The role of teachers in education. Exploring ESL Pre-service teachers' teaching metaphors

A case study

Master's Thesis, 2017

141 Pages, Grade: PASS









Background of the Study
Pre-service teacher education in University of Malaya
Teacher cognition
Problem Statement
Purpose of the Study
Research Questions
Definition of Terms
Significance of the Study

Metaphors in Teacher Education
Professional Identity
Beliefs and Teacher Education
Reflective Practice
Theoretical Framework

Participants of the Study
Sampling Method
Reflective task
Interview protocol
Limitations of Method of Data Collection
Data Collection Procedures
Distributing consent form
Assigning reflective task
Collecting reflective task
Conducting interview
Data Analysis

Participants’ Background Information
Teachers’ Teaching Metaphors
PT1’s metaphors
PT2’s metaphors
PT3’s metaphors
The Choice of Metaphors in Relation to Teachers’ Beliefs and Practice
The Sociocultural Influence On Teachers’ Choice Of Metaphors
Previous schooling experience
Teacher education program
KBSM curriculum specifications

Summary of the Findings
Significance of findings
Implications for teacher education program
Limitations of the study
Future research


This case study examined three Malaysian ESL pre-service teachers’ teaching metaphors. This study also looked into how their choice of metaphors relate to their pedagogical beliefs and practices and the extent to which previous schooling experience, teacher education program, and KBSM curriculum specifications influence the ESL pre-service teachers’ choice of metaphors. Instruments used were semi-structured interview and reflective task assigned to them after their teaching practicum at local government schools. Findings indicated that the pre-service teachers have multiple roles represented by various metaphors that they produced in their reflective tasks. The three most common roles include meeting students’ needs, varying teaching approach, and facilitating students. The study also found that previous schooling experience and teacher education program have the most influence on all the pre-service teachers’ beliefs and practice.



Kajian ini bertujuan untuk mengkaji peranan metafora dalam pemikiran dan pengajaran tiga orang guru pra-perkhidmatan Bahasa Inggeris sebagai Bahasa Kedua. Kajian ini juga melihat bagaimana pemilihan metafora dan faktor sosiokultural seperti pengalaman sebagai pelajar, program pendidikan guru dan spesifikasi kurikulum KBSM mempengaruhi pemilihan metafora mereka. Instrumen yang digunakan adalah temu bual semi-struktur dan refleksi guru yang diberi kepada mereka sebaik selesai program latihan mengajar di sekolah-sekolah tempatan. Sampel kajian terdiri daripada guru pra-perkhidmatan dari sebuah universiti awam di Malaysia. Dapatan kajian menunjukkan bahawa tugas guru pra-perkhidmatan meliputi pelbagai aspek dan tugas-tugas ini direpresentasikan oleh pelbagai metafora yang dihasilkan dalam refleksi mereka. Tiga peranan utama guru yang diperoleh dari kajian ini ialah memenuhi kehendak pelajar, mempelbagaikan kaedah pengajaran dan membimbing pelajar. Kajian ini juga mendapati bahawa pengalaman sebagai pelajar dan program pendidikan guru merupakan faktor-faktor yang paling mempengaruhi pemikiran dan pembelajaran sampel kajian.


My deepest appreciation and thanks to my supervisor, Dr Zuwati Hasim for her guidance and support in making the completion of my work possible. To my dearest husband, Mohd Shahril Fauzi bin Sorparno and all family members, I thank you all for your encouragement and patience. Without you, none of this would indeed be possible. Finally, a debt of gratitude is also owed to the students and staff of Faculty of Education, University of Malaya for their support and cooperation during the course of my study.


Figure 1.1 - Sociocultural setting that determines human’s higher mental functioning (Wertsch, 1991)

Figure 3.1 - Data Collection Procedures


Table 4.1 - Participants’ Background Information

Table 4.2 - Pre-service Teachers’ Personal Metaphors

Table 4.3 - PT’s Choice of Metaphors in Relation to Beliefs and Practice

Table 4.4 - Sociocultural Factors’ Degree of Influence

Table 4.5 - Previous Schooling Experience and Choice of Metaphors

Table 4.6 - Pre-service Teachers’ Positive and Negative Experiences of Learning English

Table 4.7 - Teacher Education Program and Choice of Metaphors


APPENDIX A This part has been removed from the work for protection of data privacy

APPENDIX B - Reflective Task

APPENDIX B 1 - A Sample Of Reflective Task (PT1’S Response)

APPENDIX C - Interview Protocol

APPENDIX C1 - A Sample Of Interview Transcript (PT1’S Transcript)

APPENDIX D - Coding Of Metaphors in Relation to the Pre-Service Teachers’ Beliefs and Practice


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten



The role of teachers in education extends to more than just standing in front of the classroom transmitting information. In fact, the teaching profession is a multifaceted profession that plays vital roles in the lives of the students in the classrooms. Teachers’ role extends as assessors, motivators, planners, facilitators, resource developers, as well as information providers. These roles are obviously influenced by various stakeholders including parents, administrators and students with whom they interact, and these roles may change depending on the expectations from these stakeholders (Gross, Fitts, Goodson-Espy, & Clark, 2010). This shows the importance of flexibility in adjusting their roles as teachers. Teachers have to continuously adjust their roles and recreate their professional identity in relation to the prevailing contexts. For instance, the school context itself may influence the way teachers act in school with expectations from various constituents. Hence, they need to shift their identity in unexpected ways to fit the needs of the administrators, learners, colleagues, curriculum, and the school surroundings.

This study explored the ways in which pre-service teachers described themselves through metaphors they chose to represent their professional identity after a teaching practicum. According to Bullough (1997, p. 20), identity is a vital part of teacher education as it is the foundation for ‘decision making’ and meaning making’. One way to attain the understanding of the pre-service teachers’ identity is by analyzing the metaphors they choose to describe themselves. Metaphor was used in this study as it is considered as “an important instrument of analysis” in educational research aiming at understanding the role of the teacher (Oxford ,

Tomlison, Barcelos, Harrington, & Lavine, 1998, p. 45). From this kind of research, pre-service teachers can identify their views on education and their roles as pre-service teachers.

