Professional Identity of Kindergarten Teachers

London Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Sciences
Volume | Issue | Compilation
Authored by Aviva Dan , NA
Classification: NA
Keywords: Kindergarten teachers: Professional Identity: Teacher's Training : Professional Development : Pre-service Teachers.
Language: English

This paper presents the results of research investigating the development of kindergarten teachers' professional identity during their teacher-training program. Most of the relevant literature addresses the development of school teachers' professional identity, but very little research has examined this process in kindergarten teachers. Kindergarten teachers have unique roles since they teach young children at a critical time in their general development (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). Research shows that teachers' professional development affects the quality of teaching and is a central factor in bringing about changes in classroom teaching practice that improve the students' learning outcomes (Guskey,2002).The aim of this research was to investigate the development of trainee kindergarten teachers' professional development, comparing the processes that they undergo with the processes that school teachers experience and attempting to identify factors that affect this process. In addition, the research aimed to investigate the trainee kindergarten teachers' level of satisfaction regarding their choice of profession.

               

Professional Identity of Kindergarten Teachers

  Aviva Danα & Dr. Eitan Simonσ 

____________________________________________

 ABSTRACT

This paper presents the results of research investigating the development of kindergarten teachers' professional identity during their teacher-training program. Most of the relevant literature addresses the development of school teachers' professional identity, but very little research has examined this process in kindergarten teachers. Kindergarten teachers have unique roles since they teach young children at a critical time in their general development (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). Research shows that teachers' professional development  affects the quality of teaching and is a central factor in bringing about changes in classroom teaching practice that improve the students' learning outcomes (Guskey,2002).The aim of this research was to investigate the development of trainee kindergarten teachers' professional development, comparing the processes that they undergo with the processes that school teachers experience and attempting to identify factors  that affect this process. In addition, the research aimed to investigate the trainee kindergarten teachers' level of satisfaction regarding their choice of profession.

Keywords: kindergarten teachers: professional identity:  teacher's training: professional develop -ment : pre-service teachers.

  1. INTRODUCTION

Identity “represents the process by which the person seeks to integrate his (sic) various statuses and roles, as well as his diverse experiences, into a coherent image of “self”. (Epstein, 1978, p. 101). Professional identity is not static but fluid; it is strongly influenced by how we see ourselves, how we perceive others, how others perceive us and how we are viewed by society at large, (Beijaard, Meijer & Verloop, 2004). Professional identity is based on a set of beliefs, attitudes and understandings about one's professional role as a result of one's work activities. It is thought to be a dynamic theoretical construct that is affected by how one conceives and perceives oneself as a member in a particular profession. This identity is constructed in social contexts during interactions within the workplace by "doing, acting, and interacting" (Pratt, 2012, p. 26). with colleagues and the general public, through which the individual receives recognition for their professional status and identity.

The paper is divided into three parts, the first part addresses the concept of and the development of the teacher's and kindergarten teacher's professional identity and professional satisfaction, the second part will describe the research and the third part will discuss the findings and their implications for kindergarten teachers' training.

1.1  Teachers' Professional Identity

The concept of teachers' professional identity has evolved recently as an area of research (Bullough & Baughman,1997; Connelly & Clandinin,1999, Knowles,1992; Beijaard, Meijer & Verloop, 2004) though according to the literature in this field, there is no one definition of professional identity.  Some scholars have looked to the psychological theories of Erikson (1968) or Mead (1934) to guide their investigations. These theories indicate that identity is constructed through experiences in different social contexts or through relationships. Indeed, a scholarly consensus seems to indicate that the building of a professional identity is an ongoing fluid dynamic process that occurs within social and cultural contexts (Gee,2001).

Most pre-service teachers enter their teacher training programs with various preconceptions of what it means to be a teacher or of their future selves as teachers (Chong, Low, & Go, 2011).These images were constructed largely by their childhood experiences as school students and are central in forming their perceptions of what it means to be a teacher (Flores & Day ,2006; Gratch, 2001; Wideen, Mayer-Smith, & Moon, 1998). Many teachers who enter the profession are concerned with the questions "Who am I?", "What kind of a teacher do I want to be? "and "How do I see my role as a teacher?" (Korthagen & Verkuyl, 2002).

