This study reports the evolving teacher identities of 12 South/East Asian teachers during their study in the United States. Grounded in poststructuralist views of identities, the study employed narrative analysis to capture the complexities of teacher identity construction. Narrative data were collected through in-depth individual interviews, focus groups, and analysis of relevant documents. Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, and Zilber’s (1998) categorical content analysis served as an analytical framework for analyzing the situated meanings of the 12 teachers’ identity construction.
The result indicated that teacher identities of the 12 participants were situated and multiple. While the main aim of pursuing degrees (MAs or PhDs) in the United States was to enhance their professional identities, participants negotiated their teacher identities alongside other multiple identities as learners, mothers, and multcompetence English user (MEU) teachers, among others. After participated in the US academic communities, the narrative data illustrate that the participants’ teacher identities shifted. The shifting process was in particular as a result of the readings and discussion on critical pedagogies in the graduate programs.
The results also showed that although most participants experienced shifts in their identities, they seemed to negotiate their identities on the basis of core or dominant identities. This is evident in the narratives of Mika, Nesiani, and Sakura when discussing their classroom participation patterns. All of them indicated that their cultural gender identities, which expect women to be silent, as the reason for the difficulty of being active learners. For these 3 participants, identities seemed to be a “sense of self-hood attached to a physical body” (Young, 2008, p. 9). Thus, the attempts to be more active and critical, like US learners, might come across as denying their true senses of self.
As a result of this study, I come to believe that teacher education programs need to be a site for identity reconstruction and reflection. As pointed out by Salvatori (1996), pedagogy is most effective when teachers engage in reflexive activities that involve theorizing, applying ideas to practice, and evaluating results in light of specific institutional contexts and student populations.