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Teaching and Teacher Education 58 (2016) 90e98

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Positioning in identifying narratives of/about pre-service mathematics

teachers in eld practice
Reidar Mosvold*, Raymond Bjuland
Department of Education and Sports Science, University of Stavanger, 4036 Stavanger, Norway

h i g h l i g h t s
 This study explores pre-service mathematics teachers narrative positioning.
 Reexive and interactive positioning contribute to formation of identity.
 Mentor teachers inuence pre-service teachers development of teacher identity.

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 30 November 2015
Received in revised form
2 May 2016
Accepted 9 May 2016
Available online 20 May 2016

Research on identity development in mathematics teacher education has only given limited attention to
narrative processes like indexicality, local occasioning, positioning and categorisation. In this article, we
investigate how two pre-service mathematics teachers position themselves, and how they are positioned
by a mentor teacher in mentoring conversations. Focusing on how pre-service teachers are positioned by
a mentor teacher adds to present research on narrative positioning among pre-service mathematics
teachers, and we argue that an increased focus on reexive and interactive positioning is useful for the
further development of research on identifying narratives in mathematics teacher education.
2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Teacher education

1. Introduction
This study has a focus on pre-service mathematics teachers
development of professional teacher identity during eld practice
in teacher education. Learning to teach is thus regarded as developing a teacher identity e not only acquiring professional knowledge and skills (Haniford, 2010). An increasing number of studies
investigate this development of professional teacher identity
among becoming teachers (e.g., Brown & McNamara, 2011).
Whereas traditional studies of teacher development often focus on
developing knowledge for teaching, the focus in studies of identity
development is shifted towards the teacher as an agent, and this
often involves more dynamic perspectives of a continuous negotiation of I-positions (Akkerman & Meijer, 2011; Kayi-Aydar, 2015).
Identity is a complex construct, and identity research has been
criticised for not clearly dening it (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009;

* Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (R. Mosvold),
(R. Bjuland).
0742-051X/ 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004; Graven, 2012; Sfard, 2008). In

this study, we dene identity in terms of narrative positioning, and
we investigate pre-service mathematics teachers identity development by combining two theoretical perspectives into a synthesised framework. First, we follow Sfard and Prusak (2005) when
we consider identity as identifying narratives that are told about
someone e by themselves, to themselves or about themselves (see
also Lutovac & Kaasila, 2014). This is the main theoretical
perspective we apply when approaching the construct of identity.
Second, we include perspectives from positioning theory (Davies &
, 1990; De Fina, 2011), when we focus on how pre-service
teachers position themselves and are positioned by others in
identifying narratives.
Through their identifying narratives, in-service teachers as well
as pre-service teachers constantly negotiate and renegotiate their
positions in different settings (Roth & Hsu, 2010). Previous studies
in the Nordic countries have examined how teachers construct
their identity through narratives with different approaches e both
theoretically and methodologically. For instance, Estola (2003)
investigated Finnish pre-service teachers (auto)biographical

R. Mosvold, R. Bjuland / Teaching and Teacher Education 58 (2016) 90e98

stories and focused in particular on the moral aspects in their

development of narrative identities. While also investigating
narrative construction of identity, Sreide (2006) focused on how
teachers position themselves and negotiate possible identities in
her study of Norwegian elementary school teachers. A third
example from the Nordic context is Skog and Anderssons (2015)
study of Swedish pre-service teachers. Where Sreide (2006) and
Estola (2003) focused on narrative identity construction, Skog and
Andersson (2015) investigated the construction of identity in terms
of positioning and power relations, but from a sociopolitical
The focus on narrative construction of identity and positioning
has also been applied in studies outside the Nordic context. Positioning and language use have been investigated in several studies
from South Africa, in a context where learning in multicultural
classrooms is a common focus. An example is the study of
Alexander, van Wyk and Moreeng (2014), who investigated South
African pre-service teachers narrative construction of identity in a
mentorship school-based project. Their ndings e based on analysis of interview data e indicate that participation in such a
mentorship program supports the pre-service teachers narrative
identity construction and professional development. In a recent
study in the U.S. teacher education context, Kayi-Aydar (2015)
analysed pre-service teachers narrative positioning through interviews and journal entries. Several positional identities were
identied that appeared to inuence classroom practice. A limitation of Kayi-Aydars study is the lack of focus on the voice of the
mentor teachers.
From this brief review of literature in the eld, we suggest that
clarifying the cultural context is important in research on teachers
development of (narrative) identity. We also observe that the
connection between narrative identity and positioning is
emphasised in several studies, but further clarications about the
main constructs in relation to theoretical perspectives seem to be
necessary. In addition to this, we observe that investigations of preservice teachers construction of narrative identity should also
include the voices of the mentor teachers. Accordingly, we aim at
contributing to this eld of research by approaching the following
research question:
How do pre-service teachers position themselves, and how are
they positioned by the mentor teacher, in mentoring sessions in
eld practice?
In order to answer this question, we use a case-study approach,
and we analyse the identifying narratives of two pre-service
teachers when they have a period of eld practice in the same


