How learning experiences foster commitment to a career in teaching English as a foreign language
Crosby, Jarvis Lee
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Throughout the world millions of adults, representing a diversity of cultures and languages, are learning English as a second or foreign language. Governments, educational institutions, corporations, and individuals are seeking people who can teach the English language. In response to this global situation, well-trained and committed teachers of English as a foreign language (EFL) are needed. The purpose of this research was to identify how learning experiences foster commitment to a career in teaching EFL. This study employed a qualitative method of research using in-depth interviews to gather data. The study involved 15 native English speaking EFL teachers. The teaching environments represented six cultural contexts. The average age of the participants was 37 years old. Research questions addressed how the participants constructed their commitment to the field of teaching EFL, what types of learning experiences impacted the commitment, how an experiential learning component of a formal teacher-training program fostered the commitment, what was the experiential learning process, and what factors shaped the experiential learning process. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method. The study found that the career commitment was constructed in relationship to other commitments, with a focus on other's development, and in alignment with personality and abilities. Impacting the career commitment were both formal and informal learning experiences. Composing the informal experiences were self-directed and incidental learning experiences. The experiential learning component of the participant's formal TESOL training program enhanced the participant's knowledge and developed his or her skills. The experiential learning process consisted of multiple reflective learning cycles embedded into three life stages. Personal factors shaping the process were interest in cultural diversity, enjoyment of teaching, and a meaningful spiritual life. Contextual factors identified were enduring personal relationships, support from others, and exposure to the EFL teaching profession. Two conclusions were drawn from the findings: (a) Career commitment to teaching EFL is a developmental process that occurs within a supportive environment; and (b) Learning experiences are central to the process that fosters commitment to a career in teaching EFL. Implications for practice and suggestions for future research are presented.