Table of Contents






































Bertha Ramos Holguín

Jahir Aguirre Morales

Nancy María Torres Cepeda


Student-teachers identity construction and its connection with student-centered approaches: a narrative study / Ramos Holguín, Bertha; Aguirre Morales, Jahir; Torres Cepeda, Nancy María. Tunja: Editorial UPTC, 2018, 92 p.


ISBN 978-958-660-316-4


1. Identity construction. 2. Teacher identity 3. Student-teachers.

4.Student-centered approaches. 5. Narratives.


(Dewey 32/21).







Primera Edición, 2018

200 ejemplares (impresos)

Student-teachers’ identity construction

and its connection with student-centered

approaches: a narrative study.

ISBN 978-958-660-316-4


Colección de Investigación UPTC No. 116

© Bertha Ramos Holguín, 2018

© Jahir Aguirre Morales, 2018

© Nancy María Torres Cepeda, 2018


© Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica

de Colombia, 2018


Editorial UPTC

Edificio Administrativo Piso 4

Avenida Central del Norte No. 39-115,

Tunja, Boyacá, Colombia


Rector, UPTC

Alfonso López Díaz


Comité Editorial

Hugo Alfonso Rojas Sarmiento, Ph. D.

Enrique Vera López, Ph. D

Yolima Bolívar Suárez, Mg.

Sandra Gabriela Numpaque Piracoca, Mg.

Olga Yaneth Acuña Rodríguez, Ph. D.

María Eugenia Morales Puentes, Ph. D.

Rafael Enrique Buitrago Bonilla, Ph. D.

Nubia Yaneth Gómez Velasco, Ph. D.

Carlos Mauricio Moreno Téllez, Ph. D.


Editora en Jefe

Ruth Nayibe rdenas Soler, Ph. D.


Coordinadora Editorial

Andrea María Numpaque Acosta, Mg.


Corrección de Estilo

Claudia Helena Amarillo Forero



Búhos Editores Ltda.

Tunja Boyacá



Libro financiado por la Dirección de Investigaciones de la UPTC. Se permite la reproducción parcial o total, con la autorización expresa de los titulares del derecho de autor. Este libro es registrado en Depósito Legal, según lo establecido en la Ley 44 de 1993, el Decreto 460 de 16 de marzo de 1995, el Decreto 2150 de 1995 y el Decreto 358 de 2000.


Libro resultado del Proyecto de investigación UPTC con SGI número 1521.


Citación: Ramos, B., Aguirre, J. & Torres, N. (2018). Student-teachers’ identity construction and its connection with student-centered approaches: a narrative study. Tunja: Editorial UPTC.





















Where this story begins



The way theory helps construct this story

2.1 Identity

2.2 Teacher identity construction

2.3 Student-centered approaches to EFL learning




Social actors and actresses on their stage

3.1 Approach

3.2 Type of study

3.3 Stage

3.4 Social actors and actresses

3.5 Ethical issues

3.6 Data Collection Procedures



The eye of the narratives



What stories narrate

5.1 Thematic elements

5.2 Student-teachers’ beliefs about student-centered approaches

5.2.1 Conceiving students as central agents in the teaching and

learning processes


5.2.2 Understanding the nature of barriers when implementing changes in education


5.3 Student-teachers fluctuating from teacher-centered to

student-centered approaches

5.3.1 Reflecting upon daily teaching experiences

5.3.2 Constructing student-teachers’ projected identities as future





How the stories go on

6.1 What is in our surroundings

6.2 What future brings and what limited students’ voices




Appendix a: initial survey to student-teachers

Appendix b: consent letter of student-teachers

Appendix c: guidelines to write narratives







Table 1. Pedagogical component in the program of Modern Languages

(Based on the Syllabus)

Table 2. Protagonists of the research study

Table 3.Procedures in data analysis

Table 4. General themes and specific subthemes








One of the main interests of the research group TONGUE (Teaching on New Grounds Unexplored English Possibilities) from the Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia (UPTC) is to comprehend how teacher development takes place. Recently, the group has started describing and interpreting the subjectivities that are part of this complex process. In doing so, the group has been developing various research studies that can help understand pre-service teachers’ identities as language learners and future EFL teachers. In this book, we present a narrative study as a first step towards the profound comprehension of the construction of student- teachers identities.


One day I talked with the students about their pessimistic attitudes and I told them that they were free to do whatever they wanted. So I told them that if they developed the exercises well, I would not leave homework. The students seemed to be committed and decided to have a better attitude for the class. I realized that students are used to receiving grades for their work. (Socrates, Narrative # 3) [Sic]


The excerpt above came from a student-teacher during his first experience teaching English at a public school. He expressed his worries about the fact that teachers are authoritarian in nature and students act upon that authoritarianism. That is, students tend to react to control mechanisms. Authority becomes a dominant value. From that pivotal moment, he started to wonder about himself in the role of a teacher.


We, as researchers, also started to wonder about those critical incidents, like the one that had guided his teaching. In fact, we became aware that in EFL, more research is needed so that learning a language is not just seen as a product, but also as a dialogical process. In this sense, we considered it important to understand student-teachers’ first experiences as English teachers and see if those experiences were permeated by a view of language as a product or as a socially-constructed process. To do so, we wanted to see how these student-teachers see themselves as EFL teachers. Furthermore, we aimed at exploring how they construct their identities as future EFL teachers.


In the manuscript, which follows, we will examine life experiences, such as the one mentioned above, because we consider that it is of paramount importance to listen to students’ perceptions about their lives. In fact, to deeply comprehend reality, one needs to touch and be touched by that reality. In this sense, one can really comprehend the meaning of lived experiences, while avoiding superficial understanding.