positioning theory in discursive practices is that individuals position themselves in specic ways, but they also simultaneously position others (Vanassche & Kelchtermans, 2014). By combining
elements from these two theoretical frameworks, we attempt to
illustrate how pre-service mathematics teachers position themselves through reective narratives in eld practice. We have also
included the mentor teachers voice in considering and exploring
his positioning of the two pre-service teachers. According to KayiAydar (2015, p. 102), an exploration of mentor teachers voices
would be helpful in better understanding the social interaction
between interns and mentors, which is important for teacher
identity. Following this author, we suggest that narrative positioning analysis is important in order to understand how preservice teachers identities are constructed in narratives where
they identify themselves to other pre-service teachers, to their
mentor teacher(s), and to themselves.
2.1. A narrative approach to identity
In their review of research on teachers professional identity in
the period 1988e2000, Beijaard et al. (2004) found that the studies
could be divided into three categories: 1) teachers professional
identity formation, 2) the identication of characteristics of
teachers professional identity, and 3) studies in which professional identity was (re)presented by teachers stories (Beijaard
et al., 2004, p. 107). Our study ties in with the third category
where teachers identity is represented by their stories e or, more
precisely, that the identifying stories are their identities.
We follow Sfard and Prusak (2005), who present a framework of
identifying narratives that is inspired by Gees (2001) suggestion to
approach a denition of identity as being recognized as a certain
kind of person, in a given context (Gee, 2001, p. 99). Sfard and
Prusak regard identity as a persons own presentation of (identifying) narratives, and they suggest that identities may be dened
as collections of stories about persons or, more specically, as those
narratives about individuals that are reifying, endorsable, and signicant (Sfard & Prusak, 2005, p. 16). The reifying quality of narratives about individuals afrms repetitiveness of action connected
to some verbs (be, have, can) and adverbs (always, usually, never).
According to Sfard and Prusak (2005, p. 16), an endorsable narrative
is labelled as true when it faithfully reects the state of affairs in
the world. The signicance of narratives is related to the status and
authority of the storyteller, and such narratives are often related to
memberships in various communities.
Sfard and Prusak (2005) dene identity as stories about a person. The stories differ, depending on who the storyteller and the
recipients are. The following distinctions are made:
an identifying story told by the identied person herself.
This story we call As rst-person identity (1st P).
BAA an identifying story told to the identied person. This
story we call As second-person identity (2nd P).
BAC a story about A told by a third party to a third party. This
story we call As third-person identity (3rd P) (Sfard & Prusak,
2005, p. 17).

2. A synthesised theoretical framework

Identity can be seen as a persons direct or indirect responses to
the question: Who are you? There is more complexity to the
identity construct than this, however, and at least three different
levels of identity are often considered: personal identity, relational
identity and collective identity. The individual or personal identity
relates to how a person denes or constructs his or her identity.
Relational identity is associated with the roles a person takes in
interaction with other people, and collective identity refers to how
people identify with certain groups in society (Vignoles, Schwartz,
& Luyckx, 2011). In a narrative approach to identity (Sfard & Prusak,
2005), these levels are strongly connected. In order to acknowledge
the relational and situated process of pre-service teachers storytelling, we combine Sfard and Prusaks narrative approach with
, 1990). Central to
insights from positioning theory (Davies & Harre

Sfard and Prusak highlight one particular identifying story that

comprises the reifying, endorsable and signicant quality of narratives: the rst-persons stories addressed to herself (AAA). The ongoing conversations we have with ourselves are, likely to have the
most immediate impact on our actions (Sfard & Prusak, 2005, p.
17). These authors further state that narratives about a person can
be divided into two subsets, actual identity which expresses stories
told in present tense about the actual state of affairs, and designated
identity which expresses stories usually told in future tense. More


R. Mosvold, R. Bjuland / Teaching and Teacher Education 58 (2016) 90e98

recently, the term actual identity has been substituted with

current identity in order to avoid a declarative interpretation of
the word actual (Graven & Buytenhuys, 2011), and we follow this
suggestion in our study when we also distinguish between current
and designated identities.
Having ongoing conversations with ourselves is arguably
important, but we also follow Haniford (2010) when she points out
e from her study in the U.S. e that pre-service teachers construct
identities within a given community of practice in the presence of
others. The mentor teacher is a particularly signicant other for
pre-service teachers when they are in eld practice, and we
therefore nd it relevant to investigate the pre-service teachers
identifying narratives (stories) in interactions with the mentor
2.2. Identity and positioning
Following a narrative approach to identity, De Fina (2011) presents indexicality, categorisation, local occasioning and positioning
as important identifying practices. We focus in particular on the last
two. Local occasioning suggests that the way people present their
identity is strongly dependent on context. The way a person identies herself in one particular context e for instance in an interview
setting e might differ from the way the same person identies
herself in another context. Positioning, on the other hand, relates to
how people are positioned in discourse. In the conversations they
participate in, people locate themselves as subjects in a story.
, 1990) since this
We draw on positioning theory (Davies & Harre
theory seeks to describe the process by which individuals adopt
identities within discourses (Haniford, 2010, p. 988). Davies and
 (1990, p. 47) dene positioning as the discursive producHarre
tion of a diversity of selves, and they further distinguish between
interactive and reexive positioning. These two categories of
positioning are connected with the different identities presented
by Sfard and Prusak (2005). When the stories a person tells position
another person, we refer to it as interactive positioning. Reexive
positioning, on the other hand, refers to how a person positions
himself/herself. It should be noticed that a persons reexive
positioning is not necessarily like a consistent autobiography
without contradictions; a persons positioning is more like the
, 1990). Posifragments of a lived autobiography (Davies & Harre
tioning is a discursive practice, and pre-service teachers have to
choose among competing discourses in order to construct identities that will be recognized within and across these multiple contexts, while also helping organise and manage the experience of
becoming a new teacher (Haniford, 2010, p. 988).
In a Norwegian case study, focusing on ve female elementary
school teachers, Sreide (2006) illustrates how teacher identities
can be narratively constructed and understood through positioning
and negotiation. This author particularly highlights the stories e
referred to as ontological narratives. These stories comprise what
we tell in an attempt to make sense of how we experience ourselves, what interests us and how we would like to be understood
in order to bring structure to our personal lives (p. 529). Based on
the teachers ontological narratives expressed in individual interviews, Sreide identied different subject positions the ve
teachers made reference to which were important to their professional identity. Sreides (2006) study illustrates the identication
of subject positions (e.g. teachers position themselves as persons
who are concerned with pupils and their development) and how
subject positions are used actively as narrative resources in narrative construction and negotiation of multiple teacher identities (p.
545). The teachers narrative positioning is done either by taking a
distance (negative positioning) to the available subject positions, or
by recognising the available positions (positive positioning).

