Stories Teachers Tell: A Narrative Exploration of American Sign Language Teachers’ Professional Lives

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Dore, Christina M.




American Sign Language (ASL) is one of the most popular languages for foreign language study among hearing adult learners. ASL teaching has deep connections to the long-standing oppression of deaf people and sign languages, and so ASL teachers might be linguistic and cultural guides as well as deaf advocates, allies, and spokespeople. Yet, little research has addressed who ASL teachers are and how they have come to and navigated the profession. In Canada, there is no clear educational pathway to learning to teach ASL. Although formal and informal teacher learning opportunities exist, they are not widely adopted or enforced. In response, this narrative dissertation explored the professional life histories, or pathways, of seven ASL teachers in Canada through multi-part interviews. I was informed by theories of narrative as a social practice and teacher learning as embodied, and prior literature about the sociohistorical context of ASL and ASL teaching in North America. To further contextualize teachers' stories, I also conducted interviews with representatives from deaf cultural organizations and ASL program administrators and incorporated publicly available data about ASL in Canada. The findings of this study were an extensive collection of stories drawn from the seven teachers' accounts, organized into three chronological clusters: early ASL and teaching experiences (pathways to teaching), ongoing teaching experiences (pathways through teaching), and reflections on experience (pathways forward). Stories about teachers' early experiences underscored the diversity of people that comprised this workforce—native and non-native signers, deaf, hearing, and hard-of-hearing, formally and informally trained, and so on. Their accounts of ongoing practice illustrated how they variously strove to be teachers and the different successes and challenges they met along the way in meeting their goals. Teachers' closing reflections demonstrated that their teaching work was tightly intertwined with other goals, including the broader social justice aim of improving the status of sign languages and deaf people in Canada. This study aimed to make a space for ASL teachers in academic conversations where they are rarely featured. I hoped that ASL teachers, especially the study's participants, find meaningfulness in reflecting and sharing professional experiences documented in this dissertation.


Languages - Modern
Education - Higher




Carleton University

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Applied Linguistics and Discourse Studies

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Theses and Dissertations

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