Constructing and Negotiating Identities-In-Practice: Multiple Identities, the Enacted Curriculum, And the Figured World of Achievement in a Middle School, English Classroom
By: Limarys Caraballo
Published: 05/16/2012
Uploaded: 11/02/2017
Uploaded by: Pocket Masters
Pockets: Gottesman Libraries Archive, Historical Dissertations, 2012 (May) Teachers College Columbia University Ed.D. Dissertations
Tags: achievement, class, curriculum, English language arts, ethnicity, gender, identities

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Description/Abstract: Discourses of achievement often intensify the framing of minoritized students as deficient and overlook the interdependence of classroom contexts, student identities, and academic performance. Conceptualizing identities as constructed and negotiated in the context of practice (Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, & Cain, 1998), this qualitative case study documents how students in a purposive sample of eight high-achieving students of color construct multiple identities and experience the English language arts (ELA) curriculum within the context of a racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse, selective urban middle school. Data from various sources (semi-structured interviews, focus group, class observations, identities questionnaires, ELA curriculum materials and student work, school documents, policies, quantitative assessment scores, and grades) were analyzed throughout an ongoing, iterative process and conceptualized as part of how students make “sense” of identities, experiences, literacy practices, and achievement. I draw upon Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) notion of assemblage to present students’ narratives of identities and experiences as nonlinear and produced within continuously shifting relations.

Building on and beyond current research and scholarship on minoritized students’ identities, academic achievement, and the impact of standardization and assessment, the assemblages in this study juxtapose minoritized students’ construction of multiple identities and experiences of curriculum with quantitative assessment data that also shapes students’ identities as achievers. Findings suggest that high-achieving lower-income students of color are alienated by achievement discourses associated with White middle-class norms. Students construct rhizomatic identities-in-practice such as being “loud” that are positioned as incompatible with “being smart,” yet demonstrate agency as they negotiate identities and engage in academic and culturally-based literacy practices within and beyond the figured world of achievement. By documenting explicit moments in which achievement discourses and the curriculum marginalize students, the study makes a case for considering academic identities, literacies, and normative conceptions of achievement as intertwined. This highly contextualized, intersectional approach has implications for pedagogies and curricula that reframe “academic” identities, literacies, and achievement as raced, classed, and gendered, rather than neutral. This approach disrupts dominant understandings of what it takes to achieve academically and encourages the co-construction of critical knowledge that recognizes and sustain the multiple identities and literacies of minoritized students.