When Kayi-Aydar (2015) explored three U.S. pre-service

teachers positional identities in relation to their social context
and how their identity construction interacted with their selfreported teaching practices, she found that the pre-service teachers expressed their self-positioning in relation to their mentor
teachers. The study did not, however, include the mentor teachers
voices in considering how they positioned the pre-service teachers.
This interactive positioning by mentor teachers is important in
order to better understand the social interaction between preservice teachers and mentors that is crucial for teacher identity
When approaching identity development from a narrative
perspective, positioning appears important. In research on mathematics teacher education, however, this aspect has received little
attention. An exception is the study of Bjuland, Cestari, and
Borgersen (2012), in which the identity development of an experienced teacher who participated in a research project was examined. Bjuland et al. identied four indicators of identity, and two of
these indicators referred to positioning: positioning in relation to
pupils and positioning in relation to the researchers in the project.
We aim at further investigating the role of positioning e reexive as
well as interactive e in pre-service teachers development of professional teacher identity. In doing this, we combine the narrative
notion of identity by Sfard and Prusak (2005) with theories of
, 1990; De Fina, 2011).
positioning (Davies & Harre
3. The study
3.1. Participants and design
In order to investigate pre-service teachers narrative positioning in eld practice, we discuss the cases of Siv and Martin, two
young pre-service teachers in their second year of the lower secondary teacher education programme (years 5e10). Both this and
the other differentiated teacher education programme in Norway e
a programme for the primary (years 1e7) e are regulated by national curriculum guidelines (Ministry of Education and Research,
2010). In the rst two years of the lower secondary teacher education programme, there is a compulsory subject in pedagogy and
pupil-related skills (30 credits). In addition, the students select a
major school subject of 60 credits (which equals one full year of
study) and a minor school subject of 30 credits. At this university,
there was a choice between mathematics and Norwegian as major
Siv and Martin were two of 55 pre-service teachers who
participated in a larger research project, Teachers as Students
(TasS).1 An overall aim of the TasS project (January 2012eDecember
2015) was to investigate eld practice in teacher education in order
to learn more about how pre-service teachers develop knowledge,
skills and competence for teaching. The project was crossdisciplinary and includes English, Mathematics, Natural sciences
and Physical education. Altogether 16 groups of pre-service
teachers (3 or 4 in each group) participated in the larger project
e four groups from each subject area. The pre-service teachers who
had mathematics as their major subject revealed that their reasons
for making this selection differed. Some selected mathematics
because they liked the subject, and some selected mathematics as
their major subject in order to avoid Norwegian. The rationale for
selecting Siv and Martin was that we wanted to investigate identifying narratives of two contrasting cases e one who selected
mathematics as a major subject because he liked it (Martin), and

The TasS project is supported by the Norwegian Research Council, project
number 212276.

R. Mosvold, R. Bjuland / Teaching and Teacher Education 58 (2016) 90e98


one who selected mathematics in order to avoid Norwegian (Siv).

3.2. Collection and analysis of data
In the TasS project, each group of pre-service teachers was
interviewed before and after a period of eld practice in the fourth
semester of the teacher education programme. During this period,
two selected lessons from each group e taught by one of the preservice teachers e were video recorded, and so were mentoring
sessions before and after each of these lessons. Rough transcripts of
the recordings were rst produced by a research assistant, before
researchers in the TasS project group produced more rened
Since our main focus in this study is on how the pre-service
teachers position themselves in mentoring sessions, and how
they are positioned by the mentor teacher (Per), the identifying
narratives from the group interviews are only used as a backdrop
for our analysis of data from the mentoring sessions.
In our study, we are concerned with some particular stories that
we call reective narratives. Inspired by Bjuland et al. (2012), we
dene a reective narrative as a particular story when the storyteller looks back and consciously reects about: a) own schooling
and rationale for choice of education, b) particular experiences
related to eld practice, and c) how these experiences affect their
motivation for work in the profession. We are mostly concerned
with identifying reective narratives that are produced in a prelesson and post-lesson mentoring session between a) Siv and her
mentor teacher (Per), and b) between Martin and Per. In the
mentoring sessions, Siv and Martin act in a community of discourse
where she/he and the mentor teacher are the only participants e a
different context than in the group interviews. We believe that
identifying narratives have to be analysed in light of their contexts.
When highlighting this, De Fina (2011) presents local occasioning as
an important identifying practice. We thus consider Sivs and
Martins narratives in these different contexts, merging as joint
products of personal and communal storytelling, illustrating how
these narratives can be interpreted in light of the different contexts,
objects and narrators that are involved. Following Sfard and
Prusaks (2005) framework and denition of identity, there are
two storytellers in our transcriptions from the pre-lesson and the
post-lesson mentoring session. We have identied Sivs and Martins rst-person stories addressed to themselves (AAA), and to their
mentor teacher Per as the other recipient in these situations (AAC).
Identifying stories told by Per to Siv/Martin (BAA, second person
identity) have also been identied, since Pers voice is important
and has power to supplement our analyses of Sivs and Martins
experiences from eld practice.
In our analysis of identifying reective narratives, we are con, 1990); the
cerned with interactive positioning (Davies & Harre
narratives of one storyteller in a particular context may thus position Siv/Martin or one of the other participants. An example of
interactive positioning is illustrated from the story told to Siv by the
mentor teacher Per in the post-lesson mentoring session:
67. Per: You are so comfortable in the classroom, the pupils, the
pupils are immediately comfortable in your presence. You show
this with your entire body, and this is important.
As illustrated in this example, interactive positioning typically
includes use of the pronoun you. Similarly, reexive positioning e
typically including the personal pronoun I e is demonstrated by
Sivs response to Per in the following:
68. Siv: Yes, I noticed from last time that I am no longer so
nervous when Im up there. This has improved a little bit.

