Steven Talmy

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Associate Professor

Research Interests

teacher education

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Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Pandemic transformations and settler discourse stabilities in Canadian English-language teacher identity (2022)

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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Mobilizing knowledge processes and lifeworld practices across learning spaces: exploring grade 6 English language learners' inquiry-based learning experiences in a technology-enhanced classroom (2021)

Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) diverse students, including English Language Learners (ELLs), use digital technologies both in school-sanctioned learning spaces (e.g., Cummins & Early, 2011; Cummins et al., 2015; Lotherington, 2008, 2011; Lotherington & Jensen, 2011; Marshall & Toohey, 2010; Rothoni, 2017; Toohey et al., 2015) and out-of-school learning spaces (e.g., Abrams, 2016; Lange, 2014; Lam, 2009; Black, 2008). Boundaries between these learning spaces are increasingly blurred, supported by the affordances of digital technologies (New London Group, 1996), as students bring their learning experiences and corresponding language, discourses, and registers from one realm of their lives to another. To address these changes in global and linguistic landscapes, provinces across Canada, have shifted curricular focus to developing 21st century competencies (see Alberta Education, 2011a; Ontario Ministry of Education, 2016) and placing a greater emphasis on utilizing inquiry-based learning approaches (see Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013a; Province of British Columbia, 2020b). Hence, many educators are reconsidering how they design pedagogical tasks that support their students in bridging their multiple lifeworld practices. The following ethnographic case study explored the learning processes of Grade 6 ELL students in a technology-enhanced classroom and through this lens considered what the teacher did to foster these processes. It draws from multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996), multimodality (Kress, 2000) and learning by design (Cope & Kalantzis, 2015) theoretical frameworks to better understand the learning processes in the tasks in which students engaged. The data generated included artifacts/student work, monthly participant literacy activities journals, field observations and student interviews. Additional interviews with teachers and the administrator provided further contextual clarity. A thematic analysis (Saldaña, 2016) and deductive analysis of the data occurred. Results revealed that inquiry-based learning experiences, influenced by the current school context, were prevalent. Knowledge processes ELL students activated suggested that teachers targeted a range of knowledge processes in their task design. Additionally, these tasks afforded ELLs opportunities to mobilize their lifeworld practices from one learning space to another. Findings from this study will be of great significance to K-12 educators, teacher-educators and researchers.

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From language learners to bilingual providers: Second language socialization of bilingual mothers in South Korea (2018)

In the context of unprecedented globalization and migration flows, South Korea, known for promoting the modern nation-state’s ‘one-nation, one-language’ ideology, has undergone recalibration of its national identity and language ideologies. Since the mid-2000s, the South Korean government has developed a dual contradictory bilingual framework—assimilative Korean as a Second Language and celebratory multilingual development—particularly for damunhwa (multicultural) families consisting of international marriages between Korean men and foreign women and their children. Despite the government’s enthusiastic development of language policy, little is known of the grounds on which this bilingual initiative was established and how it is practiced in families. Adopting an approach that Bronson and Watson-Gegeo (2008) have called “language socialization as topic,” this qualitative study employed a document analysis and interviews to investigate the representational practices of foreign mothers across their lifespan in South Korea. I first address how the national-level language policy guides the regulation of foreign mothers’ four linear life trajectories: marriage, migration, childbirth and education, and home economics. Findings from the policy analysis represent the government’s (1) emphasis on damunhwa mothers’ exclusive use of Korean, (2) selective recommendation of heritage/foreign language for nationalistic purposes, and (3) discouragement of heritage language use in damunhwa families. They also demonstrate the government’s lack of concern with the roles of Korean fathers in family language socialization. The four damunhwa mothers in this study—from Japan, China, Vietnam, and Kyrgyzstan—presented their survival stories on learning to become dedicated mothers who are expected to use Korean with their children. Their narratives also demonstrate how the linguistic hierarchy is exacerbated and how they are demoralized in their bilingual workplaces. The mothers’ stated promotion of heritage languages often serves instrumental purposes rather than fostering bilingual and bicultural identities. These findings explain how damunhwa mothers have become the heart of linguistic nationalism in globalized times for South Korea, where the government has failed to recognize the fundamental importance of the situated nature of multilingual socialization of families. Through illuminating what has been neglected by policy makers, this dissertation calls for more equitable and gender-sensitive approaches to bilingual education in transnational and translingual times.

