Exploring Indigeneity in English Language Teaching Through Turi Aisa Ya With Indigenous Miskitu Teachers of English
AdvisorNicholas, Sheilah E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation explored the aspect of Indigeneity as a significant consideration in English Language Teaching (ELT); and thus makes a critical contribution to the literature in ELT/TESOL and applied linguistics. This body of knowledge benefits from privileging Indigenous ways and Indigenous knowledge in research practices, making explicit understandings on language use and language teaching and learning from Indigenous knowledge systems, Indigenous and postcolonial sites, and incorporating ethical approaches to research that empower all parties involved (Norton and Tohey, 2011; Pennycook & Makoni, 2020; Sterling & De Costa, 2018). As such, this dissertation was informed by Indigenous and decolonizing research methodologies that contribute to decoloniality and the advancement of Indigenous knowledge in academia. The exploration of the aspect of Indigeneity in ELT was conducted by investigating the stories and experiences of two Indigenous Miskitu teachers of English from Honduras. Additionally, the exploration includes a prologue in which the principal researcher narrates the awareness of his Indigeneity as Indigenous Chorotega in storying his life history. Consequently, I define Indigeneity as a quality of being Indigenous encompassing: as embracing Indigenous worldviews, paradigms, and ways of being, doing, knowing, and thinking (Garroutte, 2006; Huaman, 2022; Peltier, 2021); as the self-identification as Indigenous; as the awareness and interest on one’s spirituality and well-being; as the use in, interest on, and passion for one’s Indigenous language and culture (Huaman, 2022; Peltier, 2021); as the connection to Indigenous people by blood, kinship, or ancestry (Garroutte, 2006; Simpson, 2011) as well as to one’s Indigenous land, place, and community (Absolon, 2011; Sarivaara et al., 2013). The study investigated the stories and experiences of two Indigenous Miskitu teachers of English as former students of an ELT program in Honduras and current teachers of English in the public education system of Honduras. It sheds light in understanding how the Indigeneity of these Indigenous Miskitu teachers of English intersected with their preparation and professionalization as English language teachers and how their Indigeneity informs and impacts their teaching praxis. The study used turi aisa ya, an Indigenous Miskitu methodology, for data collection (Smith, 2012). Turi aisa ya is a space for sharing and the exchange of information and experiences; it requires sitting down and listening with humbleness and intention—listening to hear. Turi aisa ya is also a social activity in which participants engage in laughing, thinking together, crying, worrying, and coming up with solutions. It is imagining, experiencing vicariously, and feeling. In a similar manner to sharing circles (Lavallée, 2009), turi aisa ya is an approach “used to capture people’s experiences [and is] comparable to focus groups in qualitative research” (p. 28). In addition to turi aisa ya, the participants engaged in storywork as we were storying our intersecting lived experiences as a way of making and gaining insights from our life stories (Archibald, 2008). Engaging in turi aisa ya and storywork created the space for dialoguing about their beliefs on education merging traditional Miskitu worldviews with English language learning, English language teaching, and their lived experiences teaching in the Honduran public education system as Indigenous Miskitu teachers of English. Findings shows that the Indigeneity of the Indigenous Miskitu teachers of English, who were co-researchers on this study, was important and influential in their becoming teachers of English. First, their Indigeneity is understood as anchored in intergenerational relations as well as family and community relations, thus informed their desires to become teachers of English. Secondly, their awareness and consciousness towards the English language informed their becoming as teachers of English. Such awareness and consciousness served as a reminder on why pursuing a bachelor’s degree in ELT was relevant to them. Third, their personal traits of hard-work, resolution, commitment, and determination, aspects of their Indigeneity, intersected with their becoming as teachers of English. Said personal traits ensured that both Zoila and Wesley negotiated and navigated newer spaces and situations as they moved to new locations to pursue higher education and invested themselves in mastering English as their third language --a language that for them served community-oriented, professional, and academic purposes. Moreover, the dialogues held during the turi aisa ya sessions helped identify the ways in which their Indigeneity manifests in their teaching praxis. Their Indigeneity is manifested in their teaching praxis as reciprocity in the classroom, through the centering of well-being through a pedagogy of kindness and care, via culturally responsive teaching, and in the use of storytelling as a pedagogical tool. While these are some of the ways in which their Indigeneity is manifested in their teaching praxis, they are not the only ones considering that, as Zoila stated, “[their] Indigeneity is present in everything [they] do” (Zoila, Turi aisa ya session # 4 with Zoila. Jan, 13, 2023). Furthermore, the curricular innovations to the ELT teacher education program in Honduras, that emerge from their stories and experiences, include: (a) a class to learn about Indigenous Miskitu ways, (b) English language [pre-service] teachers learning about the linguistic diversity of Honduras, (c) representation in faculty and instructors, (d) additional preparation for students in the ELT program to teach in the public education system of Honduras, (e) formal academic and educational spaces to learn about the current state of Indigenous communities in Honduras, and (f) training students in the ELT program under the paradigm of Teaching English as a Global Language from an Indigenous relational paradigm. Key conclusions and implications for ELT teacher education in Honduras and beyond are: a) English should be taught as an additional language, b) multilingualism is as an aspect of our identities as we might be trilingual individuals (users of three languages or users of two languages and heritage speakers of an Indigenous language), and c) the ways teachers of English are educated should be innovated by a new paradigm that is encompassing of multilingual education and the fact that English is a global language. Noteworthy to identify are the limitations that impacted this study. These include a lack of Indigenous knowledge in the fields of ELT/TESOL and applied linguistics, the realities exacerbated by COVID-19 even post-pandemic, and the small number of Indigenous Miskitu teachers of English. The possibilities for future research suggest that this study could be replicated with the collaboration of more Indigenous Miskitu teachers of English as well as other teachers of English who belong to other ‘ethnic’ communities such as the Garifuna and Islanders. Also, further research could instigate other critical dialogues to gain insights into the multilingual realities of all these individuals. Furthermore, this study could be replicated to learn how other Indigenous teachers of English throughout the world teach this language as informed by their Indigeneity. Lastly, further research that builds from this dissertation could investigate how the teaching of languages such as English could look like if informed by an Indigenous relational paradigm. Keywords: Indigeneity, Indigenous Knowledge, Miskitu, Honduras, English Language Teaching, TESOL, Applied Linguistics, Global Englishes, teacher education.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition & Teaching