Space as a lens for teacher agency: A case study of three beginning teachers in England, UK



Rushton EAC & Bird A (2023) Space as a lens for teacher agency: A case study of three beginning teachers in England, UK. Curriculum Journal.

Drawing on conceptualisations of space, we explored the ways three beginning teachers in England experienced and developed agency during the first three years of their careers. We completed a series of interviews with the same three teachers during their year of Initial Teacher Education and subsequent two years as Early Career Teachers; a total of 15 interviews over three years). Our findings demonstrated that the key barrier to agency beginning teachers experienced was a rigid curriculum, with reduced opportunities for innovation at a classroom and/or department level. Participants highlighted enablers of agency including demonstrations of professional trust; opportunities to develop their pedagogies and subject knowledge and their own recognition of the temporal and dynamic nature of agency. Through engaging with conceptualisations of space, we have shown how some teachers were able to identify spaces of agency, move between different spaces of agency and even create spaces of agency where none previously existed. We argue that in addition to the widely understood emergent, dynamic, and temporal facets, conceptualisations of teacher agency as a phenomenon can be extended through the lens of space. Space helps us understand agency as a messy entanglement of the cultural, material, and relational conditions and qualities of agency made explicit in the ecological approach. Through space, we can explore these entanglements as multiple, non-linear, loose connections which teachers bring together when they achieve agency. We contend that the lens of space may support more nuanced understandings of teacher agency in research and policymaking worldwide.

beginning teachers; England; space; teacher agency

Output Status: Forthcoming/Available Online

Curriculum Journal

StatusIn Press
FundersEconomic and Social Research Council
Publication date online30/09/2023
Date accepted by journal23/08/2023

People (1)


Professor Lizzie Rushton

Professor Lizzie Rushton

Professor of Education, Education