COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala 5

TOPICS: Identity, Chappell, Rhodes, Solomon, Tenant and Yates, Selfwork


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Chappell, Rhodes, Solomon, Tenant and Yates, Selfwork


Personal change / self-change

3        technologies of self (Foucault)

3        care of the self (Foucault)

5        pedagogical traditions

6, 17   power

7        dualism (individual and society)

8        new concept of self (multiple subjectivities, multiple lifeworlds, multiple layers)

experiential learning

10      reflection

10      assumptions

12      autobiographies

15      relational view

Article review

Chappel acknowledges that education influences self-transformation.

Such personal change occurs as part of processes of personal growth and examination, as elaborated by Foucault in his “technologies of the self.”

Several pedagogical traditions identify such change as emerging at the interface between the individual and society. Chappel calls this “dualism.”

In many such traditions – however – the existing social frameworks remain unchallenged, as individual identities remain anchored in established socio-cultural assumptions. This in turn perpetuates issues of subjugation and domination resting in “false consciousness.” (p.6) (see below: relevance to my hot issue)

Watson also talks about identity construction as a process whereby people “inventively, judiciously, purposefully” select the components of their own narrative. (p.511). She recognizes that the building of autobiographies lies at the core of personal identity building processes. (p. 12) Chappel calls that the personal “biography” that “is conceived a lens through which the world is seen, or as an internal model which guides identity and action.” (p. 12) This means that the identity building process results from the inclusion of carefully selected episodes in one’s history.  That needs to be done – however – through a reflective process.

However, Chappel suggests a different way to look at the self. She implies a new view that moves away from a coherent “authentic” self, towards a model based on “multiple subjectivities,” “multiple lifeworlds,’ or “multiple layers.” (p. 8)

Relational view

Chappel goes on presenting a relational view of the self according to which “the idea of the self changes according to the relationship in which one is engaged.” (p. 15) To me that means that the self is an ever-changing concept that varies based on the relational context we are in. It develops out of the exploration of multiple meanings. Identity is therefore in flux, and changes depending on and through the nature of a relationship.

I believe that it all comes down to recognizing the “relativity of meaning,” away from the notion that identity is fixed, towards an idea of identity as a process of “exploration of a multiplicity of meanings”  that is constantly transforming itself through the unfolding of relationships. This is particularly important for those who do not clearly identify with a single culture, but see themselves as the product of several influences. I personally came to know such view very closely, as I have developed the ability to “be a different person” depending on the cultural context I am in.

To strengthen the concept of an identity in flux, the pedagogy of self-reflection insists not on “discovering who one is, but on creating who one might become.”  (p.17)

Relevance to my hot issue

Reflection should not just inform my understanding of my hot issue; it should also provide me with answers to action-oriented questions, as suggested in the pedagogical relational view presented in Chappel’s article.

The readings also suggest that, in spite of all the good intentions, we may still remain trapped in the cultural framework from which we have emerged, and in which we operate. This means that we construct our professional identity as teachers not as freely as we may think, and frame it so as it conforms to a give established view of education. Such view remains for the most part unchallenged and is self-perpetuating. In this regard, Chappel mentions that in some cases “the self participates in its own subjugation and domination whether it is through ‘false consciousness’ produced by membership of a particular social group, or the internalisation of social ‘oppression’ through individual ‘repression’ ”. (p. 6)

At the micro-level, we engage in identity building (the building of our autobiography) based on our history, through the construction of a narrative made up of carefully selected episodes. Such narrative is likely to fit into existing discourses of education and personal growth.

At the macro-level, however, we need to engage with the contextual reality of our professional practice, which may result in having to negotiate our identity and “adjust” it to our workplace environment. Several pedagogical traditions deal with this issue, but the relational approach firmly anchors identity in the relationships that we engage in, thereby making identity a multi-layered concept that develops away from the traditional view of a fixed identity.


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