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.

Power and Meaning Making in an EAP Classroom

This month we are publishing Power and Meaning Making in an EAP Classroom by Christian W. Chun. In this post, Christian discusses the background to the book.

Power and Meaning Making in an EAP ClassroomLong before I became an academic researcher, I had taught English as an additional language and English for Academic Purposes (EAP) for over 15 years in Los Angeles. My own classroom and teaching practices were shaped not by any graduate course curriculum – I didn’t even begin my MA in TESOL studies until my 12th year of teaching – but by my own students’ lived experiences they shared with me. One seminal, searing moment that set my pedagogical and research approach on the present path was the 1992 uprisings over the Rodney King verdict, one year after I had started teaching. On April 29th 1992, four Los Angeles police officers (among others) who had been video-recorded beating and kicking a motorist who had been stopped – Rodney King – were acquitted of all charges. Many in the communities who had suffered police brutality revolted by burning and looting their own and adjacent communities. One such community affected was where many of my students resided and worked; some of them lost their livelihoods as a result. They came to class that week and the following weeks understandably angry and demanded to know why this had happened to them. My classroom was thus immediately transformed into a space in which critical pedagogy was called into being not by me or some agenda I wanted to impose, but by my students themselves, who began to articulate their lived identities and practices that attempted to connect their language use, culture, education, and politics to the society in which they were now living.

It was this event that has since informed my work on critical EAP examining how both teachers and students take up and talk about the dominant representations and discourses that attempt to frame and narrate our everyday lives in society. These ways of talking about and understanding the world are important, for they help shape not only how students use language in their engagements with new and unfamiliar texts, discourses, and academic language, but also just as importantly, in talking about topics and issues that traditionally have been avoided in the English language classroom (e.g., politics, race, economic issues, and religion to name just a few). These students, therefore, have ample opportunities to exercise academic literacy skills so crucial to success in tertiary studies.

Critical pedagogy in education and in English language teaching in particular has been much theorized as well as debated and contested. However, there have been very few case studies of critical pedagogy approaches in action by practitioners themselves. My book is a move to address this, for it has been described by Brian Morgan as “the first close examination of pedagogical relationships and practices within an EAP setting.” Working closely with the participant instructor for nearly a year, we explored how she could put the beginnings of a critical literacy pedagogy into her classroom practices. By implementing critical theories into classroom practices, Power and Meaning Making in an EAP Classroom: Engaging with the Everyday is not only addressed to researchers, but also teacher educators and practitioners with its accessible written style. By featuring our lived experiences and identities in our research discussions and the instructor’s accompanying changing teaching approaches and the ensuing enabled meaning makings by her students, I hope this book will contribute to new directions and developments of critical pedagogy that is much needed in our 21st century world.

For more information about this book please see our website.