Relevance, Representation, and Responsibility: Exploring World Language Teachers’ Critical Consciousness and Pedagogies

Critical pedagogical work hinges upon teachers’ critical consciousness about students’ identities that constitute ‘diversity’ and how they are situated within systems of oppression and privilege. In this study, survey data were collected from practicing world language teachers’ (WLTs) to explore their beliefs about the extent to which dimensions of students’ identities played a role in their language teaching practices. Additionally, these data captured their beliefs about the extent to which teachers, administrators, curriculum developers, and schools should be responsible for addressing identity dimensions, such as ethnoracial status, gender, socioeconomic status, and faith. Results from cluster analyses indicated that teachers’ orientations varied systematically: a first belief orientation locates neither teachers nor schools as responsible, and that student ‘diversity’ may be irrelevant to education; a second orientation locates both teachers and schools as having shared responsibility, but that some identities might be irrelevant to teaching and learning; a third orientation wherein teachers viewed some identity dimensions as more relevant to their teaching practices than others, suggesting that, although teachers may be critically conscious about identity, that consciousness may not translate to critical pedagogical practices; and a last orientation that suggests critically conscious language teachers who also endorse learner-centered teaching practices. Findings from this study illuminate new theoretical and conceptual spaces about WLTs’ sense of responsibility and advocacy for both students and the ways they position their classrooms as sites of critical pedagogies. These findings have implications for teacher leaders and teacher educators as they work to build teacher capacities for engaging in critical pedagogies that examine systems of oppression and privilege in language classrooms.