Furthermore, what makes an investigation into teacher’s teaching metaphor so valuable is that metaphors are identified as keys to a practitioner’s thinking (Griffiths & Tan, 1992). By knowing what is in the mind of the practitioners, the practitioners are able to understand and reflect their choice of classroom practice, and continuously make improvements if any weaknesses identified in their teaching practice. The ability to critically reflect on oneself is an important skill to be acquired by teachers to meet the challenges of this knowledge society, and as Farrell (2006) states, the opportunity for pre-service teachers to identify their own teaching metaphors does help them to be “critically reflective teachers” (p. 246). Munby and Russell (1990) similarly emphasize the importance of studying teachers’ personal teaching metaphors, as it is “a necessary part of productive reflection upon teaching practice” (p.116).

Background of the Study

Pre-service teacher education in University of Malaya.

The University of Malaya was the first to set up its first Education Faculty in 1963 for students pursuing the teaching profession. In 1989, University of Malaya’s Faculty of Education began a teacher training program under the Diploma of Education followed by an undergraduate program for pre-service English language teachers, the Bachelor of Education in the Teaching of English as a Second Language (TESL) designed to “provide academic preparation and professional training for English Secondary School teachers” (University of Malaya, 2016). The course modules included Foundations for TESL Methodology, Linguistics for Language Teachers, Sociology of Schooling, English Proficiency, and Language Testing and Assessment (University of Malaya, 2016).

Teacher-training centers were established because of the need for teachers to have high level of competency in meeting global changes. One of the ways to achieve this vision was by going through formal teacher education courses. A vital focus of the program in these teacher-training centers was the practicum where the pre-service teacher is placed within a school setting and will be given opportunities to develop skills through lesson plans, teaching lessons and classroom management (translating theories into practice). Other roles of teacher training centers were to improve the general educational background of the trainee teachers, increasing their knowledge and understanding of the subject content knowledge, understanding of children and learning, and developing of practical skills and competences. The balance between these four elements varies widely (Perraton, 2010). Hence, it is important for teachers to undergo formal education courses so that they can develop the skills needed to become competent teachers.

Teacher cognition.

A strong body of research emphasizes the influence of teacher cognition and the way we approach certain issues. Borg (1997) particularly uses the term “teacher cognition” to refer to “the unobservable cognitive dimensions of teaching – what teachers know, believe, and think” (p. 81). The term may refer to aspects such as beliefs, knowledge, assumptions, theories, and attitudes. Other than the term ‘cognition’ coined by Simon Borg, various terms have been used by researchers to refer to the same term including “teacher knowledge” (Freeman, 2002), “teachers’ theories” (Borg, 1999), “teacher beliefs” (Richards, 1998), and “conceptions of teaching” (Freeman & Richards, 1993).

In the early days of research on teacher education, there have been conflicting views on cognition. The epistemological beliefs view cognition as something which is concrete, static, and is not influenced by context and teachers’ inner lives such as emotion, values, and motivations. It is also claimed to be “acquired as a result of their professional and personal experiences, readily accessed and articulated in self-reports, and applied (or not) in teaching practices” (Kubanyiova & Feryook, 2015, p.437). On the other hand, researchers such as Borg (1997) argues that a more social perspective is more appropriate to address teachers’ thinking and agrees that cognition is contextually based.

In 2006, Simon Borg derived with a term language teacher cognition (LTC) which is referred to “the network of beliefs, knowledge, and thought which L2 teachers hold about all aspects of their profession and draw on their work” (Sanchez & Borg, 2016, p.2). He emphasizes the role of context in influencing teachers’ pedagogical decisions and how both teacher cognitions and context interact to inform those decisions.

Borg (1997) highlights that it is important to study the impact of teacher cognition as it can significantly influence all aspects of their work including classroom practice, schooling experience, and professional education. Borg (1999) illustrates three particularly influential cognitions that underlie formal instructions, which are schooling, teacher education, and classroom experience.

Schooling refers to teacher’s previous language education. Teachers might have learned language through various approaches such as the grammar-translation, audio-lingual, reading approach, direct approach, and communicative language teaching. Therefore, if they had successfully learnt languages through the audio-lingual method, they would most probably integrate aspects of the audio-lingual method into their second language (L2) teaching. Other teachers might less probably use the grammar translation method in their teaching because their experience of L2 learning had not helped them become competent users of the language. These teachers might therefore opt for other, more communicative methods (Borg, 1999). Teacher education is a factor that highly influences the development of teacher’s cognitions. From Borg’s (2005) study, it was found that teachers who had experienced teacher education programs are more likely to adopt a communicative, meaning-oriented, and student-centered approach in their L2 teaching because those approaches are highly encouraged. However, it should be noted that the principles instilled by teacher education programs might sometimes have lesser long-term effects on the teachers due to other contextual factors.

Classroom experience also has strong impact on teacher cognition. To exemplify this, Borg (1999) states that teachers may change their view on teaching grammar explicitly if they find that the students are uncomfortable with the approach. Therefore, they will modify their teaching method to fit learner needs.

