ABSTRACT

In this chapter, I work through theories of identity to consider issues in curriculum design. The contexts for these theoretical and practical considerations are two rather different case studies of learning in which I explore the relationship between the learner and the curriculum as it is reflected in discourse. I reference the concept of identity in three ways using three different terms. First, I will use ‘identity’ to refer to the various social constructs that characterise different kinds of people in relation to their affiliation with particular social groups or institutions (for example, those who teach in schools are identified as ‘teachers’). This use of ‘identity’ is similar to Gee’s notion of Discourse with a big ‘D’, such as an urban teenager Discourse or a university professor Discourse (Gee, 1999). 1 However, my use of ‘identity’ differs from Gee’s use of Discourse because I focus only on the shared or socially distributed meaning of particular Discourses, as ways of thinking, valuing, feeling and believing, but am not necessarily considering how they act and interact or use tools and objects ‘to enact and recognise different identities’ (Gee, 1999, p. 13) in the context of particular practices (i.e. personal financial management in the first case, and teaching in the second case). Instead of focusing my lens on social interactions, I draw attention to the negotiation of meaning and beliefs in the context of identification which I infer from interview data. This notion of ‘identification’ is the second way I reference identity, and is similar to Wenger’s use of the term (1998) when talking about the role of identification in learning which involves becoming a member of a ‘community of practice’. I situate ‘identification’ in relation to learning and want to suggest that this is one way to approximate learning outcomes. Thus, I assess the extent to which the curriculum in each of my two case studies supported the intended learning outcomes by considering learners’ identifications with the practices and meanings represented by the curriculum. My third use of the concept of identity is implied in my appropriation of Bakhtin’s focus on ‘ideological becoming’. Specifically, Bakhtin’s (1986) notion of addressivity highlights the way in which identity ‘performances’ are for others, even if an imagined other. The ‘other’ is also present in our voice and the language we use as we negotiate our identification with (or appropriation of) available identities. As Bakhtin argues (1981, pp. 293–294):

The word in language is half someone else’s. It becomes ‘one’s own’ only when the speaker populates it with his [sic] own intention, his own accent, when he appropriates the word, adapting it to his own semantic and expressive intention.

The process of ‘ideological becoming’ occurs when a person borrows or ventriloquates multiple, pre-existing voices (heteroglossia) and externalises this achievement in discourse.