Student Teacher Participation in School Placement: a micropolitical analysis of students’ experiences of system tensions

David Johnston*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article examines Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) student teachers’ experiences on school placement through the lens of ‘community tensions’ and ‘micropolitics’. Based on the semi-structured interviews of 14 student teachers who were training to be secondary school teachers (of pupils aged 12-18), it argues that school placement is an undertaking with strong micropolitical dimensions that come into focus through the tensions that student teachers encounter in managing the occupational expectations that define the professional culture of the school. It also asserts that the experience of teaching in a school can be enhanced for student teachers if teacher educators, in universities and schools, help them to identify and navigate the tensions that are at play in the particular teaching community to which they are seeking to belong. The paper identifies four tensions and illustrates each with evidence from the qualitative data. It concludes by arguing that student teachers are also proactive participants in their own occupational socialisation and thus would benefit from developing the appropriate strategies in dealing with the micropolitical challenges that emerge in a school system where different interests are pursued.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEducation in the North
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 21 Apr 2020



  • micropolitics
  • system tensions/dualities
  • student teachers of secondary level
  • school placement

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