Negotiating Teacher Identities : Dialogic Reflections on Classroom Interaction in a Transnational Context

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Levy, Mike

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Hirst, Elizabeth

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This study investigates the development of teacher identity in a transnational context through an analysis of the voices of sixteen preservice teachers from Hong Kong who engage in interaction with primary students in an Australian classroom. The context for this research is the school-based experience undertaken by these preservice English as a second language teachers as part of their short language immersion (SLIM) program in Brisbane, Australia. Such SLIM programs are a genre of study abroad programs which have been gaining in popularity within teacher education in Australia, attended by preservice and inservice teachers from China, Hong Kong, Korea, and other Asian countries. This research is conducted at a time when the imperative to globalise higher education provision is a strategic factor in the educational policies of both Australia and Hong Kong. In Australia, international educational services now constitute the country’s third largest export with more than 400,000 students coming to Australia to study annually. In order to maintain Australia’s current global position as the third most popular Englishspeaking study destination, the government is now focusing on sustainability and the quality of the study experience being offered to international students (Bradley Review, 2008). In Hong Kong, the government sponsors both preservice and inservice English as a second language (ESL) teachers to undertake SLIM programs in Australia and other English-speaking countries, as part of their policy of promoting high levels of English proficiency in Hong Kong classrooms. Transnational teacher education is an important issue to which this study contributes insights into the affordances and constraints of a school-based experience in the transnational context. Second language teacher education has been defined as interventions designed to develop participants’ professional knowledge. In this study, it is argued that participation in a different community of practice helps to foreground tacit theories of second language pedagogy, making them visible and open to review. Questions of pedagogy are also seen as questions of teacher identity, constituting the way that one is in the classroom. I take up a sociocultural and poststructural framework, drawing on the work of James Gee and Mikhail Bakhtin, to theorise the construction of teacher identity as emerging through dialogic relations and socially situated discursive practices. From this perspective, this study investigates whether these teachers engage with different ways of representing themselves through appropriating, adapting or rejecting Discourses prevailing in the Australian classroom. Research suggests that reflecting on dilemmas encountered as lived experiences can extend professional understandings. In this study, the participants engage in a process of dialogic reflection on their intercultural classroom interactions, examining with their peers and their lecturer/researcher selected moments of dissonance that they have faced in the unfamiliar context of an Australian primary classroom. It is argued that the recursive and multivoiced nature of this process of reflection on practice allows participants opportunities to negotiate new understandings of second language teacher identity. Dialogic learning, based on the theories of Bakhtin and Vygotsky, provides the theoretic framing not only for the process of reflection instantiated in this study, but also features in the analysis of the participants’ second language classroom practices. The research design uses a combined discourse analytic and ethnographic approach as a logic-of-inquiry to explore the dialogic relationships which these second language teachers negotiate with their students and their peers in the transnational context. In this way, through discourse analysis of their classroom talk and reflective dialogues, assisted by the analytic tools of speech genres and discourse formats, I explore the participants’ ways of doing and being second language teachers. Thus, this analysis traces the process of ideological becoming of these beginner teachers as shifts in their understandings of teacher and student identities. This study also demonstrates the potential for a nontraditional stimulated recall interview to provide dialogic scaffolding for beginner teachers to reflect productively on their practice.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Languages and Linguistics

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dialogic reflections

classroom interaction

transnational context



discursive practices


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