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Understanding non-native English-speaking teachers' identity construction and transformation in the English-speaking community: A closer look at past, present, and future

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Shu-Chun Tseng
Abstract:
Building on Kachru's (2005) diagram of World Englishes and Norton's (2000) theoretical conception of identity, the researcher acknowledges that each Non-Native English Speaking Teacher (NNEST) comes to the English-speaking community with a different variety of Englishes. Each believes in various cultural values and norms, and his or her identity is an ongoing process that can be impacted when he or she is immersed in different contexts. Using a qualitative approach, this study examined the way NNESTs construct their self-perceptions of English Language Teaching (ELT) professionalism based on social and educational experiences in their countries. In addition, the study examined how they reconstruct professional identity depending on current social and educational experiences in an English-speaking country, and how they contribute this newly-constructed sense of professionalism in future ELT practices. Findings revealed participants possessed less awareness of the importance of professional identity in their home countries, but the education offered through Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) programs in the United States played an essential role in raising this awareness. However, the participants' identity was impacted by feelings of inferiority. Most participants never thought that they were as competent as Native English Speaking Teacher's (NESTs) in terms of English teaching. Various contributing components, such as self-confidence, expectation, perception, investment, language ideology, and language proficiency played essential roles in the development of each NNEST's self-image. Having a TESOL program that provides practicums and social programs that connect NNESTs with NEST's and other people in the society where they are studying could impact the dissonance between expectation and reality of an NNEST's educational experience. However, each NNEST retains his or her own right to develop a positive or negative self-image by nurturing an active and open-minded attitude.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

COMMITTEE MEMBERS

................................ ................................ ................................ ...........

ii

ABSTRACT

................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..

iii

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

................................ ................................ ................................ .............

v

LIST OF TABLES

................................ ................................ ................................ .........................

x

Introductio n

................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ....

1

Researcher‟s Profile

................................ ................................ ................................ ...........

4

Statement of the Problem

................................ ................................ ................................ ...

6

Significance of the Study

................................ ................................ ................................ ...

6

Research Questions

................................ ................................ ................................ ............

7

Limitations of the Study ................................ ................................ ................................ .....

8

Definition of Terms ................................ ................................ ................................ ............

8

Summary

................................ ................................ ................................ ............................

9

Literature Review ................................ ................................ ................................ .........................

10

Generative Grammar, World Englishes, and the NS - NNS Dichotomy

...........................

11

Language, Culture,

Identity , and Speech Community

................................ .....................

15

Identity, Confidence, Language Proficiency, and the NNESTs

................................ ......

17

Summary

................................ ................................ ................................ ..........................

21

viii

Methodology

................................ ................................ ................................ ................................

23

Research Questions

................................ ................................ ................................ ..........

24

Research Context

................................ ................................ ................................ .............

24

Research Participants

................................ ................................ ................................ .......

25

Research Instruments

................................ ................................ ................................ .......

26

Data Collection

................................ ................................ ................................ ................

35

Data Analysis

................................ ................................ ................................ ...................

38

Limitations

................................ ................................ ................................ .......................

41

Confidentiality

................................ ................................ ................................ .................

41

Validity and Reliability

................................ ................................ ................................ ....

42

Summary

................................ ................................ ................................ ..........................

42

Research Findings

................................ ................................ ................................ ........................

44

The Questionnaire

................................ ................................ ................................ ............

44

First Informal Event

................................ ................................ ................................ .........

70

Second Informal Event

................................ ................................ ................................ ....

72

Emergent Themes from All Interviews ................................ ................................ ............

73

Two NNESTs in Transition

................................ ................................ .............................

85

Summary

................................ ................................ ................................ ..........................

96

Discussion, Limitations, Implications, and Conclusions

................................ .............................

98

Discussion

................................ ................................ ................................ ........................

98

ix

Limitations of the Study ................................ ................................ ................................ .

110

Implications ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................

111

Recommendations for NNESTs

................................ ................................ .....................

113

Summary

................................ ................................ ................................ ........................

116

References

................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..

117

APPENDIX A: INITIAL QUESTIONNAIRE

................................ ................................ ..........

123

APPENDIX B: FOLLOW - UP INTERVIEW PROTOCOL ................................ ......................

131

APPENDIX C: GENERAL QUESTIONS FOR INFORMAL EVENTS

................................ .

132

APPENDIX D: LETTER OF PERMISSION

................................ ................................ ............

134

APPENDIX E: IRB APPROVAL LETTER ................................ ................................ ..............

135

x

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1

Profile of First - y ear Students

................................ ................................ .........................

45

Table 2

Profile of Second - y ear Students

................................ ................................ ......................

