The Professional Identities of ESL Trained Classroom Teachers

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University of Alabama Libraries

This research study emerged from a desire to understand how classroom teachers construct their professional identity after earning a Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) graduate degree. There has been research about professional identity development among beginning TESOL teachers who only teach English Learners (ELs) and about classroom teachers’ attitudes on teaching ELs. However, little research has been done on how classroom teachers who have extensive training on how to teach ELs after completing a graduate degree in TESOL construct their professional identities to incorporate teaching ELs. The purpose of the study was to understand how classroom teachers with graduate TESOL degrees develop professional identities in practice and discourse. This qualitative study investigated the identity construction of five classroom teachers who have a TESOL graduate degree and teach ELs in their classes. The five participants were interviewed three times. The participants reflected on how their professional identities were influenced by developing new teaching methods. They constructed their identities in discourse and practice, and their identities often shifted within different contexts, such as the classroom, school, and community. The participants also positioned themselves in relation to ELs, other teachers, and their communities. The findings of this study indicate that teachers can construct their professional identities to include relationships with new groups of students and new methods of teaching. The participants’ empathy and self-awareness were the foundation of their interactions with ELs. The participants developed caring relationships with ELs, which enabled the participants to become advocates for their ELs’ academic, linguistic, and social needs in their schools and communities.

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ESL, teacher identity, TESOL