The social identification of students labeled dyslexic and learning disabled across literacy instructional contexts
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In this embedded case study, I examined how students were socially identified across instructional contexts in an elementary school. As part of this study, I investigated the contributions of administrators and teachers on students’ social identification. Lastly, I looked at three focal students who were identified as struggling and/or learning disabled in reading, their experiences in multiple learning contexts, and their self-perceptions of identity. Ethnographic methods were used to collect data over the year this study was conducted. The data corpus included classroom observations in multiple contexts, fieldnotes, audio and video recordings, student work, pictures, and artifacts. A combination of viewing literacy as a social practice (Barton, 2007), Wortham’s (2004, 2006) theory of social identification, and theories of self (Dweck, 2000) provided the theoretical underpinnings for this study. Analysis began during the data collection phase with the writing of analytical and theoretical memos based on noticings and emerging conceptual understandings. After data collection, analysis continued beginning with open coding and constant comparative methods. The findings provided a layered look at social identification and its influences on student learning. This study highlights the influence administrators have on the process of identification and instructional practices across contexts. Also, the findings point to the complexities teachers face in meeting their students’ diverse learning needs. The cases of the focal students illustrate the complex ways social identification intertwines with learning, and the variation in students’ social identification in different contexts. Implications of this study emphasize the importance of teacher collaboration in order to provide students with instruction that has continuity so that students learn to apply what they are learning across contexts and learning experiences. In addition, the study suggests implications for teachers and administrators to be aware of how they discuss and identify students across contexts and to be aware of their personal bias in these identifications.