Due to the fact that teacher cognitions are unobservable, there have been various instruments used to elicit teachers’ thinking such as using self-report instruments such as questionnaires, verbal commentaries, observation, and reflective writing. Tannehill and MacPhail (2014), for instance used metaphor elicitation and teaching narratives to investigate the development of beliefs about teaching and learning. The study collected teaching metaphors of 16 pre-service teachers at the beginning and end of a 1-year Graduate Diploma in Physical Education. Teaching narratives were also assigned to the pre-service teachers to explore the reasons why their metaphors changed or did not change. Seferoğlu, Korkmazgil and Ölçü ( 2009) similarly used metaphor and simile elicitation method to explore English language teachers’ thinking. A total of 220 pre-service and in-service teachers participated in the study and they were asked to complete a writing task that begins with “ A teacher is….”. The study found that most of the senior pre-service teachers and in-service teachers viewed themselves as democratic and participatory teachers while the junior pre-service teachers viewed themselves as guides. A later study implemented the use of electronic portfolio on eight undergraduate pre-service teachers in Turkey in which the e-portfolios were assigned upon completion of their teaching practicum. Findings from the study suggests that the use of electronic portfolio allows the participants to “analyse their beliefs with the aim of learning something new, recognize other points of view and consider the consequences of actions in the classroom” (Ayan & Seferoğlu, 2011, p. 519).

According to a recent study conducted by Sawyer and Laguardia (2010), teacher cognitions or beliefs are dynamic as teachers often change and reconceptualize their views of teaching. The researchers added that these changes exist because teachers’ views of teaching continue to develop from their “professional knowledge and expertise in the classroom” (p. 2016) and through the incorporation of prior thinking and beliefs.

Problem Statement

Recent studies in both Western and Asian context on teachers’ roles or professional identities are mostly limited to quantitative studies on teachers’ efficacy (Faez & Valeo, 2012; Gross, Fitts, Goodson-epsy & Clark, 2010; Lamote & Engels, 2010; Lin, Shein & Yang, 2012; Pillen, Den-Brok, & Beijaard, 2013). In the Malaysian context, three studies using quantitative methods were found. Farhana Wan Yunus, Melissa Malik and Azzyati Zakaria (2013) conducted a study on identity status of future language teachers. The study was done purely based on a set of questionnaires. Ab Rahim Bakar , Shamsiah Mohamed and Noor Syamilah Zakaria (2012) and Khairani and Ab Razak (2010) similarly conducted studies on pre-service teachers’ sense of efficacy using the Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale (TSES) developed by Tschannen-Moran and Hoy (2001). The former study was conducted on 675 student teachers from various majors to find their teaching efficacy in relation to aspects of student engagement, instructional strategies, and classroom management while the latter study was conducted on 110 pre-service teachers majoring in Mathematics.

Studies using qualitative methods such as interview and document analysis are very scarce. The only study found done in the Malaysian context is a case study which was recently conducted by Zuwati Hasim, Tunku Mohani Tunku Mohtar, Barnard and Abd Razak Zakaria (2013). The study was done on 72 trainee teachers of English of a Second Language in Selangor. It found four main metaphors that characterize the trainee teachers’ conceptions of teaching. The metaphors revealed from the study include teachers as facilitators, motivators, edutainers, and kinship. Another study done by Thomas and Beauchamp (2011) was conducted in Quebec, Canada on 45 beginning teachers. The study used semi-structured interview to understand new teachers’ professional identities through their choice of metaphors between the time they graduated from a teacher education program and their first year of teaching. The study revealed that the beginning teachers’ choice of metaphors differ before and after they had gone to their first year of teaching where the teachers were very much focused on survival rather than nurturing the students after stepping into the real world of teaching. Nikitina and Furuoka (2008) on the other hand employed both qualitative and quantitative method of analysis, but this study (although done in the Malaysian context) had a different focus as it analyzed the metaphors students use to describe their language teachers rather than metaphors adopted by teachers themselves.

Although various studies have been conducted on how metaphors reflect teachers’ teaching conceptions, very few studies focused specifically on the degree of influence different sociocultural factors may bring to the construction of beliefs and classroom practices. According to Gaumer (2000), teachers’ experiences and expertise will largely be influenced by what they believe to be good classroom practices. However, studies on teacher thinking patterns are under-researched and teachers often find it difficult to explain reasons behind their beliefs and practice. Therefore, it is hoped that this study can fill the gap in studies related to how teachers’ teaching metaphors are shaped by sociocultural factors.

Because of these gaps in the research area particularly in the Malaysian context, there is a need to conduct more qualitative studies so that more in-depth analysis can be done to explore and understand the participants’ choices of particular metaphors as well as studies that look into factors influencing teachers’ thinking to gain insights into the sociocultural factors that may influence their pedagogical beliefs and practice.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research is to examine the personal teaching metaphors of three Malaysian ESL pre-service teachers and to explore the extent to which sociocultural factors namely previous schooling experience, teacher education program, and curriculum specifications may influence their conceptions of teaching. The research objectives are:

1. To identify the teaching metaphors adopted by the Malaysia ESL pre-service teachers.
2. To explore how the selected metaphors relate to their pedagogical beliefs and practice.
3. To investigate the extent to which previous schooling experience, teacher education program, and KBSM curriculum specifications influence the ESL pre-service teachers’ choice of metaphors.

Data were gathered from the pre-service teachers’ reflective tasks and recorded one-to-one interviews. Results obtained from this study may widen our perspective about what being a teacher means and help us to better understand our professional roles as teachers (Saban, 2006).

Research Questions

Based on the research objectives, this study addressed the following research questions:

1. What are the teaching metaphors adopted by the Malaysian ESL pre-service teachers?
2. What do the selected metaphors suggest about the pre-service teachers’ pedagogical beliefs and practice?
3. To what extent do previous schooling experience, teacher education program, and KBSM curriculum specifications influence the ESL pre-service teachers’ choice of metaphors?

Definition of Terms

Pre-service teachers Refers to the student teachers studying at the various teacher-training colleges in general. However, other terms such as student teachers, beginning teachers, and teacher trainees will also be used interchangeably in this study. Practicum Refers to the practical teaching experience outside the classroom in local government schools that the final year students of University of Malaya undergo. Teacher cognition Borg’s definition of teacher cognition referred to “the unobservable cognitive dimension of teaching including what teachers know, believe, and think and the relationships of these mental constructs to what teachers do in the language classroom” (2003, p. 81) was adopted. Metaphors According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980), metaphors refer to understanding and experiencing one thing in terms of another. A metaphor is “an unusual juxtaposition of the familiar with the unfamiliar” used “to describe the unknown” (MacCormac, 1990, p. 9).