46

Table 3

First - year Students: Pe ople in Your Neighborhood in Your Home Country Speak English as a Mother Tongue

................................ ................................ ................................ ........

49

Table 4

First - year Students: People You Work with in Your Home Country Who Speak English as a Mother Tongue

................................ ................................ ................................ ........

49

Table 5

First - year Students: People You Work with in the United States Who Speak English as a Mother Tongue

................................ ................................ ................................ ........

50

Table 6

First - year

Students: Friends in Your Home Country Who Speak English as a Mother Tongue

................................ ................................ ................................ .............................

50

Table 7

First - year Students: Friends in the United States Who Speak English as a Mother Tongue ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..........

50

Table 8

First - year Students: Friends in Your Neighborhood in the United States Who Have the Same Mother Tongue as You

................................ ................................ ................................ .

51

Table 9

Second - year Stud ents: People in Your Neighborhood in Your Home Country Who Speak English as a Mother Tongue

................................ ................................ .............................

52

xi

Table 10

Second - year Students: People You Work with in Your Home Country Who Speak English as a Mo ther Tongue

................................ ................................ ................................ ........

52

Table 11

Second - year Students: People You Work with in the United States Who Speak English as a Mother Tongue

................................ ................................ ................................ ........

53

Ta ble 12

Second - year Students: Your Friends in Your Home Country Who Speak English as a Mother Tongue

................................ ................................ ................................ .....................

53

Table 13

Second - year Students: Your Friends in the United States Who Speak English as a Mo ther Tongue

................................ ................................ ................................ .............................

54

Table 14

Second - year Students: Friends in Your Neighborhood in the United States Who Have the Same Mother Tongue as You

................................ ................................ ........................

54

Table 15

First - year Students: Number of Hours Per Week You Speak English in Your Home Country

................................ ................................ ................................ ..............................

55

Table 16

First - year Students: Number of Hours Per Week You Speak English in the United S tates

................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ............

55

Table 17

Second - year Students: Number of Hours per Week You Speak English in Your Home Country

................................ ................................ ................................ ..............................

56

Table 18

Second - year St udents: Number of Hours per Week You Speak English in the United States

................................ ................................ ................................ ................................

57

Table 19

First - year Students: The Difficulty of Speaking English in the United States

..............

58

Table 20

Second - year Students: The Difficulty of Speaking English in the United States

..........

59

1

CHAPTER 1

I ntroduction

With globalization, the population of E nglish speakers is increasing, a nd t he number of nonnative English speakers now exceeds the number of native English speakers ( Braine, 1999 ; Liu, 1999 ). Thus, the need for English teachers is increasing, too, and it is increasing among both types of English teachers, native English speak ing teachers (NESTs) and nonnative English speaking teachers (NNESTs). In the contexts that English is not spoken as the mother tongue, NNESTs are the major group to teach English. Therefore, many of them experience the process of being English learners an d then English teachers in their non - English speaking home countries. However, as the world becomes a global village, there are increasing numbers of NNESTs studying in E nglish - speaking countries. When

NNESTs study and live in the social context other than

their own, the way they identify themselves in personal and professional phases becomes a n interesting topic to explore as it is of such importance, i dentity has been a dominant issue in the recent trend of the ELT profession. Each individual spends his

o r her life searching for self - identity. According to Norto n (2000), identity is not fixed but i dentity will change across time and place. Also, Case (2004) concluded that with the acquisition of higher competence in a second language, the speakers are conn ected to more social networks. In this way, their new social identities will emerge with the impact

of new social networks . Each subject will identify his or her identity in different positions a ccording to various social role s and

2

contexts. For example, a n indi vidual will identify as a parent at home, and as an English teacher at school. While an individual places the self in different positions, he or she will reposition the self in various contexts in order to meet responsibilities of particular position s. During the interchangeable process of positioning and repositioning, whether one identity impacts on the perceptions of another identity becomes a n interesting issue to explore.

In the world of English learning and teaching, NNESTs place the self in two

positions; one is language learner and another is language teacher. During the process of language learning, each NNEST identifies the self as a language learner. When a NNEST starts to teach English as an occupation , he or she will reposition the self as

a language teacher. Another important role he or she might recognize is the status of nonnative speakers. Some researchers have indicated that w hen there exist s

native and nonnative English speakers, the process of social comparison is unavoidable.

