COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala 5

TOPICS: Identity, Kate Watson: Narratives of practice and the construction of identity


Link to Forum Link to my e-portfolio blog

Cate Watson: Narrative of practice and the construction of identity in teaching

Keywords: Professional Identity, Narratives, Discourses, Transcription, Power issues, Resources, (Avowed identity)


In her narrative analysis of her interview with Dan, Watson emphasizes that Dan’s identity draws both from his personal history and from the institutional context of his professional practice.

This confirms Davies’ views on how identity develops at the interface of the INSTITUTIONALCONTEXT and our PERSONAL HISTORY, as I have pointed out in my previous post.

Basically our actions contribute to the contraction of our identity. “As Cameron (2001, p. 170) argues, it is not because of some essential core that we behave as we do, rather it is by acting in a particular way that we construct our identity.” (p.521)

This theme appears consistently throughout the article. Here are some excerpts:

“Identity only has meaning within a chain of relationships, i.e. there is no fixed point of reference for ‘an identity’.” (509)

“Professional identity is equated with Giddens’ (1991) notion of ‘self-identity’, as a reflexive project, when applied to the context of our working lives.” (p.510)

“But if identity is conceived as an ongoing process of identification, then how is this achieved? Hinchman and Hinchman (2001, p. xiv) suggest that ‘Identity is that which emerges in and through narrative’. This again highlights the external, relational nature of identity construction. In this view identities are constructed in the narratives we create and tell about our lives; how we externalize ourselves to ourselves and to others.” (p.510)


Watson explores the notions of discourses and narratives. We construct our narrative by collating selected episodes that we consider salient for out identity and the way we want to be perceived. This is again of case of avowed identity.

“In other words, people construct narratives and narratives construct people, and our identities emerge through these processes.” (p.510)

She cites a definition of narratives given by Gubrium and Holstein (1997, p. 146) as “accounts that offer some scheme, either implicitly or explicitly for organising and understanding the relation of objects and events described. Narratives need not be full-blown stories with requisite internal structures, but may be short accounts that emerge within or across turns at ordinary conversation, in interviews or interrogations, in public documents, or in organizational records.” (p. 513)

The task of a researcher is to identify and explore such narratives, and relate them to a specific context.


I believe that both articles examined this week are very helpful in framing my hot issue, as they defy the binary definition of identity.

The article provides a solid platform for further investigation of issues of identity and how they relate to my professional practice.

Given the prominence of the intercultural dimension in my hot issue, I will expand my study of such concepts to include literature that specifically addresses the intercultural dimension of identity.

In particular, I will review

Intercultural Communication: An Advanced Research Book by Adrian Holliday et al. ,

a book that provides for interesting and thought-provoking analysis of the themes presented by Davies and Watson.

I would like to adopt an interdisciplinary approach to understanding these issues, as I believe that a systemic view is necessary to allow personal histories to interface with context and relevant broader discourses.

Specifically, I will try to explore answers to such questions as:

  • What may have informed the construction of my identity and how does it interface with the context of my current professional practice?
  • What are the contradictions/tensions between my avowed identity and the institutional context in which I operate?
  • What is the ascribed identity that has been assigned to me?
  • What discourses (institutional, academic, personal, cultural) provide the background software on which my hot issue is playing out?
  • What are the lesson to be learned and the action to be taken?

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