Teaching metaphors Refers to “the images or conceptions teachers hold of themselves as teachers, their professional identity” (Bullough, Knowles & Crow, 1991, p. 7). Teaching metaphors are used to describe their beliefs and principles about teaching and learning and their educational values. Sociocultural factors Although there are many sociocultural factors such as family background, socio-economic status, level of education, ethnicity, lifestyle, culture, prior experiences, beliefs, colleagues, skills, and attitudes, this study will only focus on three sociocultural factors which are previous schooling experience, teacher education program, and curriculum specifications. KBSM curriculum specifications Refers to a document introduced by the Ministry of Education, Malaysia for English teachers teaching in secondary schools which contains the objectives of the course, the content to be taught, and the ways in which the teaching is expected to be carried out.

Professional identity This study takes the definition given by Gee (2000) in which professional identity is defined as a ‘‘person (‘s) narrativization of what consists of his or her (never fully formed or always potentially changing) core identity as a teacher’’ (p.455). Beliefs I adopted Borg’s (2011) definition of belief which is defined as premises or understandings a person considers to be true. According to Borg (2011), these premises are “often tacit, have a strong evaluative and affective component, provide a basis for action, and are resistant to change” (p. 370-371). Practice Refers to patterns of behavior that characterizes the pre-service teachers’ teaching. According to Thompson (1984) “these patterns may be manifestations of consciously held notions, beliefs, and preferences that act as ‘driving forces’ in shaping the teacher’s behavior” (p. 105).

Significance of the Study

This study is perceived as important because it looks into what teachers think. Borg (2003) states that what teachers think matters as it sets the learning environment for their students. Although it is important to prepare teachers for theories and practices of good instructional habits, having deep understanding of what teachers think, know, and how they come to know are of equal importance (Lortie, 1975) as these will lead to more effective classroom instruction.

It is widely known that teachers do more than just transmitting the curriculum (Schaefer, 1967). They have to sometimes modify, shape, and redefine their beliefs and practice to fit the students’ needs at any given moment and context. Hence, it is hoped that this study can probe more deeply into understanding beliefs that may influence how instruction is delivered in the classroom.

Another significance of this study is by asking the pre-service teachers to produce their own teaching metaphors, it forces the pre-service teachers to reflect on their teaching. Many research studies support the idea that teachers, especially new teachers improve after reflecting upon their classroom practices (Barnard & Burns, 2012; Conway, 2001; Goodman, 1984; Larrivee, 2008). The process of reflection will empower the pre-service teachers to improve their skills as well as allow them to gain deeper understanding of their teaching.

Furthermore, our professional identity is influenced by many factors such as schooling experiences, everyday experiences, knowledge from pre-service programs, personal background, and people in our surrounding such as colleagues, students, family, and friends. Therefore, although teachers might come from the best teacher-training program, it does not guarantee they turn out as the most excellent teachers since various factors may contribute to their professional identity.



Numerous studies have examined the transition from student to a teacher and the development of student teachers’ professional identity in the last few decades, mostly in the Western countries (Pillen, Den Brok, & Beijaard, 2013). There seems to be limited studies on pre-service teachers’ experience especially in Malaysia. Thus, this review of literature is based mainly on research done on pre-service teachers in the western countries. This literature review is divided into four parts. The first part explores studies on teaching metaphors. The second part highlights issues on teachers’ professional identity. The third describes the influence of beliefs in teacher education followed by studies related to reflective practice.

Metaphors in Teacher Education

The Greek philosopher Aristotle defined metaphor as “the application to one thing of the name belonging to another” (Aristotle, 1924). In other words, metaphor means any circumstance where a person uses one conceptual category, experience, or thing to describe or define another conceptual category. Metaphor has generally been described by researchers as serving many functions. Heidegger (1971), for instance, believed that thinking can only be conveyed clearly through the use of imagery and metaphor as they can give deeper meaning to the overall surroundings such as emotional, attitudinal, and cultural factors. Paivio and Walsh (1993) state that metaphor is powerful as it provides a compact way of representing chunks of information and enables us to talk about experiences that cannot be literally explained effectively. Saban (2006) has reviewed various studies related to using metaphors and came out with 10 functions of educational metaphors which include as a blueprint of professional thinking, an archetype of professional identity, a pedagogical device, a medium of reflection, a tool for evaluation, a research tool, a curriculum theory, a mental model, an instrument of discovery, and a springboard for change.

Metaphor as a blueprint for professional thinking refers to using metaphors to gain insights about various people in the school including teachers, principal, and students. Students, for example could produce metaphors to represent themselves as learners. In Bozlk’s (2002) study, the students produced 35 metaphors which could be categorized into four main groups which are animal (i.e, snail, fish, duck), human (i.e, toddler, observer, child), action (i.e, climbing a tree, eating), and object (i.e, sponge, crayon, roller coaster).

Metaphor as an archetype of professional identity refers to using metaphor as a tool for both pre-service and in-service teachers to search for their identity as teachers. The metaphors of their choice can represent different teacher roles. Saban (2004), for instance conducted a survey to explore how teachers represented themselves using 20 metaphorical images. Some of the metaphors included were shopkeeper, driver, gardener, comedian, tour guide, and conductor. Results of the study indicated that the teachers were more likely to choose metaphors that represent teachers as more student-centered.

