A Comparative Study on the Professional Identity of Current and Prospective Teachers: Iranian English Language Teachers' Perspectives

A Comparative Study on the Professional Identity of Current and Prospective Teachers: Iranian English Language Teachers' Perspectives

Dara Tafazoli, Sajad Sadeghi
DOI: 10.4018/IJVPLE.2018070103
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The main purpose of this study was to probe whether or not there is a statistically significant difference between the prospective teachers' perceptions of professional identity and current teachers' self-perceptions. To meet the end, the researchers applied the Teachers' Professional Identity Questionnaire, by Hasegawa and Kudomi, which contains 48 items on a four-point Likert system. This questionnaire was distributed among 440 Iranian professionals who had majored in one of the majors related to English language. After collecting the data, the researchers tapped them into SPSS software and analyzed them statistically. A Mann-Whitney test on the scores of the two groups of participants highlighted a statistically significant difference. Hence, data analysis indicated that there is a statistically significant difference between the prospective teachers' perceptions of professional identity and the current teacher's self-perceptions.
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Since the scope and number of the target issues is so broad in the modern education world of today, it is natural that some of these target issues remain isolated and lurk in the dark for years until a number of researchers discover them and bring them to the light. Teacher identity in general and language teacher identity in particular, which has come to the light in the recent years, can be discussed as one of such issues (Beijaard, Meijer & Verloop, 2004; Hong, Greene & Lowery, 2016; Nguyen, 2016; Wolff & de Costa, 2017).

Beijaard et al. (2004) stressed that professional identity has become a dominant study area in educational research in the recent years. These authors pointed out that researchers emphasize professional identity in the context of teacher identity as an independent discipline. Following a variety of goals, they conceptualize teacher identity as a single concept, and scrutinize varying topics which fall within the framework of teachers’ professional identity.

In broad terms, the experienced and manifested mental constructs, concepts, or ideas created over the course of one’s life through experiencing oneself in relation to the external world through events, predicaments, trials, and errors, as well as social interactions, comprise the identity (Bergner & Holmes, 2000). Moreover, external and internal on-going phenomena that surround us shape identity. It is also maintained that people construct their social selves, or better put their social selves, within the everyday realities that they inhabit - that is to say through giving it much critical reflection of values, world views, and perceptions that they themselves or others around them are exposed to and acquire (Lundell & Collins, 2001). Kerby (1991) maintains that professional identity is a continuous process of interpretation and reinterpretation of experiences.

Following Beijaard et al (2004), the studies that have looked into language teachers’ identity can be categorized into three major subgroups: 1) The first category is made up of studies related to the processes through which the professional identity of a teacher is formed; 2) the second category deals with the studies that attempted to identify the characteristics of teachers’ professional identity; and 3) the third category is related to the studies that concentrated on how teachers’ behavior and practices represented the professional identity.

There is a great deal of research about diverse aspects of language teacher identities. One of these includes the perceptions that prospective teachers (as the students of teacher education programs who will be the language teachers of tomorrow) possess in their minds of the identity of a professional teacher. In fact, the development of professional teacher identity starts at a very early stage, from the time they are learners themselves (Borg, 2004; Lortie, 1975).

In line with this view, Johnson (2009) stated that notions of professional teacher identity would appear in prospective teachers from the very first sessions of their teacher education programs. This entails that investigating the perceptions of prospective teachers from a very early stage is vital since it gives away their idea about their future identity of themselves as professional teachers. Nonetheless, regarding prospective teachers’ perceptions of teacher identity, not much research has been done. Even the few studies that have been carried out in this area have only dealt with the impacts of prospective teachers’ past on their current perceptions. For instance, Clarke (2008) studied 75 female prospective teachers in United Arabic Emirates, and reported that the main reasons for them to choose teaching were three, namely: family connections, past teachers, and foreign language motivation.

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