Conceptual framework of the study

This study is informed by a juxtaposition of three specific theoretical frameworks, namely Lave and Wenger’s (1991) and Wengers (1998) theory of situated learning (communities of practice), Tajfel's (1978) social identity theory, and Simon’s (1995) concept of the image-text. This juxtaposition is inspired by Varghese et al.’s suggestion that no single framework is self-sufficient to provide specific explanation to the complexities of identity formation.

Lave and Wenger’s (1998) Community of Practice Theory defines identity as “an integral aspect of a social learning theory and separable from issues of practice, community, and meaning" (p. 145), implying that identity emerges from a sense of belonging within a community of practice which is achieved through engagement, imagination, and alignment. The Legitimate Peripheral Participation theory by Lave and Wenger (1991) focuses on the development of newcomers into experienced professionals and members of a community’ of practice by participating in simple and low-risk, yet productive and necessary, tasks which give them access to the vocabulary and principles of the practitioners of that community. Communities have three fundamental characteristics: domain, community, and practice. The basic of this theory is the accumulation and dissemination of practical knowledge (knowledge management) in a particular domain by a practitioner community’ through practice of sharing and sustained interaction over a period of time. It is both a ‘bottom-up’ and a ‘top-down’ process, denoting that the practice of sharing requires both individual and collective participation.

Establishing a connection between identity and social categorisation, Tajfel’s (1978) social identity theory suggests that a person’s self-image is based on their group membership in the society. A person’s affiliation with various social groups based on the varying and multiple identities they hold in the society creates a sense of belongingness with those particular in-groups and produces a sense of recognition of being a part of the social world. This in-group affiliation in turn creates a sense of discrimination with the other groups of people, the out-groups, thus contributing to the development of an ‘us’ vs.‘them’ mentality and eventually leads to the development of a competing identity. This total process passes through three consecutive cognitive processes: social categorisation, social identification, and social comparison. Self-esteem is maintained when group comparisons are favourably observed.This competing identity often creates a feeling of identity threats in the group members originating from the perceived devaluation of the perceived competence of the group. The most prominent among the various forms of identity threats experienced by the group members is the social identity threat, in which they feel that their group is not being acknowledged as a separate entity with unique characteristics and they are being deprived of various opportunities. This kind of threat is mostly felt by the professional groups resulting in professional dissatisfaction and performance crisis.

Simon’s image-text concept suggests that identity formation is actively influenced by the image others form about and express in front of the individuals. If the out-group community does not hold positive image about a particular professional identity, the in-group members might feel deprived, and thus depressed. This sense of depression might negatively affect the professional performance. Burke and Stets (2009) argue that identity creates self-esteem and self-esteem has three major bases, namely self-efficacy, self-worth, and self-authenticity. When these three are synchronised, the individual is inspired to behave consistently with the situation-specific meanings and expectations. A juxtaposition of the above three theoretical frameworks, the purpose of this qualitative study is to explore how government college English language teachers in Bangladesh negotiate their professional identity construction and also how that constructed identity influences their professional behaviour and performance.

Research aims and questions

The aim of this study is to explore the identity negotiation processes of the government college English teachers and to relate it with their professional performances. The study addresses the following specific research questions:

  • 1. How do the Bangladeshi government college English teachers conceptualise and negotiate their professional identity?
  • 2. What factors do they identify as contributing to their identity development?
  • 3. How does their professional identity affect their professional performances?

In fact, the main focus of interest is to explore how these teachers negotiate their dual identity, that is, that of a government officer and a classroom teacher.


This study adopted a qualitative approach to gain insights into the nature of identity and the complexity cherished by the government college English teachers. The target phenomenon in this study is 'identity negotiation' between that of a government officer and a classroom teacher, and it involves human feelings. According to Strauss and Corbin (1998), "qualitative methods can be used to obtain the intricate details about phenomena such as feelings, thought processes, and emotions that are difficult to extract or learn about through more conventional methods" (p. 11). As the problem is exploratory in nature, the qualitative approach is best suited because it relies more on the views of participants and helps to obtain a deep understanding (Creswell, 2012).

The data were collected through in-depth interviews of 19 English teachers teaching at different government colleges in Dhaka city. These participants were selected on the basis of convenience of the researchers. The respondents were recruited as English teachers through competitive BCS examination in various years of intake, ranging from 14th BCS to 29th BCS batches. Therefore, respondents have varying work experiences ranging from 8 years to 22 years (see details in Table 20.1). Demographic information reveals that among the respondents, 7 are male and 12 are female. A total 18 respondents are from English literature background, and only two of them have specialisation in ELT. All of them received the four-month long foundation training at NAEM, four received foreign training (though not on English teaching). Among the 19 respondents, five work at intermediate level (Grades 11 and 12) colleges, and 14 work at colleges where both intermediate and tertiary programmes are taught. The intermediate college teachers do not get a chance to teach literature.

Table 20.1 Demographic information of the participants (total 19)

Educational qualification


Years of experience


M.A. in English literature: 15

M.A. with both literature and linguistics: 1

Linguistics and Ph.D.: 1

B.Ed./M.Ed. along with

M.A. in English literature: 2

Male: 7

Female: 12

Ranges from 14th

BCS to 29th BCS 29th: 1 (8 years) 26th: 2 (12 years) 24th: 6 (13 years) 22nd: 1 (-15 years) 20th: 1 (-16 years) 18th: 2 (—20 years) 16th: 3 (22 years.) 14th: 3 (25 years)

Foundation only: 4 Foundation and other training: 13

Research training: 2 Foreign training: 4

For data collection, a semi-structured interview with open-ended questions was developed based on literature review particularly based on the conceptual framework. The open-ended questions allowed the participants “to best voice their experiences unconstrained by any perspectives of the researchers or past research findings" (Creswell, 2012, p. 218). The interview schedule was piloted and later revised to make it more aligned with the research questions. In the convenient time of the participants, face-to-face interview was conducted with them. All interviews were digitally recorded, and then transcribed thematically and analysed identifying codes and subthemes followed by generating major themes (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Findings of the study have been presented under major themes.

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