The pr ocess of social comparison involves awareness of the relative status of the social identities of both the in - group and the out - group; individuals are seen to attempt to maximize a sense of their positive psychological distinctiveness by establishing terms for the comparison that will favour in - group member ship . (McNamara, 1997, p. 563)

According to the above statement, the same idea can be applied to the ELT profession. Via the process of social comparison, NNESTs attempt to figure out a

sense of the self a nd to do social comparison s

with the native English speaking group. In this way, the process of positioning, repositioning, and social comparison is considered significant in NNESTs‟ identity construction and reconstruction. The se components were

examined in the present study.

In the process of constructing identity, an individual‟s social context plays significant roles, too. Kim (2003) contends that the perceptions of an individual‟s identity are not under

3

control; instead, the context has fundamental inf luences in the construction of the identity. A context includes both conscious and unconscious variables. Conscious variables refer to race, culture, language, economics, and politics; unconscious variables indicate social and cultural behavior in addition

to norms. Immersing the self in different contexts will produce different levels of influence on an individual‟s identity development. Whether NNESTs identify the self similarly or differently in the context they belong to and other than their own is

the major focus in this study.

In 2001, Norton and Toohey examined the changing perspectives on the notion of good language learners; they have argued that the connection between communities and language learners‟ practices should be carefully studied in order

to examine the facilitation and constraining of learner‟s access to the target linguistic resources in the particular com munity . Their work

has again confirmed the interrelationship between individuals and social contexts. In order to examine the identity

of an individual, social context is a significant variable that should be taken serious ly. In the current global community , more and more NNESTs decide to pursue higher educatio n in English - speaking countries such as

the Un ited States. With many years of constructing self - identity in home countries, NNESTs begin to live in different contexts and face different challenges in personal life. Challenges include culture shock, context, and language. NNESTs will begin to encounter new challenges in the culture o ther than their own, and t hose challenges might impact the NNESTs‟ life in the English - speaking context. Therefore, NNESTs might need to spend time to reposition the self in order to fit the self to the new context. During the process of repositioning the self, there might or might not be changes impacting on the NNESTs‟ identity reorganization. Whether there is an impact on NNESTs‟ identity construction

4

while living in an English - speaking community is the significant question to be explored in the present study.

Norton (1997) defined the term “investment” to indicate “the socially and historically constructed relationship of learners to the target language and their sometimes ambivalent desire to learn and practice it” (p. 411). The same concept can be appl ied to the nonnative speaking group. Each NNEST presents unique motivations to develop personal relationship s

in a social context. With different levels of developed relationships, each NNEST‟s identity is unique. Norton‟s (1995) case studies also showed t hat language learners‟ motivation can be understood by understanding their investments in the target language; therefore, she determined that learners‟ investment is “closely connected to the ongoing production of a language learner‟s social identity” (p. 20). The same concept is applied to the present subject, NNESTs. A strong connection between language teachers‟ investments in English and in professionalism and their ongoing identity production is predicted. Therefore, the variables of NNESTs‟ motivation s and investments were examined in the present study as well.

Researcher’s Profile

The researcher

was born in Taiwan, grew up in the context of English as a foreign language, and started to learn English in second grade at age 8. She received a bachelor‟s degree in English in Taiwan, and Master‟s Degree in Linguistics/TES L in the United States. She had

two one - semester practical English teaching experiences in elementary schools in Northern Taiwan and one four - month English teaching experience in an element ary school in Southern Taiwan. Without a longer tea ching experience, she

did not perceive herself as a full - time English language teacher.

5

In her English teaching experience in Taiwan, the researcher had chances to meet several full - time English teachers i n public schools. All of the English teachers she met had many years of English teaching experience. The English teachers perceived themselves as ELT professionals in Taiwan‟s EFL context; however, most of them were only equipped with basic English knowled ge and skills for teaching elementary students. They did not have confidence in having a real conversatio n w ith native English speakers. The researcher

has heard many of them saying that they are so afraid of talking to native English speakers, especiall y in English - speaking settings.

While studying in the United States, the researcher had a classmate, who also came fro m an East Asian country with 10

years of experience teaching English. The classmate mentioned that she was very confident about her English teaching and proficiency before coming to the United States to pursue her Masters‟ degree. However, she felt that she lost all her confidence after she arrived and faced most native English speakers. She began to feel inferior in the ELT profession. She di d not want to tell people that she had many years of English t eaching in her native country.

