Identity through Communication: International Teaching Assistants’ L2 Professional Identity Negotiation and Identity Gaps


Summer 8-14-2015



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Alison McGregor

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Anne DeMuth

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Lobat Asadi


A substantial amount of International Teaching Assistant (ITA) research focuses on the “Foreign TA problem” and skills for developing communicative competence in the classroom, yet few studies examine the development of ITA L2 professional identity in relation to communication skills. This study examines the negotiation and development of L2 professional identity using the Communication Theory of Identity (CTI) as a framework. It addresses the primary questions of whether ITAs show evidence of perceived identity gaps in communication and how an ITA’s professional identity changes after a semester of teaching in English. This mixed-methods study employs personal interviews and “ITA Communication and Identity” questionnaires to collect data. Findings suggest that ITAs perceived personal-relational and personal-enacted identity gaps in communication with American undergraduate students, and that challenges with the ITAs’ grammatical competence and differences from their home country’s university learning contexts impacted their emerging L2 professional identities as both students and teachers.


L2 Identity, International Teaching Assistants

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