Woman, teacher, mother, scholar: Using narrative inquiry and intimate insider research to explore women's navigation of multiple identities in graduate school

Tiffany M Sedberry, Purdue University


The purpose of this work is to explore and understand the personal and professional experiences of female graduate students in teacher education doctoral programs and how those experiences impact employment plans post-PhD. Using the position as an intimate insider researcher with a postmodern feminist framework, in-depth narratives from women in several graduate programs across the country were collected and analyzed. Five issues were found to divide these graduate school experiences ultimately affecting plans post-PhD. First, the unavoidable fragmentation of personal and professional identities lays the groundwork for each woman’s graduate school experience. Second, the development or deprofessionalization of each woman’s teacher identity in graduate school highlights the dire need for increased focus on the transition from graduate student to teacher educator. Third, privilege and marginalization within the experiences of these women also brings to light longstanding issues that hinder teacher education. Fourth, concern regarding issues of family life and motherhood are inescapable as women navigate academic life as graduate students and plans to transition to faculty job placements. Finally, all of these issues impact and inform how these women made the decision to pursue the tenure-track or a career outside the academy. Ultimately, it is crucial for women of all levels (students and faculty) to be active participants in the pursuit of changes academic women hope for and need to see. The issues discussed within this work must be addressed and systematic changes must begin if academics wish to usher in a new generation of happy, healthy, and committed teacher education scholars who can adequately balance work, family, and the space in which the two collide. By exploring these issues, we can observe critically the current state of inequality and disadvantages that hinder women’s advancement and success while working toward a better system for all.




Alsup, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Teacher education|Higher education

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