Developing a teacher identity in the university context: A systematic review of the literature

T.A.M. van Lankveld, J.I. Schoonenboom, Monique Volman, G. Croiset, J. Beishuizen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This literature review summarises the growing body of literature discussing teacher identities of university teachers. The aim was to understand what strengthens or constrains the development of a teacher identity. A qualitative synthesis of 59 studies was carried out. The review showed that several factors contribute to the development of teacher identity. While contact with students and staff development programmes were experienced as strengthening teacher identity, the wider context of higher education was experienced as having a constraining effect. Furthermore, the impact of the direct work environment was experienced as either strengthening or constraining, depending on whether or not teaching is valued in the department. Five psychological processes were found to be involved in the development of a teacher identity: a sense of appreciation, a sense of connectedness, a sense of competence, a sense of commitment, and imagining a future career trajectory. The findings suggest that developing a teacher identity in the higher education context is not a smooth process. In order to empower university teachers, it is important to reward teaching excellence and build community. Staff development activities can play a role in helping teachers to develop strategies for gaining confidence and taking active control of their work situation, both individually and collectively. The authors argue that more attention should be paid to the implicit messages that departments convey to their teaching faculty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-342
Number of pages18
JournalHigher Education Research & Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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