Being and becoming teachers of adult ELLs: case studies of professional identity negotiation, development and performance




Swoyer, Jennifer Gilardi

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Teachers of adult ELLs serve a diverse, highly motivated, and discerning student base. Unlike K-12 credentialing requirements, instructors of adult students only need a bachelor's degree, in any field, to begin their career. As the field mainly offers part-time positions, employees are often either first time instructors, or retired educators applying their previously learned classroom skills in another venue. Considering these various entries into the field of adult ELL instruction, and the potential disparity in preparation, the purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the process of becoming and experiences of being teachers of adult ELLs. This qualitative study took a case study approach, analyzing discourse gathered through a series of three-interviews with seven instructors of adult ELLs, single interviews with three administrators, and three interviews with adult ELLs. Most of the case study participants had previous careers in the field of education in primary or secondary schools, and they ranged in adult education experience from less than one, to nearly 20 years. The findings of the study suggest that individuals become teachers of adult ELLs through a combination of self-guided, peer-supported, and policy-enforced means. They tend to rely most heavily on feedback from their students and support from fellow educators to evaluate their performance. Teacher identity, or realization of being a teacher, was found to be more a result of years of experience, comfort, and confidence than a measurable or tangible accomplishment of a certain skill set.


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English language learners, Adult learning, Professional identity



Bicultural-Bilingual Studies