An Exploratory Study of Iranian EFL Teachers’ Agency: Conceptions and Practices

Document Type : Research Paper


English Language Department, Ahar Branch, Islamic Azad University, Ahar, Iran


The need for a strong educational system is felt more than ever due to globalization. In this respect, teacher agency has an important role in educational change. This qualitative meta-study, therefore, addressed the attitude of the teachers towards agency and the way they enact agency to facilitate learning process. To this purpose, the needed data were gathered from the narrative of life, professional history and class observations of five English teachers in Iranian context. Then, based on the Grounded Theory Approach, the data were analyzed and the obtained results showed that teachers’ pre-teaching and during teaching processes were made up of complex relationships among different resources; that is, teachers’ life ideology (their perception towards themselves and their job) and financial status. At the same time, the results revealed that teachers’ instruction experiences highly affect both their magnification of agency and their decision-making processes. It was further seen that agency was not stable at all, meaning that social factors and environmental conditions played important roles in shaping teacher’s agency.


Alsagoff, L., McKay, S. L., Hu, G., & Renandya, W. A. (2012). Principles and practices for teaching English as an international language. New York: Routledge.
Archer, M. S. (2000). Being human: the problem of agency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ary, D., Jacobs, L. C., Razavieh, A., & Sorensen, C. (2006). Introduction to research in education (7th ed.). California: Thomson Wadsworth.
Atai, M. R., Babaii, E., Lotfi, Gaskaree, B. (2017). EAP Teacher Cognition: A Qualitative Study of Iranian In-Service EAP Teachers Cognitions. Journal of Language Horizons, Alzahra University, 1, 31-55.
Biesta, G., Priestley, M., & Robinson, S. (2015). The role of beliefs in teacher agency. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 21(6), 624-640.
Buchanan, R. (2015). Teacher identity and agency in an era of accountability. Teachers ad Teaching - Theory and Practice, 21(6), 700-719.
Crookes, G. (1997). What influences what and how second and foreign language teachers teach? Modern Language Journal, 81, 67-79.
Davies, B. (1990). Agency as a form of discursive practice: A classroom scene observed. British Journal of Sociology in Education, 11, 341-361.
Edwards, A. (2005). Relational agency: Learning to be a resourceful practitioner. International Journal of Educational Research, 43(3), 168–182.
Freeman, D. (1996). The “unstudied problem”: Research on teacher learning. In D. Freeman, & J. C. Richards (Eds.), Teacher learning in language teaching (pp. 351-378). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.
Hitlin, S., & Elder., G. (2007). Agency: An empirical model of an abstract concept. Advances of Life Course Research, 11, 33-67.
Johnson, K. E. (2009). Second language teacher education: A sociocultural perspective. New York: Routledge.
Lasky, S. (2005). A Sociocultural Approach to Understanding Teacher Identity, Agency and Professional Vulnerability in a Context of Secondary School Reform. Teaching & Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 21, 899-916.
Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook (2nd ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.
Pantic , N. (2015). A model for study of teacher agency for social justice. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 21(6), 759778.
Priestley, M., Edwards, R., Priestley, A., & Miller, K. (2012). Teacher agency in curriculum making: agents of change and spaces for maneuver. Curriculum Inquiry, 42(2), 191-214.
Ruohotie-Lyhty, M., & Moate, J. (2016). Who and how? Pre-service teachers as active agents developing professional identities. Teaching and Teacher Education, 55, 318-327.
Rogers, R., & Wetzel, M. M. (2013). Studying agency in literacy teacher education: A layered approach to positive discourse analysis. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies, 10(1), 62-92.
Stillman, J., & Anderson, L. (2015). From accommodation to appropriation: Teaching, identity, and authorship in a tightly coupled policy context. Teachers and teaching: Theory and practice, 21(6), 720-744.
Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi: Sage Publications.
Tao, J., & Gao, X. (2017). Teacher agency and identity commitment in curricular reform. Teaching and Teacher Education, 63, 346-355.
Vahasantanen, K. (2014). Professional agency in the stream of change: Understanding educational change and teachers' professional identities. Teaching and Teacher Education, 47, 1-12.
Volume 9, Issue 35 - Serial Number 2
بهار 2-1400
April 2021
Pages 71-80
  • Receive Date: 18 May 2020
  • Revise Date: 25 August 2020
  • Accept Date: 13 November 2020
  • First Publish Date: 25 January 2021