Metaphor as a research tool refers to using metaphor as an instrument to collect or analyse data in a research. Oxford, Tomlison, Barcelos, Harrington, Lavine & Salleh (1998) used metaphor as a research tool in exploring different perspectives about the concept of a ‘teacher’. The researchers used narrative from students and teachers, interviews and articles from theorists. The study managed to obtain 14 metaphors to describe teachers which were then categorized into four main themes which were social order (i.e, teacher as manufacturer, teacher as doctor), cultural transmission (i.e, teacher as repeater, teacher as conduit), learner-centred growth (i.e, teacher as nurturer, teacher as lover or spouse) and social reform (i.e, teacher as acceptor, teacher as learning partner).

Metaphor as a curriculum theory refers to seeing metaphor as a theory that explains a particular discipline. According to Kliebard (1982), a theory and a metaphor is similar since both allow us to see one thing in terms of another. Other functions include using metaphor as a pedagogical device which refers to using metaphor as part of a teacher training course, metaphor as a medium of reflection refers to using metaphor as a tool to critically reflect on one’s teaching experiences, and metaphor as a tool for evaluation refers to using metaphor to evaluate a program.

Studies related to using metaphors in teacher education have started long ago since the 1980s. Based on various functions of teaching metaphors, it is worth studying the metaphors that emerge when teachers express themselves to understand the content of teachers’ thinking (Munby, 1986). Calderhead and Robson (1991) similarly state that through metaphors teachers can “summarize, at a high level of abstraction, the way [they] think” (p. 3). Munby and Russell (1990) emphasize the importance of studying teachers’ personal teaching metaphors as it is “a necessary part of productive reflection upon teaching practice” (p. 116). Clark (1986) states that the metaphors that teachers produce not only suggest their roles in the classrooms but also help develop understanding of the underlying beliefs guiding their classroom practices. Oxford et al. (1998) yielded a typology resulting from various literature reviews on language learning experiences that consisted of four perspectives of teaching which are social order (i.e., teacher as manufacturer, teacher as competitor), cultural transmission (i.e., teacher as conduit, teacher as repeater), learner-centred growth (i.e., teacher as nurturer, teacher as entertainer) and social reform (i.e., teacher as acceptor, teacher as learning partner). Guerrero and Villamil (2002) similarly identified nine distinct conceptual metaphors for language teachers in their study exploring teachers’ beliefs about their roles as ESL teachers through an analysis of metaphors produced. The nine conceptual metaphors found in the study are cooperative leader, provider of knowledge, challenger or agent of change, nurturer, innovator, provider of tools, artist, repairer, and gym instructor. The findings of the study revealed that teachers identified themselves with conventional teaching roles such as leader, provider of knowledge, and agent of change.

Farrell (1999) also discovered that metaphor is a tool of empowerment. By having personal teaching metaphors, teachers can continuously “unlock, evaluate, and modify personal theories they have about their teaching practices”. For example, teachers might first define themselves as train conductors and their students as passengers. After much reflection, they may think that they have exerted too much control over their students and believe that they should have a more student-centered classroom. As they have recognized their limitation, they might want to balance their strong leadership role. They can then change their teaching metaphor to gardeners, for example, who nurture and recognize individual differences rather than lead and control people. The example illustrates how having our own teaching metaphor can give us a clearer image of our teaching practices. This will allow us to continue to reflect on our strengths and weaknesses by analyzing our teaching metaphor. Later studies have mainly concluded that metaphor is a significant part of teacher education. According to Farrell (2006), examining metaphors used by pre-service teachers during their practicum is beneficial as it is one of the ways to make their prior knowledge and beliefs more explicit. By allowing the beginning teachers to identify their own teaching metaphors, they can initiate change if their prior knowledge and beliefs conflict with the curriculum presented in their teacher education courses. This opportunity will help the pre-service teachers to be “critically reflective teachers” (Farrell, 2006, p. 246) and help them to achieve the coherence of thought and action in a teaching practicum (Bullough, 1990). Saban (2006) based on his reviews of various research listed 10 functions of metaphor in teaching and teacher education. According to his review, metaphors act as a blueprint of professional thinking, an archetype of professional identity, pedagogical device, medium of reflection, tool for evaluation, research tool, curriculum theory, mental model, instrument of discovery, and springboard for change.

Recent researches also agree that metaphors allow us to understand teachers’ beliefs about teaching and learning (Tannehill and MacPhail, 2014; Lin, Shein, and Yang, 2012). Other than that, “it provides a framework to assess teaching and a means for teachers to augment self-awareness and professional development” (Lin, Shein, and Yang, 2012, p. 184). Tannehill and MacPhail (2014) carried out a study to investigate the development of beliefs about teaching and learning through the process of examining metaphors and narratives. The study collected teaching metaphors of 16 pre-service teachers at the beginning and end of a 1-year Graduate Diploma in Physical Education. Teaching narratives were also assigned to the pre-service teachers to explore the reasons why their metaphors changed or did not change. Findings from the study suggest that the metaphors chosen were very much affected by issues, event, context, and people around them. For instance, one female pre-service teacher initially identified herself as a painter but later changed to potter as she felt that a painter is only concerned with her ideas without considering the students. A potter, on the other hand needs clay (the student) to be able to practice. Another male pre-service teacher first identified himself as a bank depositing or transmitting information but later changed his metaphor to a metaphor that put students’ learning as the main focus. To conclude, these pre-service teachers initially categorized themselves as transmitters of knowledge but after some exposure to peers and the environment, they started to change to be more student-centered and put more focus on individual differences. The researchers also highlighted several challenges experienced by the pre-service teachers such as the curriculum implemented and assessments used which contributed to their choice of metaphors. These findings suggest that although the pre-service teachers might have some pre­existing beliefs about teaching and learning, these beliefs may change if they are challenged. They will continue to “analyse, explore, and modify their beliefs through discussion and identification of alternative ways of thinking about teaching and learning” (p. 149).

