Exploring identities among graduate instructors of German : instructors' beliefs about teaching language and culture



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This study explores the complexities associated with graduate language instructors’ identities and teaching practices, specifically with regard to the teaching of culture in the FL classroom. These areas are important to study because negotiating various identities has been shown to impact language learning and teaching (Dippold, 2006; Kumaravadivelu, 2003; Menard-Warwick, 2008). In addition, instructors’ identities and the influence on their teaching practices may impact pedagogy (Menard-Warwick, 2008).
The study investigates the identities and experiences of eight graduate instructors of German – four (two male and two female) native and four (three male and one female) non-native speakers of German – in the spring semester of 2009 at the University of Texas at Austin. The participants included novice and advanced German instructors at different levels in their graduate studies. Three questionnaires, three self-reflective journal entries, three observations, one focus group interview, and individual interviews with each participant provided the data for this study. These data were analyzed using qualitative methods, specifically grounded theory and discursive psychology. The themes and categories, as well as interpretive repertoires and subject positions which are based on Edley’s (2001) analytical framework, offered an in-depth understanding of teacher identities and the impact of identities on teaching practices in regard to culture.
Findings illustrate that the participants negotiated their identities in interaction and dialogue with others (Bakhtin, 1981) and in different communities of practice (Wenger, 1998). In discussing their identities, instructors also used various interpretive repertoires, underscoring their individuality and their experiences. The study’s findings suggest, furthermore, that the issue of teacher identities needs to be included in teacher training and must play a significant role in FL education, in order to support language teaching and learning.