June 2012 Foreword
by Dr. Rahma Al-Mahrooqi
Teachers, despite all current technological interventions in the processes of pedagogy, remain central for educating the young and advancing communities (Smit & Fritz, 2008). As individuals, they differ widely, forming a population of men and women with varied life experiences and professional backgrounds. In the school context, as in the community and society at large, they interact with other individuals – students, administrators, parents, supervisors, colleagues, and workers. They thus negotiate meaning and adjust behaviour in response to the actions of others (Ibid, p. 92). Both negotiation and adjustment shape and reshape their identities, which can be viewed as complex (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009), dynamic and multifaceted (Tsui, 2007), changeable, shifting, evolving, and personally, socially and professionally determined (Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004). Because it is bound to influence practice, teacher identity has recently been recognized as an important area of research (Beijaard, et al, 2004; Gu, n.d.; Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009; Tsui, 2007; Wu, Palmer, & Field, 2011). Among topics already explored during the last two decades are the multi-dimensional nature of a professional identity, the relationship between identity s social and professional facets, and the importance of teacher choice and agency in identity formation (Tsui, 2007, p. 657). Teacher narratives and reflection are also studied in identity research and are regarded not as reflections of identity but as ways of shaping and reshaping it.
Despite a growing body of research, however, exploration of teacher identity is still in its infancy, with very few studies targeting teacher identity development (Kanno & Stuart, 2011). More research is urgently needed. especially on new teacher identity formation (Dotger & Smith, 2009) because there is a disciplinary movement away from a skills acquisition focus to one addressing teacher identity development (Gu, n.d.), since this has profound implications for loyalty to the field and pedagogic practice. According to Beauchamp and Thomas (2009, p. 175), studying teacher identity can serve a number of functions:
It can be used as a frame or an analytic lens through which to examine aspects of teaching. â€¦ It can also be seen as an organizing element in teachers professional lives, even a resource that people use to explain, justify and make sense of themselves in relation to others, and to the world at large (MacLure, 1993, p. 311).
Beauchamp and Thomas also make the sensible point that a better understanding of teacher identity could be used to enhance the conception and development of teacher education programs. But increased research is also needed on this matter in the field of EFL and ESL teaching because of its complexity and multi-faceted nature. Teachers here vacillate between different worlds and paradigms as most are likely to receive their English teacher education in different parts of the globe, teach an international range of students, and so must negotiate meaning at various levels and labour to iron out and balance differences.
This volume is an attempt to fill the existing gap in EFL/ESL teacher identity research, focusing on its various findings across the world. Patrick Ng s Contextual influences on the Teaching Practice of a beginning TESOL teacher: A narrative inquiry targets the contextual influences that shape the reality of classroom practice. Through the narrative of a new EFL teacher in Japan, his paper answers the question What role does the teaching context play in the teaching practice of a beginning TESOL teacher in the Japanese classroom? His findings reveal that this new teacher s practices are influenced by learners language proficiency and attitudes, institutional culture, mentors from outside the classroom, teaching s sociolinguistic context, and the local teaching philosophy. Hence, practice is not only a result of teacher training or of personal convictions, but also an outcome of a myriad other factors.
Fennel s article demonstrates how moral and pedagogical orientation to the good shapes the teacher-self and manifests itself in practice. The findings reveal that, unfortunately, sometimes an orientation to the good does not necessarily find materialization in actual classroom practice.
Perception of one s self as a non-native English teacher is sometimes fraught with insecurity. This is what Josh Wang reveals in his article Moving towards the transition: Non-native EFL teachers perception of native-speaker norms and responses to varieties of English in the era of the global spread of English . He shows that, despite accepting the idea of World Englishes , Asian countries have continued to recruit native English- speaking teachers to introduce authentic or standard English. Wang s results show that even non-native English teachers themselves view native English-speaking teachers as more capable of teaching English, a model, Wang urges, that has to be reconsidered by these teachers, teacher educators and teacher education programs.
Cook s article investigates Japanese English teachers beliefs, practices, and rationale for using activities based on the Communicative, Audio-lingual, and Grammar Translation approaches. Using a questionnaire given to 10 teachers, the study showed that the teachers held positive attitudes towards communicative activities. However, there were both consistencies and inconsistencies between teachers beliefs and reported practices due to contextual factors.
In their article Towards a globalized notion of English language teaching in Saudi Arabia: A case study , Elyas and Picard show how through narrative we can unpack competing discourses on the identities of EFL teachers. Contextual factors and relationships between professional training, life experiences, and beliefs, and how these influence practice, are delineated in the paper, providing an understating of how different tensions or discourses may shape a teacher s professional identity.
Stan Pederson s Collaborative play-making using ill-structured problems: Effect on pre-service language teachers beliefs describes a classroom activity based on collaborative play-making, investigating its impact on teachers beliefs, which are often viewed as un-amenable to change. The author used a pre-test and post-test technique to measure the degree of change in student-teachers beliefs and found a 25% shift in responses across the agree/disagree dichotomy; hence, the procedure had produced a considerable amount of change, which in turn could be the result of teachers personal reflections on the controversial topics they read. Thus, reflection is a technique that can shape and reshape beliefs and identity.
In addition to the articles mentioned above, the volume also includes reviews of the following four books relevant to the teacher identity theme:
Postcolonial English. Varieties Around the World (first edition) by Edgar W. Schneider. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007 (reprinted 2009). Pp. xvi + 367. Reviewer Silvia Bruti.
Grammar for Teachers: A Guide to American English for Native and Non-Native Speakers by Andrea DeCapua. New York, N.Y.: Springer, 2008. Pp. xviii + 444. Reviewer Ozgur Yildirim.
Spelling and Society: The Culture and Politics of Orthography Around the World by Mark Sebba. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Pp. xix + 189. Reviewer Jing Zhao.
Listening in the Language Classroom by John Field. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Pp. X + 366. Reviewer Zeng Yajun.
I wish you a happy and fruitful reading of this June 2012 issue of the Asian EFL Journal.
Beauchamp, C. & Thomas, L. (2009). Understanding teacher identity: an overview of
issues in the literature and implications for teacher education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), 175-189.
Beijaard, D., Meijer, P., & Verloop, N. (2004). Reconsidering research on teachers
professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20, 107-128.
Gu, M. (n.d.). The Ethical Formation of Teacher Identity: Pre-service Teachers in
Hong Kong. Global Perspectives, Local initiatives, 183-194. Retrieved
Kanno, Y. & Stuart, C. (2011). Learning to become a second language teacher:
Identities in practice. The Modern Language Journal, 95 (2), 236-252.
Smit, B. & Fritz, E. (2008). Understanding teacher identity from a symbolic
interactionist perspective: two ethnographic narratives. South African Journal of Education, 28, 91-101.
Tsui, A. (2007). Complexities of identity formation: A narrative inquiry of a EFL
teacher. TESOL Quarterly, 41, 657-680.
Wu. H.-P., Palmer, D., & Field, S. (2011). Understanding teacher professional
identity and beliefs in the Chinese heritage language school in the USA. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 24 (1), 47-60.