Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Identity Performance and Negotiation of Multilingual English Language Teachers in New Zealand - A Multiple Case Study

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posted on 2021-06-27, 21:17 authored by Wimalasiri, Polpiti Acharige Apsara Kalpanie

Identity is constituted in and through language (Norton, 2005) demonstrating social, political and cultural ideologies of individual selves in interaction. Exploring identities of individuals as language users, learners and teachers allows linguistic and applied linguistic researchers to disclose meanings behind complex language related behaviours. This supports insights for the development of language education.

In the current study, I explore identity performance and identity negotiation of multilingual English language teachers (MELTs) in New Zealand (NZ). I define MELTs as English language teachers who speak any other language(s) in addition to English. Exploring how MELTs perform and negotiate their identities in NZ is important due to several factors. First, people in society have various ideological assumptions regarding multilingual teachers involved in teaching English in an English speaking country; therefore, MELTs are required to negotiate their linguistic and social identities to suit the expectations of the institutions and students they serve. Secondly, there is no known study in NZ focused on MELT identities, even though the population of NZ is diverse, comprised of multilingual communities. Thirdly, revealing identity negotiation of MELTs supports language teacher educators to understand language teacher identities with regard to classroom realities. This provides insights to develop language teacher education programmes accordingly.

I employed four different research methods: semi-structured narrative interviews, identity portraits and classroom observations followed by stimulated recall sessions to explore how MELTs perform negotiated identities in the classroom (RQ 1) and what ideological and interactional functions are served when they perform negotiated identities (RQ 2). Data from narrative interviews provided insights to understand teacher identities revealed through their biographies and classroom stories. In addition, teachers’ narratives revealed how teacher identities are constructed and positioned while being negotiated in their stories. Identity portraits and the recorded interactions provided insights to understand how teachers make semiotic links to various linguistic and social identities they perform as English language teachers, providing various indexical meanings to those identities. I observed how teachers perform negotiated identities in interaction with students through classroom observations. I also conducted stimulated recall sessions to investigate teacher responses for classroom scenarios. Triangulated data from all the sources generated themes answering the two research questions.

The findings of the study show that MELTs perform multiple negotiated identities in interaction with students and myself with reference to the micro and macro social contexts in which they are situated. MELTs also demonstrate positive and negative identity practices in the classroom based on their English language and English language teaching ideologies. Furthermore, MELTs’ identity performances were observed to serve various ideological and interactional functions in the classroom. For instance, their negotiated identities support them practicing either monolingual or multilingual friendly language teaching. Moreover, some MELTs employ their negotiated linguistic identities to translanguage in the classroom, catering to the language needs of multilingual students. They also negotiate their teacher identities based on contextual factors. Thus, the findings of my study support language teacher educators, researchers and administrators to understand the contribution of MELTs towards English language education in New Zealand.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline

Applied Linguistics

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies


Seals, Corinne