Exploring Feminist Pedagogy in TESOL

19 May 2017

This month we published The Socially Responsible Feminist EFL Classroom by Reiko Yoshihara. In this post the author explains what inspired her to write the book and what we can expect from reading it.

The main purpose of the book is to explore feminist pedagogy in TESOL (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages). Although I focus on the teaching practices of self-identified feminist EFL educators in Japanese universities, I hope to make connections to TESOL more broadly. To obtain a deep understanding of their feminist teaching practices, I explored the feminist teachers’ identities and teaching beliefs. The idea for The Socially Responsible Feminist EFL Classroom grew out of the frustration I experienced when I saw and heard of hesitation, resistance and accusations against feminist teaching from other ESL/EFL (English as a second language/English as a foreign language) teachers. What are our responsibilities as university ESL/EFL teachers? What can we do as ESL/EFL teachers to prepare students for their future? Should we teach only English grammar, vocabulary and linguistic information, and have students improve their English proficiency? I believe that our responsibility is to teach social equality and justice along with the language practice and to educate our language students to become socially responsible world citizens. To promote social equality and justice, teaching about global issues, environmental problems, and human rights and gender issues in ESL/EFL classes should be paid attention to.

In order to understand what is going on in the feminist EFL classroom in Japanese universities, I worked with eight participants who were self-identified feminist teachers (three American women, one American man, one British woman, two Japanese women, one Japan-born Korean women) who taught EFL at university level in Japan. To accomplish this goal, I conducted feminist narrative research. Drawing on poststructural feminist theory of identity, I examined the construction of their feminist teacher identities in social and cultural contexts. I also examined stories addressing the questions of what teaching beliefs individual feminist teachers held, how their feminist identities connected with their teaching beliefs and practices, and how they reflected their teaching beliefs in their teaching practices. This examination provided many major and minor ways of feminist teaching in Japanese university EFL classrooms. On the other hand, I found some incompatibility among feminist teacher identities, teaching beliefs and classroom practices. Poststructural feminist views helped examine incompatible relationships between identities, beliefs and practices.

My hope is that this book will succeed in establishing a new direction in language education research by drawing attention to a powerful, yet under-researched group of teachers. Readers with a passion for learning more about feminist pedagogy in TESOL will find inspiration and ideas for moving forward in this pursuit. In addition, I hope ESL/EFL researchers who are interested in feminist teaching will see this book as an invitation to continue the scholarly conversation and to build a research space for investigating feminist pedagogy within the TESOL field.

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan by Diane Hawley Nagatomo and Being and Becoming a Speaker of Japanese by Andrea Simon-Maeda.


What Will You Do With the Rest of Your Life? Consider Working With English Learners!

22 December 2016

This month we published Sarah J. Shin’s book English Language Teaching as a Second Career which is the first book in our new series CAL Series on Language EducationIn this post, Sarah discusses the experiences of people who embark upon a new career as an English teacher later in life.

English Language Teaching as a Second CareerConsider the following statistics: A 45-year-old American woman who remains free of heart disease and cancer can expect to see her 92nd birthday; a 45-year-old man in similar condition, his 88th birthday. This means that today’s 45-year-olds who maintain reasonably good health can look forward to living another half of their lives. Throughout much of human history, 40 was regarded as a fairly ripe old age. But with extraordinary advances in biomedicine in the last century, longevity has become a global reality.

As a result of dramatically increased life expectancy, a new developmental stage has emerged in the life cycle. The period between the end of young adulthood and the onset of true old age can easily cover a span of four or five decades.

An important consequence of increased life expectancy is that people need to be able to support themselves financially for more years. A 62-year-old person today could easily require 30+ years of retirement income. This motivates people to work beyond the traditional retirement age of 65. Four out of five baby boomers expect to work well into what used to be known as the retirement years.

What distinguishes this new generation of adults in terms of work is that they are moving beyond midlife careers in search of a calling in the second half of life. They focus on what matters most and are no longer satisfied to work simply to bring home the paycheck. They look for deeper meaning in what they do and are more interested in having an impact on the world around them. Driven by a sense of ‘If not now, when?’, they are able to break away from their former limitations and break new ground on the kind of work they choose to do.

As an English as a second language (ESL) teacher educator at a university, I interact with a growing number of people in their forties, fifties and sixties, who find satisfaction in helping students learn English. Many are actively involved in tutoring and volunteer work with literacy organizations in their communities, where they interact with immigrants and refugees from around the world. These individuals are moving beyond midlife careers in search of a calling in the second half of life, and many consider teaching to be that calling.

In my book, English Language Teaching as a Second Career, I explore what is on the minds of these adults, what they are looking for in their work with English learners and what their experiences are like as they return to school to be trained for a career in education alongside folks in their twenties and thirties. I provide portraits of these individuals as they develop as teachers and describe the processes they go through to launch their teaching careers, and the evolving significance of their work in their overall life goals and achievements.

With longevity a new global reality, the trend we see today of adults returning to school to be trained for a different career will continue in the coming years. The question is how will we create a shared vision for lifelong learning that helps individuals to experiment with new ideas and different types of work, regardless of where they are in the life cycle?

Sarah J. Shin, University of Maryland Baltimore County

For more information about this book, please see our website. You might also be interested in the recent interview with the editors of the CAL Series on Language Education on our blog.


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