Date of Award

8-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Teacher Education

Major Professor

Clara Lee Brown

Committee Members

Stergios Botzakis, Judson C. Laughter, Deborah A. Wooten, Dolly J. Young

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the identity categories of race, class, and gender in preservice teachers, and how the nexus of those identities impacts their teaching practices, especially when teaching English Language Learners (ELLs). The topic of teacher beliefs of preservice teachers has been well researched. However, there were gaps in the literature concerning the positionality of preservice teachers with specific regard to race, class, and gender. This study sought to address gaps in the existing literature by examining the participant perceptions of race, class, and gender of preservice English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers and their teaching practices as they completed their 2014-2015 internship year. Multiple interviews, classroom observations, and lesson plans were analyzed through the methodology of grounded theory in order to address the following research questions: 1) How might the identity categories of race, class, and gender influence teacher beliefs about students? 2) How might these beliefs influence pedagogy?

The findings of the study are that the participants’ beliefs about their students were shaped by how they perceive their personal identities. Their individual perceptions regarding these identity categories seemed to be influenced by the way they were treated by their teachers when they were young at school. They stated it is important for ESL teachers to be keenly aware of their students’ home lives and backgrounds. They believed that ELLs need to be accommodated as much as possible with multiple scaffolding opportunities given that these students are culturally and linguistically marginalized within the system. The participants also consciously made a choice to allow the classroom communications to take place in students’ native language when possible. These findings support the idea that teachers’ personal backgrounds and their beliefs strongly influence the way they teach, perhaps even more so for the preservice teachers who choose to teach ELLs. Based on the current study’s findings, it is suggested that teacher education programs need to strengthen the components of critical self-examinations and self-reflections along identity categories in each course because it seems that teacher identity begins with personal identity.

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