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EFL teacher professional identity construction the case of a non native novice teacher

VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST - GRADUATE STUDIES

**********************

NGUYỄN PHƯỚC ÁI PHƯƠNG

EFL TEACHER PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION:
THE CASE OF A NON-NATIVE NOVICE TEACHER
(Sự hình thành bản ngã nghề nghiệp của giáo viên Tiếng Anh: trường hợp của
giáo viên mới vào nghề)

M.A. Minor Programme Thesis

Major: English Language Teaching
Code: 60140111

HANOI - 2015



VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POST - GRADUATE STUDIES

**********************

NGUYỄN PHƯỚC ÁI PHƯƠNG

EFL TEACHER PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION:
THE CASE OF A NON-NATIVE NOVICE TEACHER
(Sự hình thành bản ngã nghề nghiệp của giáo viên Tiếng Anh: trường hợp của
giáo viên mới vào nghề)

M.A. Minor Programme Thesis

Major: English Language Teaching
Code: 60140111
Supervisor: Dr. Vũ Thị Thanh Nhã

HANOI - 2015


CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY

I, the undersigned, hereby certify my authority of the study project report entitled
EFL TEACHER PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY CONSTRUCTION: THE CASE
OF A NON-NATIVE NOVICE TEACHER submitted in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of Master in English Language Teaching. Except where
the reference is indicated, no other person‟s work has been used without due
acknowledgement in the text of the thesis.

Hanoi, 2015
Nguyen Phuoc Ai Phuong

Approved by
SUPERVISOR
(Signature and full name)

Date:


i


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This thesis would not have been completed if I did not have the support of many
individuals. Therefore I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all of them.
First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Vu Thi
Thanh Nha, my supervisor, who has patiently and constantly supported me through
the stages of the study, and whose stimulating ideas, expertise, and suggestions have
inspired me greatly through my growth as an academic researcher.
A special word of thanks goes to the teacher pseudo named Mai without whose
participation it would never have been possible for me to have this thesis
accomplished.
Last but not least, I am greatly indebted to my family and friends for the sacrifice
they have devoted to the fulfillment of this academic work. Their love will always
be my sunshine in my road to success.

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ABSTRACT

This present study seeks to explore the construction of professional identity of a
novice EFL teacher in Vietnam, identify the factors that have influence on this
process and how these factors interact with each other in constructing and
complicating the teacher‟s professional identity. The instruments for data collection
to serve the aim of the research are narrative inquiry and semi – structured
interview. After a careful long time of collecting and analyzing data, it is revealed
in the study that the teachers‟ professional identity construction is highly complex
and affected by a number of factors, including personal, contextual and sociocultural factors. These factors have interaction and close connection to each other
that it is completely hard to isolate them. The findings of the research are expected
to be significant in providing valuable insights into EFL teachers‟ process of
identity formation and reconstruction with reference to a particular working
environment.

iii


LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

EFL

English as a Foreign Language

E

Entry

I

Interview

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1

Categories of Professional Interests

Table 2

Data Analyzing Examples

iv


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY ...................................................................................... i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ...................................................................................................ii
ABSTRACT..........................................................................................................................iii
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ............................................................................................... iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS....................................................................................................... v
PART A: INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................. 1
I.

The context of the research ......................................................................................... 1

PART B: DEVELOPMENT .................................................................................................. 5
CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW ............................................................................... 5
1.1.

The concept of identity............................................................................................ 5

1.2.

The contents and processes of identity.................................................................... 7

1.2.1.

Identity as a socio-cultural construct ............................................................... 7

1.2.2.

Identity and communities of practice............................................................... 8

1.3.

Teacher professional identity and the benefits of researching teacher identity ...... 8

1.4.

Professional identity construction of novice teachers ............................................. 9

1.5.

Self-interests .......................................................................................................... 11

1.6.

Material interests ................................................................................................... 12

1.7.

Social-professional interests.................................................................................. 12

1.8.

Chapter summary .................................................................................................. 12

CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY ....................................................................................... 13
2.1.

The research genre: Case Study ............................................................................ 13

2.2.

Method of inquiry ................................................................................................. 14

2.3.

Research setting .................................................................................................... 15

2.4.

Participants ............................................................................................................ 15

2.5.

