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InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching




Park University Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

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Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Benefits of teachers' autoethnographies are well-documented in current research. This study adds to the research literature by directly analyzing how the insights gained through writing autoethnographic essays may impact second language (L2) teachers' classrooms. To collect the data, the study incorporated autoethnographic essays into a graduate course for language teachers and asked the participating teachers to design lessons that reflected the insights they gained about themselves through this project. Adopting the transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 1978, 1997) that scaffolds teachers' self-reflection, this paper explores the transformative potential of teachers' autoethnographies through tracking qualitative changes in the teachers' narratives and practice across one academic semester. The results show that as a learning tool, autoethnographies can facilitate teachers' developing more empowering teaching identities and have a potential for enhancing their teaching practices. The paper adds empirical evidence and a new perspective in the investigation of teacher learning. It concludes with pedagogical and research implications for L2 teacher education.

Autoethnography is viewed as an effective and valid research method and a pedagogical tool in teacher education by an increasing number of researchers (Hancı-Azizoğlu, 2018). Ellis et al. (2011) explain that "autoethnographers view research and writing as socially-just acts; rather than a preoccupation with accuracy, the goal is to produce analytical, accessible texts that change us and the world we live in for the better" (para. 40). Research studies showed insights into the impact of using autoethnographies on constructing teaching identities (Canagarajah, 2012; Solano-Campos, 2014; Yazan, 2019a), on promoting teacher's creative writing abilities (Hancı-Azizoğlu, 2018), and on increasing second language (L2) teacher educators' reflexivity (Park, 2014). However, to the best of our knowledge, no research investigated the impact of teachers' engagement with autoethnographies on their practice.

The study takes a case study approach (Yin, 2003) and focuses on the insights gained by three language teachers engaging with autoethnographic essays in a masters-level teacher education program. The study adopts the theory of transformative learning (Mezirow, 1978, 1997) to explore the transformative potential of teachers' autoethnographies. The theory explains how adult learning occurs and how to make it more effective in formal educational settings. Our purpose is not merely to report a case of successful teachers' learning through the lens of the adult learning theory, but to explore the mechanisms that make such experiences transformative (Whitney, 2008).

The study first overviews the transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 1978, 1997) and the use of autoethnography in teacher education research and practice. Next, in presenting the analysis, special attention is paid to teachers' "authoring their own narratives … articulating their identities to themselves, understanding the situatedness of their identities in sociocultural contexts, and exercising agency in the contours of their identity formation" (Yazan, 2019b, p. 4). Our analysis is grounded in not only tracing qualitative changes in teachers' narratives but also exploring the kinds of changes teachers choose to implement (or not) into their practice. In conclusion, implications for teacher educators and limitations concerning the length, scope of the study and its main sources are discussed.

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