Teacher Development Junior / Senior High School Research-Oriented Presentation
Gestalt of language teacher identity: ALTs in the JET program
For over three decades, hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals have set foot on Japanese soil as foreign assistant language teachers (ALTs) through the government-sponsored Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program. Although there is an apparent need for scrutiny of the lived experiences of ALTs in their situated contexts, empirical discussion and research addressing them have been remarkably insufficient, as previous studies have focused primarily on the advantages and shortcomings of individual teachers and the characteristics of their team-teaching practices. Against this backdrop, the study on which this presentation is based explored, via narrative interviews, the identities and their constructions of 22 ALTs in the JET program. It is of critical importance to understand the complexities of ALT identity because how we view ourselves, how we project ourselves to others, and how others perceive us impact all aspects of our professional and private lives, including our beliefs, emotions, development, and practices. The findings revealed that the gestalt of ALT identity is comprised of two primary categories, foreigner identity and dabbler identity, and their six incumbent sub-identities (i.e., celebrity, sojourner, English expert, assistant, greenhorn, and Japanese novice). The presentation concludes with implications for language teacher education and identity research.
Takaaki Hiratsuka is an associate professor at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, Japan, where he supervises master's and PhD students in related fields of language teacher education and narrative inquiry. His recent book publications include: Narrative inquiry into language teacher identity: ALTs in the JET program (2022, Routledge) and Team teachers in Japan: Beliefs, identities, and emotions (forthcoming, Routledge).