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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Language teacher agency in digital technology use : Korean EFL teachers’ enactment through collaborative inquiry Lim, Kyu Yun


With a dramatic advancement of digital technologies, the South Korean Ministry of Education has embarked on a nationwide digital education initiative to expand technology-equipped classrooms by 2023. While most public schools are far from achieving this goal, a substantial gap between early- and late-funded schools has emerged, creating a digital divide among schools, teachers, and students. Yet, some teachers are actively seeking to overcome challenges. Investigating how individual teachers in different environments implement educational technology would shed light on what factors afford or hinder their engagement with technology. Focusing on three in-service junior high school teachers of English as a foreign language (EFL) who participated in a collaborative professional development (PD) program in Seoul, this qualitative multiple case study investigates how language teacher agency (LTA) and classroom practices are interrelated with ecological conditions and explores the role of a collaborative inquiry community in fostering their LTA. Drawing on an ecological understanding, this study focuses on the iterational (past), practical-evaluative (present), and projective (future) dimensions of LTA within overlapping layers of educational contexts (micro, meso, and macro). The participants engaged in PD in a collaborative inquiry community, in which they explored the use of technologies for facilitating students’ learning, conducted collaborative action research, and implemented reflective teaching practices. Data encompassed semi-structured individual and group interviews as well as an analysis of a lesson plan, an action research paper, and presentation materials. The findings of three participants situated in different ecological conditions suggest that macro-level national policies were mediated through meso-level school resources and socio-cultural contexts, ultimately affecting EFL teachers’ LTA and micro-level classroom practices. Furthermore, the collaborative inquiry community offered a space for collaborative reflection, critical analysis of technologies, and transformative actions, which in turn promoted their LTA. These findings indicate that language teachers as agentic professionals can make deliberate choices based on their own understanding of teaching contexts and pedagogical needs although equal educational opportunities must be provided by reducing the digital divide among schools. This study further invites K–12 language teachers, teacher PD program coordinators, or policymakers to incorporate teachers’ voices and experience into technology-related policies.

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