Introduction

PhD in SLS Dissertation Defense on Friday, May 14 at 1:00 pm HSTHyeyoung Jung

PhD in SLS Dissertation Defense on Friday, May 14 at 1:00 pm HSTHyeyoung Jung

Hyeyoung Jung will be defending her dissertation on Friday, May 14 at 1:00 am HST over Zoom.

Zoom meeting link: https://hawaii.zoom.us/j/93018960060

Passcode: sls

Title: Towards Critical Literacy in Korean High School EFL Classrooms: Narrative Inquiry of Teacher Emotions and Critical Materials

Abstract: This dissertation explores the emotional landscapes of two Korean EFL high school teachers as they begin to incorporate critical literacy practices into their regular high school EFL instruction. Critical literacy focuses on the connection between literacy and power by giving literacy a socio-political dimension (Janks, 2010, 2013). Language teachers are encouraged to help their students achieve a deeper understanding of texts by discussing how power dynamics are inscribed in everyday life, engaging in active analysis of the text, and offering strategies for uncovering the underlying messages within texts (Luke, 2012). In the critical classroom, language teachers are no longer the sole source of authority or knowledge, and students take on the role of active agents who co-construct knowledge with their peers and teachers to transform their reality in a way that allows them to read both the ‘word’ and the ‘world’ (Freire & Macedo, 1987). This learning process is indispensable for cultivating mature democratic citizens who have creative and critical minds endowed with the profound empathy to change both their own lives and the world around them.

Attempting to use critical literacy materials, however, can pose a number of challenges for teachers in Korean EFL high schools given the country’s test-oriented and top-down educational system. For successful implementation of critical literacy in this context, it is important to develop an understanding of teacher emotions because knowing how teachers feel is essential to understanding their teacher identities and instructional practices (Benesch, 2012; Zembylas, 2013). To investigate teacher emotions, I draw on a narrative inquiry framework and triangulate data from longitudinal teacher narratives (collected before, during, and after the implementation of critical materials), audio-recorded classroom interactions (collected over the course of a semester), and official school documents.

The findings show that the teachers experienced a range of emotions, both positive and negative. While they initially reported having negative emotions such as resistance, uncertainty, lack of confidence, and even bodily discomfort (e.g., ‘sweat on the back’), these negative emotions were changed into positive ones through emotional engagement with critical literacy practices as the teachers co-constructed knowledge with their students. The teachers used critical literacy as a mediation tool to overcome the dissonance between their personal beliefs and their teaching practices, which in turn led to the formation of renewed, empowered, and legitimate teacher identities. This study provides teacher narratives and descriptions of classroom-based interactions for use in critical language teacher education, a discussion of pedagogical implications for critical materials development, and recommendations for a paradigm shift towards critical literacy in test-oriented Korean high school EFL classrooms and similar contexts.