Scholarly activity and EAP professional identity: Tensions and alignments

Sarah Taylor


In response to a gap in the EAP literature on EAP practitioner identity, particularly from the perspective of practitioners themselves (Ding, 2019; Ding & Bruce, 2017), this paper examines how EAP practitioners construct their own identities within the theme of scholarly activity. Interviews were conducted with 17 EAP practitioners in the UK, and participants’ responses were analysed using Symbolic Interactionism, a theoretical approach that views identity as socially constructed through interactions and interpretations (Blumer, 1969). The study revealed fragmented identities that appeared to align with either an academic or a support service core identity or ‘master status’ (Becker, 1963). The only collective identity (Johnston et al, 1994) that emerged was what this study refers to as an ‘effective teacher’ identity. Participants’ views on scholarly activity appeared to be constructed in line with these identities. Although interviewees generally acknowledged the importance of scholarly activity, there were tensions around the value they attached to being research active, barriers to engaging with scholarship, and resistance to more traditional forms of research. Some emphasised the importance of scholarship and were in favour of traditional research, suggesting an academic master status; while others proposed that the absence of a research remit in many EAP jobs was justification for teacher/tutor job titles and the positioning of EAP as separate from other academic activities, suggesting these interviewees had constructed a support service master status. The barriers to engaging in scholarly activity were in conflict with the ‘effective teacher’ identity reflected in the value interviewees attached to such activity as a means of informing practice. These findings suggest a need to gain an understanding of the different meanings that practitioners attach to issues around professional identity and highlight the importance of publication in demonstrating the scholarship in EAP (Bell, 2016; Ding & Bruce, 2017).