Professional Identity Adaptation of Native English Speaking ESL Teachers in the State of Qatar Contact Zone
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Sachs (2005) argues that a conceptual framework of identity can guide teachers on how to construct their own ideas regarding “how to be”, “how to act”, and “how to understand” their work (p. 15). However, teachers who work in a foreign context may need to adapt their conceptual framework of identity in order to improve the fit between themselves and their workplace. With this thought in mind, the current qualitative, exploratory study is concerned with the professional identity adaptation of a group of ten native English speaking teachers working at two governmental institutes in the state of Qatar. The aim of this study was two-fold: first, to discover what factors affect teachers’ self-perception and professional identity; second, to explore implications for the practice of these native English speaking teachers (NESTs). Research data collected through in-depth semi-structured interviewing and classroom observations revealed that both institutional and intrapersonal factors were involved in the adaptation of the teachers’ professional identity and the teachers’ approaches to adapt their pedagogy. In other words, one of the noticeable features of the teachers’ professional identity adaptation was the conflict between the teachers’ expectations and the realities of the local context (interpersonal conflicts). There was evidence that teachers’ intrapersonal negotiation lead them to develop multiple identities in order to avoid any troubles at the workplace. Consequently, the mismatch between the teachers’ expectations of their professional life and the realities of the local context caused an apparent inconsistency between the teachers’ beliefs and behavior, which was considered to be a form of cognitive dissonance among the teachers. This study provides English teachers who work in a new context with pragmatic information and insights about the professional identity adjustment process. It also heightens their awareness of the possible professional identity transitions that they may go through. The study should help expatriate ESL teachers in the State of Qatar, in particular, to cope with a possible discrepancy between the idealism of their pedagogical and cultural theory, and their perceived reality of classroom practice.