Online Teacher Identity Development: What May We be Missing?

Concurrent Session 1
Streamed Session Research

Watch This Session

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

In this presentation I will report on the findings of a case study on seven novice online teachers’ identity development. I will discuss what constituted the online teacher identity of the participants and what internal and external factors contributed to their identity development. 

Sponsored By


With a background in English language and literature teaching and being interested in teacher development Dr. Syeda Farzana Hafsa came to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in education. Initially her research interest was in English teacher training and professional development. After taking a hybrid-online course at the University of Rochester she developed an interest in online teaching learning and saw its great potential not only in developed countries like the U.S. but also in developing ones like Bangladesh. With her new-found interest, she pursued the Advanced Certificate in Online Teaching which allowed her to gain knowledge about online teaching learning, affordances and limitations of online education, designing and teaching effective online courses and understanding where online and face-to-face education intersects. This ultimately led her to choose to do her dissertation research on online teachers’ identity development. While her broad area of interest still remains teachers’ professional development, she would like to continue her research on online education and would like to promote it in her country and to contribute to preparing effective online teachers. She is also interested in using technology in language teaching- specifically teaching English and Bengali. She has over 15 years of teaching experience in different universities in Bangladesh and in the U.S. As a Fulbright Scholar she also taught Bengali at NC State University and at UNC Chapel Hill.

Extended Abstract

As online courses and programs are growing rapidly, it has become imperative for educational institutions to prepare effective online teachers. Existing literature show that for preparing effective online teachers, it is important for the aspiring teachers to have a sense of their teacher identity, because studies also suggest that there is a connection between teacher identity and their self-efficacy. Though there are numerous training and development programs and courses offered every year in different educational institutions to prepare their teachers to teach online, a review of literature shows that these programs do not focus specifically on online teachers’ identity development. In this presentation, I report a case study on seven novice online teachers’ identity development in the context of a three-credit hybrid online course aimed at preparing them to teach online at a private research university in the North-East United States. I will discuss the new insights my findings may contribute regarding what constitutes online teacher identity and what may influence its development – and why it matters. I will discuss the key internal and external factors that contributed to the online teacher identity of the seven participants in my case study and how those influenced their identity development throughout the course. Given that identities are multifarious, we need to take into consideration the interactions between online teacher identity and other related identities – most importantly, a teacher’s more general teacher identity and his/her disciplinary identity (i.e., being a TESOL, math, special education teacher or a counselor educator, etc.). I argue that if we want to influence how online teachers are prepared, it is important to study their identity development in the context of purposeful interventions, for example, in the forms of courses and programs preparing online teachers.


  • To make this presentation interactive, participants would be asked triggering questions and encouraged to participate in the discussions – 2/3 people will be asked to discuss what kind of online teacher identity they have, what contributed to that identity.
  • Additionally, 1/2 persons will be asked to share their experience in online teacher preparation programs – related to how the idea of identity was brought up or addressed in those, if at all.
  • The session will also be made interactive by sharing life-experience and humor.

Key takeaways from the presentation:

  • The participants will be intrigued to explore the concept of online teacher identity more
  • They will be able to discuss their own teacher and online teacher identity
  • They will learn about why it is important to focus on online teacher identity in online teacher preparation programs
  • They will learn about how a teacher identity or online teacher identity impacts their practices
  • They will learn how teachers can be supported in developing a clear sense of their online teacher identity through online teacher preparation/ teacher training programs.