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J. Hakim-Larson


Autism spectrum disorder, Narrative inquiry, Novice educator, Pivotal response treatment, Symbolic interactionism, Teacher identity



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


In Ontario, Policy/Program Memoranda No. 140 (PPM 140) authorizes educators to utilize Applied Behavioural Analysis methods to support students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the classroom. Although typically favoured, inclusive policies are difficult to translate into practice without training (Lindsay et al., 2013). Novice educators (i.e., first five years of their career) are at the cusp of developing a teacher identity as they are shifting roles from that of a teacher candidate to what it means to be a professional teacher.

Symbolic interactionism (SI) is one theory deemed useful for narrating and investigating identity. According to Blumer (1986), SI is a theory which investigates how individuals develop subjective meanings and how those meanings are reformed during an interpretive process producing different behavioural responses. Within the teaching profession, physical objects refer to space or material. Social objects refer to the interactions with individuals. Abstract objects are beliefs about professional development (PD) and identity (Blumer, 1986).

Current studies do not address how teachers with larger classes may implement evidence-based practices, such as Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT). Even when general education teachers do receive training in PRT, an investigation into identity is missing. This doctoral dissertation investigates how a professional learning in PRT in Ontario may influence novice (i.e., first five years of their career) elementary educators’ (i.e., JK-Grade three) identity as a teacher from a qualitative (i.e., narrative inquiry) design.

Results from interviews, journals, and focus groups revealed themes. Physical objects included (1) accessibility to tangible resources and in-class trainings, (2) motivation/accountability, (3) barrier of time, (4) barrier of COVID-19, (5) barrier of staffing, and (6) barrier of size/needs of a classroom. Analyzing social objects revealed (7) student relationship building, (8) classroom staff communication, (9) low parental communication, and (10) distance support from administrators. Conversations around identity detailed how (11) early educational experiences and (12) previous characteristics associated with a teacher impacted a present (13) definition of teacher identity as the philosophy of teaching. This exposed themes such as (14) advocating for accommodations, (15) life-long learner, (16) self-reflective, (17) connection between personal/social self, and (18) a generalist role. (19) Micro-level solutions such as obtaining more strategies for themselves, and (20) macro-level solutions such as dedicating more time within teacher education programs and in-person training were also discoursed.

Physical and social objects had a direct impact on abstract objects. The first premise of symbolic interactionism, meaning, delved deep into how novice educators acted towards objects based on the meanings assigned to them throughout the study. Through social interactions (i.e., premise two – language) with myself as the researcher, the research study, the other participants, and stakeholders in their school climate, an investigation into the interpretation process (i.e., premise three – thought) revealed the above themes.

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