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Tracked Identities, Resistance, and Cultural Production of Yeongpoja: critical ethnography of tracked English classes in a Korean middle school (2017)

In South Korea, English is implicated in local political processes, mediating relations of class and social (re)production (Park, 2013). Unequal access to English restricts the prospects of the disadvantaged in education and the job market (Kubota, 2011). Tracking, an institutional practice which groups students by performance, is one way in which these inequalities manifest in the neoliberalized landscape of Korean education. Situated within the frameworks of cultural production (Willis, 1977, 2004) and language socialization (Duff & Talmy, 2011), this critical ethnography explores the language learning trajectories of ninth-grade students in a Korean school over one semester who have been tracked since entering middle school. Classroom interactions and interviews are analyzed using critical discourse approaches (Talmy, 2010a). This study finds that teachers oriented to the significance of English in high-stakes exams, and naturalized tracking to provide students appropriately leveled lessons. However, their beliefs about homogenously-constituted tracks steered them to conflate students’ language competence with track categories and prevented them from attending to the multiple levels and needs of learners within each track. More importantly, there were very few differences in the instructional materials used across tracks because teachers based their lessons on the same textbook in preparation for the same tests. Consequently, many students, regardless of track, deemed tracking unconducive to learning, engaging in acts of resistance to grammar-translation-oriented classroom practices. Nevertheless, students displayed disaffiliative stances towards detracking out of concerns of being held back or tacitly positioned as having deficits. In this sense, this study argues that socialization into tracking led students to track not only their abilities but also their habitus (Bourdieu, 1990) and identities. Such tracked identities created conditions to reinforce a school hierarchy in which many low-track students were discursively co-produced as yeongpoja, i.e., students who have given up on English. This study demonstrates that the yeongpoja identity is a consequence of socialization into low tracks, manifesting students’ resistance to their stigmatized identities as well as the test-oriented instructional practices. The study concludes with a call for reexamining tracking, suggesting implications for instruction which integrate and recognize the needs, interests, and knowledge of students from diverse backgrounds.

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Economizing Education: Fee-paying ESL Students in a Public High School (2016)

The reliance upon international students in Canadian education has resulted in a growth in research investigating students’ and institutions’ academic, social, cultural, pastoral, and (English) language learning experiences from a range of research perspectives and methodological approaches. Cumulatively these studies have resulted in more informed, better designed, and more reflexive programs and services. However, the majority of research has been conducted in tertiary settings, and thus overlooks the increasingly salient role of international students in K-12 public education in Canada, particularly in secondary schools. This year-long, ethnographic multiple case study examined the category of fee-paying international students (FIS) at the pre-tertiary level as it was realized across multiple actors, sites, and dimensions of the public education system. Broadly situated in a language socialization paradigm, the study first identifies how residency, funding, and English language function as key discursive resources in portrayals of FIS as they occur in K-12 education policy texts and in stakeholder accounts of FIS-related practices. The focus on policy and practices is followed by an analysis of four focal students’ experiences as FIS, which begins with a consideration of students’ homestay, socioeconomic, and (English) language circumstances outside of school. The analysis then concentrates on the most significant cultural process for FIS students’ school-based socialization: ‘getting out of ESL’. It highlights the situated, contingent nature of the process as it was constructed across school- and classroom-specific practices and interactions, but more consequentially, it describes how students’ economizing of the process of ‘getting out of ESL’ was central to their learning, to their varied trajectories, and thus was inextricably linked to the category of FIS. Through the multi-level account of the significance and impact of the category of FIS in a Canadian K-12 public educational setting, and the complexity that characterizes FIS socialization in that setting, the findings of the study underscore the fundamental, though often unacknowledged, relationship between the internationalization of K-12 public education and ESL services, teaching, and learning. In demonstrating how this relationship between FIS and ESL is relevant for students, teachers, and schools, the study identifies an important area for future research in applied linguistics.

