Hanna de Jong-Markus

Chapter 3 58 Educational beliefs are part of a person’s general belief system (Pajares, 1992). The general belief system can be understood as an integrated system with substructures or nests of beliefs (Bryan, 2003; Fives & Buehl, 2012). Beliefs within a certain substructure are connected but might also have connections to beliefs in other substructures (Fives & Buehl, 2012; Pajares, 1992). This means that educational beliefs are most probably influenced by beliefs about matters beyond the teaching profession; for example, religious convictions (Pajares, 1992). Religious beliefs are even seen as especially powerful influences on educational beliefs (Mansour, 2008, 2011). Beliefs can strengthen each other, but it is also acknowledged that a teacher’s belief system can contain incompatible beliefs (Bryan, 2003; Mansour, 2011; Pajares, 1992). These incompatibilities will remain until they are examined against one another (Green, 1971 in Bryan, 2003). Because speaking about ‘educational beliefs’ is too broad and all-encompassing, Pajares (1992) recommends operationalising educational beliefs as ‘educational beliefs about’ a specific topic or aspect. Since the potential tensions have to do with what teachers want to realise or not realise in their profession, we will focus on the educational beliefs about what teachers want to strive for. The concept of professional ideals (De Ruyter, 2003, 2007) will help us to do this. The characteristics of beliefs mentioned in the previous paragraphs are found in the literature about professional ideals as well—for example, that they are evaluative and are formed by personal experiences or cultural sources of knowledge (De Ruyter, 2003, 2007). Therefore, we understand professional ideals as being a specific nest of educational beliefs. Ideals are ‘images of excellence that are not yet realized and they are aims or goals we deeply desire to realize’ (De Ruyter, 2003: 468). Professional ideals provide orientation, motivation, inspiration and even transcendent anchor to teachers: the ideals serve as navigational tools for how teachers design their educational practices; they provide the energy and passion to practice the teaching profession; they givemeaning and purpose to daily work and to being a teacher; and they make it possible to have an independent and critical attitude towards the practice and reality in which one finds themself (De Ruyter, 2007; Kole, 2007a; Kole, 2007b; Kole & De Ruyter, 2011). Because of these important functions, Kole and De Ruyter (2011, p. 7; translation by the authors) argue: ‘Being aware of your professional ideals is important if you want to become, to be and to remain a professional teacher.’ De Ruyter (2007) distinguishes among different types of professional ideals in the teaching profession—namely, ideal aims, content ideals and ideal means. Ideal aims and content ideals are concerned with what teachers want to realise by or accomplish with their work,