Macquarie University
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Student and teacher identity construction in New South Wales Years 7 - 10 English classrooms

posted on 2022-03-28, 12:58 authored by Dianne Frances Pizarro
This thesis examines student identity construction and teacher identity construction in the context of secondary English Years 7-10 classrooms in a comprehensive high school in Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The research journey chronicles the teaching and learning experiences of a small group of students and teachers at Heartbreak High. The narrative provides insights into the factors responsible for creating teacher identity(s) and the identities of both engaged and disengaged students. -- Previous studies have tended to focus on the construction of disaffected student identities. In contrast, this case study tells the stories of both engaged and disengaged students and of their teachers utilising a unique framework that adapts and combines a range of theoretical perspectives. These include ethnography as a narrative journey (Atkinson, 1990), Fourth Generation Evaluation (Guba & Lincoln, 1990; Lincoln & Guba, 1989), reflexivity (Jordan & Yeomans, 1995), Grounded Theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Sugrue, 1974) and multiple realities (Stake, 1984). -- The classical notion of the student-teacher dynamic is questioned in this inquiry. Students did not present powerless, passive, able-to-be motivated identities; they displayed significant agency in (re) creating 'self(s)' at Heartbreak High based largely on 'desires'. Engaged student identities reflected a teacher's culture and generally exhibited a "desire to know." In contrast, disaffected students exhibited a "desire for ignorance," rejecting the teacher's culture in order to fulfil their desire to belong to peer subculture(s). The capacity for critical reflection and empathy were also key factors in the process of their identity constructions. Disengaged students displayed limited capacity to empathise with, or to critically reflect about, those whom they perceived as "different". In contrast, engaged students exhibited a significant capacity to empathise with others and a desire to critically reflect on their own behaviour, abilities and learning. -- This ethnographic narrative offers an alternate lens with which to view pedagogy from the perspectives that currently dominate educational debate. The findings of this study support a multifaceted model of teacher identity construction that integrates the personal 'self(s)' and the professional 'self(s)' that are underpinned by 'desires'. Current tensions inherent in the composition of teacher identities are portrayed in this thesis and it reveals the teacher self(s) as possessing concepts that are desirous of being efficacious, autonomous and valued but are diminished by disempowerment and fear.



Bibliography: p. 159-177

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Australian Centre for Educational Studies, School of Education

Department, Centre or School

School of Education

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Donna Gibbs

Additional Supervisor 1

Kerry-Ann O'Sullivan


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Dianne Frances Pizarro 2008.




New South Wales


266 p. ill

Former Identifiers

mq:4107 1289706