What Does it Mean to be a Teacher Educator in Today’s Rapidly Changing World?

By Natalie Pemberton posted 04-16-2024 01:16 PM


What Does it Mean to be a Teacher Educator in Today’s Rapidly Changing World?

by Adrian D. Martin, Ph.D.

Dr. Martin wrote the article “Teacher Educator Identity as a Relational Ontology: An Inquiry of the Entangled Self” in the latest quarterly issue of  The Educational Forum. The article is available free in the month of April.

Those of us who work in the teaching profession often focus on our engagement with students. We think about how students interact with us, how they interact with each other, and how this supports their learning. It might be fair to say that the central (and perhaps most important) relationship in classrooms and schools is the one between the educator and their pupils. Throughout my previous years as an early childhood and primary teacher and now, as a teacher educator, I have approached my work and my professional responsibilities with this tacit assumption. The teacher-student relationship has been the primary space for learning and intellectual development. Certainly, I often contemplate what I say and do in my classroom and how my actions enable students’ academic success.

Yet, the last few years have seen major changes in the ways that teachers and students interact. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a near total reliance on digital technology for teachers and students to do what previously would have been completed in an in-person, classroom setting. For myself, this was a dramatic shift. I began to reflect upon and rethink my understanding of being a teacher educator, how I was enacting this role, and the implications of relying on technology and objects to do my work. I had placed my students at the heart of my professional identity as a teacher educator, and I began to wonder how digital tools such as my laptop, smartphone, and other apparatuses were shaping my role and my work. I wondered how the use of resources such as Zoom, email, the internet, and others contributed to my teacher educator identity. Given that technology is assuming an even more central space in the field of education (most recently with the proliferation of artificial intelligence), it is vital to understand how the use of these tools, their affordances and limitations, and the opportunities these present in shaping our work. 

In Teacher Educator Identity as a Relational Ontology: An Inquiry of the Entangled Self, I report on my experiences investigating these questions and themes. Over the course of one semester, I employed self-study inquiry methods to document, analyze, and assess my teaching practices (both in-person and online). Self-study enabled me to investigate how I supported my students’ learning and development; rather than focus on the teacher-student relationship, I turned my attention to the multiple technologies, resources, and material goods I employed to conduct my tasks and duties. In this way, I was able to gain greater insight into the role of “things” as constitutive elements in what it means to be a teacher educator and how these affected the direction of my work. I learned that a wide variety of objects, resources, and material artifacts had a shaping influence on me as a teacher educator and how this informed my teaching. This lens on my professional identity was not limited to the dynamics of a teacher-student relationship. Rather, it was expansive and I began to understand myself as entangled with the material and digital world. The reported study provides a way of thinking about identity that may be new to many teacher educators, teachers, and education researchers. The article is a thought-provoking work for those eager to learn more about the dynamic nature of being a teacher educator, self-study methods, and how material resources have a shaping effect on our professional practice


Adrian D. Martin, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Literacy at New Jersey City University. Dr. Martin’s scholarship explores equity and social justice issues in the field of education and teacher education, self-study methodology, and the use of emergent theoretical and conceptual frameworks in educational research. An active member of the American Educational Research Association, Dr. Martin has served as a member of the Executive Committee for the Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices Special Interest Group.