Other researchers also agree on the importance of metaphor. Zuwati Hasim, Tunku Mohani Tunku Mohtar, Barnard and Abd Razak Zakaria (2013), for instance, conducted a case study on pre-service teachers’ teaching metaphors and how these metaphors relate to conventional conceptions of teaching. The study revealed that the four common conceptual metaphors adopted by the pre-service teachers are teachers as facilitators, teachers as motivators, teachers as entertainers, and teachers as family members. The study also highlighted that metaphors “provide insights to teacher trainers as to how teachers, whether novices or more experienced professionals, perceive their roles as teachers in terms of other relatable roles” (p. 76). Metaphors are also significant as teachers can use them to further develop themselves as teachers by reflecting on the traits the metaphors carried or described. . Furthermore, Kamberi (2014) conducted a study on the use of metaphors on university students in which the researcher of the study asked the students to come up with metaphors that can describe the students’ evaluation of English Language Skills course. The study found that most of the students had positive metaphors describing their teachers and themselves as learners of the course. Some of the positive metaphors listed were star, fish, actor, song, water, coach and many others. A follow-up interview was conducted to confirm that most of the students were generally satisfied with the course. This finding shows that metaphors can be beneficial in studies involving students’ perceptions as students are challenged to think critically and reflect on their learning.

Based on this review of literature, researchers have mainly concluded that teaching metaphor is an important part of teacher education. It is important to explore these metaphors as evidence of prospective and practicing teachers’ reasoning about teaching, learning, and schooling.

Professional Identity

Researchers’ definitions of the term ‘professional identity’ vary to a great extent. It has been investigated in terms of different constructs such as perceptions of self (Gross, Fitts, Goodson-Espy & Clark, 2010), teachers’ preparedness and efficacy (Faez & Valeo, 2012), and pre-service teachers’ tensions in changing their roles to teachers (Pillen, Den Brok, & Beijaard, 2013). Although researchers differ in defining professional identity, they usually do agree that it is not a stable product. Instead, it is an on-going process and continually changing (Olsen, 2011). It is also believed that this process is influenced by many factors such as teachers’ personal characteristics, education background, past experiences and beliefs, workplace, colleagues, skills, and attitudes (Beauchamp & Thomas, 2009; Beijaard, Meijer, & Verloop, 2004). These influencing factors cannot be ignored because the construction of identity is “socially legitimated” (Lamote & Engels, 2010, p. 5). For instance, a student teacher who wants to be a teacher because of the influence of family members may have different professional identity compared to someone who really has deep interest in being a teacher.

Numerous studies have highlighted the importance of exploring the autobiographies of the student teachers as they enter the teacher education program as their autobiographies will affect the development of their professional identity. Hatford and Gray (2017) described the phase between ‘school-as-pupil’ and ‘school-as-teacher’ as a ‘phase change’. They conducted a study on 100 student teachers in the Republic of Ireland to investigate how the student teachers’ previous schooling experience can influence the construction of their professional identity and how teacher education program can allow teachers to develop and make sense of their professional identity. The instrument of the study was reflective essays assigned to the student teachers. The significant findings obtained from the study was 92% of the students teachers believe that they teach the way they were taught, 86% believe that their memories about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teachers influenced their teaching, 67% wanted to be a teacher because they had positive previous schooling experience and 34% believe that the school they were assigned to for their practicum influence their professional identity. This study therefore confirms that it is important for teachers to be encouraged to uncover their beliefs by critically analysing them using various approaches of reflecting in order to develop their professional identity.

Chang-Kredl and Kingsley (2014) carried out a research to explore 53 pre-service teachers’ recounts of their life histories in Quebec, Canada. The study yielded similar findings as the majority of the participants mentioned that school experiences were most influential and this includes having fond memories of their previous teachers. These positive memories like being caring and inspiring motivated the students to be just like their previous teachers and negative memories such as being neglected and having no connection with the teacher made the students oppose their past teachers and try to be better than them. The researchers concluded that memories do have powerful impact on one’s identity development. Bullough (1997) highlights the importance of understanding student teachers’ views on learning and teaching and themselves as teachers because it is the foundation for ‘meaning-making’ and ‘decision-making’. Lamote and Engels (2010) highlight the importance of professional identity in their study on more than 100 student teachers’ perceived identity at different times during their teacher training. Results revealed that the student teachers began to shift their professional identities after six months in teacher education and also after workplace experience. The researchers conclude that professional identities are fragile during the first confrontations with teaching practice when teachers were first exposed to workplace complexity. Lamote and Engels add that without being exposed to the real and authentic context of teaching, the student teachers’ ideas and principles remain unarticulated making it difficult for them to construct their professional identity.

It is important to note that development of a person’s professional identity begins in pre-service teacher education (Walkington, 2005). During this pre-service stage, student teachers are continuously involved in the process of reflection as they begin to develop a more complex understanding of their work as teachers through formal classroom and practicum experiences outside the class. They will then continue to refine their identity through their own experience as well as people’s interpretation and reinterpretation of their experiences (Pillen, Den Brok, & Beijaard, 2013). When student teachers undergo practicum, they are exposed to many others such as colleagues, heads of department, principal, school staff, and this may contribute to forming their professional identity. Conflicts may arise when expectations of these people as well as the expectation of the government on the roles and expected behaviors of teachers are different to what the student teachers have in mind. This is the time where the pre-service teachers have to make their own judgments on what is acceptable and what is not based on their experiences and personal backgrounds (Tickle, 2000). They also have to always bear in mind that what they think is ideal to the profession may not necessarily happen in the real teaching world. Situations like this may sometimes force them to find alternative ways to ‘fit in’ through a reconstruction of their professional identities.

