Toward a Sociocognitive Approach to Professional Identity and Professionalization in Applied Linguistics.

Joshua M Paiz, Purdue University


The professionalization of graduate students in applied linguistics and allied disciplines can be viewed as the acquisition of an identity. To better understand professional identity acquisition, this dissertation will begin by outlining a sociocognitive theory of (professional) identity. This theory is grounded in the work of Atkinson (2002, 2011b), and it seeks to address a number of limitations with current disciplinary understandings of identity. More specifically, it seeks to expand what is understood by the social context and its impacts on identity performances (see Du & Uchida, 1997); and, it will further integrate the contributions of Cho (2004, 2009) regarding the bi-directional nature of the acquisition of professional identities. Finally, the sociocognitive approach to identity will seek to address the ways in which written professional identity can be viewed as a form of identity off-loading and distribution (see Hyland, 2012; Ivanič, 1998). In order to test the proposed sociocognitive theory of identity, an autoethnographic research project has served as a testbed for the theoretical work addressed in the first half of this dissertation. This will begin by grounding the current research endeavor in the autoethnographic tradition. Then, an autoethnographic telling and sociocognitive interpretation of the author’s professional identity development over the course of his entry into the discipline will be presented. This will include an examination of the ways in which identity performances can be off-loaded onto various aspects of one’s ecosocial context as well as the ways in which various online platforms (e.g., Facebook,, ResearchGate, etc.) mediate identity performances. Data and findings about the role of alignment in identity construction and enactment will also be presented. By examining the alignment between the author and his Major Professor, this study speaks to the ways that alignment can influence foregrounded identity performance, as well as the performance of a written professional identity. In the conclusion, implications for graduate education and professional development will be outlined. Also provided will be a post-mortem of the proposed theory’s performance as an analytical tool and possible directions for future identity research that utilizes this theoretical approach.




Berns, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Linguistics|English as a Second Language|Higher education

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