The above experiences imply that NNESTs‟ low confidence in personal English communication might lead them to have low confidence in professional development. Furth ermore, NNESTs‟ low confidence might lead them to have inferior perceptions toward their ELT roles and status. NNESTs perceive their own non - native English members as an inferior group. Braine (1999), Kramsch (2003), Norton (2000), and Kachru

and Nelson (2 006) suggest that NNESTs should not be considered and treated as an inferior group; instead, their multilingual and multicultural experiences should be emphasized and developed. In recent years, the population of NNESTs coming to English speaking countries

to pursue higher education has

6

been increasing. Being a NNEST, the researcher intends to listen to NNESTs ‟ voices and investigate how the NNESTs construct, reconstruct and transform their professional identities in an English - speaking context. In this way , the research hopes to help all NNESTs enhance their identification in the ELT profession in addition to assist ing

all NESTs and teacher educators in understanding the way NNESTs perceive the self as ELT professionals.

Statement of the Problem

Identity is

regarded as an individual‟s perceptions of the self in relation to diverse relationships with the surrounding subjects and contexts.

The construction and transformation of an identity is not a fixed process; instead, an identity changes constantly across time and space (Norton, 2000). Any relevant variables, such as social or educational experiences, learning contexts, native languages and cultures, and the investment that NNESTs make in personal ongoing identity development

might produce a different impac t on the construction and transformation of each individual‟s professional identity.

With the emergence of globalization, many NNESTs now decide to study in English - speaking countries, including the United States. Whether immersion in an English - speaking c ommunity brings a dramatic impact to an NNEST‟s identity toward his or her ELT professionalism stimulates the researcher‟s interest in conducting this study. Accordingl y, the present study explore s

those influential variables contributing to NNEST s‟ profes sional identity and examine s

whether those variables contribute to NNESTs‟ self - perceptions toward their professional roles.

Significance of the Study

The researcher of the present study is a member of the nonnative group, and has encountered difficulty an d confusion with self - identity while pursuing a m aster‟s and doctoral

7

degree. The researcher has sought

to listen to more voices from the inner group members and to assist more NNESTs in understanding the self in all aspects, including personal, academic, and professional achievements. With a better understanding of the self, NNESTs can enhance self - awareness in the ELT profession.

With the utilization of qualitative focus - group interviews, a

collaborative environment was created for NNESTs to share challen ges and solutions, to instill an awareness of NNESTs toward their professional identity, and to encourage NNESTs to refle ct on their professional identity. T he ultimate goal of the study was

to assist more NNESTs in realizing and enhancing their profession al significance in the ELT profession through a better understanding of their identit y construction and transformation .

Research Questions

In this study, the researcher focus ed

on NNESTs who pursue higher education in t he United States. She explore d

qualit atively the way NNESTs construct their self - perceptions of ELT professionalism based on prior social and educational experiences in their countries, how they reconstruct professional identity depending on current social and educational experiences in an En glish - speaking country, and how they can contribute their newly - constructed sense of professionalism in future ELT practices. Thre e major research questions were

investigated in this study :

1.

How do NNESTs perceive the self as ELT professionals in their hom e country?

2.

How do NNESTs perceive the self as ELT professionals in the United States?

3.

How do NNESTs self - report the impact of current experiences in the United States on their transformation of professional ELT identity?

8

Limitations of the Study

The rese archer came

fro m an East Asian country, Taiwan ,

and was raised in East Asian culture for 20

years. She is a member of the NNEST group, and has chosen only to investigate the self - perceptions

among this group. Voices of NESTs were excluded

in the study.

Nex t, since the target subjects came from East Asian countries, the study was

limited to the nationalities of non - native English speaking teachers. S ince the ELT profession contains

multiple nationalities, th e participants‟ populations are

too small to inform

generalization of findings to the entir e global ELT populations. It may

be more effective to observe NNESTs‟ identity formation and transformation by grouping nationalities depending on geographical re gions. Last, data analysis was also

limited according to participants‟ ages, personalities and English teaching experiences. With different ages, personalities and English teaching experiences, each individual NNEST might develop or transform his or her

perceptions of the self diverse l y so the research findin gs would

not be appropriate to apply to the entir e population. In future studies , it might

be useful to learn

the extent of influences in identity transformation by separating NNEST into groups based on ranges of ages, types of personalities, and years of English teaching experiences.

Definition of Terms

Nonnative English speaking teacher (NNEST) is a term to describe

an English teacher who grew up

with the nonnative English status and serves in the position of English teaching. In general, most NNESTs teac h English in their home coun tries, especially EFL settings.

Native English speaking teacher (NEST) is a term to indicate an English teacher whose first language is English and serves as an English teacher. Those NESTs teach English in their home countries to English - speaking students, ESL students, or EFL students. Otherwise, many of NESTs choose to teach English in worldwide ESL and EFL contexts.

