Checkmate or Stalemate?

learner responses to teacher positioning in the adult ESL literacy classrom

Research output: Contribution to journalConference paper


This paper reports on a research case study conducted within Australia’s Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program (LLNP). Employing elements of identity theory, positioning theory and culturally relevant pedagogy, it investigated how Jann, a teacher of beginner-level adult ESL literacy learners, positioned her learners vis-à-vis her teaching practices, and how her learners positioned themselves in response. The paper draws on the concepts of investment and imagined communities (Norton, 1997, 2001) to explain how learners reacted to Jann’s positioning of them. The research findings revealed that Jann conceptualised her role both as a mother figure and as a social link between her learners and the broader Australian community. In turn, these perceptions had a distinct effect on the ways in which she positioned her learners in the classroom. Analysing the data from in-depth interviews and classroom observations, the paper discusses the extent to which Jann’s learners appeared to be invested in the language practices of the classroom, and the degree to which her teaching was able to tap into their imagined communities. The research findings suggest that both of these factors played an important role in determining the learners’ levels of engagement and participation in classroom learning activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalTESOL in Context
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event2012 ACTA International Conference TESOL as a Global Trade: Ethics, Equity and Ecology - Cairns, Australia
Duration: 2 Jul 20125 Jul 2012

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