An ethical analysis of how ESL teachers construct their professional identities through the use of information technology in teaching

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


While there is growing recognition of the mutually shaping relationship between teaching with information technology (IT) and teachers' beliefs, skills and self‐efficacy, there has been a paucity of research attention on the construction of teacher identity during actual IT‐assisted in‐class teaching and out‐of‐class networking with students, in a full institutional and social context. This study investigates how a group of secondary school English as a second language (ESL) teachers regulated their teaching and practices and constructed their identities in relation to governmental requirements for the use of IT in teaching. Teachers from seven government‐subsidised schools in Hong Kong were interviewed about their experiences of using IT in teaching. We frame the reported practices of these teachers as a process of construction of identity, formed in the context of the 'governmentality' supporting current examination‐oriented educational policy. Observing from the perspective of what has been termed 'governmentality' and an ethical framework for self‐formation of personal identity makes it possible to see these teachers' professional identities constructed through the use of IT practices within the contradictory conditions of professional/personal demands, compliance/resistance, school promotion/peer non‐cooperation, advantage/disadvantage in use of IT, use of IT/content and pedagogical knowledge. This study has implications for developing a more supportive and rational environment for the use of IT in teaching, in which more autonomy and identity options—rather than constraints—can be provided for teachers in the digital era. This study also informs practitioners and policy makers in other educational settings experiencing a similar IT boom in teaching. Copyright © 2019 British Educational Research Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-937
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number5
Early online dateJun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


information technology
educational setting
educational policy
Hong Kong
secondary school


Gu, M. M., & Lai, C. (2019). An ethical analysis of how ESL teachers construct their professional identities through the use of information technology in teaching. British Educational Research Journal, 45(5), 918-937. doi: 10.1002/berj.3531


  • Teacher identity
  • Information technology
  • Ethical analysis
  • Governmentality