Socio-cultural learning theory

Studying Identity Construction
within Social Worlds
Introduction: CI8470
Rick Beach
Journal assignments = project
Journal assignments: analysis of own or
another’s identity construction
Language use, narratives, genres
Cultural models, discourses
Operating in worlds, spaces, events
Comparison of own vs. other’s identities
Final project: combine assignments to create
a case-study report of yourself and another
Comparison: understanding oneself in contrast to
the other
Different theories of identity
Modernist: consistent “individual self”
Psychological: behavioral or cognitive
processes: “in the mind”
Postmodern: rejects notion of individual
Socio-cultural: different versions of self
Adopt totally different identities
Identities: retain similar stances (Moje)
“Realist”/post-positivist (Moya/Alcoff: Latino
Need for ethical/progressive action
Socio-cultural learning theory
Learning through participation in activity
systems or “figured worlds” (Holland &
Figured world of romance
Learning language, practices, roles related to
engaging in romance
Categories of males and females
Socialization by veterans
Focus on romance versus academic pursuits
Bettie: Identity as
performances in worlds
Performance as display of “habitus”
 Dispositions/practices: cultural capital
“Passing” as middle/working class
Working class students
 resist bureaucratic/language/dress/space
Chicas tracked into business classes
 Gender performance through “style”
Middle-class Cholas performances
Social Worlds as Multiple
Activity Systems
Systems--schools, workplace, family, etc., driven by
larger objects or outcomes
 School: enhanced students’ literacy
 Workplace: higher profits
Students coping with contradictions within and between
 Competing objects/outcomes of different systems
 Learning involves learning to understand and reflect
on differences between these systems
Identity construction as
mediated by tools
Cultural models
“Successful players/teams/coaches”
Discourses: ways of knowing/thinking
“competition,” “team-unity,” “boosterism” “winning at all
costs,” “masculinity,” “femininity”
“the ‘it’s not me, but the team” explanations”
Narratives: recounting of games related to constructing identity as
 “washed-up player,” “sore loser,” “unsung hero”
Discourses: ways of knowing
and thinking
“Identity tool-kit” (Gee)
Discourses of the law, religion, science,
business, education, race, class, gender, etc.
Example: “color-blind racism” shaping notions
of racial difference
Example: business discourse of
accountability/”bottom-line results” applied to
Identity and “habitus”
“Habitus” (Bourdieu): dispositions
“Embodied ideologies” (Scollon)
Adopt social practices reflecting stance
Physical performances/dress/demeanor
Teacher positions students
“Orienting discourses” (Rex)
Being positioned as “college bound” (Rex)
Social genres
Systematic ways of interacting socially
Job interviews, classroom discussions,
sales transactions, assignments
Defines practices and roles consistent with
these genres
Uptake: how others respond to the
implied practices and roles
Adoption or resistance depends on history
of previous actions related to identities
Use of narratives to perform identities
Performing idealized versions of self
Hero stories “saving” others
Adopting voices reflecting different
perspectives on self and other
Moodle entry: class and
identity construction
I am the third of four children. My parents had
raised us to be partakers of chores around the
house in a way that was fun and not tedious. I had
always approached tasks and engaged in informal
labor with enthusiasm.
When I was about 7 years old, I came into a
sudden realization of my working-class
background that complexified my existing social
Class and identity construction
I was at the local park with my parents and my siblings.
Typically my parents would always phrase our chores as
mini competitions between my siblings. A day at the park
always consisted of playing and then my parents would
send us off "to rescue the environment from the evils of
trash." They would give each of us a plastic bag and tell us
that whoever collected more aluminum cans and plastic
bottles would get a surprise. So off we went with our bags
and charged with a smile.
Class and identity construction
I remember being happy knowing that if I found the most cans and
battles, not only would I win the surprise but I would be helping out
my parents to make some additional money. I saw some kids from my
school and continued to go about my business. The kids came over and
very loudly said that I was poor. They laughed and ridiculed me. For
the first time in my life I had been called poor to my face. Yes, I was
aware that we were poor. My surroundings and lack of resources were
clear marks of poverty. However, being poor was never a deficit for
happiness. We always had food on the table (basic staples mostly and
rarely meat) and a place to call home. My dad have built our housing
unit with his own hands and we had all helped. I used to work in the
factories as a child, sweeping, and cutting loose threads off garments.
