The personal and professional capital of Master's level study for teachers

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The landscape of teacher education in England continues to shift towards a schools led agenda. A position influenced by attitudes and policies from a neoliberal conservative government that consider teaching as a craft and thereby largely performative (Ball, 2003, Clarke, 2016). Whilst responsibility for the academic elements of an initial teacher education programme largely remain with university departments of education, their purpose and value to the individual teacher and profession are increasingly being questioned.

This paper examines the findings of an empirical research study undertaken as part of a doctoral thesis and explores the rationale for masters level study as part of teacher training in England (Cole, 2017). The purpose of this research was to explore the views and experiences of a theoretically sampled group of teachers in training, the personal and professional value of master’s level study and its influence in shaping their early careers as teachers.

Drawing upon the findings of a qualitative, practitioner-researcher study, it uses constructivist grounded theory (CGT) methodology to explore the student teacher perceptions and experiences, which are then used to develop a substantive theory outlining the value and use of master’s level study. A conceptual model grounded in the participants’ lived experiences and opinions, further outlines the necessary conditions for the effects to occur as part of teacher education, and is designed to promote a research-informed programme structure, rooted in student experience and praxis. Finally, the type of learning investments required to yield personally and professionally relevant returns will be explored.

As part of the empirical research, an extensive literature review was conducted to sensitise and inform the interview schedule and semi-structured interviews were undertaken with fifteen student participants. Participants were purposively and theoretically sampled to support the emerging theory until saturation of categories was achieved. Data was then analysed using the CGT processes outlined by Charmaz (2014).

Six substantive core categories emerged which were subsequently theorised and rendered again to produce a practice-focussed solution in the form of a conceptual framework. Analysis of the participant data highlighted the importance of two key effects which can be synthesised into the domains of professional capital (combined human, social and decisional capital) and personal capital. In addition, participants subsequently described the optimal educational environment for the promotion of these capitals; that of constructivist forms of teaching, learning and assessment (TLA) (Meijer et al., 2016). Furthermore, participants stated that the value and qualities of a challenging learning journey were enhanced when supported by an overall structure of transformative programme design (Mezirow and Taylor, 2011).

In the final theoretical rendering of the data, a conceptual model of programme design was formed, demonstrating the importance of transformative programme design, delivered through constructivist modes of TLA. The value of master’s level study to teachers in education was also significant in the data and found to be similar in importance to that found in OECD PISA highest rated countries such as Finland and Canada.

This conceptual model explored within this paper is capable of being applied in teacher education across the sector in relation to masters level study and indicates how effective programme design could develop excellent teachers of the future, demonstrating additional resilience, adaptation and reflection on enhancing practice. Its original contribution also rests on the fact that little research exists exploring teacher professional capital in England and in its potential contribution to teacher recruitment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2018
EventBritish Education Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference 2018 - Northumbria University
Duration: 11 Sept 201813 Sept 2018


ConferenceBritish Education Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference 2018
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