Exploring the Construal of Membership in English Language Teachers’ Associations: A Window into Professional Identity through Japanese Voices
Warrington, Stuart David
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This doctoral dissertation aimed to explore English language teachers’ construal of membership in English language teachers’ (ELTs’) associations. The study initially examined teachers’ perceptions of membership via an examination of their experience of it – why they become or do not become a member, and/or why they continue or forfeit membership. Thereafter, teachers’ perceptions on what membership says about professionalism were probed as well as what the meanings of membership are to them. Data were obtained using face-to-face semi-structured interviews with eight Japanese English language teachers working at universities in the Kanto and Hokuriku regions of Japan. The findings showed that, experience-wise, teachers become members because they either perceive membership as an occupational norm, a means to gain employment or a way to access CPD. Conversely, teachers do not become members for reasons of being occupied with work, avoiding unwanted responsibility, being able to access the same benefits and/or lacking confidence. Teachers who continue their membership(s) do so because of CPD, feeling unable to leave, and/or because of the financial support provided by their universities. In contrast, teachers who forfeit membership do so because membership fees are too high and/or because they are too busy with work. In terms of what membership says about professionalism, teachers perceived it as not only a marker of professionalism but also, paradoxically, a counter-collegial practice. As for the meanings of membership to participants, it was seen as something giving rise to a fragmented professional self and the feeling of one being either ‘an insider’ and/or ‘outsider’ within an association. These findings, it is argued, point to membership being more for professionalization rather than professionalism purposes, seemingly as a result of the emerging forces of managerialism and neo-liberalism which appear to have created an atmosphere of accountability and competition rather than camaraderie in Japan-based ELTs’ associations. This, in turn, has led the Japanese ELT practitioner, at least at the university level, to become complicit in the creation of a fragmented/hybrid professional self composed of clashing multiple identities where one is rendered ambivalent and uncertain yet somehow able to adapt and cope. This professional self says much about the need for ELTs’ associations in Japan and perhaps elsewhere to engage in a critical discussion of what counts as ‘professionalism’ by raising and attending to the importance of member voice.
EdD in TESOL