Contrasting Identities

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Author: Yusuke Okada

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  • This article was downloaded by: [187.181.205.196]On: 17 March 2015, At: 17:31Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Classroom DiscoursePublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rcdi20

    Contrasting identities: a languageteachers practice in an English forSpecific Purposes classroomYusuke Okadaaa Graduate School of Language and Culture, Osaka University,Toyonaka, JapanPublished online: 29 Sep 2014.

    To cite this article: Yusuke Okada (2015) Contrasting identities: a language teacherspractice in an English for Specific Purposes classroom, Classroom Discourse, 6:1, 73-87, DOI:10.1080/19463014.2014.961092

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19463014.2014.961092

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  • Contrasting identities: a language teachers practice in an Englishfor Specific Purposes classroom

    Yusuke Okada*

    Graduate School of Language and Culture, Osaka University, Toyonaka, Japan

    For language teachers who are concerned about referring to their own and stu-dents identities other than in the roles of teacher and student in the class-room, this conversation analytic study aims to give insights into the use ofidentity. Detailed analysis of the data of English for a Specific Purpose (ESP)classrooms indicates that contrasting the teachers and students non-default situ-ated identities, such as senpai (senior in English) with kohai (junior in Eng-lish) and sociologist with scientist, is a way for the language teacher to performthe role of teacher effectively in ESP classrooms: the practice constructs anepistemic gradient among the teacher and the students and makes some actionsaccountable by the participants, who is ascribed a superior epistemic status withan identity. The study concludes with a discussion of the contribution the use ofidentity can make to ESP/LSP (language for specific purposes) and suggestionsfor ESP/LSP course development.

    Keywords: identity; epistemics; English for specific purposes; conversationanalysis; teacher training

    Introduction

    In language classrooms, where a target language is taught, learned and assessed, theidentities of teacher and student are relevant to all the participants, and classroominteraction is normatively managed through the actions affiliated with such identi-ties. The most notable example is the initiation-response-feedback/evaluation (IRF/E) pattern, which consists of a sequence of role-specific actions, namely the tea-chers initiation of an action, the students response to the action and the teachersfeedback or evaluation (Mehan 1979; Sinclair and Coulthard 1975). However, suchsituation-relevant roles are not the only features of the participants identities inlanguage classrooms. For example, the teacher might be identified as old man,Canadian or linguist; a student might be categorised as a boy, Japanese or psycholo-gist. The question arises as to whether such non-role specific identities can play anypart in the language classroom.

    Employing a conversation analysis (CA) framework, Richards (2006) analysedthe talk of English as a second language (ESL) classrooms in order to determinewhether it is possible to produce an authentic conversation in a language class-room, where turn-taking is managed by identities other than those of teacher andstudents. Such a situation would contrast with the traditional teacher-led lesson inwhich turn-taking is governed by the roles of teacher and students. He found that

    *Email: okada@lang.osaka-u.ac.jp

    2014 Taylor & Francis

    Classroom Discourse, 2015Vol. 6, No. 1, 7387, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19463014.2014.961092

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    mailto:okada@lang.osaka-u.ac.jphttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19463014.2014.961092

  • the teacher and students could indeed move out of their situated roles, which wereassociated with the language classroom, by orientating toward other features of theiridentities, and that authentic conversations were possible in such a classroom con-text. One of Richards examples involved a student and teacher orienting to theiridentities as a member of a Taiwanese war model-making group and a westerner,respectively, through displaying their knowledge on the topic of the swastika andhaving an authentic conversation in the language classroom. In this interaction, thestudent explained to the teacher and other students what a military model-maker is,and what he understood the swastika to mean. Richards findings suggested that thenon-default identities of both teacher and students can have pedagogical value inlanguage classrooms.

    However, while the value of orienting toward non-default teacher and studentidentities is recognised as an interactional and educational resource for languageclassroom discourse, language teachers remain concerned about orienting to identi-ties other than the role of teacher (e.g. Braine 1999; Clarke 2008; Nagatomo 2012;Varghese et al. 2005). Teachers may be concerned that such an identity switch maylead to a loss of control over the classroom, or that disclosure of their own personalbeliefs or values associated with an identity may be an obstacle to teaching(Richards 2006, 7273). At the same time, practitioners in the field of language forspecific purposes (LSP) express concern with regard to the roles teachers shouldplay and what identities they should exhibit in the LSP classroom. This concernarises as the nature of the LSP classroom differs from that in an ordinary languagelearning classroom, in that the teacher may be less knowledgeable than the studentson the specific subject material (see Belcher 2009 for a review). It follows that itwould be informative to document whether and how teachers can use participantsdifferent identities for pedagogical purposes while remaining in the role of teacherin the language/LSP classroom. A need for research in this area has been identifiedby language educationists (Varghese et al. 2005, 39), as well as practitioners of LSPcourses and programmes.

    The present study aims to provide insight into the potential value of incorporat-ing identities other than the situated role-specific identities of teachers and studentsby documenting the practice in interactional teaching activities in an actual Englishfor Specific Purposes (ESP) classroom. The following section offers an illustrationof the CA approach to identity on which this study is theoretically and methodologi-cally based. Following this, the data to be analysed are described. The analysis ofthe data is then set out, showing how the teacher used his own and his studentsidentities in an ESP classroom. The paper concludes with a discussion of: (1) howparticipants identities can be used in the language classroom; (2) what contributionsuch use of identity can make to the language classroom; and (3) suggestions forESP/LSP course development.

    A CA approach: identity as a cultural and interactional phenomenon

    From the CA perspective, any identifications or categorisations that may be appliedto a participant are regarded as resources for interpreting and (re)producing the par-ticipants identity. However, any such orientation toward ones identity must be visi-ble to and reportable by co-participants in the relevant interaction. Zimmermans(1998) idea of identity-as-context, later employed by Richards (2006), is a means

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  • of documenting the details of a participants orientation toward his/her own andothers identities in an interaction. Zimmerman (1998) proposes three types of iden-tity. The first is discourse identity, which emerges in the ac