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English language teacher identity: a framework for teacher learning and professional development

English language teacher identity: a framework for teacher learning and professional development
English language teacher identity: a framework for teacher learning and professional development
This chapter explores identity issues in the work and learning of English language teachers. It sets out ways in which the identity prism can serve to understand the work of teachers, and to sustain ongoing teacher learning and professional development. In many education contexts, English language skills proficiency has become a curriculum development focus at all levels, primary school to university. Despite investment in syllabuses and materials in recent decades, curriculum goals are often not achieved. One reason often proposed for this is the effectiveness of teaching: teachers are viewed as ineffective in achieving desired curriculum outcomes and reluctant to innovate. While this representation is undoubtedly not the whole story – there are important issues of the limited agency of teachers in the wider social and cultural framing of foreign language learning – it is important to explore ways in which teachers can develop personally and professionally so that their work is more fulfilling, recognised and effective. This chapter explores these issues through an identity lens. Drawing on studies of English language teacher identity within Applied Linguistics, and the communities of practice framework of Wenger, I explore the learning dimension of English language teacher identity. There are two specific challenges faced by English language teachers. First, current methods in English language teaching, within a broad communicative language teaching framework, emphasise language use and interaction rather than grammatical accuracy. In this approach, the subject content knowledge shifts from the grammatical and other dimensions of the language system to the learning process. This constitutes a challenge for teachers who align with a transactional and instructional approach to classroom pedagogy, and for teachers whose expertise rests on their mastery of the grammatical system and on culturally-situated features of English language use. Second, current teaching strategies require classrooms which are student-led, exploratory, and unpredictable, with students taking responsibility for directing and shaping their own learning experiences. Teachers, therefore, have to extend their expertise from a focus on knowledge of the language system to skills in managing people and interactions. These challenges are often unmet, with teachers focussing on sentence-level accuracy, both in performing their own expertise and teacher identity, and in focussing students on learning. Teacher development activities focus on skills and techniques, which often do not have an impact on practice. Teachers and students are often working with received identities, which limit learning, and constrain the role of imagination in learning. Further work in curriculum development, whether in the skills of teachers, the rolling out of technological innovation and other learning materials can only have limited impact while the fundamental teacher identity remains unchanged. The chapter ends with some examples of teachers doing identity work, in ways which contribute to personal and curriculum development, and with suggestions for incorporating an identity perspective in teacher learning, both for the individual reflective practitioner, and organised learning activities for teachers
9780567338167
207-228
Bloomsbury
Kiely, Richard
2321c0cb-faf6-41e2-b044-2c3933e93d6e
Evans, D.
Kiely, Richard
2321c0cb-faf6-41e2-b044-2c3933e93d6e
Evans, D.

Kiely, Richard (2014) English language teacher identity: a framework for teacher learning and professional development. In, Evans, D. (ed.) Language and Identity: Discourse in the World. London, GB. Bloomsbury, pp. 207-228.

Record type: Book Section

Abstract

This chapter explores identity issues in the work and learning of English language teachers. It sets out ways in which the identity prism can serve to understand the work of teachers, and to sustain ongoing teacher learning and professional development. In many education contexts, English language skills proficiency has become a curriculum development focus at all levels, primary school to university. Despite investment in syllabuses and materials in recent decades, curriculum goals are often not achieved. One reason often proposed for this is the effectiveness of teaching: teachers are viewed as ineffective in achieving desired curriculum outcomes and reluctant to innovate. While this representation is undoubtedly not the whole story – there are important issues of the limited agency of teachers in the wider social and cultural framing of foreign language learning – it is important to explore ways in which teachers can develop personally and professionally so that their work is more fulfilling, recognised and effective. This chapter explores these issues through an identity lens. Drawing on studies of English language teacher identity within Applied Linguistics, and the communities of practice framework of Wenger, I explore the learning dimension of English language teacher identity. There are two specific challenges faced by English language teachers. First, current methods in English language teaching, within a broad communicative language teaching framework, emphasise language use and interaction rather than grammatical accuracy. In this approach, the subject content knowledge shifts from the grammatical and other dimensions of the language system to the learning process. This constitutes a challenge for teachers who align with a transactional and instructional approach to classroom pedagogy, and for teachers whose expertise rests on their mastery of the grammatical system and on culturally-situated features of English language use. Second, current teaching strategies require classrooms which are student-led, exploratory, and unpredictable, with students taking responsibility for directing and shaping their own learning experiences. Teachers, therefore, have to extend their expertise from a focus on knowledge of the language system to skills in managing people and interactions. These challenges are often unmet, with teachers focussing on sentence-level accuracy, both in performing their own expertise and teacher identity, and in focussing students on learning. Teacher development activities focus on skills and techniques, which often do not have an impact on practice. Teachers and students are often working with received identities, which limit learning, and constrain the role of imagination in learning. Further work in curriculum development, whether in the skills of teachers, the rolling out of technological innovation and other learning materials can only have limited impact while the fundamental teacher identity remains unchanged. The chapter ends with some examples of teachers doing identity work, in ways which contribute to personal and curriculum development, and with suggestions for incorporating an identity perspective in teacher learning, both for the individual reflective practitioner, and organised learning activities for teachers

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Published date: 18 December 2014
Organisations: Modern Languages

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Local EPrints ID: 365207
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/365207
ISBN: 9780567338167
PURE UUID: ca6a6ff0-0f06-4f46-9bcf-27f13086e0b0

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Date deposited: 29 May 2014 12:53
Last modified: 10 Jul 2020 16:31

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Contributors

Author: Richard Kiely
Editor: D. Evans

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