A wonderful contribution to the growing body of evidence demonstrating the importance of identity-based approaches in education, this 2024 paper, titled “‘I feel like I have a superpower’: a qualitative study of adolescents’ experiences of multilingual identity development during an identity-based pedagogical intervention” by Karen Forbes, Michael Evans, Linda Fisher, Angela Gayton, Yongcan Liu, and Dieuwerke Rutgers, published in the Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, explores how adolescents develop their understandings of multilingualism and various dimensions of their own multilingual identity during an identity-based pedagogical intervention in the languages classroom.
The study, conducted in the UK, involved 14 Year 9 (age 13–14) learners in secondary schools who participated in a year-long identity-based intervention in their languages lessons. The researchers adopted a qualitative approach, drawing on interview data to identify three profiles of development: resistant multilingual identity development, emergent multilingual identity development, and reflexive multilingual identity development. These profiles capture students’ varied experiences of the intervention and provide valuable insights into the impact of identity-based pedagogy on students’ multilingual identity.
The findings from the study strongly support the importance of identity education and identity-based interventions in schools, particularly in the context of language learning and multilingual identity development. The research reveals that multilingual identity is more strongly connected with direct experiential contact with languages, including instructed language learning in school, than with explicit beliefs about language learning. This underscores the significance of classroom-based experiences in shaping students’ understandings of multilingualism and their identities as multilingual individuals.
Moreover, the study emphasizes the need for teachers to more explicitly support students’ multilingual identity development, highlighting the potential of identity-based education to actively promote identity (re)negotiation through activities that encourage reflection and reflexivity in the classroom.
The positive shift in students’ evaluations of and emotions towards languages as a result of the identity-based intervention further demonstrates the potential of such interventions to foster a more open attitude to societal multilingualism and to empower students to claim a multilingual identity.
Overall, the findings provide compelling evidence for the value of identity-based approaches in schools, not only in the context of language learning but also in promoting students’ agency and positive engagement with their own identities across various subject areas.
Let’s get Identity Education to work!
If you are an educator or school looking to incorporate identity education and identity-based activities explore the OICD’s Identity Literacy micro-course and partner program for schools.