'At Least I'm the Type of Teacher I Want to Be': Second-Career English Language Teachers' Identity Formation in Hong Kong Secondary Schools

Aug. 20, 2009

Source: Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 37, Issue 3,
August 2009 , pages 253 - 270.

A teacher shortage in Hong Kong in core subjects, such as English, has led to interest in the recruitment and retention of second-career teachers. Drawing upon Wenger's (1998) theory of identity formation and using data from interviews with eight second-career English language teachers in Hong Kong, this article examines how second-career teachers may be better supported in their professional development.

The study found that second-career teachers' skills and experiences were not valued within their schools. It also found that this was reflected in a rigid division the participants drew between the institutionally endorsed identity positions made available to them and the type of teachers they wanted to be.

In response to this antagonism, second-career teachers used their position of
non-participation to establish identity territories that connected aspects of their first-career identities, such as engineers and managers, to their emerging teacher identities.
It is suggested that non-participation, a potentially negative experience in Wenger's (1998) framework, was deployed by this group of teachers to create the space they needed to enact their own preferred teacher identities. Implications for attracting and retaining second-career teachers are discussed.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Updated: Oct. 19, 2009