Foundations of linguistics and identity in L2 teaching and learning: Agency through linguistic enrichment, differentiated instruction and teacher identity

Foundations of linguistics and identity in L2 teaching and learning


  • Marnie Jo Petray Graduate TESOL Program, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
  • Rebecca Shapiro New York City College of Technology, City University of New York
  • Gladys M. Vega William Paterson University of New Jersey


Language, procedure, and identity are L2 teaching/learning essentials that may promote agency and stimulate synergies among knowledge, practice, and reflection (Diaz Maggioli, 2014; Duff, 2012). This meta-report presents three studies that collectively advance agency and endorse linguistic foundations as enrichment, differentiated instruction as engagement, and teacher identity as empowerment. All of these theoretical constructs are key to successful L2 teaching and acquisition. Study 1 quantitatively reports on introductory linguistics’ presence or absence in 114 master’s programs at 54 US institutions. Findings suggest that linguistics’ curricular presence is inconsistent and training for optimal impact in the L2 classroom is lacking. Given the discipline’s fundamental role in teachers’ understanding of language development, grammatical structures, and sociolinguistic contexts (Fillmore & Snow, 2000; Lucas, Villegas, & Freedson-Gonzalez, 2008), such lapses offer insufficient pedagogic tools and impair the ability to address English learners’ (ELs) needs. Study 2 profiles differentiated instruction in integrated classrooms to develop Caribbean Creole ELs’ academic writing and language skills. Findings demonstrate that scaffolding academic language and linguistic interventions within pedagogical frameworks with socially-conscious strategies benefit ELs (Matsuda, 2006; Salvatori & Donahue, 2012). This study argues differentiated instruction is essential to L2 formal register acquisition and academic success, particularly for urban STEM students. Study 3 qualitatively investigates the use of reflective practices by urban STEM teachers completing an additional ESL Endorsement. Drawing from a combined perspective of identity-in-discourse (Fairclough, 2003) and identity-in-practice (Varghese, Morgan, Johnston, & Johnson, 2005), the study explores how reflective practices embedded in a field experience/practicum impact the professional identity of in-service STEM teachers.

Author Biographies

Marnie Jo Petray, Graduate TESOL Program, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Marnie Jo Petray is Assistant Professor of TESOL in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania where she serves as Director of the Graduate TESOL Program.

Rebecca Shapiro, New York City College of Technology, City University of New York

Dr. Rebecca Shapiro is Associate Professor in the Department of English at City Tech, CUNY.

Gladys M. Vega, William Paterson University of New Jersey

Dr. Gladys Vega is Associate Professor of TESOL in the Department of Languages and Cultures at William Paterson University of New Jersey.


Alsup, J. (2006). Teacher identity discourses. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Astin, A. W., & Antonio, A. L. (2012). Assessment for excellence: The philosophy and practice of assessment and evaluation in higher education (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

August, D., & Shanahan, T. (Eds.) (2008). Developing reading and writing in second-language learners: Lessons from the Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth. New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.

Beauchamp , C., & Thomas, L. (2011). New teachers' identity shifts at the boundary of teacher education and initial practice. International Journal of Educational Research, 50, 6-13.

Bok, D. (2013). Higher education in America (revised ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Borjas, G. (1999). Heaven's door: Immigration policy and the American economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Borjas, G. (Ed.). (2000/2008). Issues in the economics of immigration. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

City Tech Fact Sheets.

Diaz Maggioli, G. (2014). Tradition and habitus in TESOL teacher education. Language and Linguistics Compass, 8(5), 188-196.

Danielson, C. (2013). The 2013 Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument. The Danielson Group.

Doolan, S. M. (2013). Generation 1.5 writing compared to L1 and L2 writing in first-year composition, Written Communication, 30, 135–163.

Duff, P. (2012). Identity, agency, and SLA. In A. Mackey & S. Gass (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 410-426). London, UK: Routledge.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Farrell, T.S. (2015). Reflective language teaching: From research to practice. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Fillmore, L. W. & Snow, C. E. (2000). What teachers need to know about language. ED444379.

Genesee, F., Lindholm-Leary, K., Saunders, W., & Christian, D. (2005). English language learners in US schools: An overview of research findings. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 10(4), 363-385.

Hess, F. M., & Eden, M. (2017). The every student succeeds act: What it means for schools, systems, and states. Boston, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Higgins, C., & Ponte, E. (2017). Legitimating multilingual teacher identities in the mainstream classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 15-28.

Jackson, A. (2015). Language teacher development: A study of ESOL preservice teachers’ identities, efficacy and conceptions of literacy. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Kanno, Y., & Stuart, C. (2011). Learning to become a second language teacher. Modern Language Journal, 95, 236-252.

Kramer, R. (2000). Ed school follies: The miseducation of America's teachers. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.

Lew, S. (2016). Science teachers ESOL professional learning and new hybrid identity development. Electronic Journal of Science Education, 20(3), 32-58.

Lucas, T., Villegas, A. M., & Freedson-Gonzalez, M. (2008). Linguistically responsive teacher education: Preparing classroom teachers to teach English language learners. Journal of Teacher Education, 59(4), 361-373.

Lucas, T. (2011). Teacher preparation for linguistically diverse classrooms: A resource for teacher educators. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Maclean, R., & White, S. (2007). Video reflection and the formation of teacher identity in a team of pre-service and experienced teachers. Reflective Practice, 8(1), 47-60.

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1999). Designing qualitative research (3rd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Matsuda, P. K. (2006). The myth of linguistic homogeneity in U.S. college composition, College English, 68(6), 637–651.

Pennebaker, J. W., Gosling, S. D., & Ferrell, J. D. (2013). Daily online testing in large classes: Boosting college performance while reducing achievement gaps. PLOSOne.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Ruohotie-Lyhty, M. (2011). Constructing practical knowledge of teaching: Eleven newly qualified language teachers' discursive agency. The Language Learning Journal, 39(3), 365-379.

Ruohotie-Lyhty, M. (2013). Struggling for a professional identity: Two newly qualified language teachers' identity narratives during the first years at work. Teaching and Teacher Education, 30, 120-129.

Russell, F. A. (2015). Learning to teach English learners: Instructional coaching and developing novice high school teacher capacity. Teacher Education Quarterly (Winter), 27-47.

Salvatori, M. R., & Donahue, P. (2012). Stories about reading: Appearance, disappearance, morphing, and revival. College English, 75(2), 199-217.

Samson, J. & Collins, B. (2012). Preparing all teachers to meet the needs of English language learners: Applying research to policy and practice for teacher effectiveness.

Schleppegrell, M. J. (2004). The language of schooling: A functional linguistics perspective. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Varghese, M., Morgan, B., Johnston, B., & Johnson, K. A. (2005). Theorizing language teacher identity. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 4(1), 21-44.

Walkington, J. (2005). Becoming a teacher: Encouraging development of teacher identity through reflective practice. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 33(1), 53-64.

Yazan, B. (2014). How ESOL teacher candidates construct their identities: A case study of an MA TESOL program. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Yuan, R., & Mak, P. (2018). Reflective learning and identity construction in practice, discourse and activity: Experiences of pre-service language teachers in Hong Kong. Teaching and Teacher Education, 74, 205-214.