A bit more exploration of identity

A bit more reading/thinking about identity in the form of reading Day et al (2006) and also in light of some conversations going on around identity and the Reclaim Project. More on my personal Reclaim my Domain project tomorrow, hopefully. Day et al (2006) was one of the readings set in the NGL course, meant to spark some thinking about identity and its connection with NGL.


  1. How has the identity of the participants in NGL evolved over the last couple of weeks? A few have reported struggles with the change in “structure” the course has wrought, often due to their limited agency in being able to handle/respond.
  2. How does identity play out in the context of enterprise educational technology in Universities? (How) Does the amount of percieved agency one holds about your ability to “hack to suit our needs” the enterprise systems impact your identity at a teacher?
  3. If Goffman’s idea of being able to adapt the self is essential, then what does this say for the templated self and the limits it places on being able to adapt the digital self?
  4. What if any links have been established/discussed between agency and affordances?

Beyond the summary of the literature on identity, not sure I got a lot out of this reading.


Recognitions that the environment in which teachers operate impact their identity. If identity is an influence on teachers’ sense of purpose, motivation, satisfaction etc, then investigating these impacts is important. Mentions the impact of “centralist reform contexts”. Looks at the research and then draws on a project with 300 teachers in 100 schools “which investigated variations in teachers’ work and lives and their effects on pupils” and finds that

identities are neither intrinsically stable nor intrinsically fragmented, as earlier literature suggests. Rather, teacher identities may be more, or less, stable and more or less fragmented at different times and in different ways according to a number of life, career and situational factors

Which challenges some of the propositions in this conversations. Perhaps not all that surprising that something as complex as identy(ies) influenced by complex environments demonstrates more complex behaviour. But perhaps increasing the argument for systems/tools that enable the complexity of change in identity(ies) to be more in the hand of the holder of the identity(ies).

Early notions of identity

Understanding selves – cognitive and emotional identities – central to work, lives and effectiveness. In this work of teachers, but perhaps more broadly. A dynamic tension between “structure (external influences) and agency (one’s ability to pursue the goals that one values)” have a significant influence.

Self and identity used interchangeably. Both complex drawing on philosophy, psychology, sociology and psychotherapy. Concept has evolved

  • Early ideas see it as “singular, unified, stable essence that was little affected by context or biography” the focus on individual creating concepts that lasted
  • Self-awareness and the perceived opinions of others a major influence on the construction of self extending to a “reflexive, learning process by which values, attitudes, behaviour, roles and identities are accumulated over time”.
  • Mead suggested the “generalised other” which included a range of values, roles, identities and many other attitudes that were integrated and influenced an individual’s view of self.
  • A view that the self is stable but “could take on different approaches to different social experiences based on the particular part played by they individual”.
  • But lives are multi-faceted – Goffman (1959) suggests we have a number of selves focused on particular roles, time and situation. Being able “to adapt the self was essential in order to effectively communicate the social processes within each situation”
  • Ball (1972) “separates situated from substantive identity – the situated is malleable, but there is a “more stable, core presentation of self that is fundamental to how a person thinks about himself or herself”.
  • Erikson (1959) from psychoanalysis identifies three stages/crises in adult life
    1. distantiation – readiness to define identity against threats
    2. generativity versus stagnation – goal oriented or coasting to disenchantment
    3. integrity versus despair and disgust

Teacher’s identity

Common thread is agreement that understanding of self is important to understanding beliefs, attitudes and actions. There’s research in teacher education that shows this and that’s it influenced by technical/emotional aspects of teaching, personal lives and the social, cultural and institutional environment. Perhaps because that teaching “demands significant personal investment”. Lots of that research summarised.


Day, C., Kington, A., Stobart, G., & Sammons, P. (2006). The personal and professional selves of teachers: stable and unstable identities. British Educational Research Journal, 32(4), 601–616. doi:10.1080/01411920600775316

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