The role of the researcher ...................................................................................... 16

2.6.

Data collection methods and procedure ................................................................ 16

2.6.1.

Journals .......................................................................................................... 16

2.6.2.

Semi-structured interviews ............................................................................ 17

2.7.

Data analysis procedure ........................................................................................ 17

2.8.

Chapter Summary.................................................................................................. 20

CHAPTER 3: FINDINGS ................................................................................................... 21
3.1.

Self-interests .......................................................................................................... 21

3.1.1.

Mai‟s task perception ..................................................................................... 21
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3.1.2. Attempts to establish desirable work conditions congruent with task
perception..................................................................................................................... 22
3.1.3.

Social Recognition ......................................................................................... 24

3.1.4.

Coping with vulnerability .............................................................................. 26

3.1.5.

Coping with visibility .................................................................................... 30

3.2.

Material interests ................................................................................................... 33

3.2.1.

Access to school facilities .............................................................................. 33

3.2.2.

Searching for instructional materials ............................................................. 35

3.2.3.

Time demand ................................................................................................. 35

3.3.

Social-professional relationships .......................................................................... 37

3.3.1.

Social professional relationships with mentors ............................................. 37

3.3.2.

Social professional relationships with colleagues ......................................... 39

3.3.3.

Social relationships with leaders.................................................................... 44

3.4.

Chapter summary .................................................................................................. 45

PART C: DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ................................................................. 46
I.

Summary of the research .......................................................................................... 46

II.

Discussion of the key findings .............................................................................. 46
II.1. Summary of key findings ..................................................................................... 46
II.2. Factors that contribute to identity construction and the interaction between these
factors........................................................................................................................... 47
II.2.1. Personal and contextual factors: Striving for self-affirmation and dealing with
vulnerability and visibility ........................................................................................... 47
II.2.2. Social-cultural factors: Power relationships and communities of practice ....... 49
II.3. Summary for Discussion ...................................................................................... 50

III.

Pedagogical implications ...................................................................................... 50

III.1. For teacher training institution ............................................................................ 51
III.2. For the school...................................................................................................... 51
III.3. For novice teachers ............................................................................................. 51
IV. Limitations and recommendation for further research .......................................... 52
VI.

Concluding message .......................................................................................... 53

REFERENCES .................................................................................................................... 54
APPENDIX A .........................................................................................................................I
APPENDIX B ...................................................................................................................... III
APPENDIX C ......................................................................................................................IV

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PART A: INTRODUCTION
This part starts with the description of the research context, including the
identification of the problem and the landscape of English language education and
English teacher training in Vietnam. Next, I present the research‟s aims, methods,
and significance of the study.
I.

The context of the research

Since the EFL context of the proposed study is Vietnam and given the
contextualized nature of teacher professional identity, it is necessary that a brief
description of the current situation of English language education and English
teacher training in Vietnam be given. Like other Asian countries, Vietnam has
followed the social trend of learning English in recent years as both the government
and the people see the need for Vietnamese to have a good command of English in
order to integrate better into the globalized world. Thus, English is introduced early
in the curriculum by the Ministry of Education and Training. Even though this
increasing popularity of English learning leads to a higher demand and a better
social status for English teachers in the country, several socioeconomic constraints
have been seen to have impacts on the teaching practice of English teachers in
Vietnam. Many public school teachers have to take part time jobs to teach English
at privately owned language centers in order to get higher incomes. Also, it is still a
common belief among parents and students that native English teachers are better
than nonnative teachers; therefore, Vietnamese teachers of English are under
constant pressure from the society to perform well. At the same time, most English
teacher training programs in public universities across the country focus on
providing student teachers with practice in English language skills and knowledge
of teaching methodology, but do not prepare them for coping with the hardship of
the process of becoming an English teacher (Phan, 2008). First year mentoring,
though provided, is considered by both senior and trainee teachers as a bureaucratic
rather than learning and supporting procedure. In most cases, it is all left to new
teachers to try and survive by themselves and to establish their own professional