In research that investigated the issues of self and identity, Doyle and Carter (1996) state that becoming a teacher means " a) transforming an identity b) adapting personal understandings and ideals to institutional realities and c) deciding how to express one's self in classroom activity" (p139). The formation of the teacher's professional identity is a result of external and internal forces.

Before trying to investigate the formation of teachers' professional identity, it is important to understand the concept of identity. Recent research indicates the importance of a teacher's professional identity for teaching and teacher development, "it provides a framework for teachers to construct their own ideas of “how to be”, “how to act” and “how to understand” their work and their place in society" (Sachs, 2005, p. 15).

Identity is formed through a complex combination of inner and external forces and shaped by social, cultural and political contexts. It evolves within relationships with others and involves emotions. It is unstable, shifts, alters and is multifaceted. Identity is a process that is constructed and reconstructed through stories and experiences over time. Teachers should be aware of this shifting of identities and conduct inner exploration so that they can learn to find their own voice which can guide them in their professional work (Rodgers & Scott, 2008). Identity is dependent upon and influenced by the contexts in which the individual engages, such as family, schools, universities and others (Gee,2001; Beijaard Verloop & Vermunt, 2000, Beijaard, Meijer & Verloop, 2004; Britzman, 2003; Clandinin & Huber,2005; Agee, 2004).  

Self-concepts very often affect our perceptions about what is "real". Within each context there are accepted values and behavioral norms and that members of the society are expected to uphold. Gee (2001) calls these influences "interpretive systems".

The interpretive system may be people's historically and culturally views of nature, it may be the norms, traditions and rules of institutions; it may be the discourse and dialogue of others; or it may be the working of affinity groups. What is important about identity is that almost any identity trait can be understood in terms of these different interpretive systems (p108).

1.2   Relationships, Emotions &  Identity

Relationships are formed within contexts and bring with them a myriad of emotions. In their research concerning new teachers in South Africa, Smagorinsky et al (2004) concluded that the identity of new teachers is formed "through engagement with others in cultural practice" (p. 21). In contrast, Mayes (2001) showed how "spiritual reflectivity" plays a role in the way that student teachers' beliefs concerning themselves as teachers are formed and defined. Hargreaves (2001) indicates that teachers' emotions are highly affected by the "emotional geographies" of their profession, for example pedagogical restrictions of the institution that they work for, which in turn affect their interactions with the parents, students, administration and others.

Teachers are expected to conform to the school culture and norms and emotional constraints, which may contribute to internal tensions in situations of cultural, political or moral discourses. In his research, Hargreaves (2001) identified five areas of emotional "geographies" 1) socio-cultural 2) moral 3) professional 4) political and 5) physical. The relations between these different geographies can evolve as mutual closeness, conflict or distance. Hargreaves gives the examples of class differences between teaching staff and their students or moral differences when the school culture concentrates on achieving high grades in national testing as opposed to improving learner processes and encouraging and nurturing individual learners. Beijaard et al. (2004) indicate that the process of building a teacher's professional identity is inconsistent and constantly changing, according to their relationships.

Identity is not a fixed attribute of a person, but a relational phenomenon. Identity development occurs in an intersubjective field and can be best characterized as an ongoing process, a process of interpretation of oneself as a certain kind of person and being recognized as such in a given context. In this context, then, identity can also be seen as an answer to the recurrent question: "who am I." (p.108).

Gee (2001)  argued that even though the building of an identity is a result of how we relate to our various communities or the relationships developed in the various contexts to which we are connected, there is a basic "core identity", that is constant and permanent across all contexts. This "core identity" has been described as a feeling of  " self".

"Self "[for these purposes can be] understood as an evolving yet coherent being, that consciously and unconsciously constructs and is constructed in interaction with the cultural contexts, institutions, and people with which the self  lives, learns and functions (Rodgers & Scott, 2008, p.739).

  1. DEVELOPMENTAL MODELS OF TEACHERS' PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT

Robert Kegan (1982,1984) designed a five-stage model to describe the process of teachers' professional identity development. For the purpose of this article the authors will concentrate on Stages 2 -4.

Stage 2 The Imperial Balance: In this stage the teacher has the capacity to view one as distinct from another  and understand that others often have points of view and agendas different from their own ,an emergence of self-concept, a notion of who I am and a center of stable dispositions of the "self".

