Using multiple theories to elucidate the complex identity construction of in-service teachers from Asia

Year: 2016

Author: Kong, Melinda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teacher-related research should be increased because teachers are primary agents that play a central role in facilitating students’ learning. In particular, the success of teacher education, especially in providing professional development for these teachers, relies on understanding their desires, as well as their identity, which is constructed through their various experiences. However, there is a lack of extensive research on teachers in the field of English language teaching (Cross & Gearon, 2007). The current study investigates the lived experiences and complexities in the identity construction of in-service teachers of English from Asian countries who were trained in Australia. It adopts multiple theoretical approaches in order to have dialogue across theories to better understand the processes of language teacher identity. It examines, among others, theories that relate to identity being multifaceted, subject to change, linked to contexts, and connected to power relations. The participants’ perceptions and experiences were obtained through individual interviews, informal conversations and email exchanges. The participants’ narratives elucidate the development of English language professionals who strategically adapted to their surroundings, and dealt with academic-related and non-academic-related difficulties in Australia. The participants’ adaptability can be seen as a result of their strategic thinking and ability to shift their multifaceted identities according to settings. Their experiences outside the university in Australia provided opportunities for them to construct their identities beyond formal classroom instruction based on their continuous reflections and views. Many of them also repositioned themselves from apparently unfavourable positions in relations of power after applying the professional knowledge gained in class. Moreover, some participants formulated their own meanings concerning their experiences in Australia after clearly determining their goals and how to achieve them. Their experiences contributed to a fusion of their professional activities as in-service teachers of English and their lived experiences as bilingual users of the language. This study contributes to existing theories and knowledge on language teacher identity from the perspective of how the perceptions and lived experiences of in-service teachers influence the evolution of their identity and educational experiences.