Learning and Identity

Authored by: Lyn Tett

The Routledge International Handbook of Learning

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  May  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415571302
eBook ISBN: 9780203357385
Adobe ISBN: 9781136598562


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This chapter discusses how an individual's identity has an effect on their learning and vice versa. In particular it focuses on what it means to have an identity as someone who sees oneself, and is seen by significant others, as a competent learner. When thinking about identity it is usual to focus on the characteristics of an individual that are maintained over time and that distinguish one person from another. However, identity is socially constructed in interaction with others and so it is dynamic and only relatively stable (see Schuller et al., 2004). It follows from this that identity is not fixed, but is created and re-created in interactions between the individual and the social world that they inhabit (Bauman, 1996; Sfard and Prusak, 2005; Wenger, 1998). This does not mean, however, that identity is completely fluid, since individuals seek to make sense of their experiences by constructing patterns of consistency and coherence regarding the nature of their identity in their relationships with others.

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