Stage 3 Interpersonal Balance: The teacher's "self" is subject to the cultural contexts in which the teacher lives and works. External feedback is seen as an indication for success as opposed to internal standards built by the teacher. Self-reflection focuses on their ability to respond to the expectations of people in authority.

Stage 4 The Institutional Balance: In this stage the self has developed clearly defined values and an internal philosophy. Teacher identity at this stage is defined internally and is not dependent on external demands or expectations. The self can evaluate situations and make decisions that are not necessarily context-bound and the teacher is capable of self-criticism based on an inner set of beliefs and insights into their teaching and their relationships with their students.

  1. DEVELOPMENT OF TEACHERS' PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY IN TEACHER EDUCATION

If teachers' identity is a complex developmental progress that is influenced by internal and external forces, it is natural to try to answer the question; what influence do teacher training programs have on the formation of teachers' professional identity? The traditional image of a teacher is a person whose main role was to transfer knowledge, whereas today the teacher is expected to act as a facilitator of knowledge (Korthagen, 2013). This shift in roles has a direct effect on a teacher's self- image or professional identity. It is therefore important to investigate the process that pre-service teachers undergo in their professional development and the formation of their professional identity.

In research performed by Koster, Korthagen and Schrijnemakers (1955), it was shown that pre-service teachers shape their professional images on past teachers that they encountered in the past, who were important role models for them, and affected their career choice. Korthagen (2002) notes that there is no agreed definition for the teacher's professional identity. According to Bullough and Baughman (1997)

Teacher identity - what beginning teachers believe about teaching and learning and self as a teacher - is of vital concern to teacher education; it is the basis for meaning making and decision making…. Teacher education must then, begin by exploring the teaching, teaching traditions, cultural archetypes and tacitly acquired understandings (p.21).

A study by Beijaard,Meijer,and Verloop (2004) that surveyed extant  research on teachers' professional identity indicates that pre-service teachers undergo a process of building their professional identity during training, but this process is different for practicing teachers. According to Sugrue (1977) students' theories are formed by their personalities but are affected by critical formative factors such as immediate family, significant others or extended family, apprenticeship of observation, a typical teaching episode, policy context, teaching traditions and cultural archetypes and tacitly acquired understandings. Building a professional identity can be very confusing for a student teacher, since they are exposed to various models, expectations and perceptions of teaching that they meet through their training. Sometimes these models and examples can compete or even contradict each other (Beijaard, Meijer & Verloop, 2004).

  1. PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY OF PRESERVICE TEACHERS.

Research conducted by Chong Low& Goh (2011) that examined the emerging identity of pre-service teachers, found that one third of the research population indicated that their choice of teaching as a profession stemmed from idealistic and altruistic values. These findings were also supported in Greece by Doliopoulou (1995) and in Britain by Reid and Caudwell (1997). Previous studies have shown that teachers, who are motivated by altruistic motives are likely to remain in the teaching profession (Chong, Low & Goh, 2011).

  1. PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT IN KINDERGARTEN TEACHERS

As stated above, professional identity is an ongoing complex process that is influenced by internal and external contexts and influences. Teacher identity is seen as being a central factor in determining how teachers teach and their professional development and their continuation in the teaching profession (Ortlipp & Woodrow, 2011).

Educators in early childhood, and those involved in child care, have a low professional status, low pay, poor working conditions and a high level of responsibility (Ortlipp & Woodrow, 2011).Those who choose to become kindergarten teachers, educating children aged 3-6 years,  need to undergo a four-year professional B.Ed. training programs in academic teacher-training colleges  and usually have a higher professional status then  those that work in child care, but still not as high as school teachers. Usually the kindergarten teacher is seen as a facilitator of learning through play, whereas those that work in child care are seen as nurturing the children and taking care of their physical needs (Ortlipp & Woodrow,2011).

There is very little literature investigating the concept of professional identity in kindergarten teachers or early childhood carers. In Israel, where this research was conducted, the trajectory for professional development is illustrated in Figure 1. The trainee teachers only start their professional training after completing compulsory army or national service at the average age of 21-25. They complete their training at an average age of 25- 29, at a time when a large number are beginning to set up their own nuclear families. This combination brings with it complex emotional and personal challenges that affect their personal and professional identities. As can be seen in Figure 1.

