Date of Award

Fall 11-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Sonia Soltero

Second Advisor

Jason Goulah

Third Advisor

Amira Proweller


The role of an English foreign language teacher requires expertise in the English language and pedagogical skills to make the learning process approachable for a variety of students. There are certain characteristics that make a person ostensibly suitable for the role such as patience, intelligence, trustworthiness and creativity. However, the development of teachers is often shaped by their certification preparation, experiences in the field of education and the lessons they learn from their students. The purpose of this qualitative case study is to examine how native English speaking teachers (NESTs) in Costa Rica teaching English as a foreign language develop their knowledge, skills and critical awareness. This case study was guided by the following research questions: 1.) How do NESTs’ understanding of their students’ culture shape their teaching practice, and based on this understanding, how do teachers adapt to students’ needs and behavior?, 2.) How do NESTs’ perceptions of and adaptations to their host country shape their teaching practice?, and 3.) How do NESTs perceive and respond to the influences of English and U.S. American culture in Costa Rica? To answer these questions, six native English speaking teachers were interviewed regarding their experiences as English teachers. Additionally, documents from Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate programs were collected and analyzed. The teachers’ responses and the documents collected were analyzed from a sociocultural theoretical perspective and a critical pedagogical lens while incorporating an intercultural communicative competence model. From this analysis three themes emerged that address how these six native English speaking teachers learned and developed during their time in Costa Rica. The themes are: 1.) Teachers’ perceptions of and adaptation to Costa Rica, 2.) Teachers’ perceptions of and interactions with their students, and 3.) Teachers’ attitudes towards TEFL and responses to students’ needs in the TEFL classroom. The findings suggest that teachers who travel to new countries learn from their new host communities, as well as their students, and adapt to the new environment. The teachers also adjusted their behaviors and manners of instruction to serve the needs of their students. The implications for the field of English foreign language education show a need for further intercultural competency training for native English speaking teachers, and a critical analysis of training materials that impact all TEFL teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders.