Understanding Malaysian ESL pre-service teachers’ beliefs about teaching and learning through metaphors

Wan Noor Miza Wan Mohd Yunus


Teaching metaphors are often used in teacher education programmes for pre-service teachers to critically reflect on their teaching. Metaphors not only give insights into teachers’ beliefs and principles about teaching and learning but may also guide classroom practices. This article sought to explore three Malaysian ESL pre-service teachers’ teaching metaphors in different situations during their teaching practicum. The study also explored what the selected metaphors revealed about the pre-service teachers’ pedagogical beliefs. Data in this study was collected qualitatively by using semi-structured interviews and reflective tasks assigned after the pre-service teachers’ teaching practicum at local government schools. Findings indicated that the pre-service teachers have multiple roles, which are represented by various metaphors they formulated in different situations. It has been suggested that metaphors can be effective in eliciting beliefs as the constructed metaphors reveal much about the roles of the pre-service teachers. The major beliefs about teaching and learning generated by the research participants include meeting students’ needs, varying teaching approaches, and facilitating students. The implications of this study are for teacher educators to utilize metaphors in teacher education programmes and to acknowledge pre-service teachers’ beliefs as this may highly impact their practices and development.


pre-service teachers; teaching metaphors; teacher cognition; pedagogical beliefs; teaching concepts

Full Text:



Ahmad, N. K., & Samad, A. A. (2018). Metaphors as proxies for identity: A case study of a Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) teacher. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies, 24(4), 143 –157.

Bakar, A. R., Mohamed, S., & Zakaria, N. S. (2012). They are trained to teach, but how confident are they? A study of student teachers’ sense of efficacy. Journal of Social Sciences, 8(4), 497-504.

Barnard, R., & Burns, A. (2012). Final thoughts. In R. Barnard & A. Burns (Ed.), Researching language teacher cognition and practice: International case studies (pp. 180-186). Multilingual Matters.

Barrot, J. (2016). Examining the teaching beliefs and practices of experienced ESL teachers: A sociocognitive-transformative approach. 3L: Language, Linguistics, Literature, 22(1), 153-163.

Borg, S. (2003). Teacher cognition in language teaching: A review of research on what language teachers think, know, believe, and do. Language Teaching, 36(2), 81-109.

Borg, S. (2006). Teacher cognition and language education. Continuum.

Borg, S. (2011). The impact of in-service teacher education on language teachers’ beliefs. System, 39, 370-380.

Calderhead, J., & Robson, M. (1991). Images of teaching: Student teachers’ early conceptions of classroom practice. Teaching and Teacher Education, 7, 1-8.

Cameron, L., & Low, G. (1999). Metaphor. Language Teaching, 33, 77–96.

Debreli, E. (2012). Change in beliefs of pre-service teachers about teaching and learning English as a foreign language throughout an undergraduate pre-service teacher training program. Social and Behavioral Sciences, 46, 367-373.

Erickson, L. B., & Pinnegar, S. (2017). Consequences of personal teaching metaphors for teacher identity and practice, Teachers and Teaching, 23(1), 106-122.

Farrell, T. S. C. (2006). “The teacher is an octopus”: Uncovering preservice English language teachers’ prior beliefs through metaphor analysis. RELC Journal, 37, 236-248.

Farrell, T. S. C., & Ives, J. (2014). Exploring teacher beliefs and classroom practices through reflective practice: A case study. Language Teaching Research, 9(5), 594-610.

Farrell, T. S. C. (2016). The teacher is a facilitator. Reflecting on ESL teacher beliefs through metaphor analysis. Iranian Journal of Language Teaching Research, 4(1), 1-10.

Guerrero, M. C. M., & Villamil, O. S. (2002). Metaphorical conceptualizations of ESL teaching and learning. Language Teaching Research, 6(2), 95-120.

Hasim, Z., Mohtar, T. M., Barnard, R., & Zakaria, A. R. (2013). Metaphors used by Malaysian teachers–in-training: Implications for language teacher education. Creative Education, 4(9), 74-77.

Khairani, A. Z., & Razak, N.A. (2010). Teaching efficacy of Universiti Sains Malaysia mathematics student teachers. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 8, 35-40.

Larrivee, B. (2008). Development of a tool to assess teachers’ level of reflective practice. Reflective Practice, 9(3), 341-360.

Lin, W., Shein, P. P., & Yang, S. C. (2012). Exploring personal EFL teaching metaphors in pre-service teacher education. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 11(1), 183-199.

Lin, Z. (2012). Language teachers’ attitudes, beliefs, professional knowledge, and views on professional development: An exploratory study at a preschool TEFL setting, TESOL Journal, 4(1), 55-82.

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Sage Publications.

Munby, H. (1986). Metaphor in the thinking of teachers: An exploratory study. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 18(2), 197-209.

Nghia, T. L. H., & Huynh, N. T. (2017). Preservice teachers’ identity development during the teaching internship. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 42(8), 1-15.

Nikitina, L., & Furuoka, F. (2008). “A Language Teacher is Like…”: Examining Malaysian students’ perceptions of language teachers through metaphor analysis. Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 5(2), 192-205.

Oxford, R., Tomlinson, S., Barcelos, A., Harrington, C., Lavine, R. Z., & Saleh, A. (1998). Clashing metaphors about classroom teachers: Toward a systematic typology for the language teaching field. System, 26(1), 3–50.

Pajares, M. F. (1992). Teachers’ beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct. Review of Educational Research, 62, 307-332.

Shabani, K., & Ewing, B. F. (2016). Applications of Vygotsky’s sociocultural approach for teachers’ professional development. Cogent Education, 3(1), 1-10.

Thomas, L., & Beauchamp, C. (2011). Understanding new teachers’ professional identities through metaphor. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(4), 762-769.

Uchida, M., Cavanagh, M., & Moloney, R. (2019). “A casual teacher is a gardener”: Metaphors and identities of casual relief teachers in the Australian primary school context. Educational Review, 71, 1-15.

Yunus, F. W., Malik, M., & Zakaria, A. (2013). Identity status of TESL students in Malaysia. Journal of Asian Behavioural Studies, 3(8), 60-68.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24815/siele.v7i2.16654


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Print ISSN: 2355-2794, Online ISSN: 2461-0275

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.