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Figure 1. The stages of a kindergarten teacher's development in  Israel 

In countries where there has been an introduction of national early child curriculums, such as New Zealand, Greece and England, there is an indication of shared goals and visions for children's development as well as guiding principles for education in early childhood (Alvestad & Duncun, 2006; Oberhumer,2005; Sofou & Tsafos,2010). In New Zealand, the introduction of the early childhood curriculum  increased the awareness of early childhood education and contributed to an increase in social status and  the formation of a professional identity for those working in this field (Alvestad & Duncun 2006).In Greece, the process was similar in that the regulation of the early childhood  educators gave guidelines for behavior and an increase in conformation of their professional status (Sofou & Tsafos,2010).

The kindergarten teachers  in Greece ,believed that the issue of a national curriculum improved their status and gave them a higher professional status in the eyes of parents (Ortlipp & Woodrow, 2011). These findings show that an externally determined status can have an effect on how educators see themselves. In the study of Greek educators, it was found that the less experienced kindergarten teachers indicated that the curriculum was essential to their teaching practices, whereas more experienced kindergarten teachers indicated that they did not use the curriculum in their practices and did not find it at all necessary (Sofou & Tsafos,2010). This is consistent with developmental stage three in the model of Kegan (1982,1984).

In comparison to this approach, that regulation and standards and official curriculum can increase the professional standing and identity of kindergarten teachers, Jayne Osgood (2006) argues that external regulation stifles and controls the early childhood educators, who are largely women. In England, different crises in early child care led to the introduction of regulations and accountability that has left the kindergarten teachers struggling to meet standards and they feel that they are not emotionally free to express or examine their own professional identities (Osgood,2006). Osgood continues by saying that if  professional identities are socially constructed as stated above through interactions and relationships with different communities  than it is necessary to encourage  education and training that provides for critical reflection on practices and beliefs to enable early childhood educators to develop an internally constructed idea of professional identity (Osgood, 2006).

Joy Chalke (2016) suggests a holistic way of investigating the development of professional identity in early childhood educators. The model that she suggests includes the elements of "head, heart and hands". Head, utilizing reflections on knowledge, reason and thinking, heart, exploring passion, feelings, values and beliefs and hands, which represent professionalism as practiced in the workplace (Chalke,2016).

  1. CHARACTERISTICS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Unique demands and expectations are required from kindergarten teachers in comparison to educators of other age groups (Tsigilis, Zachopoulou & Grammatikopoulos, 2006). They are expected to be constantly emotionally and physically available to their young students as opposed to school teachers, who have breaks after every 45 minute lesson. They are responsible for the young children's physical and mental health as well as having to guide and manage their auxiliary staff. In addition, they are expected to plan the educational curriculum and be able to teach children with diverse needs. The job description of a kindergarten teacher is dynamic and undergoes frequent adjustments according to new educational policies; the most recent being the inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream kindergartens (Kilgallon & Maloney, 2003).

Additional research that investigated the factors that affect  early childhood teachers' level of active engagement in their profession and their perseverance in the teaching profession and the continuation of effective teaching practices found that the ability to sustain one's professional satisfaction in the field of early childhood education seems to be related to the individual's ability to balance personal demands with professional commitments (Kilgallon, Maloney & Lock, 2008). A sense of professional satisfaction has been found to be central in affecting teachers' attitudes and connected to feelings of self-efficacy (Pena, Rey & Extremera, 2012).

  1. PROFESSIONAL SATISFACTION OF KINDERGARTEN TEACHERS

Most of the research dealing with professional satisfaction, investigates resilience and persistence as central factors in measuring teacher job satisfaction, wellbeing and continued work in teaching (Holloway, 2003; Houghton, 2001; Lokan, 2003).

Teaching is thought to be a highly stressful occupation (Chaplain, 2008; Schwarzer & Hallum, 2008) but there are a large number of teachers who reach a high level of professional satisfaction in their careers. High levels of professional satisfaction are considered to be associated to feelings of fulfillment from daily activities (Judge, Thoresen, Bono, & Patton, 2001; Caprara et al., 2003).