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Pedagogy of Confidence: Auditory Accounts of Adult ESL Classes with Educational Drama (2016)

In a move towards more socially-attuned and contextually-situated L2 pedagogies (Atkinson, 2011; Duff, 2014), there has been a steady pedagogical and scholarly interest in aesthetic, creative, improvisational educational drama as a means for creating more empowering L2 learning spaces (Kao & O’Neill, 1998; Roman & Nunez, 2015; Schewe, 2013). These scholars share a strong conviction that educational drama can significantly contribute to supporting educational contexts where L2 learners have dynamic and creative opportunities to develop their expertise in L2 as they “actively imagine and process information through the use of language and other symbolic forms” (Baldwin & Fleming, 2003, p. 33). Nevertheless, there is little empirical evidence concerning what is actually taking place in L2 classrooms and how students’ L2 learning is impacted when drama is introduced. This ethnographic multiple-case study was designed to document and explore four drama-based adult ESL classes in Canada. Questions guiding this qualitative inquiry focus on the nature of drama-based teaching practices, their impact on classroom discourse, students’ identity work, and L2 development, as well as students’ perceptions of their learning experiences. Drawing on multiple theoretical frameworks (including narrative inquiry, performative inquiry, alternative approaches to L2 acquisition, and transformative multi-literacies pedagogy) and several data sources, I aim to provide reflexive autoethnographic auditory accounts of lived experiences of participants in the focal classes as heard, felt, and interpreted by the researcher (as a differently-abled ethnographer) taking on a participant listener orientation in lieu of that of participant observer. The study is situated at the interdisciplinary nexus of different analytical and representational approaches in exploring possibilities, challenges, and implications of drama-based adult ESL instruction. By combining autoethnography, discourse analysis, and ethnodrama, I aim to provide a richer, multi-layered, and nuanced picture of the phenomenon under investigation. I narrate and explore how drama-based ESL pedagogy contributes to cultivating students’ minds as confident, creative meaning-makers and promoting context-embedded language use and democratic and dialogic classroom discourse. While presenting empirically grounded claims showing how drama-based pedagogy can foster a transformative, empowering interpersonal space (Cummins, 2011), the dissertation concludes with pedagogical recommendations and scholarly/methodological implications of the study.

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Authenticating "non-native speaker teacher" professional identity in French as a second language (FSL) education (2013)

This qualitative multiple case study considered language teacher identity and what it means to “be authentic” as a teacher of French. It investigated the identity construction of 87 French as a second language (FSL) teachers from British Columbia who participated in a two-week professional development sojourn to France in 2009. The study examined how participants described their experiences abroad in relation to their teaching practices in Canada, and how these accounts made evident particular understandings of cultural and linguistic authenticity. The analysis focused on the way participants’ narratives served to authenticate (Bucholtz, 2003) L2 teacher identity and how conceptions of authentic language and L2 learning and teaching represented both constraining and productive ways of “being” a certain kind of FSL teacher.Broadly situated within a practice theory framework, FSL teacher identity was firstconsidered through a wide-scale analysis of data from the larger cohort of BC teachers, followed by a micro-analytic examination of individual processes of identification “performed” by sevenfocal participants. The analyses highlighted the extent to which the “FSL teacher” category, grounded in a “native speaker” ideology, ultimately informed the identity constructions of eachindividual teacher. The various identity positionings manifested by focal participants shed light on a complex of language ideologies relevant in discourses operating within the FSL professionin Canada with implications for what it means to be practicing as “non-native speaker teacher” inthis context.Given current empirical emphasis on the sociolinguistic and cultural aspects of languagelearning and teaching (Firth & Wagner, 1997; Lafford, 2007), the present study answers a recentcall in applied linguistics for a more rigorous analysis of identity which moves away from theidea of identity as a simple collection of essentialist categories (Dervin & Kramsch, 2011). It does so by foregrounding a discursive-constructionist orientation and attending to theinteractional nature of identity construction, along with a thoroughgoing consideration ofresearcher reflexivity. The study makes significant contributions to applied linguistics research inthe areas of study abroad, L2 teacher development and identity, and the workings of prevalentideologies informing L2 language teaching and research.

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