From the use of personal pronouns illustrated in the two stories

above (67, 68), we identify interactive and reexive positioning in
the discourse. Each of these stories (reective narratives) consist of
one utterance only, but reective narratives can also be constituted
by more than one utterance. For instance, in the post-lesson
mentoring session, Per continually positions Siv as a condent
pre-service teacher, highlighting in particular her patience in
relation to classroom management (utterances 23, 25, 27, 29, 31).
We read carefully through the transcripts from the four mentoring sessions, and we identied reective narratives with positioning that focused on the mathematical content (equal fractions
in the mentoring sessions between Siv and Per, and multiplication
of fractions in the mentoring sessions between Martin and Per). We
also identied reective narratives expressed by the mentor
teacher, illustrating positioning of Siv and Martin as teachers in
training. This positioning concerned both feedback on their explanations of the mathematical topic and their classroom management. From Sivs pre-lesson mentoring session, for instance, we
selected the reective narratives expressed in the following identifying stories: (5), (6), (15), (16), (17), (24), (30), (31), and (101).
These segments of positioning stories were crucial in relation to the
criteria expressed above. Between the two stories (31) and (101),
the conversation was mostly concerned with practical issues and
drawing of gures, representing fractions on the blackboard.
4. Results
The ways in which the pre-service mathematics teachers position themselves in mentoring sessions e and how they are positioned by the mentor teacher e cannot be seen in isolation. Our
micro-analysis of data from the mentoring sessions is thus
informed by some observations from analyses of the group interviews, since the pre-service teachers are continually engaged in
processes of narratively positioning themselves in different
In the interview before eld practice, Siv positioned herself as
someone who enjoyed school as a pupil. This experience seemed to
be a resource that inuenced her positioning in the reective narratives. In seeming correspondence with this positive view about
school, Siv also underlined the signicance of developing good
relationships with the pupils as important for becoming a teacher.
Martin also emphasised the connection with the pupils in his
reective narratives in the interview before practice, but he also
pointed to the challenges involved in the work of teaching. The
picture he painted of a teacher in his narratives was that of an
idealist who has to face a lot of challenges, but who does not receive
the deserved respect.
After eld practice, Siv and Martin appeared to position themselves differently. Siv positioned herself as a teacher in training, and
she reected about how she developed as a teacher in eld practice
e under the guidance of the mentor teacher. Martin, on the other
hand, positioned himself by considering eld practice mainly to be
an arena where he could practice teaching in a realistic environment. Although he also positioned himself as a teacher in training,
he did not reect a lot about developing as a teacher under guidance from the mentor teacher.
Given that these two pre-service teachers had received guidance from the same mentor teacher, after having practiced teaching
in the same classroom, the apparent differences in their narrative
positioning after eld practice provide an interesting starting point
for further investigations. With this as a backdrop, we analyse how
the pre-service teachers positioned themselves e and were positioned by the mentor teacher e in the mentoring sessions in eld


R. Mosvold, R. Bjuland / Teaching and Teacher Education 58 (2016) 90e98

4.1. Positioning of Siv in the mentoring sessions

In the following, we rst focus on two mentoring sessions between Siv and the mentor teacher e one before and one after a
lesson she taught in a seventh-grade mathematics classroom.
4.1.1. Siv e preparing the lesson
In the mentoring session before the lesson, Siv reects about her
preparations for teaching the pupils about equal fractions (e.g.
10 5). This session took place in the beginning of the three-week
period of eld practice. Detailed analyses of the dialogue from this
particular mentoring session can be found in another study
(Bjuland, Jakobsen, & Munthe, 2014). In this article, we have
identied the most prominent reective narratives (AAC, BAA) from
the pre-lesson mentoring session, illustrating reexive positioning
(RP) and interactive positioning (IP) (Table 1).
The identifying narratives expressed by Siv illustrate how she
positions herself as a teacher in training. We learn how the mentor
teacher, Per, informs Siv about the pupils background knowledge
related to fractions (6) and helps her identify what is challenging
for pupils to understand concerning equal fractions (16). When Siv
in her lesson plan just wants to let the pupils start working on some
mathematical tasks (17), Per triggers a discussion in order for Siv to
reect on how fractions can be compared in order to illustrate that
they are equal (24), (30). The mentor teachers voice in this context
is important in order to illustrate his interactive positioning of Siv
as a teacher in training related to the mathematical topic to be
4.1.2. Siv e reecting about the lesson
Table 2 illustrates the most prominent reective narratives (AAC,
BAA) from the post-lesson mentoring session, illustrating reexive
positioning (RP) and interactive positioning (IP). Siv begins this
session by reecting on her teaching.
The voices of Siv and Per illustrate how they both reect on Sivs
experience of teaching the lesson about equal fractions. From Pers
interactive positioning and Sivs reexive positioning, we also get a
glimpse of how Siv acted as a teacher in training in the classroom.
Siv is critical to her own performance in relation to the pupils and
the content and tasks in focus. Per, on the other hand, positions Siv
as a condent pre-service teacher, highlighting in particular her

patience in relation to classroom management.

As a pre-service teacher who selected mathematics as the major
subject by avoiding Norwegian, we have through this narrative
positioning analysis identied that Sivs positioning has a strong
emphasis on the relationship she gets with the pupils. In the group
interviews, she expresses that her experiences from eld practice
have strengthened her motivation for becoming a teacher, and she
highlights the role of the mentor teacher as someone who provides
feedback regarding her development as a teacher in training. Sivs
positioning also has a strong emphasis on setting up learning goals
for lessons and the importance of moving forward in the subject
(post-group interview). The identifying narratives from the prelesson and post-lesson mentoring sessions conrm the important
role of the mentor teacher, illustrating that Siv is positioning herself
as a learner and that eld practice is an important arena for
developing her professional identity as a mathematics teacher.
4.2. Positioning of Martin in the mentoring sessions
In the following, we focus on two mentoring sessions between
Martin and Per. Whereas Siv seems to be uncertain about her own
role as a teacher as well as the content, Martin appears more
4.2.1. Martin e preparing the lesson
In the mentoring session before the lesson, Martin reects about
his preparations for teaching a lesson on multiplication of fractions.
This session took place at the end of the period of eld practice.
Martin wants to introduce two examples on the blackboard: 13$34 and
1$1 . Table 3 below shows the most prominent reective narratives
2 3
(AAC, BAA) from the pre-lesson mentoring session, illustrating reexive positioning (RP) and interactive positioning (IP).
The identifying narratives expressed by Martin (2 and 10) e
reexive positioning e illustrate how he draws on experience and
observation from a prior lesson in order to begin the new lesson.
Per triggers a discussion concerning the assessment of pupils
learning of the mathematical topic (73). Martin, who has not
nished his lesson plan yet (76), does not seem prepared to go into
that discussion. Pers identifying narrative (83) is important since
he positions Martin e interactive positioning e in relation to the
mathematical topic, emphasising the danger of learning

Table 1
Reective narratives from Sivs pre-lesson mentoring session.
5. Siv: Yes, well actually, I have some questions related to how much they [the
pupils] have learned earlier. Well, where do I have to start actually? Do I have to
start with, what is a fraction? Or is that something they know?
6. Per: They know what a fraction is, but not all of them know that a fraction is a part
of a whole [unit]. They havent understood that yet.
15. Siv: I have thought about showing some examples on the blackboard, similar to

(RP) Asking for help in her preparation, reecting on the pupils background
knowledge about fractions. Positioning as a teacher (in training).


6 , then you can AAC
those [points at page 41 in the textbook]. If you for instance have 10
write it in another way, but what is actually happen to that fraction, you extend it
or you abbreviate it perhaps
16. Per: Yes, thats what you have to try, to make them [the pupils] understand that (IP)
this is actually the same number. Thats the challenge.

Informing about the pupils prior knowledge, conrming Sivs positioning as a

teacher (in training).
Reecting about examples of fractions, making the pupils understand that two
fractions are equal when they have the same value.

Emphasising that equal fractions is a challenge for the pupils, showing that 10

and 35 is the same number.

17. Siv: Yes, so they understand that those are equal [fractions]. Eh, yes thats ne (RP) Working immediately on the tasks, indicating a lack of reection about the
[Siv writes in her notebook], eh then its, actually then its just to let them start AAC chosen activities by discussing possible difculties that may occur in the
working on tasks.
6 ]. What will you do with that [fraction]?
(IP) Triggering a discussion about how the particular fractions 6 and 3 can be
24. Per: You have drawn sixth tenth [10
30. Per: What should they [the pupils] compare? What can they do about that
31. Siv: Yes, because I want to illustrate the fths.

101. Per: And when you give help, then think about how you place yourself, so you (IP)
manage to observe the rest [of the class], otherwise I think this is a good plan [for BAA
the lesson].

Responding to Pers comment, conrming the relationships between the two

particular fractions.
Giving advice about practical issues, conrming Sivs positioning as a teacher
(in training).

R. Mosvold, R. Bjuland / Teaching and Teacher Education 58 (2016) 90e98


Table 2
Reective narratives from Sivs post-lesson mentoring session.
4. Siv: Yes. Eeh, it went a little fast in the beginning. I spent about half of the time I
actually had planned. Eh, I realised that I was in a hurry, so actually I just
wanted to nish [laugh], and let them [the pupils] start [working]. So I know
actually myself that there were, there were probably many [pupils] who didnt
follow me and thus were prohibited from following, since I just told them to
start working with the tasks. And then it became busy with lots of hands in the
air. But I felt that they asked about different things.
23. Per: Eh, I thought the introduction was very good. You waited until everyone
was ready. 25. Per: That you had the patience to do that, thats not just
27. Per: That was very good. Eh, you were able to put forward the pupils own
denition of fractions.
29. Per: And you revealed what they already knew about it. At that point, most of
them were following you. Eh, when you started with the circles, you asked
31. Per: and then you gave the pupils time to think, and this is a good thing. To ask
a question and not just let the rst person respond, that is a good character. Eh.
Then you started with the equal fractions, and you started to move along rather
quickly [conrming responses from Siv].
33. Per: Eeh, and you focused on equal values, then the cleverest [pupils]
understand this (are following you).
35. Per: But should you manage to let the rest of the class understand this, then
you cannot just focus on equal values, you have to use a simpler language.
37. Per: That this means that they [these fractions] are the same number.
51. Per: Eh, a bit about your location in the classroom, when they need help.
Particular when you helped her [a particular pupil], then you often stood with

