Listening to the learner: an exploration of primary school children's learner identity
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Listening to the Learner: An Exploration of Primary School Children’s Learner Identity Fiona Brennan Teachers are often unaware of the profound effect that aspects of everyday school life may have on pupils. To ensure meaningful learning, students need not only to construct meaning about subject matter, but also about themselves in the learning environment. Experiences encountered by pupils in education enable them to formulate self-understandings as learners, namely, a learner identity. This evolving and dynamic construct promotes the construction of meanings about oneself as a learner and supports individuals’ engagement with the process of becoming a learner. The purpose of this study is to illuminate the concept of learner identity by exploring the intricacies of children’s self-identities as learners; the factors that inform their selfunderstandings; and how practices in everyday school life can promote or demote the development of their identities. This study which recruited six eleven-year-old children as participants examined how practices in school influenced the development of their learner identities. Children were the primary source of data. Underpinned by a sociocultural perspective on identity, this study employed semi-structured interviews for data collection purposes. The qualitative data were thematically analysed to discern pupils’ perceptions of the composition and formulation of their learner identities. Most pupils associated their learner identities with classroom behaviour, perceived level of intelligence and strengths in core subject areas. Pupils utilised social interaction with peers, parents and teachers to construct their learner identities. Students valued the messages explicitly communicated to them by their teacher. Mindset and peer comparison were among other factors which informed students’ identities. This piece of qualitative research sought to focus on the distinctiveness and exclusivity of the specific group under study. However, it is anticipated that the findings may advance teachers’ knowledge about the role of learner identity in equipping today’s students with the confidence and capacity to navigate the challenges and experiences of tomorrow’s world.