It is important to investigate correlations between self-efficacy, professional stress and professional satisfaction due to the connection of these factors to teacher retention in their professional field and the level of teachers' motivation to continue their professional development. Professional satisfaction has also been found to influence the levels of commitment and performance of teachers in the following areas: academic achievement, student behavior, student satisfaction, teacher turnover and administrative performance (Mathieu & Farr, 1991; Ostroff, 1992). Research investigating preschool teachers found that this population has a higher motivational level that distinguishes them from teachers at other levels, this trait enables them to cope better with high level stress in their future workplace (Fernández-Molina, Castillo, & Fernandez-Berrocal, 2019).

  1. METHOD

8.1  Participants

Participants in this study were 71 student-teachers in the process of becoming kindergarten teachers. The students were enrolled in a four-year academic program, after which they would receive a first degree to enable them to become kindergarten teachers in public kindergartens. In addition to the first degree the kindergarten teacher-trainees undergo another year of internship under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, which entitles them to receive a teaching license. The research was undertaken in the teacher-training college and included students in years 1-4 of their studies. All the students, from each of the years, were exposed to practicum placements that enabled them to engage with young children in the kindergartens while under the auspices of their mentor kindergarten teacher and pedagogical supervisor from the college, which included professional evaluation in the context of their placements in the kindergartens.

The research population was divided as follows, Year 1 students (n = 11, 15.5%), Year 2 students (n = 18, 25.3%), Year 3 students (n = 30, 42.3%), and Year 4 students (n = 12, 16.9%). Over a third of them were between 20 to 25 years old (n = 26, 36.6%), over a third were between 26 to 30 years old (n = 27, 38.0%), and about a quarter were 30 to 50 years old (n = 18, 25.4%).

8.2  Instruments

8.2.1 Professional development questionnaire.

A 30-item questionnaire was composed to assess the student-teachers' professional development. Items were rated on a four-point agreement scale from ‘not true at all’ (1) to ‘very true’ (4). A principal components factor analysis with varimax rotation was conducted for the items, acknowledging the limitation of the small sample size. Two items were found to have low communality values, and three additional items did not load on any factor. These five items were therefore excluded and another principal component factor analysis with varimax rotation was conducted for the remaining 25 items.

Five factors emerged, with Eigenvalues ranging from 1.41 to 7.14, and 59.13% of the variance was explained by these factors. The fifth factor included three items that had low internal consistency and had positive loadings on other factors as well. They were therefore assigned to the other factors.In total, four meaningful factors emerged as follows.

  1. Satisfaction with the profession: 8 items such as ‘I am glad I chose education’, and ‘I am satisfied to be working in education’, were included (Eigenvalue = 7.14, 28.55% of the variance, loadings 0.61 to 0.74). High internal consistency was found: α = .87.
  2. Professional self-efficacy: 8 items such as ‘I have the ability to be a good kindergarten teacher', and ‘I consider myself to be a professional kindergarten teacher’, were included (Eigenvalue = 2.48, 9.94% of the variance, loadings 0.47 to 0.74). Good internal consistency was found: α = .77.
  3. The profession as part of the self: 3 items such as ‘I have always wanted to be a kindergarten teacher’, and ‘teaching constitutes a central part of my life’, were included (Eigenvalue = 2.01, 8.03% of the variance, loadings 0.41 to 0.58). Good internal consistency was found: α = .76.
  4. Knowledge and skills: 6 items such as ‘I have the skills to be a good kindergarten teacher’, and ‘I know what and how things should be done in teaching’, were included (Eigenvalue = 1.74, 6.98% of the variance, loadings 0.47 to 0.77). Acceptable internal consistency was found: α = .63.
  5. Scale scores were computed from means for the different items, as well as a total professional development score (α = .87).
  1. RESULTS

Students tended to evaluate their professional development as rather high (table 1). Their satisfaction with the profession and professional self-efficacy were greater than 3.5 points on average on a scale of 1-4, and their evaluation of their knowledge and skills, and the profession as part of the self, were 3.37 and 3.17 points on average, respectively. Total mean score was 3.48.

Rank ordering the four scales was found significant (F(3, 210) = 13.48, p < .001, η2 = .162), with the scores for satisfaction with the profession and professional self-efficacy being significantly higher than the scores for knowledge and skills and the profession as part of the self (p < .001).

