“It Just Made Me Look At Language in a Different Way:” ESOL Teacher Candidates’ Identity Negotiation through Teacher Education Coursework

May. 10, 2017

Source: Linguistics and Education, Volume 40 (2017), p. 38–49
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article reports on a case study that examined the teacher identity construction of preservice ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) teachers in a 13-month MATESOL program.

The participants were three preservice ESOL teachers – Zoe, Leslie, and Elizabeth– during their initial teacher preparation in a 13-month intensive MATESOL program (IMP) with K-12 certification. The IMP program was located at a research-intensive university in a bustling metropolitan area in the mid-Atlantic United States. In this program, preservice teachers complete 42 h of teacher education coursework and two semester-long internship placements: one in an elementary setting, and one in a secondary setting.
The participants were all White females in their twenties, the typical population of K-12 ESOL teacher candidates (TCs) in the US. They also had various teaching and language learning experiences before entering the IMP.
The author collected data through semi-structured inter-views, classroom observations, and document analysis.



The findings point out that the TCs negotiated their teacher identities throughout their teacher learning experiences in teacher education courses.
1) The three TCs engaged in self-positioning while developing their conceptualization of pedagogical practices for English Language learners (ELLs) and imagining their future classroom practices and relationships with students, colleagues, and parents.

2) They were also members of a supportive group of TCs in the IMP. TCs’ interactions within this community opened up dialogic spaces for the TCs to negotiate who they are (becoming) as fledgling ESOL teachers, and that space became essential to their teacher learning. Overall, this study supports that TCs’ interactions in teacher education classes include dynamic, subjective, and fluid ways of positioning and teacher learning in those classes involves negotiation of various assigned and claimed positional identities through participation in social practices. Preservice teacher education represents a process through which TCs are expected to imagine and transform themselves as teachers. This transformation occurs as TCs position themselves in relation to students, colleagues, parents, and institutions, and as they are concurrently assigned positions through interactions with others and interactions with new discourses.

3) The professors and other TCs capitalized on their simultaneous school experience as a valuable resource in the teacher-learning community.
In their winding journey of becoming teachers, TCs negotiate their teacher learning experiences. At the same time, they negotiate the roles, responsibilities, and positions as teachers-in-the-making and teacher education classes are important venues for this negotiation. As TCs develop their teacher knowledge and skills, they also construct their instructional priorities and values aligned with the kind of teacher they envision becoming.

Implications for teacher education

The study findings provide implications for language teacher education practices.
First, this study suggests that TCs’ teacher learning and identity formation, as two inseparable processes, reciprocally influence one another.
Second, professional interaction in a learning community of TCs presents a meaningful space to reconsider instructional beliefs and take on different subject positions. L2 teacher educators should promote the construction of a teacher learning community and rich professional interaction.
Finally, teacher education practices should include ample opportunities for TCs’ reflection on their current and aspired L2 teacher identities.


This study yielded significant insights into the three ESOL TCs’ learning to teach ELLs and identity negotiation during their teacher education courses. Throughout their teacher learning experiences in the activities (e.g., online and face-to-face class discussions, assignments) offered in the IMP courses, they negotiated and enacted their emerging identities as ESOL teachers.
Additionally, their professional interaction with other TCs through formal or informal conversations presented them with a dialogic space in which they framed and tried on their subject positions as ESOL teachers.
Lastly, their simultaneous internship along with coursework was highlighted and acknowledged by their professors and peers, and the three TCs of IMP were positioned as experts of public school system.

Updated: Jul. 12, 2017