Troubling identities: teacher education students' constructions of class and ethnicity

Year: 2003

Author: Santoro, Ninetta, Allard, Andrea

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports on a research project that explored how student teachers understand ethnic and classed difference as it relates to themselves and their students. Discourses of schooling can shape students ethnic and classed identities, frequently positioning non-mainstream students as 'other' and marginalizing them. Significant numbers of our teacher education students have limited experience of diverse educational settings, having mainly attended white middle-class schools as students and as student teachers. Working with diverse student populations productively depends on teachers recognising and valuing difference. The ways in which they engage with students whose ethnic and classed identities are different from their own is important in creating learning environments that build on and engage with diversity.

In a preliminary stage of the research we asked eight third-year teacher education students to explore their own ethnic and classed identities. The complexities of identity are foregrounded in both the assumptions we made in selecting particular students for the project and in the ways they did (not) think about themselves as having ethnic or classed identities.

In this paper we draw on these findings to interrogate how categories of identity are fluid, shifting and ongoing processes of negotiation: troubling and complex. We also consider the implications for teacher education.