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identity.
With the increasing popularity of the socio-cultural approach toward language
teaching and learning in the past decade, more transformative and comprehensive
views of EFL teachers in practice have also been recorded (Varghese, Morgan,
Johnson, & Johnston, 2005). Indeed, nowadays, EFL teachers are seen as not only
teaching practitioners operating in their own world, but also social entities that
constantly interact with and are under the influence of various socio-cultural and
sociopolitical elements that characterize their communities of practice (Miller,
2009). Despite its role of adding diversity and uniqueness to teaching and teachers‟
lives, the interplay and negotiation between these socio-cultural influences and
teachers‟ own learning experience, teaching beliefs, and personal practical
knowledge, as Farrell (2009) stated, is one of challenging factors to second
language teachers in the process of establishing themselves professionally.
To novice teachers, this process of forming a professional teacher identity has been
shown to be even more dramatic. Indeed, it has been revealed that during the first
year of teaching, beginning teachers constantly ask themselves many questions of
identity such as “Who am I in my story of teaching? Who am I in my place in
school? Who am I in my children‟s stories? Who am I in my administrator‟s
stories?” (Connelly & Clandinin, 1999, p.3). However, given the conflicts, reality
shocks and anxieties that are highlighted in many studies into new teachers‟
teaching experience as common characteristics of the transition from being a
student to a teacher (Huberman, 1989; Vonk, 1993; Thomas & Beauchamp, 2011),
novice teachers often find it hard to find proper answers to these questions, which
leads to their feeling overwhelmed and challenged (Thomas & Beauchamp, 2011).
In examining the constructed identity of novice EFL teachers, these research
projects emphasized the influence of classroom practices on teachers‟ developing
perception of self, and yet little is revealed about personal and contextual factors
that might as well impact the identity construction process of novice EFL teachers.
There is, therefore, a gap to examine the identity formation of beginning EFL

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teachers in a more comprehensive approach that takes into consideration various
constructing factors that build up the teacher self of novice EFL teachers in a
particular context.
II.

Research aims

Motivated by the abovementioned complexities of the identity development of EFL
teachers in general and novice EFL teachers in particular, and originating from my
own bittersweet experience in establishing my professional self during my first year
working as an EFL teacher, this study aims at exploring various factors that
construct the professional identity of a novice EFL teacher in Vietnam and how
these factors interact with each other in constructing and complicating the teacher‟s
professional identity. Also, given the identified gap in the literature about identity
research with novice EFL teachers and the current situation of English teacher
training and professional development in Vietnam, this study sets out to address the
following questions:
-

How is the novice EFL teacher‟s professional identity constructed?

-

What factors contribute to the construction of novice EFL teachers'

identities?
-

How do these factors interact with each other in their identity construction

process?
Given the research aims, the scope, methods and significance of the study are
clarified in the following section.
III.

Scope of the study

The research is confined to the study of one EFL teacher‟s construction of her
professional identity and factors that affect the process of her professional identity
formation. As a single case study, the research does not intend to generalize its
findings.
IV.

Methods and significance of the study

Given the research problem and based on existing theories and previous research,
this study follows a qualitative approach. Specifically, it adopts case study as the

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main research method. The data were collected by collecting teaching journals and
interviewing the participant who is spending her first year of teaching at a high
school. The aims are to explore the identity construction of this particular teacher,
and identify factors that exert influences on her self-perceptions in a particular
context. The findings of the research are expected to be significant in providing
valuable insights into EFL teachers‟ process of identity formation and
reconstruction with reference to her working environment.
V.

Summary

This part gives a brief introduction to the study by providing the research context
and research focus. I will explain more about the theories and frameworks related to
this study in the next section.

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PART B: DEVELOPMENT
This part is designed for the development of the whole thesis. Specifically, it
includes three chapters named 1 (Literature Review), 2 (Methodology), 3
(Findings). Each chapter serves different purposes which importantly contribute to
the success of the present thesis.
CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW
This chapter starts with detailed explanations of concepts and theories that are
foundational to the present research, including the notion of identity and the
contents and processes of identity politics. The chapter provides a definition of
teacher professional identity, followed by a review of relevant research on the
identity construction process of novice EFL teachers. From this theoretical and
empirical discussion, I highlight the significance of the study and its potential
contribution to current knowledge in the field of teacher identity and professional
development. Finally, a conceptual framework for conducting the research is
presented and discussed.
1.1.