Beliefs and Teacher Education

According to Borg (2011), beliefs are defined as “propositions individuals consider to be true and which are often tacit, have a strong evaluative and affective component, provide a basis for action, and are resistant to change” (pp. 370-371). In other words, beliefs are said to be something very subjective, implicit, and different for every individual. For instance, if a teacher believes that the best way to learn a language is in a communicative classroom, the teacher will less likely focus on grammar drilling and accuracy compared to a teacher who believes in more traditional methods such as the audio-lingual method. This belief may sometimes be unspoken, but will be exhibited through the teacher’s actions in class. As discussed earlier in Chapter 1, there have been many researches that emphasize the influence of teacher cognition on the way teachers approach certain issues. Borg (1997) defined the term “teacher cognition” as “the unobservable cognitive dimensions of teaching – what teachers know, believe, and think” (p.81). The term that he uses may refer to aspects such as beliefs, knowledge, assumptions, theories, and attitudes. Other than the term ‘cognition’ coined by Simon Borg, there have been various terms used by researchers such as “teacher knowledge” (Freeman, 2002), “teachers’ theories” (Borg, 1999), “teacher beliefs” (Richards, 1998), “philosophy of teaching” (Crookes, 2015), “situational representations” (Clara, 2014), “patterns of representations” (Skott, 2015), and “conceptions of teaching” (Freeman & Richards, 1993). Although different terms are used to represent teacher cognition, some definitions are not entirely similar and some are even in conflict with each other. Crookes (2015), for instance, distinguished the term “philosophy of teaching” and “beliefs”. He defines “philosophy of teaching” as what informs and guides teachers’ professional practice which may include their experiences as student, personal beliefs, and life experiences in general. He also emphasizes that “philosophy of teaching” is an entity that provides a more comprehensive view of what guides teachers’ practices compared to “beliefs”.

The epistemological beliefs view cognition as something which is concrete, static, and is not influenced by context and teachers’ inner lives such as emotion, values, and motivations. It is also claimed to be “acquired as a result of their professional and personal experiences, readily accessed and articulated in self-reports, and applied (or not) in teaching practices” (Kubanyiova & Feryook, 2015, p.437). Other researchers, however, argue that a more social perspective is more appropriate to address teachers’ thinking and agree that cognition is contextually based. Lin (2012) claims that TEFL teachers may have attitudes and beliefs about many aspects of their teaching which include the subject matter, teaching methods, what constitutes a good teacher and what constitutes a good student. Therefore, she believes that understanding teachers’ attitudes and beliefs may not only give us insights into teachers’ thinking but also classroom practices, teaching approaches, and ideas about their professional development. These beliefs will play a strong role in shaping what their students learn and how they learn. According to Borg (2003), one of the earliest established beliefs in the pre-service teachers’ life is their own experience as a learner and this belief is resistant to change. Borg (2003) added that teachers’ pre-existing beliefs may not only be influential during the teacher education program but also throughout their teaching career if left unexamined and unchallenged. This is because such beliefs act as filters which guide the way the pre-service teachers take in new inputs (Borg, 2006; Farrell, 1999) and “often serve as a lens through which they view both the content of the teacher development program and their language teacher experiences” (Richards, 1998, p. 71). Furthermore, there is evidence that some teachers’ beliefs may be permanent even if they are proven to be incorrect or inappropriate during their teacher training (Pajares, 1992). Therefore, it is important for teacher training institutes to take into account teachers’ well-established beliefs about teaching and learning before they even start their teacher education. It is also important to understand that the success of any teacher training program does not necessarily depend on whether or not they are able to alter the beliefs of the pre-service teachers aligned to the content of the programs as the pedagogical knowledge of pre-service teachers are highly subjective and contextual. As Borg (1997) summarizes, teacher cognitions and practices are “mutually informing” (p. 81). In this sense, the term teacher cognition used refers to unobservable dimensions of teaching specifically what teachers know, believe, and think (p. 81). Hence, we know that teachers’ beliefs are shaped and influenced by multitudes of factors that we may or may not notice. The volume of research available worldwide examining the influence of teacher beliefs on the way they act in classrooms is substantial. In 2006, Borg coined the term ‘language teacher cognition’ (LTC) which refers to the beliefs and thoughts that second language (L2) teachers have about their teaching profession. It is generally understood that the role of teachers greatly varies as they have to manage students’ behavior, make on-the-spot decisions, motivate students, prepare lesson plans, establish relationship with students and many others, and how teachers play these roles to a great extent is determined by their beliefs. Sanchez and Borg (2014), for example, agree that it is important to understand teachers’ pedagogical context to understand teachers’ classroom practices. They conducted an exploratory research to see the connection between cognitive and contextual factors with L2 teachers’ grammar explanations. The objective was to investigate whether cognitive and contextual factors are influential in determining the instructional techniques that the teachers use to explain grammar to a group of ESL students in a school in Argentina. Findings from the study suggest that contextual factors had a significant impact on the teachers’ classroom practices where the teachers’ cognitions filtered the instructional strategies that they employed in class. The two teachers in the study used different strategies in explaining grammar and had different perceptions of the students in the school although they work in the same institution.

One recent local study portrays how beliefs influence pedagogical practice. Zuwati Hasim, Tunku Mohani Tunku Mohtar, Barnard and Abd Razak Zakaria (2013) conducted a study on 72 trainee teachers at a selected higher learning institution in Malaysia. The study revealed that 36% of the participants believed that teaching and learning in an ESL classroom should be collaborative and student-centered. Hence, they adopted the “facilitator” role as it can best represent their pedagogical beliefs. Other participants adopted categories, which are motivators, edutainers, and family members (i.e., big sister, brother, mother). Similarly, Debreli (2012) explored changes in pre-service teachers’ beliefs about teaching English as a foreign language in his study. The qualitative study conducted on three senior year pre-service teachers over a 9-month training program revealed that the three teachers initially had similar beliefs about what an effective foreign language teaching should be like; but after more exposure to the training program and teaching in real classrooms, the pre-service teachers’ beliefs seemed to partially change. The same goes to their beliefs on the most and least important language skill and error correction in a foreign language classroom.