Class and identity construction
Being called poor have been accompanied with such
negativity and inferiority. I initially felt shame. My social
world have been subverted and redefined by outsiders. I
realized that being working class carried a negative stigma.
I constantly felt the need to defend the all too common
blame associated with people living in poverty. That
moment as a child really shaped my place in the social
world. I learned to not mind the comments and jeers of my
peers because they did not inhabit MY social world in
relation to my family
Uses of mapping in studying
identity construction
Visually portray performances according to three
units of analysis:
 Events
 Spaces
 Social worlds/systems
Use maps to prompt interview reflections
 “Pointing” prompts: talk about maps
Event as unit of analysis:
People act and react to current and future acts to
create an event or context
 Utterances have consequences
 Uptake of speech acts or lack of action
Events have boundaries
 People “in” the event
 People “outside” the event but still influencing
the event
 “the elephant in the room”
Social Languages:
Positioning: Power
Use of social language: positioning of self
and others
 Formal vs. informal style
 “Hey, what’s happening?”
 “I need a report on all activities by
Texts: invites/positions readers
Positions in terms of class, race, or gender
stances and practices
Map: Event
Recall an event in which you adopted or performed
a certain social identity
An event that was a bit unfamiliar, unusual, or novel
 a job interview; starting up as a member of a new
group, organization, or class
 establishing a new relationship with someone
Create map: Event
Describe event in circle on the bottom of
the handout page
In satellite circles:
 Insert traits, beliefs, and goals related
to the event
 Other people in the event
Space as unit of analysis
Spaces as gendered, raced, or classed
Gendered worlds as mediated by
language use
 Thorne: children on playground
space: practices not necessarily
 Teacher: tells children to group up by
“boys” and “girls”
 Playground space becomes gendered
as a binary space
Space as unit of analysis
Footing/positioning in classroom spaces
 “Back” versus “front” of the classroom
College dorm bedroom spaces (McRobbie;
 “Doing college work”
 “Fashion/beauty/pre-going out”
 “Sleeping zone/post-going out”
Public vs. private spaces
Personal relationships in public
 Adopt “normal appearances” or “civic inattention”
 “Remedial work”: repair fractures
 Social: creating social ties/networks
 “Face-time” in college rec center
 Need for “civic inattention”
Virtual space:
 Private display in a public space
Space related to time
Meanings of events: time of event
 “nighttime,” “playtime,” “work-time,”
“break-time,” “naptime,” “quality-time”
Time and place/space
 “time-out,” “time-on-task,” “completes
work on time,” “never on time”
Map: space(s) related to your
In middle circle(s), identify space(s)
 Classrooms, meeting room: business,
home, coffee shop, online site, etc.
In satellite circles, describe the norms
and discourse operating in this space(s)
Draw lines from these norms/discourses
to aspects of event
Social Worlds/Institutional
Social worlds/activity systems/institutions
 schooling, workplace/economic, family, health
care, justice, government/political, media, etc.,
Driven by larger objects or outcomes
 School: enhanced students’ literacy
 Workplace: higher profits
Membership in worlds:
Outsider versus Insider status
Participation and trajectories in “community
of practice”
Peripheral, Inbound, Insider, Boundary,
Outbound (Wenger)
Socialization by veterans into world
 Figured world of romance: sorority sisters
 AA: veteran members: narratives
Mapping social
In circles at top of page: identify social
worlds shaping the spaces/event:
 “family,” “school,” “workplace,” “peer,”
“community,” “virtual,” etc.
Overlap: congruent relationships
No overlap: distinct worlds
Draw lines from worlds to related aspects
of spaces and events
Reflection/interview questions
What practices did you adopt in the
How were those practices shaped by
spaces and social worlds/systems?
How are your identities constituted by
discourses/cultural models?
Where in these spaces/worlds would
you most versus least like to be?