The concept of identity

Identity is a complex concept that, as Schwartz, Luyckx, and Vignoles (2011) state,
takes different definitions across disciplines, such as psychology, sociology,
anthropology, linguistics, political science, education, family studies, and public
health. Despite this complexity, according to these authors, the process of
conceptualizing identity involves, at the core of it, finding answers to the question:
“Who are you?”. This seemingly simple question, in essence, “masks a considerable
amount of complexity” (p. 2). Since „you‟ can be single or plural, identity can refer
to self-definitions of not only individuals but also groups and societies, as well as
how an individual constructs the image of himself/herself in social interactions
(Tajfel & Turner, 1986). One‟s identity, therefore, is composed of both „who you
think you are‟ and „who you act as being‟, or “who others think you are” (Butler,
1990).
Taking the above conceptualization as the point of departure, in the field of social

5


science, I can figure out that the definition of identity comprises three different
levels (Sedikides & Brewer, 2001), namely individual, relational, and collective
identity. Individual identity refers to self-definitions at the level of the individual
person, and often includes goals, values, and beliefs, self-esteem, self-evaluation,
desired, feared, and expected future selves, and even one‟s life stories (MacDonald,
2000; Atkins, Hart, & Donnelly, 2005). As its title suggests, the core concept of
individual identity is the emphasis on the role of an individual in constructing his or
her own identity. Relational identity, on the other hand, refers to one‟s role in
relation to other people in the society, including family, groups, and the society at
large. The focus here is the idea that one‟s identities cannot be independent of the
social and cultural contexts that he or she is situated in (Bamberg, 2004; Chen,
Boucher, & Tapias, 2006). Finally, the notion of collective identity is built around
the social interaction beliefs, and refers to one‟s identifications with the social
groups or categories that he/she belongs to, the beliefs and behaviours that come
with the group membership, as well as the meaning that is associated with the
identification (Ashmore, Deaux, & McLaughlin-Volpe, 2004; Tajfel & Turner,
1986; Taylor, 1997). These aspects, according to Vignoles, Schwartz, and Luyckx
(2011), when assembled together, create the basis for an integrative definition of
identity:
Viewed through the lens of an individual person, identity consists of the
confluence of the person‟s self-chosen or ascribed commitments, personal
characteristics, and beliefs about herself; roles and positions in relation to
significant others; and her membership in social groups and categories. (p.
4)

In other words, the identity of a person is a complicated concept which includes all
the elements related to herself (commitments, characteristics, beliefs, roles and
positions) in relation to other relationships within her social community.
Due to its comprehensive and integrated nature, the present research adopted this
explanation as the operational definition of identity to further explore the content
and processes of identity in the following sections.
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1.2.

The contents and processes of identity

Given the conceptualization of identity as encompassing multiple levels of personal
and social relationships, a further investigation into the politics of identity as
examined by identity researchers in the field of social science showed several
factors that come into play, or as Norton (2006) put it, a number of trajectories to
which the notion of self is constructed.
1.2.1. Identity as a socio-cultural construct
This line of thinking originated from Tajfel and Turner‟s (1986) social identity
theory, which places emphasis on the role of social group membership in
constructing one‟s identity. Social identity theorists‟ main point of reference is the
relationship between the individual and the larger society, mediated through social
institutions such as families, schools, and workplaces. To take a step further from
this viewpoint, Norton (2006) in her comprehensive review of identity theories,
combined the notion of social identity with that of cultural identity (which refers to
self-definitions that are derived from membership of a particular ethnic group who
shares the same language, history, and lifestyles), and argued that social and cultural
identity share more common themes. Identity, therefore, can be seen as
socioculturally constructed.
Along this line, identity, as Norton pointed out, has certain characteristics. First, it is
dynamic and constantly changing across time and space. This means as individuals
go through different stages in their lives and experience changing sociocultural
settings, their identity is also subject to change and transition, and thus is far from
stable. Second, it is complex, contradictory, and multifaceted. Again changes in
sociocultural settings lead to a different notion of self, which might or might not be
compatible with one‟s known self, creating contradictions and conflicts. Third,
identity must be understood in correspondence with larger social processes, typified
by relations of power. Indeed, as identity is socially and culturally constructed, any
attempt to make sense of it must be made in conjunction with the sociocultural
processes in which individuals operate. Finally, as Norton was specifically working

