An Investigation of ‘Teacher Identity’ Development in Teachers of Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (CSOL): A Case Study of Five Teachers in a Confucius Institute in the UK


This longitudinal qualitative research explored the developmental process of teacher identity (TI) in five teachers of Chinese to speakers of other languages (CSOL) in a Confucius Institute (CI) in the UK, including the factors which influenced TI formation and change. With teacher identity as a lens, the study also makes recommendations to help promote the professional development (PD) of such teachers. Having conceptualised identity as an ongoing and constantly evolving process (Beijaard et al., 2004), the study adopted participant interviews, both concurrent and retrospective, as the main method for investigating the CSOL teachers’ experiences during the study period and earlier in their lives. The TIs were found to have three main components, namely professional, instructional and cultural identities. Different theoretical frameworks were combined in order to analyse the different facets of CSOL teachers’ identities: the frames perspective (Pennington, 2015; Pennington and Richards, 2016), community of practice theory (Wenger, 1998), the sociocultural perspective (Vygotsky, 1978, 1986, 1987; Holland and Lachicotte, 2007) and the three-stage model of ethnic/cultural identity development (Phinney, 1990, 1993; Lustig and Koester, 2010). The findings on the CSOL teachers’ professional identities were that individuals’ attachments to the teaching profession differed, but there were broadly three kinds of trajectories: 1) a dual connection to teaching and another profession; 2) a strong and sustained commitment to the teaching profession, but punctuated by shifts between fields (e.g. teaching Chinese to speakers of other languages (TCSOL), teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), early childhood education); and 3) a sustained commitment to TCSOL specifically, with the caveat that across these three profiles teachers were not immune to certain extrinsic forces dampening their commitment. The evolution of the CSOL teachers’ instructional identities was closely linked to changes in their cultural identities, with an observed shift from homogeneity and conformity to Chinese educational traditions to a phase of acculturation (to different extents). Many contextual and individual factors were found to have impacted on CSOL teachers’ identity development and these were classified into four strata: socio-cultural context, institutional, interpersonal and personal factors. The study’s conclusions inform recommendations for identity-focused strategies to improve the education and professional development of CSOL teachers and how they are employed and managed. These include provision for active reflection on cultural identity as part of professional training, ways to build up community and collegiality in order to increase the teachers’ sense of belonging, removing bureaucratic barriers and improving contractual terms. Key Words: Teacher identity, Teaching Chinese to speakers of other languages (TCSOL), Confucius Institut

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