Grounded narrative inquiry into language teacher cognition: Stories and case studies on English language teaching in South Korea
This thesis contributes to the field of language teacher cognition (LTC) research by investigating LTC and development in South Korea (Korea, hereafter), where English is taught by non-native English speaking teachers (NNEST) as a mandatory foreign language in the national curriculum. English education in Korea is often described as a fever: Curricular reforms in the 1990s raised the stakes for learning English and challenged the status quo of teacher-centered instruction, but reforms were met with resistance from teachers, and Korea’s shadow English education industry has become a multi-billion dollar sector and a socioeconomic malady. Understanding LTC is important for understanding what language teachers do; however, LTC has received little attention from researchers in Korea and this thesis addresses the need for in-depth qualitative research with prolonged engagement and persistent observations. The aim of this exploratory thesis is to problematize key issues related to LTC and English language teacher development in Korea. The scope covers initial commitments to English language teaching (ELT), stated cognitions, observed practices, and the influences of experience on the cognitions and practices of Korean public school English teachers. The theoretical framework is defined as grounded narrative inquiry, an approach that combines narrative research and grounded theory methods. Critical incident (CI) theory and case study methods also influenced the design. The thesis comprises two studies. Study 1 was a background study using narrative frames to prompt four stories from 27 Korean English teacher participants regarding their (1) reasons for teaching English, (2) prior language learning experience, (3) pre-service education, and (4) first year teaching English. Narrative content was coded and categorized to uncover patterns and themes in participant stories. Findings from Study 1 influenced the design of Study 2, which consisted of four in-depth case studies, two with experienced primary school teachers and two with novice primary school teachers. Data collection occurred over 18 months and included reflective writing, CI logs, semi-structured interviews, and observations. This thesis contributes to the field in the following ways: 1. Using workplace commitment theory to discuss the issue of ELT turnover in Korean primary schools; 2. defining a professional knowledge base (PKB) that provided a context-sensitive, locally-appropriate framework for discussing ELT expertise; 3. discussing the stated influences of experience on LTC, including the anti-apprenticeship of observation; 4. mixed-methods analysis showing that experienced teachers were more aligned with curricular aims than were novice teachers, for example, regarding the communicativeness of lessons, teaching English through English, collaborative learning, and meaning-focused instruction; and 5. a CI model for interpreting LTC change with in-service teachers, grounded in the practice of teaching. The findings question the status quo of second language teacher education (SLTE) in Korea by drawing attention to participant knowledge gaps regarding ELT methodology and second language acquisition (SLA). This research implies that a more situated view of learning to teach is necessary in Korea in order to increase the efficacy of SLTE. Recommendations for future studies include further research on ELT turnover in Korea, applying the PKB to materials development and to discussing locally effective practices, and looking for practical applications of the CI model for developing SLTE programs.
Advisor: Feryok, Anne; Song, Jae Jung
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: English & Linguistics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: language teacher cognition; professional knowledge base; grounded theory narrative inquiry; non-native English speaking teachers; English in South Korea
Research Type: Thesis