Perceptions of language and identity amongst international MA TESOL students

There has been considerable interest over the last decade on the role of self and identity in language learning; for example, present and future self-concepts are increasingly utilised to explain people’s motivation to learn English as a global language, and immigrants’ success in mastering the language of their host country has been shown to be strongly dependent on how far their aspirant identities are recognised and validated in their social interactions.

In this research, we focussed on potential identity change amongst international students taking a one-year Master’s programme in TESOL at the Universities of York and Leeds. It was hypothesised that the new academic and cultural experience would present significant challenges to participants’ identities which would be reflected in their patterns of participation on the programme, though we also explored the possible distinguishing effects of variables such as country-of-origin, previous study and work experience, and the subjects’ personal and professional goals.

Most previous studies of identity and study abroad have focussed on full-time language learners; we are not aware of any longitudinal studies on identity change in Master’s level overseas students, an important constituency in the increasing internationalisation of UK higher education. Intended outcomes are both a contribution to the literature on language and identity change, and insights into the students’ experience which could lead to innovations in Master’s level provision.