Table 1:  Grades for professional development among the students (N = 71)

Dimension

Range

Mean

Standard Deviation

Satisfaction with the profession

2.25-4

3.51

0.47

Professional self-efficacy

2.75-4

3.63

0.33

The profession as part of the self

1.33-4

3.16

0.73

Knowledge and skills

2.33-4

3.37

0.41

Average

2.75-4

3.48

0.33

Differences in professional development by year of study were examined with a multivariate analysis of variance. Due to small sub-samples in Years 1 and 4 (n = 11 and n = 12, respectively), the comparison was conducted between the first two years and the final two years (Table 2). Results show significant differences for ‘The profession as part of the self’, and ‘Knowledge and skills’, in favor of students in Years 3 and 4. No differences were found regarding the total score, and ‘Satisfaction with the profession’, or ‘Professional self-efficacy’. No differences were found in professional development were found by age group.

Table 2:  Differences in professional development by year of study (N = 71)

Dimensions

Students in Years 1 and 2 (n = 29)

Students in Years 3 and 4

(n = 42)

F(1, 69)

2)

M

SD

M

SD

Satisfaction with the profession

3.47

0.46

3.54

0.49

0.70

(.010)

Professional self-efficacy

3.68

0.32

3.60

0.34

1.17

(.017)

The profession as part of the self

2.92

0.72

3.30

0.71

5.87*

(.081)

Knowledge and skills

3.23

0.44

3.48

0.35

4.87*

(.068)

Average

3.42

0.34

3.51

0.31

1.15

(.016)

                                                                                          *p < .05      

Table 3  Grades for main questionnaire items relating to professional development among the students (N = 71)

Item:

Not true

N (%)

Somewhat true

N (%)

Very true

N (%)

2.I view the profession of teaching as a mission

1 (1.4)

4 (5.6)

66 (93.0)

5.It is good for me to work in education

0 (0)

18 (25.4)

53 (74.6)

7.I have the personal ability to be a good kindergarten teacher

0 (0)

18 (25.4)

53 (74.6)

20.I believe I will succeed in teaching

2 (2.8)

18 (25.4)

51 (71.8)

9.Being a kindergarten teacher attracts me

1 (1.4)

23 (32.4)

47 (66.2)

1.I am sure I made the right choice by choosing to be a kindergarten teacher

2 (2.8)

25 (35.2)

44 (62.0)

12.Teaching has a major role in my life

5 (7.1)

27 (38.6)

38 (54.3)

16.Teaching reveals my best qualities

1 (1.4)

33 (47.1)

36 (51.4)

24.I have mastered the secrets of the teaching profession

7 (10.3)

40 (58.8)

21 (30.9)

Several items were of unique interest and are presented in table 3. Data in the table show that most students responded positively to all items, most often choosing the highest category possible. Almost all of them, 93% of the students, view the profession of teaching as a mission, to a great extent. About 75% of them think that it is good for them to be working in education, and that they have the personal ability to be a good kindergarten teacher, to a great extent. The rest 25% think so to some extent. About 66% of the students are highly attracted by being a kindergarten teacher, and another 32% are being attracted to it to some extent. About 62% of the students are very sure they made the right choice to become a kindergarten teacher, and another 35% are somewhat sure of that. About 54% perceive teaching as having a major role in their lives to a great extent, and another 39% perceive so to some extent.

X.   DISCUSSION & CONCLUSIONS

The development of a teachers professional identity "is a process of practical knowledge- building characterized by an ongoing integration of what is individually and collectively seen as relevant to teaching" (Beijaard, Meijer & Verloop, 2004, p 123), and it is very often is based on childhood experiences with teaching and teachers (Flores & Day, 2006; Gratch, 2001 Wideen, Mayer-Smith & Moon,1988).Very little research has focused on this process in kindergarten teachers.

The aim of this research was to investigate the professional development and factors that affect the professional identity of trainee kindergarten teachers as well as the level of their satisfaction with their career choice.

The literature indicates that teachers' professional identity development occurs as an evolving process (Kegan,1982,1984), so it would be expected that the trainees at this level of their professional trajectory would have a feeling of lower professional ability. In fact, the results indicated that the trainee kindergarten teachers evaluated their professional development as rather high, (Table 1). The grades they gave for their satisfaction with their professional self-efficacy was over 3.5 points on average , on a scale of 1-4 and their evaluation  of their knowledge and skills was 3.37 and 3.17 on average.

