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.