53. Per: your back to the rest of the class. Then you do not manage to see the other
[pupils] who need help.
59. Per: There was one more [pupil] who waited for a long time. But else you
managed to keep an overview, helping them one by one. And you spent a
proper amount of time to explain, so that the pupils understood it when you
talked to them.
67. Per: You are so comfortable in the classroom, the pupils, the pupils are
immediately comfortable in your presence. You show this with your entire
body, and this is important.
68. Siv: Yes, I noticed from last time that I am no longer so nervous when Im up
there. This has improved a little bit.
69. Per: It has improved, yes, I think so. And, it is comfortable to listen to you.

(RP) Critical to her own choices concerning the lesson plan, being in a hurry. In this
self-criticism, she positions herself as a teacher (in training) in relation to the
pupils and the content and tasks in focus.



Continually positioning Siv as a condent pre-service teacher, highlighting in

particular her patience in relation to classroom management.


Positioning Siv as a teacher in training, giving feedback on her explanation of the

mathematical topic, emphasising the importance of language use for all pupils to
understand the topic of equal fractions.


Positioning Siv as a teacher in training, commenting on her placement in the

classroom when giving individual help in order to see pupils that need help.


Positioning Siv as a teacher who is condent in her interaction with the pupils.

(RP) Responding to Pers comment, conrming and reecting on her experience from
last period of eld practice.
(IP) Conrming that Siv has made progress in the classroom in relation to classroom
71. Per: Did you manage to check that the pupils learned what you tried to teach? IP) Challenging Siv to reect on the pupils learning of the mathematical topic.
72. Siv: I think they understood the starting point, there were some tasks in which (RP) Responding to Pers question, bringing in a particular mathematical task in the
they should nd fractions with the same value (e.g. nd two fractions with the AAC conversation, emphasising the pupils wish for a method or algorithm for solving
the tasks.
same value as one fths), They understood it, but they wanted a method for
doing it.

Table 3
Reective narratives from Martins pre-lesson mentoring session.
2. Martin: I think I will begin with a summing up [from the previous lesson about
multiplication of a whole number with a fraction].
10. Martin: Then I have seen that quite many of them [the pupils] have difculties with
composite numbers.


26. Martin: I think that I begin to show that a third of three fourths (13$34)
is the same as if they see (visualise on a gure) that a third of three fourths is a
73. Per: Yes, but thats maybe a sufcient explanation, how will you assess that the (IP)
pupils have understood this?
76. Martin: Actually, I havent planned this so far, so I dont quite know how to do it. (RP)
83. Per: The danger is, the danger is that, but thats difcult to nd out. The danger is (IP)
that they [the pupils] just nd a procedural way of doing it.
84. Martin: Yes, its quite easy to get a procedural understanding of this.
89. Per: When you stand at the blackboard and teach and write, then its important, I (IP)
got some feedback from [Per mentions the name of one of the boys] who said: I BAA
dont see things at the blackboard any longer.
101. Per: No [laugh] no, what I liked about the previous lesson was that, already then, (IP)
you actually introduced that three is the same as three ones [3 3 , often referred to BAA

as invisible denominator].

Suggesting a summing up from the previous lesson, making an attempt to

relate the lesson to the previous one(s).
Building on observations from classroom, being aware of pupil difculties
with composite numbers.
Introducing his plan for the lesson with an example of multiplication of
fraction, illustrating the multiplication visualised on a gure at the
Commenting on Martins explanation of introducing multiplication of
fractions, challenging for assessment orientation.
Positioning himself as a teacher (in practice), indicating that he is still in
progress with his preparation of the lesson.
Self-positioning in relation to the danger for pupils to learn multiplication of
fractions in a procedural way.
Conrming this concern expressed by Per.
Positioning of Martin as a teacher in training, focusing on the way Martin
writes on the blackboard.
Highlighting one incident from Martins teaching from the previous lesson,
concerning the mathematical topic.


R. Mosvold, R. Bjuland / Teaching and Teacher Education 58 (2016) 90e98

situating the lesson of multiplication of fractions into a teaching

context, building on prior lessons and experiences. However, his
positioning also illustrates a lack of careful planning of the lesson.
The identifying narratives from the post-lesson mentoring session
conrm this positioning, particularly illustrated by the interactive
positioning of the mentor teachers voice.

multiplication of fractions in a procedural way. Martin conrms this

concern (84). We learn from the next two narratives by the mentor
teacher (89 and 101, Table 3) e interactive positioning e that he
wants Martin to be aware of his location and writing on the
blackboard (89), and the mentor teacher gives credit to Martin for
having introduced the mathematical topic in a previous lesson

