of data were collected (audio recordings, drawings, photographs) and analysed to construct a narrative for each participant. Additionally, the researcher, who is also a teacher at IVE, kept a journal and produced drawings and drew on these to construct her own narrative as a way to make her subjectivity transparent.  Cross-case thematic analysis was used to compare participants’ conceptualisation of their professional and personal identity, and the relationship between the two, in the context of NSS reform. The findings revealed on-going and dynamic shaping of teacher identity in the context of education reform. A framework of VET teacher identity was created, which was specific to Hong Kong.

Keywords: VET teacher identity; vocational education; education reform; case study; thematic analysis; longitudinal study