Understanding Positional Identities of ESL Teachers in Response to Identity Conflicts Through an Analysis of Emotions and Agency

Kate Shea, Shi Li, Hayriye Kayi-Aydar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This study examines how ESL instructors position themselves through agentic actions and emotions in situations that involve identity conflicts in the work environment. Through a written interview, participants responded to 10 real-life scenarios adapted from scholarly literature in which an ESL/EFL teacher experienced an identity conflict. The teacher-participants were asked (a) what emotion(s) they would experience in such situations and (b) how they would act in the situations described in the survey. Based on the emotions and identities identified in the responses, a follow-up focus group interview was conducted with selected participants to further understand the nuances of emotionality, agency, and identity work. The thematic analysis through qualitative coding indicates that (a) the privileged identities of the teacher-participants created uncertainty in understanding and identifying with marginalized identities, (b) teachers reported agentic action by seeking administrative support instead of dealing with the identity conflict directly, and (c) collective agency played a crucial role in teachers’ professional identity construction. These findings shed further light on the interconnectedness of teacher identity, emotions, and agency and offer implications for language teachers, administrators, and teacher educators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEducational Linguistics
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NameEducational Linguistics
ISSN (Print)1572-0292
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1656


  • Identity conflict
  • Teacher agency
  • Teacher emotions
  • Teacher identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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