Face and Enactment of Identities in the L2 Classroom

This week we published Face and Enactment of Identities in the L2 Classroom by Joshua Alexander Kidd. The book explores Japanese students’ identities in the English language classroom and outlines a professional development model for teachers to build their pragmatic awareness. In this post, Joshua introduces the key themes of his book.

Face and Enactment of Identities in the L2 ClassroomHow would you describe your book?
It focuses on examining classroom discourse as interpreted through the voices of Japanese students during L2 learning activities. A broad corpus of classroom recordings, student retrospective interviews and teacher interviews are scrutinised with attention to cross-cultural pragmatics, politeness theory, face and identity. The data reveals moments when interpretations of classroom interaction deviate from communicative intentions. Significant disparity is evident between socio-cultural and individual affiliations attributed to language use and the implications for students as they engage in the complex process of forging and performing new identities while adjusting to the unfamiliar demands of the L2 learning environment.

Joshua's daughter youngest daughter on her last day at elementary school

Joshua’s youngest daughter on her last day at elementary school

What is the significance of the cover image?
It was chosen to convey that the heart of the book lies in the journey the students’ generously share through candid reflections. This photograph is of my youngest daughter’s first day at elementary school in Japan and she was thrilled to be carrying her randoseru school bag and partaking in the toukouhan (commuting group). Within the toukouhan the older students, assigned to the head and rear, are responsible for getting members to school safely and on time. This was a particularly exciting time for my daughter as her big sister was hanchou (leader) of the merry band.

Why the focus on face and identity?
Face and identity influence the complex and dynamic ways in which individuals present themselves verbally and non-verbally during interaction. Language and issues of identity are closely bound together, as too are language and the management and negotiation of face. Nevertheless, there has been little attention within the research community to how the constructs of identity and face are interrelated and the impact on the student within the language classroom. These two formidable conceptual areas provide fresh insight into the communicative negotiation of face within the broader framework of identity.

What themes do you examine?
We found that what students and teachers consider standard and conventionally acceptable language use and behaviour differ markedly according to social, cultural and individual frames of reference. Of concern here was that students’ communicative strategies were regularly misinterpreted or disallowed. Pervasive patterns of language use, attitudes, and behaviour were collapsed into four themes for examination:

  • Student collaboration
  • Japanese identities
  • L1/L2 usage
  • Student silence

Analysis was carried out through a composite theoretical framework which draws on a critical account of Brown and Levinson’s ([1978]1987) concept of face duality and notions of social and cultural interdependency, discernment and place as advocated by Japanese scholarship.

You conclude with a professional development model. Why?
This model addresses the crucial question: What does it all mean? Findings highlight the need to actively build teacher/student pragmatic awareness (L1 and L2) in order to facilitate positive learning experiences and strengthen interactive competence. Our model is based on continuing reflection from authentic sites of engagement and follows a pedagogic and exploratory cycle of teaching and learning developed around five phases: Awareness, Knowledge Building, Critique, Action and Evaluation. The model holds that culturally responsive curriculum and teaching practices can foster a classroom environment in which socio-cultural diversity and individuality are valued and celebrated. 

Dr Joshua Alexander Kidd, Utsunomiya University, j.kidd6776@gmail.com

For further information about this book please see our website or contact the author at the email address above.

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