Reader Response Journal

Toward Identity-Oriented Teacher Education: Critical Autoethnographic Narrative by Bedrettin Yazan

In this article, Yazan outlines an approach to integrating critical autoethnographic narrative writing into teacher education programs. Situated against a backdrop of increased awareness of teacher education as a process of identity formation, he argues that critical autoethnographic narrative (CAN), is a tool that can help teacher candidates develop their identities and document their journey throughout the program. He proposes CAN as a living document, that teacher candidates work on over the course of their entire program, using a critical perspective to situated their experiences in the social context, and allowing them a chance to integrate their past experiences with their current learning through storying and re-storying. This narrative process solidifies the link between theory and practice and helps teacher candidates talk their way into understanding the meaningfulness of their experiences. Autoethnography, “stories of/about the self told through the lens of culture” (Adams, Holman Jones, & Ellis, 2015, p. 2), is emerging as a valid genre of research in TESOL, and Yazan mentions one doctoral dissertation, two masters theses and three published articles in the field that use the method. Next, he outlines his vision for how CAN would be integrated into a teacher education program, with teacher candidates completing their first reflection prior to entering the program and revising their narrative continuously throughout the entire length of the program. He sees CAN as being shared on an online platform, allowing multiple people to comment on the work in progress, while also being a graded assignment in every course of the entire program. He suggests that there could also be a one credit class for students to discuss their writing experiences each semester. He sees it as being a central organizing feature of the entire program. He notes that teacher candidates will have to be guided towards the critical component and provides a list of questions that can help them unpack master narratives that uphold dominant ideologies. He also points out that teachers are valid knowledge producers in TESOL, but are underrepresented at conferences and in publications, and that CAN provides a possible path to including teachers’ voices within our field. He lists possible challenges with implementing this proposal, from programatic concerns, such as prioritizing the time and getting the whole faculty on board, to teacher candidate’s own attitudes, level of criticality, and comfort sharing their experiences and feelings. However, he thinks this approach can be adjusted or borrowed from to fit different contexts and hopes this idea contributes to the thinking on how TESOL teacher education can more explicitly include issues of teacher identity.

I read this article because I’m working on an autoethnography for a course I’m in and wanted to consider how autoethnographies are positioned within TESOL. His overview of the autoethnographies others have published in our field was quite useful, and I will probably read some of those as well. I definitely see the value in having teacher candidates reflect critically on their experiences and contexts, and I can see autoethnography as a slightly more formal tool that allows pre-service teachers to do that in a systematic, condoned way. I’m also intrigued by the possibility of integrating it program-wide, especially given that there is such a range to types of TESOL teacher preparation programs out there. I can see something like this being integrated relatively easily into a teacher education program that uses a tight cohort model, like the one I graduated from at SIT, because the teachers were very collaborative and cognizant of the connections between courses. In a program where teacher candidates have more leeway and freedom in their choice of courses, I can see there being more challenges integrating a proposal like this. It’s opened my mind up, though, because it’s outside the standard practices in a way I hadn’t considered before. What would it look like if entire programs did foster critical identity development in this way? It’s a pretty exciting idea, once I get over my initial logistical objections (which he acknowledges in the piece). How could these ideas be implemented, even if not exactly in this form? There’s a lot of food for thought here.

Adams, T. E., Holman Jones, S., & Ellis, C. (2015). Autoethnography: Understanding qualitative research. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Yazan, B. (2019). Toward identity‐oriented teacher education: Critical autoethnographic narrative. TESOL Journal, 10(1), 1-15.

Reader Response Journal

Unpacking the Native Speaker Knapsack: An Autoethnographic Account of Privilege in TESOL by Steve Iams

In this article, Iams begins by laying a foundation for auto ethnography as a valid form of inquiry within TESOL and situates himself in a position of privilege within the field. In the past, the majority of autoethnographic work has been done from the perspective of those with less privilege, so he is filling a gap by providing a personal account of a white, male native speaker. He begins his personal story by recounting how he got his first job in Japan, based on his native speaker status alone. He juxtaposes this with Philipson’s fallacies (monolingual, native speaker, early start, maximum exposure and subtractive fallacies) (1992, 185), but notes that none of this was part of his awareness at the time. He was also not considering himself as embarking on a career in TESOL. Next, he joined the Peace Corps, and was suddenly declared a teacher trainer. While the experience was personally fulfilling, he questioned the “unintended consequences of damaging the quality of English instruction and jeopardizing the professional identity of local non-native English-speaking teachers” (Wang & Lin, 2013, p. 5). He asked himself how does one become a TESOL professional and wound up enrolling at SIT. While there, his language and power project on NNEST issues, which he did with an older Korean woman, opened his eyes to some of these issues. For his project, they did a simulation where participants looked through job ads as if they were native or non-native speakers. In autoethnographic terms, this represented an epiphany for him. Searching for a job after graduation, he wound up training teachers in Korea, a situation where he was positioned as an “ideal language teacher” according to a study of Japanese students’ perspectives. The issues raised by his language and power project became more real when a qualified Korean colleague was not able to fill a real and immediate void in his institution, simply because he was not a native speaker. Despite the volume of research and advocacy devoted to disrupting the native/non-native dichotomy, the linguistic imperialism that Philipson wrote about is still present within the English teaching world. He ends without answering any questions, but expressing his discomfort with some of these tensions.

For me this article was really interesting, in part because I know Steve and I really respect the ways he uses his privilege to be an ally to others. It was also interesting to see how closely our careers paralleled each other, with one year of teaching in East Asia, four years of Peace Corps and then SIT, where the language and power project was a pivotal moment for me as well. Hearing the personal progression of his thinking is important, because issues of equity won’t change without the investment of people in privileged positions working alongside those who are being undervalued by the field. It makes me think of the Sister Scholars and their article Women Faculty of Color in TESOL: Theorizing Our Lived Experiences, where they presented personalized accounts of their positions within the academy. It’s noteworthy, because it’s 6 women of color alongside one white woman. The position of us white native speakers is also informed by race and native speaker status, so including our voices denormalizes white native experience as the assumed norm. From a critical perspective, disrupting the hegemony of privileged teachers is super important in creating a more just profession.

Iams, S. (2017). Unpacking the native speaker knapsack: An autoethnographic account of privilege in TESOL. Korea TESOL Journal, 12(2), 3-22.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Wang, L. Y., & Lin, T. B. (2013). The representation of professionalism in native English-speaking teachers recruitment policies: A comparative study of Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 12(3), 5–22.