Traditional foreign language remains a conservative and underdeveloped subject.
Change-promoting efforts like ACTFL’s National Standards have had a limited impact
on teachers’ pedagogies (Glisan, 2012), and program-exiting student proficiency levels
remain relatively low (CASLS, 2010). Given the reciprocal shaping relationship between
identities and classroom practices (Kanno & Stuart, 2011), documenting the ways in
which budding teachers construct their identities may help in supporting the
implementation of much needed educational innovations.
Using symbolic interactionism (Reynolds & Herman-Kinney, 2003) and teacher
socialization (Zeichner & Gore, 1990) as complimentary theoretical lenses, the present
study adds to the paltry amount we know about foreign language teachers’ identity
development. It employs ethnographic methods associated with qualitative case study to
deeply explore the identity construction processes of a student teacher seeking Spanish
licensure in a preparation program that emphasizes content-based instruction (CBI). Data
sources include interviews, classroom observations, digital journal reflections,
documents, and post-observation conference recordings.
Findings show that the participant negotiated her identity at the interface of
competing messages from significant others (e.g., students, university supervisors,
mentor teachers) in her preparation program and student teaching placements and that she
demonstrated agency in appropriating or rejecting these messages. She grappled with two
principal “designated” (Sfard & Prusak, 2005) identities encoded in these messages: (a)
provider of target language input and (b) enactor of a particular approach to foreign language teaching. It also surfaced that she left the program with a weaker Spanish
teacher role identity than when she started, which may be attributed to concerns she had
with her Spanish proficiency, a strained connection with her secondary-level students,
and the lack of opportunities for validating her Spanish teacher role identity—i.e., for
inhabiting the role in a comfortable fashion that reinforced a positive sense of self.
Important discussion topics for foreign language teacher educators stem from
these findings concerning student teaching placement timing, mentor choice, and
opportunities for developing language skills. Above all, they call us to ponder the
following question: How can we as teacher educators support student teachers in
constructing the identities they want to have for themselves as new foreign language
teachers, all while encouraging them to acquire identity positions that improve the state
of foreign language teaching?
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2013. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Dr.Diane J. Tedick. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 216 pages, appendices A-C.
Martel, Jason Peter.
Learning to teach a foreign language: a student teacher's role identity negotiation.
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