Featured Speakers

Resistance, Resilience, and Professional Identity Development: One Teacher’s Journey in Japan

Dr. Diane Hawley Nagatomo (Ochanomizu University)

The professional journeys of EFL teachers in Japan, although individually unique, are likely to share a number of commonalities. Many teachers began English teaching with minimal linguistic and pedagogical qualifications. Those who started off in the eikaiwa industry may or may not have even held bachelor degrees, but were hired on the basis of their native-speakerness rather than on their teaching skills. Similarly, those employed by the JET program were generally young and inexperienced college graduates, and their employment contract was, at most, for three years. These jobs often attracted applicants because of a desire for a temporary overseas adventure, and most return home upon completion of their contracts. Some, however, chose to remain in Japan as English teachers because they had fallen in love and decided to marry a Japanese national. Many of these teachers returned to school, hoping that an MA or a PhD would enhance their career opportunities in Japan.

I am interested in the process of identity development of these foreign teachers who chose to live permanently in Japan, particularly foreign women who are married to Japanese men. These women must deal with the racially motivated employment constraints that affect all foreign EFL teachers in Japan, but unlike their male counterparts, they must also navigate gendered waters that primarily view women as wives and mothers. The participants of my larger study are women ranging in age from 25 to 64, and they have lived, worked, and taught in various contexts. My presentation at the Teachers Journeys Conference, however, will focus mainly on one participant who has been living in a conservative and remote rural area in Japan for twenty years. Through “Victoria’s” narratives obtained from multiple interviews, I will describe the twists and turns of her personal and professional journey in Japan, which began with teaching as an ALT on the JET program. Using Gee’s (2000) theoretical lens, I will describe Victoria’s resistance in accepting gendered and racial identity characteristics ascribed to her by others, and how she resourcefully turned them into achieved identity characteristics of her own making. Victoria’s situation is somewhat unique, but her narratives highlight many issues faced by my other participants as well. Importantly, they highlight the notion that identity development is the result of continuous negotiation and renegotiation with everyone, not only students, colleagues, and administrators, but also with teachers’ own families and with members of the local community as well.

Diane Nagatomo has been living and teaching in Japan since 1979. She is an associate professor at Ochanomizu University and her research interests include teacher and learner beliefs, teachers’ professional identity, and EFL materials development.

Narratives of Challenge and Change: Grammar Teaching and CLT in Japanese Secondary Schools

Dr. Paul Underwood (Toyo Eiwa University)

The advancement of English as a global lingua franca has had a widespread influence on educational policy for the teaching of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in secondary education with national curriculum guidelines in many countries now embodying Communicative Language Teaching approaches. In spite of this global trend, however, numerous studies have shown that secondary school teachers are rarely passive recipients of such policy directives, choosing to adapt, question, oppose or ignore them; often due to factors operating locally within their institutions and broadly in national educational systems.

At this year’s EFL Teachers Journeys Conference, I will present the findings from a multiple case study through which I explored the potential impact of Japan’s new national curriculum for secondary school EFL, specifically in relation to the integration of grammar teaching with communicative work in four-skill classes, a key component in the new curriculum. This research focus was investigated through an in-depth study of the beliefs and practices of four Japanese EFL teachers, working in different senior high schools where preparing students for entrance to higher education is central to their institution’s goals. In the presentation, I will describe the divergent ways in which these teachers approached the integration of grammar teaching with communicative work in their classes and the varying extent to which these practices reflect current national policy. From a social psychology perspective, I will also illustrate how their cases reveal a complex relationship between the various behavioural, social, and context-related beliefs that underlie and account for their teaching practices. Finally, I will describe how, collectively, these teachers’ stories suggest that for successful implementation of the new curriculum, not only problems frequently associated with the broader university entrance examination system would need addressing, but, importantly, major structural changes at the local school level must also occur in three key areas.

Paul Underwood (Ph.D., Lancaster University, UK) is Associate Professor of English and English Education at Toyo Eiwa University, Yokohama. His main research interests are in the application of the Theory of Planned Behaviour to mixed-methods research into national curriculum implementation in secondary education EFL contexts. He has lived in Japan since 1999 and has taught at junior and senior high schools.