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Becoming an 'honours student': the interplay of literacies and identities in a high-track class

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Abstract:

This paper examines some intersections among school literacy events and practices, identity formation, and the institutional practice known in the US as tracking. During a year-long, critical ethnographic study to examine how a team-taught, interdisciplinary curriculum impacted the development of students' literacies, it was found that not only the literacies, but also identities, were being shaped and developed. Particular literacy events led the students to perceive that they were being encouraged to think of and comport themselves in distinct ways, based on their status as 'honours students'. Classroom practices created a culture of privileged performativity for the students through which they came to perceive that recognition as an 'honours student' had less to do with deep, intellectual, and critical understanding and communication of important ideas than with the ability to perform in specific, rather superficial ways. For the participants, 'honours' identity was tied discursively and materially to a set of constructs that stemmed from competing and contradictory views about how one becomes an 'honours student'. Key literacy events and practices through which 'honours' identity was recruited and enacted were inherently undemocratic, despite the teachers' stated commitment to democratic pedagogies.

Keywords: critical theory; honours curriculum; integrated curriculum; literacy; self-concept; track system

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00220270701798996

Publication date: 2008-08-01

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