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The Interaction of L2 Teachers' Culturally Resonant Ideologies of Language and Teaching and L2 Policy Interpretation: A Narrative Analysis

  • Author(s): Deus, Thomas Andres
  • Advisor(s): Echeverria, Begoña
  • et al.
Abstract

With English language education increasingly viewed worldwide as an important mechanism for global economic development, many policy makers in developing countries are promoting the English language as the vital skill necessary for successful competition in an ever changing world. Perhaps nowhere is this phenomenon more momentous than in the United Arab Emirates, where the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has committed its vast economic resources towards a new curriculum mandating the change from Arabic to English language instruction in core subjects like Science and Math. To date, few studies have emerged from the Middle East examining the roles teachers play in the growing phenomenon of English language education reform. Conducted in a small, suburban secondary school in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), this dissertation investigates the ways teachers' beliefs impact how they interpret, and subsequently implement, the official curriculum. More specifically, this study examines how teachers' beliefs about the nature of teaching and the role of language in the world impact their interpretations of a government-mandated English language curriculum. Drawing on extensive interview and participant observation data, this study focuses on how teachers use narratives to both construct the role of the teacher and to negotiate the value of the English and Arabic languages. The findings indicate that although teachers at the Najah Boy's High School incorporated their beliefs in often unpredictable ways, particular beliefs shared common structures corresponding to shared cultural frameworks. Drawing from cognitive anthropology, this study found that two such structured belief systems manifested through the utterances and behaviors of teachers at Najah: the teacher as enthusiastic motivational speaker and the teacher as familial role model. The findings also indicated that although the contextual constraints teachers encountered in the school setting (including the mandate that they follow the curriculum verbatim) impacted their interpretations of the school curriculum, teachers' beliefs, in particular those linked to one or more poignant episodes in a teacher's past, had the capacity to trump the impact of contextual social constraints on their interpretations of the curriculum. The findings of this study suggest that teachers are the key to the realization of educational policy. Instead of treating teachers as obedient automatons, policy makers must find ways to include them in the change process.

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