Words, lives and music: on becoming a teacher of English.
Samuel, Michael Anthony.
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"How do student teachers experience the learning and teaching of English over different periods of their lives?" is the question that this research study attempts to address. Drawing on the biographical experiences of nine student teachers of a pre-service teacher preparation programme within postapartheid South Africa, I document their own retold experiences of English language teaching and learning (ELTL), and analyse the process of their becoming teachers of the English language. I trace their histories of ELTL over different periods of their lives, each of which were developed within varying social contexts of the South African apartheid and post-apartheid educational landscape. In mapping the biographical journey of student teachers becoming teachers of the English language, I foreground their own understandings of their formative experiences. I explore the influence of their experiences of teaching and learning English during different stages of their lives as: members of a family and community; pupils in primary and secondary schools during the apartheid era; undergraduate students at university; members of a pre-service teacher preparation programme, and practising novice student teachers in post-apartheid schooling. The study focuses on how competing understandings of ELTL of the student teachers' family members, their primary and secondary schoolteachers, their university lecturers and teacher educators, their fellow colleagues in the teacher education programme, the mentor teachers and pupils in schools, and the student teachers themselves are shared, exchanged and interrogated as they develop understanding of ELTL. Their role and identity as teachers of English is forged in response to these complementary, contradictory and competing forces of influence. Gaining access into student teachers' thinking is a complex process. This dissertation explores some of the methodologies of entering into the private world of teachers' personal reflection and understanding (a study conventionally labelled "teacher thinking"). The methodologies used in this study include autobiographical writing, visual collage making, post-lesson interviews, individual and group interviews, written assignments and examinations, reflective journal writing, team research reports, peer and self assessments and student teachers' team design of curriculum materials for their teaching practicum. The data yielded in this study was subjected firstly to a narrative analysis, and then a discourse analysis. In the narrative analysis, I document a first person lifehistory of only two of the nine case study student teachers as they journeyed from their homes, into schools, through the pre-service teacher preparation programme and back into schools as student teachers. These two case studies served as the principal case studies of this research. The remaining seven of the nine student teachers served as auxiliary case studies. In the discourse analysis, I provide a detailed linguistic analysis of three "texts" produced by the principal student teachers (viz. their written autobiography, an extract from a post-lesson interview and an extract from their reflective journal). Each of these texts was produced within specific discourse settings: directed towards specific audiences, within particular contexts and intended to achieve unique purposes. I analyse these texts on two levels: Representational Analysis: in terms of what student teachers say about their experiences of ELTL, and Presentational Analysis: in terms of how student teachers choose to present their understandings of ELTL in the specific discourse setting. The lifehistories of ELTL of the auxiliary seven case study students are documented to serve as a foil against which comparisons (findings and conclusions) from the two principal case studies are made. The study reveals that the process of becoming a teacher of the English language in a rapidly changing context (such as that of postapartheid South Africa) is complex. Various contiguous forces compete to influence the student teachers' understanding of being a teacher of English. I foreground some of these powerful forces of influence over the student teachers' conception of self-identity. Each of the forces do not necessarily "pull or push" in the same direction and student teachers develop a fluid and flexible sense of identity of being a teacher of English. This identity is bound in relation to the specific contexts within which student teachers gain experience of school-based teaching practice. These different forces are held in creative dialogical tension as the student teachers develop understanding of their role and identity as teachers of the English language. This is marked in the data, which show convergences and divergence between what they ponder (think about), profess (say) and practice (do). These convergences and divergences are articulated through "The Force Field Model of Teacher Development", which is particularly relevant for rapidly changing social contexts. The following forces that exert influence over student teachers' developing identity as teachers of English within this model are: Inertial forces: the forces of biographical history of the student teachers, which tend to draw them back towards teaching as they were taught; Programmatic forces: relatively innovative and alternative experiential forces exerted by the teacher preparation programme; and Contextual forces: within the school-sites where student teachers conduct their pre-service teaching practicum, which tend towards preservation of Apartheid-like conceptions of ELTL. The study uses the data to proceed to a further level of abstraction: from an analysis of the process of student teacher development to an analysis of the development of identity as social actors within a rapidly changing social context. The study begins to build a theory of understanding lives in transitional times, presenting the concept of "The Multicultural-Self" to refer to the co-existence of competing, complex, complementary and contradictory cultural facets of identity that constitute the individual. The individual within such contexts is likely to be influenced by these cultural forces and self-consciously select the kind of presentation of identity that s/he wishes. The facet of identity that one presents varies considerably in relation to context, audience and purpose. The flexibility to chose varying representation of one's identity is the norm in a rapidly changing social context. This study concludes with suggesting the need for a model of teacher development in rapidly changing contexts which acknowledges the constructs raised by both "The Force Field Model of Teacher Development" and the notion of "The Multicultural-Self".