Exploring Feminist Pedagogy in TESOL

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.

Exploring the identities of female English teachers in Japan

This week we published Diane Nagatomo’s latest book Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan. In this post, Diane explains the issues faced by Western English teachers in Japan and how they form both their personal and professional identities.

Identity, Gender and Teaching English in JapanIn a nutshell, my research interests generally lie in trying to find out what makes EFL teachers tick. In other words, what makes them do the things that they do in the classroom and their beliefs on how they should go about doing them.

For Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan, I focused on the personal and professional identity development of one group of language teachers: foreign women who are married to Japanese men. The ten women portrayed in this book range in age from their mid-twenties to their mid-sixties, and they teach in formal and in informal educational contexts. As wives and mothers of Japanese citizens, they have established deep roots in their local communities throughout Japan. And yet, as non-Japanese, they are not entirely insiders either. In addition, expectations that they should conform to Japanese gendered norms that place priority on the home and the family have shaped nearly every aspect of their lives. Nonetheless, all of the women in my study have demonstrated extraordinary resourcefulness, resilience and resistance in constructing their English language teaching careers.

My goal in writing this book was to let the women tell their own stories: how they operate English conversation school businesses; how they juggle numerous classes in multiple teaching contexts; and how they assimilate into their workplaces as full-time teachers. But I first wanted to situate their stories within the broader sociopolitical context of Japan in the introductory chapters.

So in Chapter 2, I discussed the historical background of language teaching and language learning in some detail, starting with the appearance of the first Europeans in the 1600s and moving to the economic miracle of the 1980s. In Chapter 3, I described the different educational contexts (conversation schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions) that foreigners generally work in, and I discussed how ideologies toward the teaching and the learning of English in Japan have shaped, and continue to shape the careers of foreign and Japanese teachers. In Chapter 4, I looked at interracial relationships from a historical perspective and from a current one. Attitudes that consider Western men to be ideal romantic partners for Japanese women, but on the other hand, do not consider Japanese men to be ideal romantic partners for Western women, have influenced the experiences of all Westerners with Japanese spouses. In addition, I write about how these gendered attitudes have carried over into the classroom and how they shape the learning experiences of the students as well as those of the teachers.

The stories that are told by my participants in this book are uniquely their own. However, as a foreign woman with a Japanese spouse who has been teaching in Japan since 1979, they strongly resonated with me, and I believe that they will resonate with other expatriate teachers, male and female, who teach English abroad as long-term and/or permanent migrants as well.

Dr. Diane Hawley Nagatomo, Ochanomizu University, Hawley.diane.edla@ocha.ac.jp

Exploring Japanese University English Teachers'€™ Professional IdentityFor more information please see our website or contact Diane at the address above. You may also be interested in Diane’s previous book Exploring Japanese University English Teachers’€™ Professional Identity.