This was a surprising result considering that according to the literature, kindergarten teachers suffer from a low professional status (Ortlipp & Woodrow, 2011). However, the literature indicates that in countries that have  a national curriculum for kindergartens,  kindergarten teachers enjoy a higher public status (Alvestad & Duncan, 2006). This result could therefore be due to the fact that Israel does have a national curriculum for kindergartens from the age of three. This was not a factor that was addressed in this study; therefore, it could be a subject for further research.  

Since the research subjects were kindergarten teacher-trainees at the beginning of their professional career, they were undergoing an internal process of building their professional identity. In Table 2 it is possible to discern that in all the examined dimensions there was an increase in grades from Years 1 and 2 to Years 3 and 4, for example, grades were higher in the latter years for "profession as part of the self" which indicates a development in professional identity. These findings can be explained as a result of a combination of internal processes that the trainee-teachers were undergoing and the mentoring that the trainees received in Years 3 and 4. In Year 3, the trainees perform their practicum three times a week and receive guidance from an experienced kindergarten teacher with whom they work together in co-teaching. In Year 4, the trainees undergo internship under the supervision and mentoring of a kindergarten inspector from the Ministry of Education and an experienced kindergarten teacher who is appointed to be the novice kindergarten teachers' mentor during the process of internship.

The responses to several questionnaire items were of unique interest and are presented in Table 3. Data in the table show that most students responded positively to all items, most often choosing the highest grade possible. Almost all of them, 93% of the students, view the profession of teaching as a mission, to a great extent. About 75% of them think that it is good for them to be working in education, and that they have the personal ability to be a good kindergarten teache. The rest 25% think so to some extent. About 66% of the students are highly attracted to the profession of kindergarten teacher, and another 32% are attracted to it to some extent. About 62% of the students are very sure they made the right choice by choosing to become a kindergarten teacher, and another 35% are somewhat sure of that choice. About 54% perceive teaching as having a major role in their life.

Some interesting findings can be observed in Table 3. A large percentage of the trainee-teachers (93%) viewed their career choice as a mission. This finding is echoed in findings reported in the relevant literature: Chong Low and Goh (2011) found that one third of their research population indicated that their career choice stemmed from altruistic and idealistic motives. The literature also indicates that those who chose to be teachers due to altruistic motives, tend to stay longer in the profession (Chong, Low & Goh, 2011). Teachers build their professional identities in the contexts in which they live and work and this determines how they perceive themselves and how others perceive them (Beijaard et al., 2004). In this study the results indicated that the trainee kindergarten teachers exhibited a high level of self-confidence regarding their ability to be kindergarten teachers.

The results displayed in Table 3 show the grades given to the central items from the questionnaire relating to the trainee-teachers trainees professional development. It is clear that the items fall into two groups representing two facets of of the trainee-teachers professional development. The first facet relates to the trainee-teacher's personal aspects including their sense of self -efficacy and professional self–image. The second facet  is represented by items relating to elements of the teaching profession. 62% of the teacher trainees indicated that they were satisfied with their choice of profession while another 35.2% were somewhat convinced that they had made the right choice. This finding is in line with findings of recent research that found that preschool teachers have a higher level of motivation for their career choice than teachers at other levels of the education system (Fernández-Molina, Castillo, & Fernandez-Berrocal, 2019).

The development of kindergarten teachers' professional development is not a subject that has been widely researched. Kindergarten teachers suffer from a low social status, even though they have an extremely important role, in advancing young children's' development at a critical stage of their life. Most of the research that has been undertaken has been concerned with the professional development of school teachers, who are considered to have a higher social and professional status than kindergarten teachers. However, it is today apparent to all that early childhood is a critical stage in a person's development and it is therefore essential that those who guide the children through this stage are of a high professional standard and see teaching in kindergarten as a mission that demands highly qualified professionals. These teachers should be lifelong learners, constantly aiming to develop their professional knowledge, skills and understanding of how young children learn and act and what is the best environment to help each child reach their potential. This professional development and building of a professional identity are processes that begin even before entering academic institutions, they begin in childhood and evolve through a complex interaction between internal processes and external forces.

The research had certain limitations:  it was conducted at a certain time with different groups of students, it is recommended to extend this research to a longitudinal research with the same group of trainee kindergarten teachers through their training and their first years as kindergarten teachers in the field.

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