The politics of teacher professionalism in teacher unions : a case study of Aotearoa New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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Teacher unions are important policy actors in many English-speaking jurisdictions; however, few studies have examined the role of teacher unions in shaping teacher-related education policies. This study critically analyses how teacher unions frame teacher professionalism discourses in New Zealand. Adopting a critical education policy scholarship approach, the study positions teacher professionalism discourses within their socio-political contexts. It explores how the meanings of teacher professionalism have been constructed and how teacher unions have shaped these discourses since the late 1980s. This study chose the two main teacher unions in Aotearoa New Zealand, the New Zealand Educational Institute, Te Riu Roa (NZEI) and the New Zealand Post-Primary Teachers’ Association, Te Wehengarua (PPTA). Data were collected from documents and archival material, as well as through elite interviews with 24 union leaders, including national presidents, secretaries, executive members, and senior union officials. Data analysis followed a broadly grounded theory method: from codes to themes. Findings highlight the political nature of the teaching profession. Three key findings are identified in this study. First, the teacher unions articulate explicitly counter-professionalism discourses to those of dominant official discourses. The teacher unions tend to emphasise the complexity and relational aspects of teaching, collaboration and collegiality, and trust in the teaching profession. Second, the teacher unions are often actively involved in developing democratic professionalism by mobilising teachers to exercise their agency and by collaborating with other policy actors. Third, the meanings of the professional role of the teacher unions have been enlarged over the last 30 years, explicitly expressing their concern about broader educational and social issues. By doing this, the teacher unions intend to improve their legitimacy as teachers’ representatives and increase their political influence. Overall, this study suggests that the teacher unions, as collective actors, navigate the tensions and sometimes conflicts between the teaching profession and government in the process of constructing teacher professionalism discourses.
Listed in 2023 Dean's List of Exceptional Theses
New Zealand Educational Institute, New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association, Teachers' unions, Teachers, Professional relationships, New Zealand, Dean's List of Exceptional Theses