Academic journal article Adult Learning

It's Not in the Curriculum: Adult English Language Teachers and LGBQ Topics

Academic journal article Adult Learning

It's Not in the Curriculum: Adult English Language Teachers and LGBQ Topics

Article excerpt

Abstract: For adult English language learners, the English language classroom provides a space for students to examine cultural as well other identities. However, discussions often center on racial, rather than sexual identities. In addition, attention to how adult English language instructors engage in classroom practices that focus on sexual identities is often limited. This article examines how adult educators in English language classrooms feel regarding the inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer (LGBQ) topics and materials into their curriculum and instruction. Through a web-based survey, teachers described their beliefs, practices, and challenges in creating lessons and responding to student questions in ways that broke down heteronormativity in the adult English language classroom. Findings add to the limited knowledge of how teachers in post-secondary, English language classrooms create and support a culturally responsive learning environment regarding sexual identities.

Keywords: English language learners, LGBQ, queer theory


In recent decades, educational research has strongly supported the incorporation of student cultural identities into adult learning environments (Goldstein, 2004; Phinney, 2003; Shaw, 2001; Nelson, 2006). Nowhere is this need more clearly demonstrated than among the ethnic, racial, and linguistic diverse learners in adult English language classrooms. As these learners simultaneously experience the language acquisition and acculturation processes, the salience of their cultural identities is intensified as they make sense of their new role in their adopted culture (Nelson, 2006; Phinney, 2003). The English language learning classroom can serve as a comfortable and safe site for students to explore various facets of their cultural identities. However, there is still some reticence on the part of educators to include such lessons or to allow classroom conversations related to sexual identities other than heterosexuality (Liddicoat, 2009; Nelson, 2006; Ullman, 1997). When identity is discussed, racial rather than sexual identity is the focus, inadvertently continuing the privileging of traditional sexual identity (Kappra & Vandrick, 2006). To the detriment of all learners, this lack of attention to sexual identity results in the continued normalization of heterosexual identities and can cause problems as learners look to the English language classroom to increase their cultural awareness, as well as their linguistic proficiency (Paiz, 2015).

Although there is a growing awareness of the need to include sexual identity into the adult English language classroom, there is still limited understanding of the extent of and the ways in which it is done by English language instructors in adult learning environments (Nelson, 2006). Using Nelson's framework of queer inquiry in English language classrooms, this study endeavored to add to the growing body of research exploring the perceptions of English language teachers of adults regarding the inclusion of topics and materials with lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer (LGBQ) representation into their curriculum and instruction. The following research questions guided this study:

Research Question 1: How do English language teachers of adults feel about the inclusion of topics and materials with LGBQ representation in their teaching?

Research Question 2: What factors do English language teachers of adults believe influence the inclusion of topics and materials with LGBQ representation in their teaching?

Theoretical Framework

Queer Theory

Queer theory served as the framework of this study. In contrast to the 1960's gay and lesbian liberation movements that sought to affirm a stable and positive identity (Nelson, 1999; Sullivan, 2003), queer theory uses poststructuralism's notion of unstable identities (Jagose, 1996) and "challenges the normative social ordering of identities and subjectivities along the heterosexual/homosexual binary as well as privileging of heterosexuality as its deviant and abhorrent 'other"' (Browne & Nash, 2010, p. …

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