Professional identity influencing professional performance
The present study further confirms the popular assumption that 'identity and performance are interconnected’ (Roshid, Haidar, & Mian, 2017, p. 164).Two points emerge as strong determinant towards their professional identity development: their sense of identity and positive workplace environment which includes proper training facilities, needs-based training modules, implementation opportunities, and equity-based selection process for training.
Around two-thirds of the respondents (17) mentioned that the confusion regarding their identity and the related dissatisfaction adversely affects their professional performance. As one respondent says,
Of course it (identity crisis) affects mind any time. Not only in the classroom, almost everywhere, when I see that 1 am not getting anything, it does affect my mind, and can an unhappy mind bear anything positive?
Another respondent says.
If the teacher is supposed to develop only professionally, disregarding his personal identity, he will lose focus from his study and will remain busy in creating a balance between his personal life and professional life, and this struggle for balance will certainly affect his performance.
In addition, teachers also appear to feel a lack of confidence regarding their identity as English teachers, as evidenced in the following comment:
I chose this profession out of my love for literature, but now as I am teaching in an intermediate college, I do not get any chance to teach literature, and I am also not trained in language teaching. So I feel that I am a victim of circumstances—in terms of satisfaction, there is a huge gap.
Only two teachers out of 19 mentioned that they are confident enough in their professional role of a language teacher because they think that their literature background forced them to develop a high level of English, more than enough for ELT. However, perhaps the most revealing comment in this regard came from a participant and was echoed by three more respondents, when he said,
Teaching language does not mean teaching only communication.. .it means teaching it in its totality, including its accent, pronunciation, syntax, semantics, everything. Most of our teachers do not care at all about the right pronunciation. It is not their fault; as they come from literature background, and in their syllabus they have little focus on the properties of a language.. .so when they are asked to teach ELT, they focus mainly on syntax, disregarding all other items, particularly pronunciation.
One almost univocally emphasised point is that for teaching English language successfully teachers must be trained up in ELT methods for at least one year and that training must be given at the very beginning of their career, and also these trainings should be repeated regularly and should be free from nepotism.
All these responses show that identity and performance are closely intertwined and a strong sense of professional identity improves their professional performance by increasing their professional confidence.
This study further tries to explore the role and necessity of professional training in the construction of professional identity. All 19 respondents acknowledged that they were not job ready when they commenced the career; and that they only gradually developed expertise through performing the role in the class. Out of 19, four teachers complained that they did not receive any training other than the foundation training provided by the NAEM. About 13 respondents received some more training along with foundation training, but interestingly none of those training were meant for teaching expertise development. About four of them received foreign trainings, but not on language teaching. They further complained of discrimination and nepotism in the selection of candidates for foreign training. One more serious issue pointed out by them is the total absence of monitoring regarding the implementation phase of the training. All 19 teachers univocally complained that after a training programme is over, authority never conducts any research to know about its implementation and effectiveness. One senior teacher is disappointed that while designing the training programmes, teachers' voices are never heard, and as a result the training almost always fails to meet the goal.
They acknowledge that considering the huge population and the equally huge resource constraints of a developing country like Bangladesh, it is not possible to ensure pre-service teacher education as a prerequisite for teacher recruitment. However, in-service training can easily bridge the gap and be more effective if provided at the very beginning and if the training modules are wisely devised in accordance with subject-specific requirements. “The earlier one gets training, the longer he can give the result of it”. They strongly advocate that the authority must consult the teachers before devising a training module to identify the actual problems that need address.
As regards the necessity of foreign training, there is an interestingly differentiated response. While all the respondents agree that foreign training can help English teachers’ identity development by providing exposure to the target language and culture, and also to the newer methods of language teaching, some teachers are quite sarcastic in their responses. As one teacher says, foreign trainings do bring some qualitative change in the personality of the recipients and increases their acceptability in the society, but “...an implementation-friendly environment is not much available in our country, even if he comes with a world of knowledge, he cannot implement it”.
Moreover, due to the wide gap between environments, what teachers learn from foreign trainings does not contribute much to their professional development, often creating frustration too. However, they feel that it is the failure of the education management authority as they fail to create implementation-friendly environment. They suggest that ministry should develop a database for the foreign-trained teachers and utilise their knowledge by employing them as master trainers and also by organising frequent workshops so that knowledge dissemination is made easier.
From these varying responses it appears that if training programmes, whether local or international, are not wisely chosen, keeping in mind the actual shortcomings of EL teachers, and also if strong monitoring system is not developed, then it would be just wastage of time and money and also a misappropriation of talent and energy.