Teacher Professional Identity

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THE JOURNAL OF ASIA TEFL Vol.10, No. 1, pp. 1-23, Spring 2013

Native-English-Speaking Teachers’ Construction of Professional Identity in an EFL Context: A Case of Vietnam Le Van Canh VNU University of Languages and International Studies, Vietnam

Language teacher identity is an emerging subject of interest in research on language teacher education and teacher development due to the recognized reciprocal relationships between professional identity and professional knowledge and action. While a number of studies have been reported on the (re)construction of non-native English language teachers’ professional identity, relatively little attention has been paid to the professional identity of expatriate native-English-speaking teachers (NESTs). This paper reports on a qualitative study that explored the discursive construction of the professional identity of a small group of native-English-speaking teachers (n=5) working in an English Department of a Vietnamese university. Drawing on Wenger’s (1998) three modes of belonging – engagement, imagination, and alignment – the study examined the lived experiences of these NESTs in their new sociocultural context through in-depth interviews with each participant. The study indicates that NESTs’ limited socialization and non-participation into the local community of practices due to lack of collaboration with the local teachers constitute the major obstacle to the reconstruction of their professional identity. The findings of the study, therefore, could have implications in relatable contexts for better and more collaboration and cooperation between expatriate NESTs and local non-native-Englishspeaking teachers (NNESTs) given the growing interest in hiring NESTs in Asian countries.

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Native-English-Speaking Teachers’ Construction of Professional Identity in an EFL Context: A Case of Vietnam

Keywords: native-English-speaking teachers, professional identity, EFL context, non-participation socialization, collaboration, Vietnam

INTRODUCTION
Although teachers’ professional identity has become of considerable interest to general education researchers, it has only very recently emerged as an important subtopic within the field of bilingual and second language teacher education (Beijaard, Meijer &Verloop, 2004). Two driving forces of this growing research agenda are the complex status of World English leading to the questioning of the colonial legacy of a ‘native speaker fallacy’ (see Canagarajah, 1999; McKay, 2002; Phillipson, 1992), and the marginalization of non-native speaker teachers (Braine, 1999; Brutt-Griffler & Samimy, 1999; Liu, 1999). Researchers have been particularly interested in the impact that the dichotomy of native-speaker/nonnative-speaker has on teachers’ professional identity (Liu & Xu, 2011). However, most of these studies focus on how non-native-English–speaking teachers (NNESTs) construct their professional identity (e.g., Golombek & Jordan, 2005; Monssu & Llurda, 2008; Tsui, 2007). While expatriate native-English-speaking teachers’ (NESTs)’ unfamiliarity with the local education context is a theme that reechoes across both time and space (Choi, 2001; Griffin, 2006; Shin & Kellogg, 2007; Tajino &Tajino, 2000), the issue of how NESTs construct and develop their professional identities in the English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) context remains unexplored, with Trent’s (2012) very recent work being a rare exception. Trent’s qualitative study on the discursive positioning of eight NESTs in Hong Kong primary and secondary schools showed tensions between NESTs’ self-positioning and being positioned by local English language teachers. Given a growing interest in hiring NESTs in Asian countries resulting from the status of English as a global language (Jeon & Lee, 2006), this research void should be filled. This paper contends that knowledge of NESTs’ construction and development of their professional identities in EFL contexts is another side of the coin of...
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