A NARRATIVE INQUIRY OF SECOND LANGUAGE TEACHER AGENCY IN PROMOTING CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE PEDAGOGY
With an increasing immigrant population in the United States, there is a growing number of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in adult education institutions. Given that English language learners (ELLs) come from various backgrounds, they face unique challenges when learning English, and language instructors should make an effort to understand their life histories and circumstances. With this in mind, it is crucial that ESL teachers effectively address the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse learners in their classrooms by promoting culturally responsive pedagogy. The purpose of this research study is to explore whether and how ESL teachers exercise agency in promoting culturally responsive pedagogy while teaching culturally and linguistically diverse adult students. In supporting my theoretical understanding of critical theory and agency, narrative inquiry provides a useful framework for studying how participants’ past, present, and future contexts influence their own understandings of teacher agency while teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students. Therefore, the goal in this narrative research was to provide a space for the voices of adult ESL instructors to be heard as they shared stories that represent whether and how they exercise agency. The participants of the study were seven adult ESL instructors teaching at a community college in the southeastern United States that serves diverse students. Data were collected through face-to-face semi-structured interviews, journal entries, and classroom observations. The data were analyzed in three stages, using narrative thematic analysis, narrative holistic analysis, and NVivo analysis. A constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was used in that process. Three themes developed from the data analysis that pertained to language teacher identity, culturally responsive pedagogy, and challenges adult ESL instructors face when teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students. The findings of this study revealed that the common aspect of participants’ identities was exploration even though they exhibited multiple identities throughout their lives and experienced shifts in their identities. However, although participants constructed themselves as explorers, only a few of them exhibited identities that relate to being transformative practitioners. The narratives also revealed that adult ESL instructors engaged in various culturally responsive practices; however, the data analysis revealed some gaps in the effective promotion of such practices. The findings of this study illuminated a challenging institutional environment in which the context is continuously changing in response to shifting testing requirements, citizenship regulations, and mandated curriculum. This research confirmed that teaching is a complex undertaking, where language teachers’ agency is shaped by multiple and varied experiences, contexts, beliefs, and hopes, which are intertwined with their past, present, and future identities. The lessons learned in this study provide new knowledge in terms of teacher preparation, teacher professional development, and community outreach.