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with second language learners when she conceptualized this notion of identity, her
sociocultural concept also embraces the idea that identity is linked with classroom
practices, where learners should be given the chance to raise their own voice and
express their thinking and beliefs, thereby forming and actualizing their identities.
1.2.2. Identity and communities of practice
From a sociocultural standpoint, group membership significantly contributes toward
one‟s perception of self. To further clarify this, identity researchers have turned
toward Lave and Wenger‟s (1991) notion of communities of practice. According to
these scholars, a community of practice is a group of people who share the same
professional expertise and interest. The core idea is through interaction within the
community, participants share knowledge and experience with each other and thus
develop personally and professionally. Participation in communities of practice,
therefore, has been claimed to have notable impacts on individual development and
one‟s perception of self (Wenger, 1998). To be more specific, Wenger proposes that
an individual‟s identity is not only represented through the way one thinks and talks
about oneself, or what others think and talk about one, but is also lived day to day.
In this sense, membership in a community of practice is a representation of one‟s
day-to-day identity, and thus contributes to the process of identity formation.
1.3.

Teacher professional identity and the benefits of researching teacher

identity
As pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, the concept of identity and its
construction is multidisciplinary and thus has been researched across a wide range
of subject areas. In the field of teaching and teacher education, teacher identity has,
for the most part, also been viewed from a poststructuralist perspective. More
specifically, teacher identity is defined as the way an individual teacher sees
himself/herself in relation to his/her relationships with his/her professional setting
as well as the society at large (Norton, 2005; Morgan, 2004; Varghese, 2006).
Teacher professional identity construction is then considered the process of
“making sense and interpretation of one‟s own values and experiences” (Flores &

8


Day, 2006, p. 220). Added to this, according to Smith (1996), teacher-self develops
as teachers constantly move between the need to connect with other colleagues and
the desire to keep their sense of individuality. In that respect, teacher identity is
“transformational, transformative, context-bound, and constructed, maintained and
negotiated via language and discourse” (Varghese, Morgan, Johnson, & Johnston,
2005, p. 180). Miller (2009), in reviewing a range of definitions of teacher identity,
also pointed out that teacher identity is dynamic, contextualized, and is often a mix
of “context, contradiction, and conflict” (p. 174).
Given its complex nature, teacher professional identity is said to “stand at the core
of the teaching profession”, and “provide a framework for teachers to construct their
own ideas of “how to be”, “how to act”, and how to understand their work and their
place in society” (Sachs, 2005, p.15). As a result, according to Flores and Day
(2006), a realization of professional identity contributes to teachers‟ self-efficacy,
motivation, commitment and job satisfaction.
1.4.

Professional identity construction of novice teachers

Farrell (2009) defined novice teachers as “teachers who have completed their
teacher education program and have just commenced teaching in an institutional
institution” (p. 182). Research has shown that in their process of “learning to teach”,
novice teachers are constantly faced with concerns and challenges (Fuller & Brown,
1975) while trying to develop the conception of teacher-self as well as formulate
their identities (Miller, 2009). The first year of teaching, therefore, is considered
unpredictable, idiosyncratic, and anxiety-provoking (Johnson, 2002).
Due to greater attention directed toward the unpredictability and idiosyncrasy of the
first year of teaching, research on the identity formation of preservice and novice
EFL teachers has in recent years flourished. Liu and Fisher‟s (2006) research on the
conceptions of self of student teachers of modern languages in a postgraduate
program in the UK revealed the role of practice in the formation of teacher self,
whereby student teachers showed improvement in classroom performance, positive
changes in relationships with pupils, changing image in pupils' eyes, and a clearer

9


sense of being a language teacher during practicums. This is also supported by
Kanno and Stuart‟s (2011) findings in their research on beginning ESL teachers,
which asserted that the identity of a language teacher does not come automatically
but through actual teaching practice and constant reflection of one‟s teaching.
Therefore, Cooper and Olson (1996) confirmed that “identity formation is
constantly informed, formed, and reformed through self-evaluation and interaction
with other people”.
In the research of Kelchtermans and Ballet (2002) on teacher induction and teacher
socialization, they focus on various professional interests that are available for the
teacher involved. The categories proved to be a powerful conceptual tool to describe
and understand the different aspects of the teaching reality (Table 1).
Table 1.
Categories of professional interests
______________________________________________________________________________________
Self-interests

