Factors contributing to the construction of professional identity as an EFL teacher
The wide variety of constructs identified by the respondents as contributing to the construction of professional identity of EFL teachers can be grouped into three categories: ‘professional attributes', ‘pedagogical competencies’, and ‘institutional support' (see also, ILoshid, Haidar, & Mian, 2017). Professional attributes include commitment (15 respondents); self-motivation (four respondents), mental acceptance and a sense of belongingness to the profession (six respondents), student-oriented wisdom and student management skills (four respondents); positive, dynamic, and attractive personality (four respondents); team-work skills; analytical skills, critical outlook; and finally, love for research. Pedagogical competencies include sound subject knowledge (seven respondents); teaching style (seven respondents); up-to-date information about the continuous developments in the ELT sector happening globally (five respondents); continuous efforts to overcome the problems of working in an NNES setting (two respondents). Institutional supports include professional and positive workplace environment (eight respondents); adequate training facilities at the very beginning of the career along with continuous opportunities for renewal and implementation facilities (10 respondents); and recognition of professional excellence through social recognition (five respondents).
Among the personal professional attributes, ‘commitment’ emerges in the first position, and mental acceptance emerges in the second position; and the two attributes appear to be closely linked. According to one respondent, only those persons should come to teaching who cherish a genuine passion for it; those who are self-analytical, student-friendly, dynamic, and above all, dedicated to their vocation.The majority of responses indicate that teacher identity is mainly a ‘being' rather than a‘becoming . As two respondents suggest.it is not possible to train a person into teacher, because it is completely an individual journey. All the respondents suggested that identity construction is better facilitated when commitment combined with proper training facilities, because training boosts the confidence level by ensuring pedagogical competence.
Among the pedagogical competencies, sound subject knowledge and proper teaching style have been mentioned as the highest imperatives. However, with regard to subject knowledge, there is a mixed response about the necessity of ELT-based educational background of teachers for becoming an effective ELT teacher. Majority teachers (14) feel that for teaching language at the colleges, strict ELT background is not necessary; because in the government colleges the syllabus and the assessment system do not demand that much depth of knowledge in language and linguistics. Moreover, the reception capability of the students is also a factor, as one teacher puts it:
Language education is a two-way traffic. I might be too much skilled in language, but when I exhibit it in the classroom, 80% of my grass root level students cannot grasp that. Thus, being good at language is enough and our literature background certainly gives us that much subject knowledge. Only specialised training on a regular basis might fill in the gap.
However, five respondents feel that ELT background or at least one course in ELT should be required for becoming ELT teacher. According to them, for teaching ELT at honours level, language-based educational background is required, since at that level, students need to learn the language in depth, Referring to the problem of wrong pronunciation of English words, one teacher with ELT background argues that a teacher with ELT background would better know how to teach language-specific features than the ones from literature background.
Among institutional supports, subject-based training facilities emerge as the first priority with majority (10) respondents mentioning it. According to majority of the respondents, the authority most often finishes its duty by arranging trainings, but never monitors if the trained teachers are placed in the right place so that they can implement their newly gained knowledge. Another vital point raised by the teachers is the discrimination often exercised by the authority in the selection of candidates for training. As one teacher says, while some privileged teachers get selected for training again and again, most of the teachers are not even informed of the training facilities.This view is echoed by all 19 respondents.
The factors so far identified as having effective influence on identity construction suggest that identity construction is mainly a combination of the individual image and the social and institutional image of the person. As identity determines behaviour, it is only a logical expectation that professional identity will have an influence on professional performance.