Research on Arabic Education

Arabic teacher identity and critical language awareness in the classroom


Research In progress

In partnership with Georgetown University, this study examines the predispositions of native and non-native Arabic teachers towards Arabic dialects and integrated teaching practices.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Lourdes Ortega, Initiative for Multilingual Studies, Georgetown University

Co-PI: Dr. Hina Ashraf, Associate Research Professor

Team Members: Rima Elabdali, fourth year doctoral student. Saurav Goswami, first year doctoral student

Abstract: Arabic teachers must be highly skillful in tailoring their pedagogies contextually, and in helping their students develop language proficiency for interpersonal, interpretive, presentational, and intercultural goals. Yet, no studies have examined the experiential, professional, and attitudinal predispositions that Arabic teachers hold towards Arabic dialects and integrated teaching. For example, native speaking teachers must negotiate the heteroglossia of Arabic while speaking their own dialects and interacting with their heritage and non-native students. How do they do this? And are different teachers, and perhaps non-native versus native teachers, affected differently when they negotiate MSA versus the dialects in their teaching? This study will investigate Arabic teacher professional identities and their critical language awareness of Arabic. The goal is to understand key differences and similarities between native and non-native speaking teachers of Arabic in the United States in these two areas, and to evaluate how such differences and similarities potentially modulate the manner by which teachers with different biographic and professional backgrounds envision the teaching of Arabic as a global language. Ultimately, the findings will lead to modules for professional development that K-12 Arabic teachers can adopt in order to teach the Arabic language in optimal, integrated ways that capitalize on the strengths and challenges of native and non-native teacher identities and on the motivations their diverse native/heritage and non-native school-age students bring to the classroom.

Why is QFI Funding this? When QFI first started its support of Arabic language teaching back in the 2009/2010 school year, the teachers we worked with were all non-native teachers and doing exceptional jobs in their practice. Across the years our teacher network has increased in number, with most teachers being native Arabic speakers. Still, many non-native speakers are assuming teaching posts too which is diversifying the pool of Arabic teachers in the United States. In addition to increasing the number of teachers of Arabic and providing them with quality and continuous professional development, another QFI goal is to professionalize the teaching of Arabic so that becoming an Arabic teacher is seen as a viable career option. Because of QFI’s focus on teachers, this study was of particular interest to QFI and its findings, and the modules, will make an essential contribution to the professional development of primary and secondary teachers in the United States.