Local Knowledge and Narration: A Philosophical and Pedagogical Inquiry into International Teacher Education in South Korea

Open Access
Porter, Curtis
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 29, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Jamie Myers, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jamie Myers, Committee Chair
  • Gail Louise Boldt, Committee Member
  • Anne Whitney, Committee Member
  • Madhu Suri Prakash, Committee Member
  • teacher narratives
  • local knowledge
  • English language learners
  • teacher education
  • South Korea
  • Deleuze
The field/industry of international English teacher education has been booming in recent years. Evidence of this can be seen in the increase in teacher education and teacher training programs and the rising volume of research in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Educators all over the world are producing an abundance of academic work and capital via the sustained popularity of English language learning in Asia and throughout the world. The knowledge base and adjoining professional practices span the globe, and global or macro perspectives of these phenomena still guide our understanding of the field. In this light, it is important to develop cogent and effective means of thinking/rethinking international English teacher education in terms of local knowledge. I believe that it is important to explore not only the content of this contentious field but also the modes of knowledge production. With this in mind I have conceived of a philosophical inquiry that begins with the personal and the immediate and seeks out not only a philosophy of local knowledge but a pedagogical and methodological process that potentially disrupts generalized modes of knowledge production. The focal point of this dissertation is a fifteen week Second Language Acquisition (SLA) course I taught in Spring 2010. This was a Master's level course in a TESOL program at a large university on the outskirts of Seoul, Korea. The conditions which brought me to this setting and the specified requirement of teaching generalizable language learning theories to English teachers in Korea are part of world-wide trends in teacher education. The frantic pursuit of English proficiency in Korea has led to increased attention to teacher education (Jo, 2008) and the field as a whole is still guided by generalizable theories of language and learning. In a larger context, globalization in educational spheres has led to a need for comparable methods, results, and bodies of knowledge, and teacher education on a worldwide scale has embraced these values (Bates, 2008). This classroom research project is an attempt to develop a philosophy of local knowledge alongside of a pedagogical model for exploring such knowledge via teacher narratives. How can narratives offer new possibilities for local resistance and challenge contemporary practices of professionalization and globalization? What are the parameters of and the potential of a philosophy of local knowledge as the starting point for such challenges? This inquiry falls into two distinct sections—a pre-active stage and an interactive stage (Goodson, 1998). The pre-active portion (Chapters Two, Three, and Four) describe trends in international teacher education and narrative research and consider the possibility of rethinking these according to a philosophy of local knowledge. The interactive stage (Chapters Five, Six, and Seven) describes events which occurred throughout the fifteen week SLA course and explores resonating concepts. Eighteen participants in the SLA course produced weekly narratives related to academic theories, exchanged reflections on a collaborative class website, and wrote language learning/teaching autobiographies as final projects for the course. Additional data sources included personal interviews, course evaluations, and classroom discussions recorded in my personal teaching journal. I analyzed these exchanges with the hopes of understanding underlying assumptions and investigating ways that practicing teachers in a graduate program in Korea were able to elaborate upon, challenge, and inquire into these assumptions. Resonating concepts in the data included expectations, theory, and progress. Chapters Five, Six, and Seven elaborate on these concepts and attempt to discern ways of opening our understanding of emerging problems in international teacher education. The data suggested various relationships between theory and practice rooted in the professionalization of teaching and teacher education, a range of lingering effects rooted in persisting West to East dichotomies, and problematic ways that learning theories and teacher narratives impact teachers' expressions of their experiences as teachers and learners of English. I conclude with a discussion of pedagogical and philosophical problems which arise in efforts to invoke local knowledge in a global educational sphere and a call to move beyond a reflective/narrative framework in teacher education.