I'm working on a new paper exploring the identity construction of postgraduate student teachers learning to teach pronunciation. The theoretical framework underpinning the study draws on Wenger's (1998; Lave & Wenger, 1991) social learning theory, which suggests that identity formation takes place in a community of practice. One particular aspect of Wenger’s theory that I consider using as an analytical lens is identification. This would allow me to explore how student teachers talk about themselves and others, and how they may align themselves with various theories and pedagogical constructs learned during their graduate studies. Subsequently, I'd be able to compare participants' identity transformation (or lack thereof) with their cognition development, which should yield valuable insights for language teacher educators.
What's perhaps more intriguing is that the process of familiarizing myself with Wenger’s theory has provided me with a better understanding of who I am as a PhD student, second language instructor and teacher educator. When I began reading about social learning theory, I didn't expect this to have an effect on me personally (I must admit that at first I was rather reluctant to include identity in my doctoral studies). Yet, trying to define identity and then designing a theoretical framework in which I could ground my new paper has been an invaluable experience. It has also helped me understand why identity has become such an important topic in second language teaching and research. Identity is inherently who we are and what we do, say and believe, and why we do certain things in life (or in the classroom for that matter). Had I been told this a few months ago, I would have agreed but more or less brushed identity off as being a buzzword currently used in language teaching and applied linguistics. Having worked on this paper for the past few weeks, however, has given me a new perspective and appreciation for identity and its importance. To put it differently, studying about identity has been truly – and unexpectedly – transformative, and I suppose this is what my PhD journey is ultimately all about.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
I am a Lecturer in TESOL at the University of Wollongong in Australia. I blog about L2 learning, L2 teaching, L2 teacher education, and research.