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Pedagogical portraits: re-negotiating the first year preservice teacher experience

Marcelle Cacciattolo (College of Education, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)
Gwen Gilmore (College of Education, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 14 November 2016




The purpose of this paper is to investigate those teaching and learning factors that either hindered or encouraged preservice teacher participants to succeed in their first year of study. The impact of administrative support alongside pedagogical styles that facilitated a sense of engagement for first year preservice teachers is also discussed.


This research builds on the work of Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot’s use of “portraiture” to “capture the complexity and aesthetic of human experience” (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Hoffmann Davis, 1997, p. 4). The use of portraits as a tool for creating a first year student narrative, rich in its canvas of human emotions, is central to the work that follows. Qualitative data that were gathered in this research project are presented.


The portraiture methodology in this paper enabled the researchers to capture a sense of belonging for first year university students that involved more than procedural matters, orientation events and attendance at information sessions.

Practical implications

These portraits draw wider attention to transition and retention matters beyond considerations of “who our students are” and illustrate how engagement and belonging are enhanced by how these students are engaged by skilful and knowledgeable tutors and group work and collegial approaches to the course.


Portraiture methodology enabled a more nuanced form of viewing “belonging” and “engagement” of these preservice teachers through more personalised forms of engagement with tutors, the development of groups and the practicum placement.



This work is the result of a research project that involved teaching staff from the College of Education and the College of Arts and the Student Learning Unit at Victoria University. The authors gratefully acknowledge the input into this project by Michael Hallpike, Amanda Carr, Jeanette Fielding, Amanda Muscat and Syed Javed.


Cacciattolo, M. and Gilmore, G. (2016), "Pedagogical portraits: re-negotiating the first year preservice teacher experience", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 388-401.



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