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Exploring English-language teacher emotions, teaching instructions and professional identity in the context of ELT curriculum reform in Malaysia

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posted on 2022-11-15, 01:43 authored by Normala Sulaiman

This study extends the literature on the complexities of English teachers’ emotional experiences and identity, particularly about how they responded to proposed classroom instructions in curriculum reform. Teachers play a central role in introducing and implementing changes in the classroom. However, despite the research attention given to teachers’ role in curriculum reform, it is crucial to note that emotions and identity also interplay with the implementation of change. In a mandated national curriculum reform, changes naturally bring out different kinds of emotions and constantly transform teachers’ professional identity. These emotional responses and the corresponding changes in identity can create obstructions to teachers’ continued implementation of curriculum change. Exploring the complexities of teachers’ emotions and identity, therefore, requires more understanding of classroom realities and curricular implementation. To address this gap, this study explores teachers’ emotions in relation to their professional identity and teaching instructions. Using Hargreaves’ (2001) emotional geographies of teaching, Kelchterman’s (1993, 2009) professional self-perspectives, and Ajzen’s (1991) theory of planned behaviour, this qualitative study examined the semistructured interviews, classroom observations, and self-reflective journals of nine teacher participants from three rural schools in Malaysia. Adopting the format of thesis by publication, this study reports on three main concerns. First, teachers’ emotional reactions to the new curriculum are manifested through the way they delivered their classroom instructions. Second, teachers’ emotional reactions are negotiated throughout this changing time. Third, teachers’ professional identity is constructed or reconstructed by their personal histories, emotions, and beliefs. Findings further suggested that curriculum content and a student-centred approach encouraged positive emotional dimensions, whereas contextual constraints of teaching in rural schools, insufficient training, inapplicable context of the international-certified textbook, lack of technical resources, and heavily centralised curriculum caused negative emotions. These positive and negative emotional responses affect teachers’ attitudes in implementing changes in their classrooms. However, teachers negotiate their negative emotions by understanding their personal and professional self, their sociocultural support, and their faith. Additionally, teachers’ past experience, emotions and religious beliefs make significant influence on their identity formation during this changing time. The findings pointed to the importance of geographical context, sociocultural support, and faith as unique factors that influence teachers’ acceptance of change. This demonstrates the need for rural schoolteachers to be heard during curriculum development process. It also calls for an explicit account in theorising faith as a negotiator of emotional responses and identity construction during a national reform. Finally, this study proposes a need for collaborative communication between curriculum developers, schools, and teachers for supportive implementation process at classroom level.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction -- Chapter 2: Literature review -- Chapter 3: Methodology -- Chapter 4: Teachers’ emotional experiences -- Chapter 5: English-language teachers’ perceptions and teaching instructions -- Chapter 6: Teachers’ professional identity in the time of change -- Chapter 7: Conclusion -- References -- Appendices


A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, 2022

Department, Centre or School

Macquarie School of Education

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Alice Chik

Additional Supervisor 1

Jill Murray


Copyright: Normala Sulaiman Copyright disclaimer:






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