Narrative inquiry into ALTs in the JET Programme (Takaaki Hiratsuka)

Date: Saturday, October 23rd

Time: 2:00—3:15

Venue: ZOOM (Akita Chapter members have been sent a ZOOM link. Those wishing to join should email a request to akita (@) Please state your FULL NAME and affiliation if applicable.


For over three decades, hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals have set foot on Japanese soil as foreign assistant language teachers (ALTs) through the government-sponsored Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme. The job of the ALTs is to teach English in elementary and secondary schools, in tandem with Japanese teachers of English (JTEs). Although there is an apparent need for scrutiny of the lived experiences of ALTs in their situated contexts, empirical discussion and research addressing them have been remarkably insufficient, as previous studies have focused primarily on the advantages and shortcomings of individual teachers and the characteristics of their team-teaching practices. Against this backdrop, the study on which this presentation is based explored, via narrative interviews, the identities and their constructions of 25 ALTs in the JET Programme. It is of critical importance to understand the complexities of ALT identity because how we view ourselves, how we project ourselves to others, and how others perceive us impact all aspects of our professional and private lives, including our beliefs, emotions, development, and practices. The findings revealed that the gestalt of ALT identity is comprised of two primary categories, foreigner identity and dabbler identity, and their six incumbent sub-identities (i.e., celebrity, sojourner, English expert, assistant, greenhorn, and Japanese novice). The presentation concludes with implications for teacher education and identity research.


Takaaki Hiratsuka is an associate professor at Ryukoku University in Kyoto, Japan, where he teaches a range of applied linguistics courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. He received his PhD in language teaching and learning from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His research and teaching interests lie in the areas of teacher education, teacher research, and qualitative research methods (in particular, narrative inquiry and classroom-based research). His recent publications include: Narrative inquiry into ALT identity in the JET program (2022, Routledge) and Team teachers in Japan: Beliefs, identities, and emotions (forthcoming). 

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