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Running head: EDUCATORS PROMOTING IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT

A Look into What Educators Can Do to Promote Identity Development


Samantha Starkey
The University of Memphis

EDUCATORS PROMOTING IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT

At one point in life, one may ask who am I? It is such a basic question with so much
depth within it. A lot of people struggle with this concept. While growing up, there are many
people that can influence ones self-identity including parents to preachers to even teachers.
There are many ways that a teacher can influence a students identity. Teachers are known to
influence students, but these teachers can also promote their students identity development in
the classroom. So, what exactly is identity? Winsor et al. (2015) explains that identity is
someones knowledge of themselves. The question of who you are is what makes up your
identity. Identity development is very important, especially in the age of adolescence. Identity is
what you are. From how you handle certain situations to what interests you the most. Eriksons
theory, which is called the Eight Ages of Man, focuses more on social and cultural aspects.
Erikson has eight stages, but the one that is most important with identity is in the fifth stage.
According to Eriksons theory, finding ones identity is mostly done in the age range from twelve
to eighteen. This is the fifth stage of Eriksons theory and it is called Identity vs. Role Confusion
which ultimately focuses on the identity development. All in all, identity is what one thinks of
ones self and this can play immensely big role in education and in the setting of the classroom.
In education, understanding identity development can be very important. For example, if
a boy, named Matthew, did not do his science project and the teacher knows that Matthew always
does his assignments consistently, then the teacher can conclude that this is not in Matthews
normal every day character. The teacher then can question Matthew why he did not do his
project. That is one example of how identity development can help in the classroom.
Furthermore, identity development is crucial in certain situations as a teacher. Erikson (1968)
explains that schools have been recognized as an important context for adolescents creating
identity. Teachers are known to be impactful and influential in students lives. Personally, in my

EDUCATORS PROMOTING IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT

own life, I can testify that my teacher played a huge role in my life and helped mold me into who
I am now. I now look up to her and aspire to be someone like her one day. I know for a fact that I
would not be who I am without her. With that being said, it is very evident that educators most
definitely impact the students identity development.
As it is known that educators are great influences for identity development, educators can
also promote and trigger identity development in the classroom. So, how exactly can teachers
promote identity development? First of all, it is very important for the teacher to show interest in
the child and to acknowledge and converse with the student. It is also important for the teacher to
show an understanding of the child, and for the teacher to listen and learn of what the child
understands about their identity. It is also very important for the teacher to promote a strong
sense of who the child is. Winsor et al. (2015) demonstrates this by explaining what identity is
which you can understand by writing ten things about ones self. This is a great way to promote
identity in the classroom by getting the students to think about what makes them who they are.
There are also more class assignments that an educator can give to encourage identity
development. Although adolescents ages range from the ages of twelves to eighteen and
according to Erikson that is the main stage for identity development, identity development can
start an early age. All throughout ones life, there is constant developing especially ones identity
development. Because of this, it is important for educators to start promoting identity
development at an early age. In elementary school, a teacher may get the classroom to draw out a
favorite memory or to draw out what he or she would like to be when they grow up. In middle
school, one way to encourage identity development in the classroom would be an easy writing
assignment on things they love, do not love or even what they want to be when they grow up. A
high school teacher could make a research paper on exploring the students specific calling. Each

EDUCATORS PROMOTING IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT


of these assignments encourages the student to think about their identity, who they are as a
person, things they love and do not love, and what would they want to be when they grow up
based on the kind of person they are.
In Israel, there was a study who looked at educators and tested how educators can
promote identity development in the setting of the classroom. Their aim was to introduce
promoting identity development in the overall curriculum in the classroom setting. Flum and
Kaplan (2006) suggest that in order for educators to design experiences that would trigger
identity development for particular students, educators should be familiar with the students
characteristics, and with their current identification and self-concerns that are noticeable in the
educational context. In this study, there are sixty-six students who are all in the ninth grade
studying literature in two different classrooms. Most of which come from a higher class family
living in subdivisions to a few participants who live in the village. The teacher gave different
literature assignments for the students to explore their identity and gain a sense of who they are.
These two classrooms both studied a poem that triggered the students to think about their
identity. The teacher gave them two choices for the students to choose which assignment they
would like to do. Both of the assignments corresponded with the poem they were studying in
class. The first choice was to write on their childhood. The poems title was My childhood
was. and they were to complete the assignment from that phrase. The second choice given to
the students was to take out each adjective to from the poem and to replace them with their own
adjectives. Also in this village of Israel, the students were expected to keep a journal. These are
all great examples of how educators can promote and trigger identity development.
Eccles and Roeser agree that education most definitely is a huge role in adolescents life
throughout development. They studied three different levels of the educational setting which

EDUCATORS PROMOTING IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT

included the classroom, the school, and the district. Eccles and Roeser (2011) explain that the
academic work that students are expected to accomplish that are assigned from teachers not only
affect what the students know about the world and themselves, but it also plays an enormous role
in how much the student can pay attention, what they love to do and what interests them, and
their morals and ethics. All of these things contribute to their identity development. It is what
makes the students unique.
In conclusion, it is very evident that educators contribute immensely to adolescents
identity development. Who you are around and where you spend most of your time can definitely
make the person that you are. In my own life, I grew up in a Christian home, was at church
whenever the doors were open, and for the most part always had Godly teachers. With that being
said, I most definitely find my identity in Jesus Christ. That is likewise for most other students.
Eccles and Roeser (2011) explain that adolescents spend more time at school more than
anywhere else, and that it is where they are open to their cultures font of knowledge, always
with their friends, are involved with extracurricular activities that contribute to shaping their
identities, and preparing for their future. Simple assignments that engage the students to think
about themselves corresponding with their passions, who they are as a person, and what they
plan to be when they grow up is so important and influential. Personally, this is exactly why I
want to be a teacher. To be someone who helps someone figure out who they are is such a
rewarding profession.

References

EDUCATORS PROMOTING IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT


Eccles, J. S., & Roeser, R. W. (2011). Schools as developmental contexts during adolescence.
Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 225241.
Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton.
Sinai, Mirit, Avi Kaplan, and Hanoch Flum. "Promoting Identity Exploration within the School
Curriculum: A Design-based Study in a Junior High Literature Lesson in Israel."
Contemporary Educational Psychology 37.3 (2012): 195-205. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
Winsor, D., Murrell, V.S., & Magun-Jackson, S. (2015). Lifespan development an education
psychology perspective.