An enquiry into how English for Academic Purposes practitioners construct their professional identities

  • Sarah Taylor

Student thesis: EdD


This thesis examines how EAP practitioners construct their professional identities in response to the meanings they attach to notions of professionalism and issues perceived to be facing the EAP profession. Although EAP has produced a substantial body of research in its short history as a profession, few studies have focused on EAP practitioners themselves, particularly in terms of their professional identities. This thesis contributes to the field by providing a rich understanding of how a group of EAP practitioners construct their own professional identity and presenting a new theoretical perspective on EAP identity in the form of key theories from Symbolic Interactionism. This methodological framework provides original insight into how practitioners’ identities may be constructed in response to their own contexts and the framing of EAP identities in the literature. The study consists of in-depth interviews with 17 EAP practitioners working in the UK.

The research findings reveal practitioners who collectively view themselves as effective teachers but face tensions around positioning, marginalisation and recognition in their attempts to manage the liminal status of EAP in higher education and in barriers to maintaining this identity. This tension manifests in fragmented identities that may align with either academic or support service roles, or sometimes occupy a more liminal space. The findings also reveal practitioners who perceive themselves to be marginalised or stigmatised within the academy, and therefore engage in impression management strategies in an attempt to carve out a more stable identity for EAP. Another tension that emerges is that between conceptualisations of EAP identity in the literature and participants’ own constructions of their identities. These findings have implications for the need to construct a greater shared understanding of EAP practitioner identity in order to reduce professional disarticulation.
Date of Award4 Feb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorAnthony Thorpe (Supervisor) & Julie Shaughnessy (Supervisor)


  • EAP
  • English for Academic Purposes practitioners
  • Symbolic Interactionism
  • professional identity

Cite this