The negotiation of sociocultural identities of elementary-school teachers in South Korea through teaching with multicultural background students
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This ethnographic narrative study explored the agent negotiation process of teachers with regards to their sociocultural identities. This study drew from two theoretical frameworks: social practice theory of identity for analysis of its negotiation process and critical multiculturalism as a yardstick to discuss teachers’ sociocultural identities and practices. More specifically, this research examined the sociocultural identities of teachers in South Korea in the context of rapid multicultural change in South Korean society. The following question guided this research inquiry: How do elementary-school teachers in South Korea negotiate their own sociocultural identities through their teaching with multicultural background students? Participants included four elementary school teachers in South Korea during summer 2013: two homeroom South Korean female teachers, one single subject South Korean male teacher, and one bilingual Korean-Chinese female teacher. Data collected in the study came from four (4) interviews, four-six (4-6) classroom observations, and document analysis. This study analyzed the context of multiculturalism and larger societal discourses found in South Korea, each participant-teachers’ sociocultural identities, and the process of teachers’ negotiation of their identities accompanied by their teaching practices. The results offered three main findings about the attribution of sociocultural identity: (1) the influence of sociocultural factors and relations on teachers’ sociocultural identities, (2) the teachers’ role as an agent in the negotiation process and their possibilities to transform their identities by confirming new sociocultural understandings, (3) teaching practices as a tool reflecting as well as enhancing teachers’ sociocultural identities. Based on the findings of dynamic interplay between social context and individual actions, several implications were drawn out in terms of appropriate conditions and methods for teachers’ critical sociocultural identity (trans)formation, a new perspective on the meaning of teaching practice, transformation of educational contexts, and future research, which are necessary for critical multicultural education that pursues social justice and equity.