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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Pandemic transformations and settler discourse stabilities in Canadian English-language teacher identity Detwyler, Dmitri


The outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020 prompted a shift to emergency remote teaching (ERT) in many regions. This dissertation study investigates the nature and impacts of the ERT transition on the professional knowledge and identities-in-discourse of English language teaching (ELT) instructors in Canada. It adopts a discursive constructionist perspective framed by discursive psychology to show how occasioned descriptions by participants in research encounters made visible various disruptions and stabilities in Canadian ELT early in the pandemic. The methods included individual interviews, focus groups, vignette responses, and written reflections with 15 ELT instructors in the Canadian postsecondary, adult education, and for-profit education sectors. This manuscript-based dissertation includes three independent, interrelated manuscripts. In each I apply thematic and discourse analysis to selected data subsets as a product of situated social practice by attending to how the data were co-constructed through participant interaction with me. The first paper describes how ELT instructors in one representative program navigated digital inequities among their learners, balanced digital literacies and language teaching in an accountability framework, and managed boundaries and expectations ‘up’ and ‘down’ in the language-program hierarchy. The second paper identifies, across Canada’s ELT sectors, cascading flows of vulnerability from students onto instructors; socio-technical supports for teaching that were described as constraints; and intertwining economic and existential anxieties. The third paper shows how settler-colonial histories and discursive hierarchies of language and nationality were circulated in interaction as a settlement English and postsecondary instructor performed expert identities in accounts of pandemic teaching practice. This project makes two key contributions to applied linguistics and TESOL. In reporting on adaptations by ELT instructors in the initial ERT transition, it shows how defining patterns of the Canadian ELT profession, including precarious employment in the neoliberal economy and settler-colonial histories, were made visible in my interactions with participants at a unique moment of historical disruption. Methodologically, this project underscores the importance of reflexivity for ELT research and advances an understanding of language-teacher identities-in-discourse. I suggest this methodological realignment may help address the longstanding gap between ELT theory and practice.

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