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Volume 14 Number 2, Summer 2017, Pages 211-379 PDF Download

Professional Survival in a Neoliberal Age: A Case Study of an EFL Teacher in China

    Wendy Li & Peter I. De Costa

This study explored the negotiation of a Chinese EFL teacher's teaching identity in light of recent critique of neoliberalism. Ms. Q, our focal participant, worked in a private English school that commodified English, and her main teaching responsibility was to prepare students for the IELTS test. We adopted an agency-centered approach to explore how Ms. Q's professional identity was negotiated in relation to the exercise and investment of her professional agency. In particular, Haneda and Sherman's (2016) job-crafting perspective on teacher agency was adopted to illustrate how Ms. Q was able to go beyond the prescribed teaching role assigned by the school. This move, in turn, contributed to her teacher identity development because she was able to exercise agency within the affordances and constraints of the given work context. Our data include classroom observation, interviews with Ms. Q and her students, Ms. Q's teaching materials and her posts in a Chinese social network (Wechat). Our findings revealed that Ms. Q's investment in constructing the desired teacher identity, that is, to be a good educator, supported her to transcend the prescribed space for teaching practice and make agentic decisions in the classroom that were in accordance with her teaching beliefs.

Keywords: teacher agency, job-crafting, neoliberalism