5. Discussion
4.2.2. Martin e reecting about the lesson
Table 4 shows the most prominent reective narratives (AAC,
BAA) from the post-lesson mentoring session, illustrating reexive
positioning (RP) and interactive positioning (IP). Martin begins this
session by reecting on his teaching.
The reective narratives in Table 4 illustrate Martins reexive
positioning (e.g., 4 and 32) and the mentor teachers interactive
positioning (e.g., 13, 35, and 111), both making comments, illustrating that there were several challenges and difculties for pupils
learning of multiplication of fractions in this particular lesson. The
mentor teachers comments are related to Martins way of presenting and visualising fractions on the blackboard (13), his classroom management (111) and Martins lack of planning and
preparation for the lesson (35 and 139). We learn that Martin is
critical towards his own teaching (4 and 32), and he is willing to
learn from these challenging experiences (140).
As a pre-service teacher who selected mathematics as the major
subject because he liked it, we have through this narrative positioning analysis identied that Martins positioning does not have
the same strong emphasis on the relationship with the pupils as we
observed in Sivs narratives. In the interviews, Martin also expresses uncertainty about his motivation for becoming a teacher
and points to the teaching professions lack of prestige in society.
He describes eld practice as an articial situation, and he prefers
to be alone with the pupils in the classroom e indicating that he
considers this to be a more realistic situation for practicing as a
future teacher. The identifying narratives from the pre-lesson
mentoring session indicate that Martin is concerned about

In this study, we have used a synthesised theoretical framework

for analysing identity as constructed through identifying narratives
(Sfard & Prusak, 2005), wherein the discursive process of posi, 1990). Through their narrative
tioning is prevalent (Davies & Harre
positioning, people are located e or locate themselves e as par, 1990). In their
ticipants in particular storylines (Davies & Harre
study of mathematics teachers identity development, Bjuland et al.
(2012) identied two indicators associated with positioning: positioning in relation to pupils and positioning in relation to didacticians (as participants in a research project). Current research on
pre-service teachers positioning has included investigations of
pre-service teachers positioning in relation to their mentor teachers e but the voice of the mentor teachers tends to be lacking. The
recent study by Kayi-Aydar (2015) is an example of this. We have
attempted to add to this by including the voice of the mentor
teacher when investigating how two pre-service teachers position
themselves in mentoring sessions, and how they are positioned by
the mentor teacher. Our analysis thus includes interactive as well as
, 1990). These two acts of
reexive positioning (Davies & Harre
positioning, which are related to the different identifying narratives
presented by Sfard and Prusak (2005), merge as joint products of
personal and communal storytelling e thus emphasising the relational perspectives in identity development.
We learn from the analysis of these mentoring sessions that Siv,
who selected mathematics in order to avoid Norwegian, is
continually positioned by Per as a condent pre-service teacher
(interactive positioning), and Per highlights in particular her

Table 4
Reective narratives from Martins post-lesson mentoring session.
4. Martin: I made mistakes in relation to what I had planned, what I didnt do
[should have used two different pieces of chalks with different colours on the
gures in order to better illustrate the fractions].
13. Per: When you drew, then you drew [the different parts/squares of the
gures] in different sizes, and then you extended [the gures] when you
needed more parts, like this [shows this on a gure]. And then when you dont
show on the blackboard, that these are equal, then you cannot expect that the
pupils understand it.
32. Martin: Eh, the end [of the lesson]
34. Martin: I spent too much time after the bell rang.
35. Per: Yes, should probably prepared the end [of the lesson] better if you had
time when they worked. Yes, then they could have drawn [the gures] more
37. Per: Well, and then you are a bit unlucky that it rings in the middle of [your
instruction] then you lose some of [the pupils]. Then they just think of coming
59. Per: When you started your [summing up], when you were doing this, I saw
that you were very stressful.
61. Per: Then you started mumbling in front of the class [laughter], and then
nobody understands what you say, do they? So clarity, clarity.
111. Per: Yes, this lesson was very busy and hectic. Then there were raised hands
most of the time, then its important to have time for, or to actually observe
who, what others do all the time. To keep the control.
139. Per: Yes, one more thing you can consider when you once become [a
teacher], you can then use the smartboard, particularly when you have these
squares to divide [in parts] like this. Then you can prepare in advance, and you
can use the pens for the drawings.
140. Martin: Yes. These are good pieces of advice. Ill do this for the next lesson

(RP) Reecting on his teaching from the previous lesson, self-criticism of how the
gures were presented on the blackboard.



Paying attention to the way Martin made the drawing of the gure on the
blackboard, emphasising the importance of drawing equal parts/squares in order
to illustrate the multiplication of fraction.

(RP) Commenting and self-criticism of how the lesson ended. Reexive positioning of
own teaching.
(IP) Conrming the difculties with the end of the lesson.


Emphasising difculties in the lesson, concerning observation and classroom



Emphasising difculties in the lesson, concerning observation and classroom



Giving practical advice for making the drawings clearer and easier to understand
for pupils, giving advice for classroom management and productivity.


