Korean Heritage School Teachers’ Professional Identity

dc.contributor.advisorWong, Shelley D.
dc.contributor.authorShin, Hye Young
dc.creatorShin, Hye Young
dc.descriptionThis work was embargoed by the author and will not be publicly available until August 2020.
dc.description.abstractIn the multicultural and multilingual society of the United States, heritage language learners can be considered as potential alternative fluent bilinguals if they maintain their heritage language capabilities, due to the difficulty of attaining an advanced proficiency level for foreign/second language learners. Heritage learners mainly end up becoming monolingual and maintaining literacy in only one language since they lose the opportunity to receive instruction in their heritage language during their school years. There are approximately 1,200 community-based Korean schools in the United States, attended by 60,000 students with the intent of maintaining ties to linguistic and cultural heritage. Korean heritage schools nationwide serve as a great resource for heritage learners in the development of early literacy skills in order to reach a high proficiency level in Korean. In addition, Korean heritage schools help students develop a strong sense of belonging in their community by fostering familial and cultural connections. The role of the teacher is very important in Korean heritage schools, as there is a lack of a structured curriculum and institutional guidance. However, the prominent issue for teachers is that there are limited opportunities for them to improve their qualifications. The current professional development opportunities offered by national and regional Korean heritage school associations do not satisfy the emerging needs of the teachers. As a result, there are often conflicts over educational goals and learning methods between the first generation of immigrant teachers educated in Korea and the U.S. born learners. A principal goal of this inquiry was to explore the professional identity of the Korean heritage school teachers, including how their identities are shaped, reproduced, and constructed through practices in place at heritage language schools. The data were collected from participatory observation, focus group interviews, and one-on-one interviews. This study demonstrated that the Korean heritage school teachers perceive themselves as traditional Korean teachers, foreign/second language teachers, members of Korean immigrant communities, volunteers, and mothers. The identity of the teachers was formed through former education and experience, familial and cultural values, raising 1.5 or 2nd generation Korean children, professional development opportunities, and time spent volunteering in U.S. public schools. The findings further reveal that their beliefs as teachers were reproduced and constructed in heritage schools by maintaining traditional teaching methods, developing an understanding of heritage learners, feeling isolated from mainstream education, and having low autonomy and self-efficacy. The study presented an opportunity to reflect on the current heritage teacher education model, which is designed as top-down with no space for the voice of heritage language teachers. Teacher identity and experience can contribute positively to teacher education. Exploration of Korean teachers’ identity may help to motivate the heritage education community to redesign future teacher education programs.
dc.rightsCopyright 2015 Hye Young Shin
dc.subjectHeritage language
dc.subjectLanguage teachers
dc.subjectTeacher education
dc.subjectTeacher identity
dc.titleKorean Heritage School Teachers’ Professional Identity
thesis.degree.grantorGeorge Mason University
thesis.degree.namePhD in Education


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