Issues of professional identity and its social recognition

______________________________________________________________________________________
Material interests

Availability and access to teaching materials, funds, infrastructure, and

structural time facilities
Organisational interests

Issues concerning roles, positions or formal tasks in the school as an

organisation
Cultural-ideological interests

Normative values and ideals about „„good‟‟ teaching in the school

Social professional interests

Issues on the quality of interpersonal relations within the school

______________________________________________________________________________________

Note. Adapted from: The micropolitics of teacher induction. A narrative-biographical
study on teacher socialization, p.110, by Kelchtermans, G. & Ballet, K., 2002, Teaching
and Teacher Education, 18, 105–120.

In examining the constructed identity of novice teachers, this research project place
an utmost emphasis on the influence of classroom practice on teacher‟s developing
perception of self, as well as the personal, contextual and social factors that might
impact the identity construction process of novice teachers. However, the data that I
collected and analysed do not cover all these categories, so they can be classified by

10


only three professional interests: self-interests, material interests and socialprofessional interests.
1.5.

Self-interests

Kelchtermans and Ballet (2002) indicated that self-interests hold a dominant place
in the novice teacher‟s personal interpretative framework. A novice teacher‟s selfinterests refer to his/her beliefs about him- or her-self as a teacher, which are closely
related to self-esteem and task perception. The beliefs are essential for the teacher to
cope with job situations and to develop professionally. When one‟s self-esteem and
one‟s task perception are threatened, self-interests become critical. In some cases,
the new teacher uses his/her own professional actions to safe-guard his/her
professional integrity. Professional actions are mainly concerned with striving for
self-affirmation, dealing with vulnerability and visibility.
There are two main sources of self-affirmation, efficacy and social recognition
(Kelchtermans and Ballet, 2002; Rots, Kelchtermans, and Aelterman, 2012).
Efficacy refers to the fact that a novice teacher is able to perform his/her
professional actions consistent with his/her task perception and to bring about
achievements with students. Social recognition refers to the acknowledgement of a
novice‟s efficacy by “significant others”. The experience of efficacy and its social
recognition is crucial for the novice‟s positive self-esteem, which, in turn, confirms
the teacher‟s professional self.
Kelchtermans (2009) claimed that vulnerability can be interpreted as a structural
condition which is made up of three elements. Firstly, vulnerability happens when
teachers are unable to fully control their desirable work conditions; secondly,
vulnerable conditions emerge if teachers find it very difficult to prove that students‟
outcomes are the direct results of their teaching efficacy. And finally, vulnerability
takes place whenever the decisions made by the teacher lack a firm ground. The
appearance of vulnerability depends upon whether one of the elements emerges.

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Additionally, visibility refers to others‟ evaluation of the novice teacher based on
what they could see from the novice. To protect one‟s self-image, novice teachers
tend to invest more time and efforts in their professional actions.
1.6.

Material interests

The notion of material interests involves “the availability of and teachers‟ access to
material facilities at the school” (Kelchtermans & Ballet, 2002). Materials include
specific facilities like computer rooms, library, photocopiers, overhead projectors,
etc. Kelchtermans and Ballet (2002) also include time as part of the concept of
material.
1.7.

Social-professional interests

Social-professional interests refer to the interpersonal relationships in the school as
an organization (Kelchtermans & Ballet, 2002). As Rots et al. (2012) claimed,
“Social-professional relationships can be an essential source of recognition, but
reversely also constitute potential threats to this self-esteem.” (p.6)
1.8.

Chapter summary

This chapter reviews the literature on teacher professional identity in general and
novice teachers‟ identity formation in particular, which helps me understand and
decide on the appropriate theoretical frameworks for this study. In order to answer
the stated research questions, this research was framed based on Norton (2006)
conception of identity as a sociocultural construct. Moreover, the professional
interests‟ categories of Kelchtermans and Ballet (2002) also contributed toward the
process of making sense of the research issue. Also, the relationships between
identity and other socially and culturally defined constructs, including context and
communities of practice (Wenger, 1998) are taken into adequate consideration.
In the following chapter, I will discuss the main research methodology and
approach of the study.

