November 19: Dissertation Defense – Priscila Leal


PhD in Second Language Studies Dissertation Defense

Priscila Leal

Becoming and being a critical English language teacher: A mixed methods study of critical consciousness

Chair: Graham V. Crookes

Monday, November 19, 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Moore Hall, Room 258



Using a mixed research design, this study investigated (a) how critical language teachers, or language teachers who teach for social justice, experience developing critical consciousness, and (b) the personal values and teaching strategies they draw on consistent with fostering social justice in the classroom.

Although the area of critical language pedagogy has certainly developed since Pennycook’s (1990; 2001) call for a critical applied linguistics, the associated area of language teacher education for critical pedagogy has not. In critical pedagogy, a key construct as conceptualized by Freire is that of critical consciousness, which is the ability to “perceive social, political, and economic contradictions” and take action “against the oppressive elements of reality” (Freire, 1970/2014, p. 35). For language teachers to support their students in developing critical consciousness, the teachers, too, must have developed it. However, little is known about how language teachers develop critical consciousness and how it affects their personal and professional beliefs and classroom practices (Crookes, 2015).

In the first phase of this study, a new measurement instrument of critical consciousness was developed and validated. An exploratory factor analysis was conducted with a diverse sample of in-service English language teachers (N = 76) resulting in four internally consistent factors. In the second phase, narrative-eliciting interviews were carried out with a sub-sample selected from the participants in the first phase (N = 14). Additional interviews were carried out with in-service English language teachers recruited through SIGs (Special Interest Groups) and snowball sampling, totaling 29 participants. Narratives were analyzed using Bamberg’s (1997) positioning analysis. Narratives of becoming aware of contradictions and experiencing conflicting emotions (e.g., discomfort) were found to be consistent across narratives of developing critical consciousness. Narratives of being a critical English language teacher were characterized by the possibility (or not) of integrating one’s personal values and teaching strategies.

Findings suggest that language teacher education programs with a critical pedagogy perspective can support the development of pre-service language teachers’ critical consciousness by promoting courses that engage them in identifying their personal values, providing opportunities to become aware of contradictions, and offering services that guide them through experiences of conflicting emotions.



Bamberg, M. (1997). Positioning between structure and performance. Journal of Narrative and Life History, 7(1–4), 335–342.

Crookes, G. V. (2015). Redrawing the Boundaries on Theory, Research, and Practice Concerning Language Teachers’ Philosophies and Language Teacher Cognition: Toward a Critical Perspective. The Modern Language Journal, 99(3), 485–499. doi:10.1111/modl.12237

Freire, P. (1970/2014). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Pennycook, A. (1990). Towards a Critical Applied Linguistics for the 1990s. Issues in Applied Linguistics, 1(1), 8–28.

Pennycook, A. (2001). Critical Applied Linguistics: A Critical Introduction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.