What happens in your country? Teacher constructions of adult EAL students’ cultural identities


  • Suma Sumithran Deakin University, Australia




EAL, language learner identities, adult migrant programs, AMEP


In a multicultural and settler society such as Australia, perceptions of the cultures and identities of students in the adult EAL classroom may have a significant impact on their language learning experiences. This paper reports on a study investigating how teachers of adult English as an Additional Language (EAL) students in Victoria, Australia, understand their students’ cultural identities, how they speak about their students’ language learning and how they perceive the challenges and opportunities that their students face in the learning process. Recent literature highlights the complexity of culture and identity in the adult EAL classroom, and has identified normalisation of stereotyped characteristics of language learners. Semi-structured interviews with three experienced EAL teachers were conducted, and a phenomenological framework was applied for the qualitative data analysis. The themes that emerged suggest that the teachers had a limited and even superficial understanding of their students’ cultural identities.  Cultural stereotyping was evident when describing their students’ language learning experiences, and also when describing the challenges and opportunities that students have in their learning. The implications of these for the students’ additional language development are discussed.


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Author Biography

  • Suma Sumithran, Deakin University, Australia

    Suma Sumithran has worked at various tertiary education institutes in Melbourne as an EAL teacher. She recently completed her Master of Education in TESOL from Deakin University, and is interested in the exploration of students’ culture and identity in the adult EAL classroom.


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How to Cite

What happens in your country? Teacher constructions of adult EAL students’ cultural identities. (2018). TESOL in Context, 27(1). https://doi.org/10.21153/tesol2018vol27no1art771771
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