Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jeannine M. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jerry G. Gebhard, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Sharon K. Deckert, Ph.D.


The goal of this qualitative study was to explore the nexus between second language acquisition, identity, and the beginning second language classroom. Using a social constructionist framework, the study utilizes ethnographic methodology incorporating both narrative and autoethnographic elements. Specifically the author acted as a participant observer in a beginning Korean language class at an American university and enlisted seven classmates as co-participants. Through the author’s observations, participation, and interviews with the additional seven student participants, the role of identity is explored in the context of participant encounters with Korean as mediated by the classroom. The study treats identity as dynamic and socially constructed, discussing the relation between identity and second language acquisition in the classroom context, as reciprocal and evolving. The relationship is examined through the lens of various frameworks, among them various group and personal identity constructs such as self-concept, including academic selfconcept, future selves, and community of practice. A number of additional themes are identified as integral, including the roles of the language class group identity, of comparisons, of resistance and agency. A final theme, an analysis of the identity concerns related to one participant’s late term withdrawal from the class, is additionally presented to shed additional light on the identity-second language-classroom nexus. The final chapter moves beyond the analysis of the classroom data presented in earlier chapters, and presents some possibilities for their application, from a teaching perspective, in the second language classroom. The study found a complex and nuanced set of relationships between identity, second language acquisition, and classroom. It demonstrates that language learning and teaching encompasses significantly more than a set of discrete points to be learned/acquired; those significant additional factors include individual learning styles and preferences, learner confidence, class group identity, communicative comfort level in using the second language, students’ previous experiences and expectations based on those experiences, and the dynamics of participation as expressed through forms of agency, including resistance. The study’s broad overall conclusion is that multiple identity-related factors are inseparable elements of the language acquisition process and therefore need to be addressed in every second language classroom.