Teachers’ professional identity: Contributions of a critical EFL teacher
education course in Iran
Allameh Tabatabai University, Department of English Language and Literature, Allameh Tabatabai Ave., Chamran Expressways, 19979 Tehran, Iran
Received 17 May 2011
Received in revised form
30 December 2011
Accepted 14 February 2012
Critical TESOL teacher education
This paper is a report on contributions of a critical EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher education
course to Iranian teachers’ professional identity reconstruction.
Pre-course and post-course interviews
with seven teachers, their reﬂective journals, class discussions, and the teacher educator’sreﬂective
journals were analyzed as guided by grounded theory. Three major shifts were observed in their
professional identities: from conformity to and romanticization of dominant ideologies to critical
autonomy, from no orientation or an instrumentalist orientation to a critical/transformative orientation
of teaching, and from a linguistic and technical view to an educational view of second language
Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
A brief glance at the (immediate) history of TESOL shows its
divorce from educational and critical theory and rather exclusive
focus on asocial and cognitive linguistic dimensions of second
language education (Crookes & Lehner, 1998; May, 2011;
Pennycook, 1990; White, 1989). However, more recent literature
on TESOL highlights its increasing awareness of its educational side
and political agenda which has resulted in the emergence of
interest in the contributions of constructivist and critical theories of
education to second language education in the inner circle (e.g.,
Benesch, 2001, 2009; Conagarajah, 2005; Crookes, 2009a, 2009b,
2010; Kumaravadivelu, 2003, 2006; Norton & Toohey, 2004;
Pennycook, 2001) as well as the Middle East (Wachob, 2009).
A similar shift of focus is observed in TESOL teacher education.
Early attempts to educate L2 teachers were mainly characterized by
transmitting externally deﬁned and prescribed techniques
(Freeman, 2001; Richards, 2008; Richards & Farrell, 2005)to
teachers whose prior experiences and beliefs were ignored
(Freeman, 1989; Imig & Imig, 2006). While this approach is still
more or less in vogue in many contexts, more awareness of the
complex nature of teacher development has resulted in a shift
toward more constructivist and critical approaches to teacher
Regarding the constructivist side of this change, instead of
reducing teachers to passive technicians, who mainly practice
others’ theories, teacher education has come to consider teachers
as reﬂective practitioners, who have the ability to theorize about
their practices and practice their personal theories (Grifﬁths, 2000;
Kumaravadivelu, 2003; Wallace, 1995). The main assumption
underlying the constructivist orientation is that student teachers
are not empty vessels to be ﬁlled with knowledge and skills of
teaching. Rather, they are already equipped with prior experiences
and personal beliefs which inform their teaching knowledge and
practice (Freeman & Johnson, 1998). This new understanding led to
increased interest among researchers in teacher related issues such
as teacher cognition, teacher beliefs (e.g., Freeman, 1996, 1998;
Freeman & Johnson, 1998; Woods, 1996), and, especially in the
last decade, teacher professional identity (e.g., Nguyen, 2008; Singh
and Richards, 2006; Tsui, 2007).
Teacher professional identity is how teachers deﬁne their
professional roles (Lasky, 2005). This dynamic construct (Barrett,
2008; Varghese, Morgan, Johnston, & Johnson, 2005) has been
Abbreviations: EFL, English as a foreign language; ELT, English language
teaching; L2, Second/Foreign language; TESOL, Teaching English to speakers of
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Present Address: Floor 3, No. 16, 194 East, Shahed Boulevard, Tehran-
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My preference for the word reconstruction rather than construction is inspired
by the constructivist belief that student teachers, pre-service and in-service, bring
prior experiences and personal values and beliefs to teacher education programs,
and, thus, their professional identities have already been partly constructed.
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Teaching and Teacher Education
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Teaching and Teacher Education 28 (2012) 706e717