Professional identity of teachers in the context of the new school curriculum reform in China

  • Shuya WANG

Student thesis: EdD Thesis


Existing literature shows that teachers’ professional identity (TPI) is becoming increasingly important in our global community, especially in the context of educational reform. However, TPI in secondary schools in contemporary China has not been widely studied, and only a few studies trace how or why the curriculum reform influences the transformation or changes of their professional identities. Research on such transformation is of significance to the knowledge field of teacher identity as it both takes pre-reform experiences as a notable influence and reveals the characteristics of identity change from a comparatively developmental perspective.

In order to address this gap in the literature and contribute to the domains of teachers’ professional identity and curriculum reform, the current research focuses on a two-year case study of teachers in a senior secondary school in Ningbo (a coastal city in east China), attempting to have a comprehensive understanding of their TPI and investigate the role that curriculum reform plays in shaping their TPI. Identity in this study can be understood as how people perceive their relationship to the world, how that relationship is constructed across time and space, and how they understand possibilities for the future (Norton, 2000; Xu, 2013).

The theoretical framework features both teachers’ professional identity and curriculum reform. Methodologically, qualitative research will be adopted. And a case study approach is the major research design frame. Specifically, questionnaires are used to form a general picture of the TPI in the researched school and also prepare the participants for the following interviews. Besides, semi-structured interviews are conducted as the major method to have a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the eight individual teachers’ perceptions and practices of TPI. By adopting Thematic Analysis (TA) to analyze data, some patterns of meaning are hoped to be discovered, thus providing some implications that can benefit teacher professionalism and school development alike.

This case contributes to research on TPI in China, especially in relation to curriculum reform. The major findings indicate that a positive attitude towards the future of curriculum reform could be seen and artistry in their teaching practice was discovered among all the participant teachers. The teachers showed discretion in response to their students’ level and interests in implementing the curriculum reform in the classroom. The professional identity of the school teachers evolved in the process of curriculum reform and could empower teachers in various aspects.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Nottingham
SupervisorRobert Adamson (Supervisor)


  • Professional identity
  • Teachers’ professional identity
  • Secondary schools
  • China
  • Curriculum reform

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