Towards a Sociocultural Perspective on Identity Formation in Education


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Mind, culture and activity;18 (1)



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This article discusses a sociocultural approach to processes of identity that has implications for how we understand learning and identity formation in education. Focusing on the socially constructed and culturally figured nature of language, tools, and interactions in learning contexts, this approach assists in the appreciation of how students navigate through and develop an understanding of themselves in different educational contexts. To this end, reference is made to Wortham’s work on interactional positioning in narratives and the work of Holland and colleagues on figured worlds. Wortham provides the tools for a systematic analysis of how individuals construct their identities by positioning themselves in discursive interaction. Holland and colleagues alert us to the cultural shaping of such positioning in cultural worlds and the artifacts mediating identity formation. To explore the potential of combining these lenses, a case study is described involving a series of interviews with medical students about their self-perceptions in two contexts of clinical training. The case study highlights how different worlds and identities are formed in these educational contexts.



This is an electronic version of an article published in Mind, Culture and Activity (2011), 18 (1). Mind, Culture and Activity is available online at: Original article is available at URL:

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