This finding is consistent with the findings of several other studies which revealed that previous school learning experiences such as previous teachers and learning experiences and recent education within the teacher-training program influence pre-service teachers’ beliefs. Oleson and Hora (2014) state that pre-service teachers’ prior experiences as students in their previous schooling may influence their belief system when they come to teacher training programs. Debleri (2012) similarly found in her research that pre-service teachers mainly derive their beliefs from their previous learning experiences during their school years. Wong (2010) similarly carried out a quantitative research on twenty-five Bachelor of Education (TESL) pre-service teachers, and she found that the pre-service teachers conceived their beliefs from their previous learning experiences during their schooling years and their recent education within the English Language Teaching Program.

Based on the literature review, it is clear that teacher education does leave big impacts on pre-service teachers’ beliefs as that is the time various pedagogical theories are learned and they continue to “reshape their beliefs” based on what they have learnt (Fenstermacher, 1979). Borg (2011) also highlights the importance of teacher education as teachers can learn how to apply their beliefs into practice and understand links between beliefs and theory.

Reflective Practice

The term ‘reflection’ is referred to the process where individuals engage in a conscious thinking about what they are doing and why they are doing it (Farrell, 2015). The definition of reflective practice in particular varies over the years ranging from those who consider reflective practice as ‘mulling over things’ before and after classes to those who consider it as a systematic examination of practice (Wallace, 1996), the process of recognizing, examining, and deliberating over the impact and implications of one’s beliefs, experiences, attitudes, knowledge and values on classroom practices (Farrell & Jacobs, 2016). Farrell (2015) has provided a more comprehensive definition of the term reflective practice for L2 teachers in which he defines it as:

A cognitive process accompanied by a set of attitudes in which teachers systematically collect data about their practice, and, while engaging in dialogue with others, use the data to make informed decisions about their practice both inside and outside the classroom (p. 123) .

In other words, teachers have to critically and systematically reflect their own teaching to avoid themselves from following the same teaching routine. This practice does not only discourage teachers to be static but also allows them to examine what is not right in their practice and try to improve to be a better teacher with the help of people around them. Schӧn (1983) developed two types of reflection which includes reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action. Reflection-on-action refers to “the systematic and deliberate thinking back over one’s actions”. In other words, reflection-on-action transpires after an activity has taken place and teachers have to critically analyze how successful they were and whether any actions could have resulted in a different or better outcome. Reflection-in-action, on the other hand, occurs when teachers suddenly encounter a problematic situation in class and they have to make on-the-spot decisions to solve the problem based on the available knowledge or skills that they have (Schӧn, 1983, p. 54). York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, and Montie (2001) claimed that the process of reflection can be done through individual reflection, reflection with partners, reflection in small groups, and school-wide reflection. Another type of reflective teaching is called reflection-for-action which can be distinguished from the other two types of reflection (Farrell, 2015). Reflection-for-action is the action that is desired and should be done after teachers have undertaken both reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action.

Throughout the years, many researchers agree on the importance of teachers, especially beginning teachers to become reflective practitioners who are able to evaluate their own teaching (Goodman, 1984). One of the benefits of reflective practice, according to Yinger (1990) is that it enables teachers to justify and conceptualize their classroom practices even in unclear and ambiguous situations. A later research suggests that allowing teachers to reflect on their own teaching allows them to become more skilled, capable, and able to understand their role in the context of educational goals (Zeichner & Liston, 1996). Henderson and Gronik (2007) also support the importance of reflective practice in which they mentioned that reflection is “a key component of curriculum problem solving, no matter how that problem-solving is practiced” (p. 63). According to Melville, Bowen, and Passmore (2011), reflection helped to develop beginning teachers who were ‘alert novices’ which referred to teachers who had the ability to absorb course content and relate this to their own personal experience as well as their classroom practice. Farrell (2015) believes that reflective teaching is beneficial in several ways. Firstly, it discourages teachers from following similar routine and impulsive action, it helps teachers build more confidence in their actions and decisions, it gives information for teachers to make informed decisions, it promotes teachers’ critical reflection, it encourages teacher to form strategies to intervene a particular problem, it acknowledges teachers as professionals and lastly, it gives an alleviating experience for novice and pre-service teachers.

Various approaches have been used to reflect on teachers’ own teaching. One of the effective traditional methods is using journals. According to Burton (2005), journal writing serves as a method to document, record, and analyze teachers’ thoughts and activities. Fairbanks and Meritt (1998) used observation journals whereby eight trainee teachers were instructed to keep journals throughout the year to assess their own teaching performance along with teaching portfolios, entrance and exit interviews, and observation reports. The objective of the study was to investigate how the trainee teachers interact with contextual factors and events during their practicum. It was found that the reflective activities helped the pre-service teachers to learn from the social contexts as well as explore their growth as teachers. Another study carried out used a structured reflection questionnaire on 120 students in their teacher education program (Rodman, 2010). The study found that structured reflection encourages the development of pre-service teachers’ pedagogical understandings. Approaches such as using e-portfolios, videos, and blogs are examples of new approaches in teacher education programs. A later study implemented the use of electronic portfolio on eight undergraduate pre-service teachers in Turkey in which the e-portfolios were assigned upon completion of their teaching practicum. Findings from the study suggests that electronic portfolio use allows the participants to “analyse their beliefs with the aim of learning something new, recognize other points of view and consider the consequences of actions in the classroom” (Ayan & Seferoğlu, 2011, p. 519). The online feature of e-portfolio also enables the pre-service teachers to revisit and review their reflections anytime and anywhere.


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The role of teachers in education. Exploring ESL Pre-service teachers' teaching metaphors
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Wan Noor Miza Wan Mohd Yunus (Author), 2017, The role of teachers in education. Exploring ESL Pre-service teachers' teaching metaphors, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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