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CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY
This chapter states the method of case study and specifies reasons why case study
and narrative inquiry was adopted as the main research approach. This is then
followed by a detailed description of the research setting and participants. Next, the
procedure and methods for data collection are presented. Finally, the chapter
concludes with thorough explanations of the data analysis process.
2.1.

The research genre: Case Study

For the fulfillment of the stated purposes of the paper, I employed a qualitative
research methodology in the form of a longitudinal small-scaled, in-depth singlecase study.
There are several rationales for the choice of this research method. For one thing,
since it takes time to construct one‟s identity, in order to examine a teachers‟
professional identity, a longitudinal approach would make sense. For another thing,
one of the main purposes of qualitative research is to understand the behaviors of
the subject in a real context which, in turn, provides information for the construction
and reconstruction of professional identity (Beijaard, D., Meijer, P., & Verloop, N.,
2004). Indeed, for a research issue that is greatly affected by contextual elements as
identity, a research approach that studies subjects in real-life contexts (Yin, 2003)
and strong on reality (Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrison, K., 2007) like case study
would work most effectively. Case studies sketch out a picture of “what it is like" in
a particular circumstance and maintain a “thick description” (Geertz, 1973b) of
subjects‟ lived stories, thoughts, and sentiments (Cohen, L., Manion, L. &
Morrison, K., 2007). Gall, Gall, & Borg (2003) postulated that case study is the
most widely used approach to qualitative research in education. The qualitative case
study “can be defined in terms of the process of actually carrying out the
investigation, the unit of analysis (the bounded system, the case), or the end
product” Merriam (1998, p.34). A case study explores a case or multiple cases
“over time through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of
information rich in context” (Creswell, 1998, p.61).
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2.2.

Method of inquiry

In terms of method of inquiry, this study employed narrative inquiry as the main
research approach. Narrative inquiry involves, at the heart of it, “eliciting and
documenting stories”, “interpreting them in view of the literature of a field”
(Murray, 2009, p. 46), and “bringing storytelling and research together either by
using stories as research data or by using storytelling as a tool for data analysis or
presentation of findings” (Barkhuizen, 2013, p.3). The reasons for this choice, as will
be specified below, lie mainly in the nature of narrative inquiry and the inherent
features of identity research.
First, the story-based characteristic of narrative inquiry perfectly matches the nature
of teacher identity exploration. As “teachers‟ working lives are shaped by stories,
and these stories to live by compose teacher identity” (Connelly & Clandinin, 1999,
p. 150), a focus on eliciting their stories can be beneficial in helping narrative
inquirers uncover aspects of teacher self that otherwise will remain hidden. In the
same way (Reis, 2011) confirmed that telling their own stories can provide teachers
with a tool to make sense of their experience and themselves, as well as “externalize
their beliefs, understanding of themselves, and emotions” (p. 121). In addition, as
Vasquez (2011) stated, since identity is context-specific and constantly changes
across time and space, story research can “illuminate how identities are constructed
in situ and the various ways in which identities are performed in local, situated
contexts” (p. 535).
Second, as an insightful method of investigation which provides in-depth
knowledge of participants‟ thinking and beliefs, in the field of applied linguistics,
narrative inquiry has in recent years gained popularity, especially with research on
identity (see Kanno, 2003; Norton, 2000; Johnson & Golombek, 2002; Tsui, 2007;
Park, 2012; Pavlenko, 2003; Reis, 2011). Also, in its September 2011 special-topic
publication, TESOL Quarterly dedicated its content to Narrative Research in
TESOL, with a wide range of articles and reports on recent studies in TESOL that
use narrative inquiry as a research method. This by all means demonstrates the
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power and impacts of story-telling on second language research. Despite this,
narrative research in TESOL, “still remains very much in its infancy” (Vasquez,
2011, p. 536), and as Barkhuizen (2011) stated, there is spacious room for TESOL
researchers to make significant contributions. By also adopting narrative inquiry as
the main research approach, this research, therefore, hoped to integrate into the
larger stream of narrative research in TESOL, and thus add voices to a growing
collection of professional stories about English language teachers.
2.3.