Giving credit to his mentor teacher for these suggestions

R. Mosvold, R. Bjuland / Teaching and Teacher Education 58 (2016) 90e98

patience in relation to classroom management. From our analysis of

Sivs narratives in the mentoring sessions, we notice how a multitude of selfs emerges from the discursive practices. Throughout
these narratives, it is the same person, Siv, who positions herself
(reexive positioning) and is positioned in different ways. Put
differently, we might say that Siv, through the discourse, can be
seen as a subject in a number of different stories (Davies & Harre
1990). A main narrative positions Siv as a teacher in training.
This is a narrative Siv tells about herself, but it is also a narrative
that the mentor teacher conrms. The analyses of the mentoring
sessions have illustrated the identication of this particular subject
position, and it is used and expressed by Siv e and assigned by Per
e as a narrative resource in the discourse (Sreide, 2006). Through
these identifying narratives, which are produced in this particular
context in eld practice, Sivs narrative positioning is mainly constructed through a recognition of the available subject position
(Sreide, 2006). This positive positioning can also be identied
when we learn how Per informs Siv about the pupils background
knowledge related to the mathematical topic of equal fractions. He
also triggers a discussion of how to present the mathematical
content for the pupils. Through the mentor teachers voice, we
observe how Per positions Siv (interactive positioning) in relation
to the mathematical topic, and the analysis illustrates how Siv
positions herself in relation to Pers suggestions about how to
present equal fractions to the pupils.
In a similar way, Martin can be seen as a subject in a number of
different stories produced in group interviews and mentoring sessions. We know that Martin positions himself in a different way than
Siv, concerning the selection of mathematics as a major subject. We
learn from the analysis of narratives in the mentoring sessions between Martin and the mentor teacher about some important characteristics related to Martins preparation and reection after the
lesson. Martins reexive positioning particularly illustrates selfcriticism in the post-lesson mentoring session due to the way he
has presented the mathematical topic. Per conrms this by interactive positioning regarding Martins confusing way of representing
fractions on the blackboard, and also by being critical to Martins
classroom management and productivity. We learn from the analysis how Martins subject position (his planning and presenting of
the mathematical topic) is produced in the social interaction between Pers interactive positioning and his own reexive positioning. The identication of the development of Martins subject
position in this particular context of eld practice can be regarded as
a narrative resource (Sreide, 2006) as part of the identityconstructing process. In this narrative positioning, Martin could
have distanced himself from e or rejected e the developing subject
position (negative positioning), but we learn that he expresses selfcriticism and recognises the voice of the mentor teacher. Sreide
(2006) refers to this mechanism as positive positioning.
In our analysis, we have seen how Siv has positioned herself in
relation to pupils, but she has also positioned herself in relation to
teacher educators (in particular the mentor teacher). Martin has
also, to a certain extent, positioned himself in relation to pupils,
particularly expressing the pupils difculties in understanding the
mathematical topic of multiplication of fractions. Siv has positioned
herself by referring to categories that include some people and
, 1990) e in particular to the cateexclude others (Davies & Harre
gories pupil/teacher. We have focused in particular on the role of
positioning and development of mathematics teacher identity of
two pre-service teachers: Siv, who selected mathematics as her
major subject in order to avoid Norwegian, and Martin, who
selected mathematics since he liked the subject. From our investigations of how they position themselves e and are positioned
by the mentor teacher e in reective narratives, we have gained
better understanding of their development of mathematics teacher


identity. Bjuland et al. (2012) identied two indicators of positioning in identity development, but we argue that positioning has
signicance that goes beyond the identication of indicators of
identity development. When adopting a discursive perspective in
identity research, the analysis of identifying narratives becomes
important, and positioning is a central process in identifying narratives. One might even argue that positioning is what distinguishes identifying narratives from non-identifying narratives.
Pre-service teachers positioning can be seen as attempts to
make sense of their participation in e and identication of themselves into e the different practices (and discourses) that are
related to the work of teaching mathematics. In our investigation,
we have regarded identity as a dynamic and discursive process that
depends upon the actors positioning in reective narratives. From
the identifying narratives in different contexts, a continuous stream
of fragments of a lived autobiography is produced (Davies & Harre
1990). Sfard and Prusak (2005) made a major contribution when
they shifted the focus in identity research to narratives. Through
our analyses, we have tried to show how the focus on positioning e
, 1990;
along with the process of local occasioning (Davies & Harre
De Fina, 2011) e could facilitate more ne-grained analysis of
discursive processes that are contained in identifying narratives.
We suggest that the combination of these theoretical perspectives
thereby provides a useful contribution to research on identity
development in mathematics teacher education.
6. Conclusion
Our study contributes to the eld in different ways. First, it
contributes by emphasising the role of positioning in research that
follows the narrative understanding of identity developed by Sfard
and Prusak (2005). Some studies that adhere to this framework
include the role of positioning (e.g., Bjuland et al., 2012), but our
study takes this another step forward. Second, it contributes by
including a focus on how an individual is positioned by others.
Studies on narrative positioning among pre-service teachers tend
to focus on how pre-service teachers position themselves in relation to others, but not so much on how they are positioned by other
people. The mentor teacher is a signicant other for a pre-service
teacher, and we have focused on how pre-service teachers are
positioned by the mentor teacher. This focus is missing in similar
studies (e.g., Kayi-Aydar, 2015). In addition to this, most studies on
teachers positioning seem to mainly focus on their (reexive)
positioning in interviews (e.g., Sreide, 2006), whereas our study
investigates reexive as well as interactive positioning in an
important type of naturally occurring discourse in teacher education: mentoring conversations in eld practice.
Further studies are called for to investigate these perspectives
across contexts for comparison. Such studies could investigate how
pre-service teachers different narrative positioning e reexive as
well as interactive e relates to other aspects of their development as
teachers. It would also be relevant to expand the focus by including
pre-service teachers positioning inside the classroom context e this
was also called for by Kayi-Aydar (2015) e and investigate the
connections between their narrative positioning in conversations
and their positioning in the classroom context. Studies like this can
illuminate ways in which the combination of narrative and positioning perspectives can allow us to see the process of identity
construction of pre-service teachers more clearly.
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