9

Matsuda (2003) provided his own experiences and perspectives of being a nonnative English speaker to give speci fic insights in the use of native

and nonnative . His perspectives supported the usage of the terms, native and nonnative in t he present study. Matsuda

said that nonnative is not actually the term that should be questioned; instead, he pointed out that “the

assumption that native is somehow more positive than nonnative needs to be challenged” (p. 15). Matsuda‟s viewpoints are taken by the researcher; the dichotomy between native and nonnative is not the biggest problem in debating the issues of native and no nnative. However, the positive and negative assumption toward native and nonnative will be more significant elements than the issues of native and nonnative. Therefore, in this study, the researcher use d

the terms, native

and nonnative

speakers.

Summary

Id entity, NNESTs, and social contexts have been proposed as key words in this chapter and in the pres ent study. The research study was

conducted to examine NNESTs‟ perceptions of their experience in their home countries and in the United States and to resear ch NNESTs‟ awareness about the impact of their experience in the English - speaking community on their ELT identity. Through th e study, the researcher intended

to assist more NNESTs to enhance their personal awareness in the ELT professional and to help them

build up professional credibility.

10

CHAPTER 2

Literature Review

Generally, when people talk about the native status of a language speaker, they usually define the term based on the language the speaker has spoken since childhood. In recent decades, d ebates about the native speaker (NS) and nonnative speaker (NNS) have been present in the ELT profession. The criteria to define who is a native speaker or a nonnative speaker have been questioned by some scholars. Independent of the native/non - native issu e , language is considered a tool for human beings to communicate with others. Language not only consists of written languages, but also symbolic verbal and body language in addition to emotions. When human beings express personal points of view via verbal and written communication, culture and identity are two components embedded in language. The way language is

used varies when speakers grow up in different speech communities because their perspectives and perceptions are developed based on various cultura l, social values ,

and norms. Speech communities refer to contexts in which human beings develop individual culture, identity, and language; in addition, accepted and rejected norms vary among speech communities. Based on sociocultural perspectives, languag e, culture, identity, and speech community are interrelated components, since each individual develops his or her personal meaning - making process differently according to the cultural and socia l values in which he or she believes .

11

This review explore s

how Chomsky‟s (1965) Generative Grammar and the ideas of world Englishes

have

impact ed

the native speaker - nonnative speaker (NS - NNS) dichotomy and present the more recent studies that discuss nonnative English - speaking teacher (NNEST) perceptions toward native

speaker norms. Studies on the issues of language, culture, identity, and speech community are discussed in order to provide an explicit explanation of the interrelated relationship among those variables. Last, studies related to NNEST ' s confidence and sel f - awareness of language proficiency in addition to credibility and investment in the ELT profession are

presented to explain the ir significance to the present study.

Generative Grammar, World Englishes, and the NS - NNS Dichotomy

An idea that traces its orig ins back to Chomsky‟s (1965) The ory of Generative Grammar is that each individual is born with membership in a particular language in a monolingual context. Chomsky asserts that a language grammar is supported by “a description of the ideal speaker - hearer‟ s intrinsic competence” (p. 4). However, Davies (2003) questioned Chomsky‟s idea of the idealized native speaker, pointing out that “it takes no account of situation, purpose, domain or variety” (p. 21). The concept of Generative Grammar was developed with out considering social components. The emphasis on

an ideal speaker - listener

Full document contains 149 pages
Abstract: Building on Kachru's (2005) diagram of World Englishes and Norton's (2000) theoretical conception of identity, the researcher acknowledges that each Non-Native English Speaking Teacher (NNEST) comes to the English-speaking community with a different variety of Englishes. Each believes in various cultural values and norms, and his or her identity is an ongoing process that can be impacted when he or she is immersed in different contexts. Using a qualitative approach, this study examined the way NNESTs construct their self-perceptions of English Language Teaching (ELT) professionalism based on social and educational experiences in their countries. In addition, the study examined how they reconstruct professional identity depending on current social and educational experiences in an English-speaking country, and how they contribute this newly-constructed sense of professionalism in future ELT practices. Findings revealed participants possessed less awareness of the importance of professional identity in their home countries, but the education offered through Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) programs in the United States played an essential role in raising this awareness. However, the participants' identity was impacted by feelings of inferiority. Most participants never thought that they were as competent as Native English Speaking Teacher's (NESTs) in terms of English teaching. Various contributing components, such as self-confidence, expectation, perception, investment, language ideology, and language proficiency played essential roles in the development of each NNEST's self-image. Having a TESOL program that provides practicums and social programs that connect NNESTs with NEST's and other people in the society where they are studying could impact the dissonance between expectation and reality of an NNEST's educational experience. However, each NNEST retains his or her own right to develop a positive or negative self-image by nurturing an active and open-minded attitude.