Research setting

The research was conducted with a novice EFL teacher who teaches at Quoc Hoc
high school, Hue, Vietnam. This school is one of several high schools in Vietnam
which is qualified as having „national standard‟, which means the quality of
teaching facility, teaching staff and students of this school is considered better than
most of the others. Students of the school are selected mainly from Thua Thien Hue
province and also other provinces in the central region of the country. These
students have to pass a strict examination to enter the school and they can choose to
study in different specialized classes such as English, Math, Literature, Physics,
Chemistry, etc. basing on their interests and exam scores.
In terms of EFL learning and teaching, the English division is divided into two subdivisions, the English-specialized and the normal ones. The teachers who take
responsibility of the English-specialized classes do not teach the normal classes and
vice versa. The participant of this study, Mai, only taught normal classes at the time
of the research.
2.4.

Participants

The participant of this research was selected from the abovementioned research site.
Regarding selection of the participant, I used the purposive sampling technique
(Patton, 1990), according to which participants are recruited based on certain
criteria set out by the researcher. For this particular research, the participant was
chosen based on three main criteria. First, she is an English teacher and speaks

15


English as a foreign language. Second, she has just graduated from university and
started her first year of teaching at the time of the research. Third, I based on her
availability and willingness to participate in the research. For confidentiality,
pseudonyms are used to refer to the participant. The participant is Mai, female, aged
23. The teacher is chosen as she qualifies as a nonnative novice EFL teacher. She
graduated with a Bachelor‟s degree in English language teaching from Hue
University of Foreign Languages in July 2014 and started her teaching career the
following month.
2.5.

The role of the researcher

On a professional and, to a certain extent, personal level, as a researcher I share a lot
in common with the participant. Five years ago, I was also a novice teacher of the
school where this research was set. I felt that I could sympathize a lot of her stories,
as I also experienced many of the same issues that confronted her. In brief, as with
Park (2012), I could not “divorce myself from the experiences of the participant” (p.
131). The conduct of this research, therefore, was also an opportunity for me to
reflect on my own professional self and relate my process of reconstructing my
professional identity with that of the participant.
2.6.

Data collection methods and procedure

2.6.1. Journals
As part of the data collection procedure, the participant was asked to keep journal
entries about her teaching life based on the form of story-telling. She started the first
entry from the first week of the school year of 2014-2015 and kept writing every
week until the end of the school year. In total, more than thirty entries were written
and sent to the researcher. According to Connelly and Clandinin (1999), “teachers‟
working lives are shaped by stories, and these stories to live by compose teacher
identity” (p. 150). At the same time, telling their own stories can provide teachers
with a tool to make sense of their experience and themselves, as well as “externalize
their beliefs, understanding of themselves, and emotions” (Reis, 2011, p. 121). The

16


participant was therefore asked to write entries focusing on describing herself as an
EFL teacher and telling experiences that make the most impression on her from
when she started teaching until the time of research. The minimum number of
entries is ten, but she is also encouraged to write more if she feels the need to. The
participant was given options as to how she wants her stories to be delivered to the
researcher. This could be done via email if she decided to write electronically or in
paper if she opted for handwriting. Also, I asked her to choose the language
(English or Vietnamese) and she preferred to write in Vietnamese as it is more
natural and easier for her to express her thoughts and feelings. It was hoped that
through the participant‟s written stories, data about personal, contextual and sociocultural factors that influence teachers‟ identity constructions would be revealed.
2.6.2. Semi-structured interviews
As had been suggested by Johnson and Golombek (2002), foreign language
teachers‟ verbalizations of their experiences could provide a window onto their
professional identities. Accordingly, face-to-face semi-structured interviews were
employed as a secondary source of data. Also, in a semi-structured interview, “the
questions are usually open-ended to allow participants to elaborate and researchers
to pursue developing themes” (Barkhuizen, 2013, p.17).
After each semester of the school year, a semi-structured interview was conducted
with the participant. The purpose of the interviews is three fold: to clarify the
participant‟s points made in her teaching stories, to ask further questions related to
factors that are reported to influence EFL teachers‟ development of professional
identity according to the literature, but do not seem to be prominent in the written
data, and to examine in depth how the identity construction factors emerging from
the written data interact with each other in the participant‟ process of becoming EFL
teachers. Based on these three objectives, the interview questions were made. The
interviews were recorded.
2.7.

Data analysis procedure

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