Being a Teacher in China: A Systematic Review of Teacher Identity in Education Reform


  • Xiaoyi Liu
  • John Trent


teacher identity; education reform; systematic review


Education reform is expected to change teacher’s identity is
expected to undergo changes, which in turn may influence various
aspects of their professional life. As such, teacher identity in education
reform context has received strong attention in the literature in the last
decade or so. This article provides a systematic and critical review of the
empirical research published after 2010 on Chinese teachers’ identity
construction. It conceptualizes teacher identity construction in times of
education reform and the factors mediating this process. A thematic
synthesis was adopted to undertake the review of 28 articles. Teacher
identity categories in K12 and tertiary education were extracted from the
studies to give a contour of teacher identity trajectory. Teacher identities
as thriving, as survival, and as exclusion emerge as the three main
teacher identity categories. Guided by Wenger’s identity theory, we then
discuss three types of teacher identity trajectories: contrive to thrive,
adjust to survive, and alienate to wither; and three distinctive factor
themes: power relations, agency, and emotion. This contextualized
review unfolds stories and mediators of teacher identity construction
against the backdrop of education reform in China through which
implications for enhancing strong teacher identities are drawn.


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