By listening to student-teachers’ life experiences, as part of their first teaching practicum, one can understand the factors that contribute to the construction of student-teachers’ identities. One can eventually understand student-teachers’ unwillingness to implement changes and innovations in their teaching practice, as well as be able to understand the reasons why teacher-centered approaches or student-centered approaches are prioritized in English classes.


Teachers’ identity has been the focus of several studies(Gómez, 2012; Fajardo, 2013; Diaz,2013; Lamot & Engels, 2010; Anspal et al., 2012; Izadinia,

2013). These studies reveal a tendency to include an understanding of the nature of professional identity, which is the relationship between personal and social identity, and the relationship between agency and structure in identity formation (Tsui, 2007). However, in the Colombian context, few studies focus on student- teachers’ identities as future EFL teachers or their first teaching experiences. If teacher educators are able to understand how student-teachers’ identities are constructed and the issues that affect them, then they may be able to engage student-teachers in innovation and change based on student-centered approaches, as discussed by Kiely (2011).


The concern about addressing the importance of engaging teachers, in this case student-teachers, in innovative teaching practices has been widely described (Waters, 2009; Wedell, 2009 & Fullan, 2007). Thus, it is a fact that teacherscommitment is essential for successful educative innovations. Teachers, as innovators in the EFL classroom, make decisions that usually produce changes in their teaching environments. Those small changes in testing, methodology or pedagogical beliefs are, according to Fullan (2007), the most important dimension of teaching and learning. Then, as stated above, we believe that if student-teachers’ identities and the connection with learner-centered approaches are explained and analysed in depth, teacher educators might help future teachers engage and succeed in innovative decision making processes within their teaching practices (Kiely,



Before going further, we need to briefly explain some of the important concepts that will appear in this book. In this research study, we considered the definition of identity presented by Norton (2011) and Wenger (1998). On the one hand, Norton (2011) posits that identity, or subjectivity, as it is called under the poststructuralist framework, “is defined as multiple, contradictory, and dynamic, changing across historical time and social space” (p. 172). There is no real me, and there is place for “possible selvesinstead of one static notion of self. That is why, we refer to “identities” rather than to “identity. Thus, subject positioning is constructed within diverse discourses or sites of practice” (p. 172). On the other hand, Wenger proposes that identities are formed amid the tension between our investment in the various forms of belonging and our ability to negotiate the meanings that matter in those contexts” (p. 188). Therefore, identity formation is a dual process between identification and negotiation of meanings. By identification, the author means the investment of the self in building associations and differentiations. Identification is reificative: we identify, or are identified, as belonging to socially organized categories, roles, and so on. It is also participative: the lived experiences of belonging constitute who we are (Wenger, 1998). Therefore, identification is both relational and experiential. Hence, this qualitative narrative research study revealed the ways student-teachers’ identities as future EFL teachers were constructed.


We also use the term student-teachers” instead of “pre-service teachers. Student-teachers are perceived as active and critical agents, as mentioned in the mission of the UPTC. These student-teachers are enrolled in a teacher education program, and their experience in language teaching is just starting to take place in their academic development process. The term student-teachers” is used, among other reasons, because students who have not had any teaching experience develop their teacher identity based on a large number of beliefs about the work of teaching (Stenberg, Karlsson, Pitkaniemi & Maaranen, 2014), rather than having a consolidated and contextualized meaning of what it truly implies.


From the perspective described above, this research study was conducted amid the transition of these two items: from having just merely founded beliefs about the work of teaching and starting to address real teaching contexts. The first item is of great relevance to understand why the term student-teachers” was used in this research study.In contrast, the term “pre-service teachers” is not used because they are perceived as more experienced in language teaching. This term refers to the students of a teaching program, who are in their final teaching practicum.



In this book, we start off by narrating how and where this story began. The first chapter attempts to contextualize the reader in terms of where and when we, as a research group, started to think about the complexities of student-teachers during their first teaching experience.



Secondly, we present the point of view of different authors and how they guided us in fully comprehending student-teachers’ identities, and the intricate relationship they hold with learning as a product or as a process. Thus, we discuss identity, teachers’ identity, and student-centered approaches to EFL learning. In line with poststructuralist notions, identity is understood as a multifaceted, dynamic and constantly changing process in which multiple selves” are possible (Norton, 2011), according to the negotiation meaning carried out in different places (Wenger, 1998). Teacher identity becomes a vital component in meaning and decision- making in education, in which a myriad of dynamic factors constitutes the ways of constructing their identities. In the same way, student-centered approaches were introduced as a reminder that traditional-centered approaches needed to be re-thought as a means to stop passiveness and transmission of knowledge perspectives (Cooper, 2004).

The third chapter presents the protagonists and the context of this story. We introduce the reader with the actors and actresses that shared their narratives. We also attempt to show the context in which those stories were narrated. Subsequently, the fourth chapter presents narratives as a method to understand life-stories and to comprehend how identities are constructed. In the fifth chapter, we describe, interpret and comprehend what the narrations told us about student-teachers identity construction and its relationship with student-centered approaches. In the sixth chapter, we account for the way those stories went on.







Most undergraduate teacher education programs have considered the teaching experiences as one of the most crucial components student- teachers have to deal with. The agents in charge of running teacher education programs are aware of the impact and importance of teaching experiences, but these experiences might lack the necessary attention it requires.



The teaching practicum, as a component that has become crucial in all teaching programs, has received special attention by Colombian educational policies. The National Ministry of Education of Colombia (MEN due to its acronym in Spanish) has paid more attention to the pedagogical, didactical, and practicum components in the ultimate years. Academic credit hours devoted to the teaching practicum have increased in the last decade, as stated in Resolution 2041 issued in 2016 (MEN, 2016).