Purpose: Pre-service and in-service teachers experience conflicts between the requirements of teaching and their own personal desires, which might lead to serious tensions with negative consequences. Teachers, especially pre-service teachers, try to cope with tensions by developing strategies accompanied by actions teachers take to modify the teaching context and achieve teacher agency. The purpose of this study was to identify how pre-service teachers in Turkey cope with different types of tensions during their practicum in schools. This study also investigated how their coping strategies motivate actions to develop teacher agency.
Research Methods: This was a qualitative study guided by symbolic interactionism focusing on how shared meanings are constructed and mediated. Data were collected through reflective journals, semi-structured interviews, and a focus group interview to obtain the meanings made by pre-service teachers. Eight preservice teachers of Turkish language at a public university participated in the study. Data were analyzed through content analysis.
Findings: Findings reveal that pre-service teachers experience all types of tensions described in the literature and cope with them using four of the strategies mentioned in the literature. They do not receive help without asking for it. Many teachers turn to people around them to find a solution, but not many of them take initiatives to achieve agency.
Implications for Research and Practice: Findings from the study display that pre-service teachers suffer from tensions in their teaching experiences in schools. They do not receive help without asking. For a qualified teacher identity process, continuous mediation should be at pre-service teachers’ disposal and teachers should not be left alone. Supervisors at the faculties of education should raise pre-service teachers who are aware of tensions, coping strategies, and teacher agency issues.
Keywords: teacher education teacher tensions coping strategies teacher agency